Lehigh Valley Phantoms October Grades - Monthly Prospect Report

Wednesday, November 4, 2015
The Phantoms are still adjusting to a new coach, but are getting healthy and heading in the right direction. Photo credit: Nina Weiss.
Editor's note: This is a monthly feature aimed to inform fans about the progress the prospects have made each month. For the first installment, I included November 1st's game against Hershey in these stats for October. All stats are from opening night October 10th through November 1st.

Only the Providence Bruins have had more guys (30) enter their lineup than the 29 players (18 forwards, eight defensemen and two goaltenders) that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms have used in the first month of the AHL season. If defenseman Christian Marti, who was cleared by Philadelphia for full contact, makes his debut Friday then no team will have used more players in the first 10 games of the season.

There have been several injuries other than Marti's shoulder surgery over the summer. First off, Logan Pyett was diagnosed with sarcoma prior to the start of the regular season. The defenseman is out indefinitely and everyone hopes for a full recovery. Team captain Colin McDonald was injured in the season opener, only just returning to skate on his own earlier this week. Defensemen Robert Hagg and Andrew MacDonald have missed time. Forwards Cole Bardreau, Evan Rankin, Michael Parks, Danick Martel and Nick Cousins have all been on the injured list too. Now, Chris Conner has been recalled by the Philadelphia Flyers.

Still, after nine games and under a new head coach in Scott Gordon the Phantoms have managed a 4-5-0-0 record. The players are learning a new system, which certainly comes with some adjustment and a learning curve, but the biggest difference between last year's team and this year's team so far is the team discipline. Last year, the Phantoms were far and away the most penalized team in the league. Through one month, only eight teams have committed less penalties in minutes than the Phantoms 100 (11.1 PIM/game average).

Special Teams

Power play: 7 for 36, 19.4 % - 10th/30 in AHL (0 shorthanded goals against)
Penalty kill: 23 for 34, 67.6% - 30th/30 in AHL (2 shorthanded goals for)

October's Three Stars

Third Star - Goaltender Anthony Stolarz - Grade A-
2014-15 Season Stats: 31 games played, 9-13-4, 3.28 GAA, .905 SV%, 2 SO
2015-16 Season Stats: 5 games played, 3-2-0, 1.82 GAA, ,920 SV%, 0 SO

Stolarz has played well so far this season with all the injuries in front of him. He's given his team a chance to win in each of his five starts except for the Sunday game against Toronto with a tired Phantoms team playing their third game in three days in front of him. After an inconsistent rookie season, Stolarz is looking to string together a longer stretch of consistent games in his sophomore campaign of pro hockey.

Second Star - Forward Danick Martel - Grade A
2014-15 AHL Season Stats: 5 games played, 1G-2A, + 1, 4 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 4 games played, 3G-2A, +2, 4 PIM

Martel joined the Phantoms last spring following a 48-goal season in the QMJHL last year and showed his blazing speed and skating ability. The taste of pro hockey has done wonders for him as he has looked good in the early going this fall. Despite being the smallest guy on the team at 5-8, 166 pounds, Martel is going to the dirty areas of the ice and scoring goals as well as being quite a feisty and annoying player to play against for opposing defenses. Unfortunately he missed five games due to an injury he suffered blocking a shot in Springfield, but he's back in the lineup now and it looks like he's picked up right where he left off.

First Star - Forward Petr Straka - Grade A
2014-15 Season Stats: 68 games played, 14G-10A, -20, 26 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 6G-2A, +6, 9 PIM

In his third season at the AHL level, and the last year of his entry-level contract, Straka is looking to turn the page on the past two years and step up to be a big part of this year's Phantoms team. So far, so good. Straka has been relentless on the fore-check under new head coach Scott Gordon, creating turnovers and offensive pressure for his team. His six goals lead the team, and he's been scoring in all situations with one power play goal, one shorthanded goal and the other four at even strength. The injuries have given him a chance to be a top-six forward and is making it hard for the coaches to decide on a lineup when the team does get healthy.

A report on everyone who has suited up for the Phantoms through the first nine games of the season after the jump.


Jason LaBarbera - Grade C
2014-15 Season Stats: 34 games played, 9-16-7, 2.62 GAA, .912 SV%, 3 SO 
2015-16 Season Stats: 4 games played, 1-3-0, 4.46 GAA, .847 SV%, 0 SO

LaBarbera hasn't been quite as impressive as first thought when he signed over the summer, but I think head coach Scott Gordon made a good point following Sunday's shootout win - LaBarbera's 1st win of the year. He's been up and down between Philadelphia and Lehigh Valley and while it's only an hour drive between arenas, it hasn't allowed LaBarbera to get in much of a rhythm at all as far as getting a regular schedule with one team as opposed to jumping up and down between the NHL and AHL.


Mark Alt - Grade - B+
2014-15 Season Stats: 44 games played, 2G-8A, -15, 18 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 0G-3A, +4, 6 PIM

Alt has been paired mostly with Samuel Morin and has been a steadying force alongside the rookie. Alt has also eaten up big minutes on the PK and in the defensive zone, while also being a plus player and reliable in all three zones.

Samuel Morin - Grade B
2014-15 QMJHL Stats: 38 games played, 5G-27A, +26, 68 PIM
2015-16 AHL Season Stats: 9 games played, 0G-1A, Even, 12 PIM

Morin said it best when I caught up with him last Wednesday. He hasn't done anything spectacular by any means, but he's played solid in his own end for the most part. He's still learning the pro game and learning to use his size to his advantage, but so far so good. He picked up his first point of the season on Sunday in Hershey, and looked relieved to get on the score sheet.

Davis Drewiske - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 62 games played, 4G-18A, +15, 28 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 0G-1A, Even, 2 PIM 

Drewiske is one of the veterans the Flyers brought in to mentor the younger players on the blue line and as an alternate captain it seems he is doing just that. He hasn't added much offensively, but has been reliable in his own zone and has killed penalties whenever called upon. The Flyers called up Drewiske today because of an injury to Evgeny Medvedev.

Jesper Pettersson - Grade C+
2014-15 Season Stats: 51 games played, 2G-5A, -5, 35 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 5 games played, 0G-1A, Even, 2 PIM 

Injuries have allowed Pettersson to play in five games so far this season, and he hasn't looked out of place when in the lineup. Despite being smaller in stature, Pettersson is one of the more physical defenders the Phantoms have on their blue line. It's always going to be a numbers game for Pettersson, much like it was last year, but he's proven capable of playing at the AHL level.
Shayne Gostisbehere - Grade B
2014-15 Season Stats: 5 games played, 0G-5A, -1, 0 PIM 
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 1G-4A, -2, 4 PIM 

It's clear Gostisbehere is working off the rust from not playing most of last year. At times, he makes great plays and uses his vision to set up his teammates. He still has the hard shot from the point. It will likely take some time to get back into the groove and when he does, look out. His defensive game still needs work but that too will come with time and playing experience.
Matt Lashoff - Grade B
2014-15 AHL Stats: 25 games played, 1G-3A, +1, 39 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 5 games played, 0G-2A, +4, 4 PIM 

Lashoff has been a welcomed addition to the Phantoms, joining the team on a PTO at the start of the season after injuries to Hagg and MacDonald opened the door for him. While MacDonald was out, Lashoff was paired with Gostisbehere. He's now found a spot alongside Drewiske - adding more experience to what is a relatively young blue line.

Andrew MacDonald - Grade B+
2014-15 NHL Stats: 58 games played, 2G-10A, -5, 41 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 8 games played, 0G-4A, +5, 6 PIM

MacDonald has taken the demotion in stride and has gotten to working on his game, re-building confidence in his game and waiting for his chance to get back with the big club. He's been paired with Gostisbehere almost exclusively and has also seen some time on the team's second power play unit and penalty killing unit.

Evan Rankin - Grade C
2014-15 Season Stats: 32 games played, 8G-7A, +4, 8 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 4 games played, 0G-0A, +1, 0 PIM

Rankin joined the team on a PTO after starting the year in the ECHL with the Toledo Walleye. He brought 191 games of AHL experience to the team and knows how the AHL works. Unfortunately, he took a Gostisbehere point shot to his neck and missed Sunday's game.

Tyrell Goulbourne - Grade B-
2014-15 WHL Stats: 62 games played, 22G-23A, +20, 76 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 2G-0A, -4, 5 PIM

Goulbourne has been a pleasant surprise in the first month of the season. The physical, but talented forward has impressed with his ability to get in on the fore-check and cause havoc for opposing defensemen. He made a nice play on his first pro goal to steal a puck off a defender and beat the goalie with a quick shot. Goulbourne still has plenty to learn, but he could project to a legitimate bottom-six option for the Flyers down the road.

Aaron Palushaj - Grade B
2014-15 KHL Stats: 53 games played, 7G-14A, +1, 48 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 3G-2A, +1, 4 PIM

Palushaj joined the Flyers organization after spending a year overseas, and is looking to get back to the NHL. He's been a top-line player with the Phantoms alongside Taylor Leier and Tim Brent and has generated offensive chances in just about every game. He was passed over by Chris Conner for the first NHL call up at the forward position, but there's plenty of time for Palushaj to get an NHL chance.

Kevin Goumas - Grade C+
2014-15 Season Stats: 63 games played, 6G-11A, -1, 23 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 6 games played, 1G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

Goumas re-signed an AHL deal with the Phantoms and began the year with Reading, before being called up amid injuries to the forward core. The small, speedy forward is an AHL player and has fit in just fine with the Phantoms this season. When he's on top of his game, he's relentless on the fore-check and uses his speed to create problems for the opposition.

Brandon Alderson - Grade D
2014-15 Season Stats: 35 games played, 3G-4A, -10, 57 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 5 games played, 0G-0A, -3, 2 PIM

Other than the shootout goal in Hershey on Sunday, Alderson has been mostly unnoticeable on the ice - pointless in five AHL games after starting the year in the ECHL. On the final year of an NHL contract, unless things turn around drastically he could be walking this summer.

Chris Conner - Grade A
2014-15 Season Stats: 61 games played, 19G-33A, +7, 10 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 8 games played, 4G-4A, +6, 4 PIM

Conner burned the Phantoms a year ago while he was with rival Hershey, but he's on the other side of the rivalry this season - joining the Flyers on a two-year, two-way deal. He's been a point-per-game player for the Phantoms and has used his speed to his advantage. Conner was called up to Philadelphia and didn't even get into one game before an injury on defense forced the Flyers to re-assign him to Lehigh Valley and call up Davis Drewiske.

Taylor Leier - Grade B+
2014-15 Season Stats: 73 games played, 13G-18A, -9, 18 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 3G-4A, +1, 2 PIM

Leier finished his rookie season playing through injury last spring, but is 100% healthy and looking to make a name for himself on the Phantoms' top line this year. It wouldn't be surprising to see Leier hit the 20-goal mark this season if he keeps up his play in the first month. If not for a few hit posts, Leier could have twice as many tallies as the three he has put in in the first nine games. His shot release and shooting are of NHL-caliber. He could be an NHL player down the road for the Flyers.

Nick Cousins - Grade A
2014-15 Season Stats: 64 games played, 22G-34A, +2, 73 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 8 games played, 3G-6A, +5, 4 PIM

Before suffering what could possibly be a concussion last Friday, Cousins was getting back into that dominant level of an offensive player that he displayed last year in the AHL. He leads the team with nine points in eight games played. He didn't practice yesterday and his status moving forward is unknown at this time.

Pavel Padakin - Grade C+
2014-15 WHL Stats: 70 games played, 27G-28A, +13, 90 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 0G-3A, -3, 4 PIM

Padakin joined the Phantoms on an AHL deal after a strong final WHL season with the Regina Pats under former Phantoms coach John Paddock. He's learning the center position in the pros after being mainly used as a winger at the junior level while also learning the pro game in general. Lots to learn for Padakin, but he's played well given the circumstances.

Tim Brent - Grade B
2014-15 KHL Stats: 42 games played, 5G-10A, +5, 30 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 9 games played, 2G-3A, Even, 4 PIM

One of the leaders on this team, Brent has been a captain before in the AHL and has no problem wearing an A on his jersey with the Phantoms. He's got a KHL title on his resume and is hungry to win again at the AHL level, with the ultimate goal of getting back to the NHL. Brent is a smart player with experience who can teach the younger forwards on the team a thing or two about pro hockey.
Jay Rosehill - Grade C+
2014-15 Season Stats: 65 games played, 5G-7A, -15, 219 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 5 games played, 1G-0A, -1, 6 PIM

Rosehill is much improved as far as limiting his penalties through the first month of the season. He's playing smarter and staying away from taking unnecessary penalties, giving his team a chance to win games rather than hurting the team by spending most of his night in the penalty box. He even scored a goal on October 17th against last year's AHL Goaltender of the Year Matt Murray. 

Honorable Mentions

The following players were limited to just a few games either due to injury or being called up from Reading. I didn't feel I saw enough of them in the first month to assess their play. 

Defenseman Robert Hagg - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 Season Stats: 69 games played, 3G-17A, -12, 42 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 2 games played, 0G-0A, -2, 0 PIM

Hagg was injured in the second game of the season and has skated at practice this week in a non-contact jersey, signaling he might make his return to the lineup this weekend for the team's 2nd three-in-three set.

Defenseman Christian Marti - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 Swiss-A Stats: 32 games played, 1G-7A, +6, 20 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: No Stats

Marti is ready to make his Phantoms debut after being cleared for full contact by Philadelphia, as first reported here confirmed after Sunday's game against Hershey by head coach Scott Gordon.

Forward Cole Bardreau - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 AHL Stats: 15 games played, 1G-1A, -3, 3 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 3 games played, 0G-1A, +3, 2 PIM 

Bardreau got his feet wet at the pro level last spring, appearing in 15 games with the Phantoms. This season, the chippy bottom-six forward was cut by a skate in Wilkes-Barre on October 17th and is just now starting to skate in a yellow non-contact jersey. 
Forward Kevin Sundher - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 Season Stats: 31 games played, 1G-4A, -5, 12 PIM
2015-16 AHL Stats: 1 game played, 0G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

Sundher made his Phantoms debut Sunday against Hershey on the 4th line, playing the role of hero in the bottom of the 10th round of the shootout.

Forward Colin McDonald - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 Season Stats: 40 games played, 14G-21A, -7, 28 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 1 game played, 0G-0A, Even, 0 PIM

McDonald was injured in the Phantoms' season opener on October 10th. The team captain began skating on his own this week.

Forward Michael Parks - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 College Stats: 42 games played, 12G-20A, +13, 44 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 3 games played, 0G-1A, -1, 0 PIM

Parks was injured in the Phantoms game in Wilkes-Barre on October 17th after a big hit behind the Pens' net by Reid McNeill left Parks slowly skating off and straight to the locker room. He is expected to be out the longest of all the injured players, which is unfortunate.

Forward Derek Mathers - Grade Incomplete
2014-15 Season Stats: 40 games played, 0G-2A, -3, 147 PIM
2015-16 Season Stats: 3 games played, 0G-0A, Even, 12 PIM

Mathers began the season in Reading, but was called up amid all the injuries to the Phantoms. He's made his presence felt while in the lineup, dropping his gloves in two of the three games he has appeared in.


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