Lehigh Valley Phantoms December Grades - Monthly Prospect Report

Friday, January 1, 2016
The Phantoms are playing some of their best hockey of the season heading into 2016. Photo: Nina Weiss
Editor's note: The monthly feature aimed to inform fans about the progress the prospects have made each month is back. This is the third installment of the Flyers' AHL monthly prospect report and reflects the month of December, which spans a 13-game stretch from December 2nd to December 31st. For either of the previous month's reports, click on the links for the October Prospect Report and the November Prospect Report.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms (16-16-1-1) are back to being at the .500 mark record wise as the 2016 calendar year begins. They are slowly getting healthier and it is paying dividends in the standings, as the Phantoms went 7-5-0-1 in the month of December and are starting to gain some chemistry among the forward lines and defense pairings.

Special teams play has also improved, which is also partially due to the simple fact that the power play and penalty killing units haven't been a revolving door of personnel. The penalty kill in particular has been extremely effective, killing off penalties with a 93 percent success rate in 13 December games including a perfect 29 for 29 on the PK on the road last month.

Still, the Phantoms need to keep things going in the right direction, currently 2-0-1 on a five-game road trip that concludes this weekend with a pair of games against the Portland Pirates. Lehigh Valley sits in fifth place in the Atlantic Division, but with crucial games coming up on the schedule - including the two in Portland this weekend and division leading Wilkes-Barre/Scranton next weekend - getting points in the standings will be critical to keep the Phantoms in the playoff conversation as the first half of the season approaches.

I'll be making the over 800-mile round trip to Portland, Maine for this weekend's games and will have live coverage online both here on the website and on Twitter. Make sure you're following me on Twitter (@TonyAndrock_TCG) for the best Lehigh Valley Phantoms coverage both at home and on the road.

Would you like to see my coverage of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms while they're on the road continue? Please lend a helping hand to keep me providing live coverage of the team while they're on the road this season by making a secure donation to my GoFundMe page.

Special Teams

Power Play

Season Stats: 34 games played, 24 for 142 = 16.9% - 13th in AHL (0 shorthanded goals against)
December: 13 games played, 10 for 58 = 17.2%

Penalty Kill 

Season Stats: 34 games played, 115 for 137 = 83.9% - 13th in AHL (4 shorthanded goals for)
December: 13 games played, 53 for 57 = 93.0%

December's Three Stars

Third Star - Goaltender Jason LaBarbera - Grade A-
2015-16 Season Stats: 10GP, 3-7-0, 3.10 GAA, .894 SV%, 1 SO
December Stats: 4GP, 2-2, 1.51 GAA, .950 SV%, 1 SO

After missing 38 days with an undisclosed injury, LaBarbera returned before the break and has looked solid - especially in his last three starts in which he's 2-1 with a 1.01 GAA, .968 SV% and the team's first shutout win of the season in a dominant 35-save performance vs. W-B/Scranton on December 27th.

Second Star - Forward Nick Cousins - Grade A
2015-16 Season Stats: 26GP, 8G-20A, +9, 27 PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 3G-7A, -1, 15 PIM

Cousins returned from his first NHL stint this season being told from GM Ron Hextall to be the best player down in Lehigh Valley, and arguably so he has been with nearly a point-per-game since his return from Philadelphia. When Phantoms are at their best, Cousins is leading the offensive charge.

First Star - Defenseman Andrew MacDonald - Grade A
2015-16 Season Stats: 31GP, 5G-16A, +5, 24 PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 4G-7A, -1, 10 PIM

MacDonald has been far and away the Phantoms' best blue liner this past month. He's playing in all situations and eating up big minutes in the AHL. Four of his five goals on the season have come in his last eight games. Bad contract aside, MacDonald simply doesn't belong in the AHL.

An update on every player on the AHL roster after the jump.


Anthony Stolarz - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats
December Stats: 9GP, 5-3-1, 2.28 GAA, .925 SV%, 0 SO

After not allowing more than three goals in a start in his first 17 appearances, Stolarz surrender four goals against in three straight starts in December despite picking up wins in two of them. Oddly enough, he stopped 42 of 44 and 39 of 40 in two other December starts and didn't win either game. Overall, the second year pro is playing much more consistent than in his rookie campaign. Progress is progress, and goaltenders usually take longer to transition to the pro game.


Mark Alt - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats: 33GP, 2G-8A, +13, 20 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 2G-0A, +1, 8 PIM

Alt continues to be a steady two-way defenseman and a good role model for Sam Morin. His plus 13 rating is tops on the team and he plays an important role on the penalty kill and in late-game situations.

Sam Morin - Grade B
2015-16 Season Stats: 34GP, 2G-7A, -5, 53 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 1G-6A, -6, 21 PIM

The points are coming for Morin now, but at the expense of getting caught up ice more than a few times and hurting his team defensively. At times it seems like he's trying to do too much. He's held down a regular spot on the 2nd unit for both special teams units most of the season and is getting ample ice time alongside a reliable, steady player in Mark Alt.

Robert Hagg - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats: 26GP, 1G-3A, -2, 8 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 1G-1A, Even, 4 PIM

Hagg has been critical of his own play, but two of his four points on the season are in his last four games. He's played a bit on the top pairing with Andrew MacDonald and has been a bit conservative with his decision-making and willingness to jump in the play. Not that he plays with a lack of intensity, but he almost seems too calm and mellow back there most times.

Davis Drewiske - Grade B
2015-16 Season Stats: 31GP, 0G-3A, +2, 8 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 0G-1A, Even, 6 PIM

Much of the same for Drewiske this past month. He's a defensive defenseman who has been a big part of the team's success on the penalty kill lately. You know what you're going to get from the veteran blue liner game in and game out.

Jesper Pettersson - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 18GP, 1G-2A, -4, 8 PIM
December Stats: 7GP, 1G-1A, +1. 2 PIM

Pettersson has shuffled between Reading and Lehigh Valley for much of the season, but has been playing much better in the AHL the last month or so.

Maxim Lamarche - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats (ECHL): 21GP, 4G-6A, +10, 12 PIM
December Stats (AHL): 6GP, 1G-2A, -3, 4 PIM

Lamarche joined the Phantoms in December and appeared in a half-dozen games, not looking too out of place in the AHL. In fact, he scored his first career AHL goal in a two-point night against Hershey on 12/18.

Matt Lashoff - Grade C
2015-16 Season Stats: 16GP, 0G-2A, -5, 24 PIM
December Stats: 5GP, 0G-0A, -1, 4 PIM

With all the veterans on the roster, Lashoff has often sat out as a healthy veteran scratch lately although he had missed a few games due to injury this past month as well. As his PTO nears its end, it's hard to see Lashoff wanting to stick around with eight other veterans on the roster and only six being able to dress in each game.


Cole Bardreau - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 13GP, 1G-2A, Even, 4 PIM
December Stats: 9GP, 1G-1A, -3, 0 PIM

Bardreau is starting to get into a rhythm now that he's been able to stay healthy, appearing in all nine of the Phantoms' last nine games. The gritty forward has been solid on the penalty kill and is starting to gain more ice time after missing a month with an injury.

Evan Rankin - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats: 24GP, 1G-6A, -2, 6 PIM
December Stats: 9GP, 1G-0A, -2, 0 PIM

Rankin has missed the last four games due to an injury, but has been re-signed to another PTO contract confirmed by head coach Scott Gordon last weekend. Rankin has been a 4th line grinder for the Phantoms this season and is a reliable depth option up front.

Tyrell Goulbourne - Grade D
2015-16 Season Stats: 34GP, 6G-4A, -9, 26 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 0G-1A, -6, 11 PIM

After a strong start to his rookie season it was a December to forget for Goulbourne, whose minus nine rating is the lowest on the roster. Ups and downs are to be expected though for first year pros. Unfortunately, Goulbourne appeared to be injured after a first period fight Thursday and wasn't on the bench for the final 40 minutes of Lehigh Valley's 3-1 win in Hershey.

Colin McDonald - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 15GP, 2G-4A, +2, 6 PIM
December Stats: 11GP, 2G-2A, Even, 4 PIM

The Phantoms' captain has two goals in his last five games and has been bumped up to the team's top line alongside Tim Brent and Petr Straka, His game at the AHL level is that of a two-way power forward who plays a physical straight-forward game.

Aaron Palushaj - Grade B
2015-16 Season Stats: 30GP, 7G-8A, -3, 18 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 2G-4A, -1, 8 PIM

Palushaj has caught fire towards the end of December with five of his six points in the month coming in his last six games. The recently formed line of Taylor Leier, Nick Cousins and Aaron Palushaj has formed instant chemistry and if memory serves, the trio was together in training camp earlier this fall.

Kevin Goumas - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 31GP, 3G-4A, -6, 6 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 0G-1A, -4, 4 PIM

Goumas hasn't been producing offensively lately, but his role has put him more towards being and energy guy who brings speed and tenacity on the fore-check. Goumas is a part of the Phantoms strong penalty killing in December, which is why I graded him with a curve this month.

Danick Martel - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats: 26GP, 12G-5A, +2, 27 PIM
December Stats: 10GP, 5G-1A, +3, 6 PIM

The speedy, feisty forward missed three games last month with an injury, but still managed to put up five goals in 10 games. The rookie is still working on bringing it consistently night in and night out, but when he's on he's a difference maker. The addition of Sam Gagner on his line can only help his cause.

Brandon Alderson - Grade C
2015-16 Season Stats: 18GP, 0G-1A, -6, 8 PIM
December Stats: 7GP, 0G-1A, -1, 4 PIM

Alderson has been shuffled up and down the lineup to fill voids from injured forwards most of the season, but has looked better in December than he did earlier in the season.

Taylor Leier - Grade B
2015-16 Season Stats: 29GP, 8G-9A, +2, 16 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 3G-3A, +3, 14 PIM

Leier is arguably the best all around forward on the team, dangerous both offensively and effective in his own zone. He's been held off the score sheet in his last four games, but I'd be willing to bet his name appears on the score sheet this weekend in Portland.

Petr Straka - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats: 34GP, 16G-8A, +6, 17 PIM
December Stats: 13GP, 2G-5A, +1, 2 PIM

Straka has been a bit of a streaky scorer for the Phantoms this season, but nonetheless his 16 goals lead the entire AHL. When he's not scoring, he's still creating chances offensively and fore-checking well and has really been reborn as a prospect under a new coach.

Tim Brent - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 5G-12A, +5, 19 PIM
December Stats: 8GP. 0G-3A, +3, 11 PIM

Brent missed five games in December due to an upper body injury, which appeared to have slowed down his production a bit until a two assist game Thursday in Hershey. Hopefully, the team's top line center will get back to being one of the best forwards in the lineup in January.

Jay Rosehill - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats: 12GP, 1G-1A, -2, 10 PIM
December Stats: 6GP. 0G-1A, -1, 4 PIM

The veteran rule has limited Rosehill to just 12 games this season so far. Chris Conner's injury had opened up a spot for him to be eligible to play, but the arrival of Sam Gagner makes it difficult for Rosehill to get a regular spot in the lineup.

Joe Rehkamp - Grade C
2015-16 Season Stats (ECHL): 18GP, 3G-7A, -1, 17 PIM
December Stats (AHL): 13GP, 0G-0A, -4, 2 PIM

Rehkamp has played mainly a fourth line role with some penalty kill time and hasn't been glaring good or bad. The rookie is a former four-year college player out of St. Cloud State.

Honorable Mentions

Defenseman Christian Marti - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 6GP, 0G-1A, -5, 0 PIM
December Stats: No Stats

Marti returned from off-season shoulder surgery in the beginning of November, but in his sixth game in the lineup he took a heavy high hit that has taken him out of the lineup since November 20th. Another shoulder injury, but a separate injury than the one that he had surgically repaired this summer. One of many Phantoms' players who has been plagued with injuries in the first half of the season.

Forward Kevin Sundher - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 10GP, 3G-2A, -2, 8 PIM
December Stats: No Stats

Kevin Sundher went down hard while driving to the net in the overtime of November 27th's game against Hershey and he hasn't returned to action since. Sundher was providing offense before he got hurt in late November, with four points (2G-2A) in his last six games before the injury.

Forward Michael Parks - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 3GP, 0G-1A, -1, 0 PIM
December Stats: No Stats

Parks was hit hard by W-B/Scranton's Reid McNeill in the Phantoms' third game of the year back on October 17th and has missed the last 31 games with what is likely a shoulder injury. He was reported to have been skating, but there hasn't been any sign of him skating with the team at practice in recent weeks - meaning he's skating on his own and has yet to be cleared for full contact.

Forward Chris Conner - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 20GP, 5G-11A, +5, 8 PIM
December Stats: No Stats

Head coach Scott Gordon said Conner was injured on the first shift of November 28th's game against Providence, but played through it before discovering a much more serious than first thought injury. Conner has a cast on his left hand/wrist and the original timetable was a six-week absence

Forward Pavel Padakin - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats (AHL): 23GP, 0G-4A, -6, 8 PIM
December Stats (ECHL): 11GP, 3G-6A, +2, 6 PIM

Padakin was re-assigned to Reading to get more playing time than the sparse fourth line minutes he was receiving in Lehigh Valley and has seemingly found some confidence in his game while in the ECHL.

Forward Sam Gagner - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats (NHL): 18GP, 2G-3A, +1, 21 PIM
December Stats (AHL): 1GP, 0G-1A, +1, 0 PIM

Gagner was re-assigned to the Phantoms after clearing waivers and made his AHL debut Thursday night on the Phantoms' third line with speedy skaters Kevin Goumas and Danick Martel, making a nice play in his own zone and setting Martel up for his empty net goal in the third period Thursday.


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