Leier Becoming a Leader in Lehigh Valley

Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Is Taylor Leier NHL-ready right now? Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
Even before Taylor Leier wore the alternate captain's 'A' on his jersey last night in Hershey, he's been a leader on the ice both in games and at practice this season for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. On Monday night in Hershey, Leier played the part officially as both Tim Brent and Andrew MacDonald were held out of the lineup with minor injuries.

"It's incredible, it's an honor," Leier said after Monday night's win in Hershey. "It caught me off guard before the game. They're hanging up the jerseys and I saw an 'A' on my jersey. My heart dropped a little bit. To wear a letter on any team, especially a professional team, it's an honor."

Leier has certainly stepped up his game this season, and I wrote about how he said after January 17th's game in Bridgeport that he's playing with a world of confidence this year in last week's edition of The Home News. With the 'A' on his jersey Monday night, Leier had arguably his best game of the season.

"Taylor does a lot of the right things," head coach Scott Gordon said, explaining his decision to give Leier the 'A'. "He sets a good example with his work ethic. The way he plays the game, he's a two-way player. As offensive as he is, he doesn't cheat on the defensive end of it so I think he sets a real good example for our younger players."

Is Leier NHL ready right now? More after the jump.

In a scoreless first period that saw Hershey in control thanks to four power plays, it was Leier giving the Phantoms a 1-0 lead while the Lehigh Valley was shorthanded. His skating ability took him up ice and he won the 1-on-1 battle with the defender, firing a hard shot that beat Peters but caught the inside of the post. Luckily for Leier and the Phantoms Cole Bardreau was there to slam home the rebound for one of his two goals on the night.

After the Phantoms surrendered three goals in 3:04 of play in the middle frame, it was Leier giving Lehigh Valley a go-ahead goal late in the 2nd period. The power play tally was his 11th goal on the season, and he added to his point total in the third period assisting on Colin McDonald's early third period power play goal.

Leier wasn't done there, despite already having a monster game with a goal and two assists. After Hershey forced overtime and neither team had a game-winning goal, Chris Bourque gave the Bears a 1-0 lead in the first round of the shootout before Leier answered the bell with a beautiful forehand to backhand move, a move he admitted after the game he switched on his way to the goalie on his shot attempt.

"I usually go to my forehand. I think I did twice against this team," Leier said, recalling the two previous shootouts against Hershey. "When I was half way down, I checked to see if he was cheating to the blocker side. I've been practicing that backhand move in practice and I went with that one."

Three separate injuries hampered Leier's ability in the second half of last season, finishing his rookie year with a modest 31 points (13 goals, 18 assists) in 73 games, but he's approaching those goal and assist totals already in nearly half of that span this year with 24 points (11 goals, 13 assists) through 38 games this season. 

While leading goal scorer Petr Straka is on the injured list long term, Leier will be relied upon heavily for Lehigh Valley down the stretch. Becoming a leader on this team is something Leier has talked about wanting to become and in just his second year of pro hockey he's becoming a leader at the AHL level.

Certainly something to keep an eye on, as Leier is shaping up to be on his way to the NHL in near future.


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