Lehigh Valley Phantoms February Grades - Monthly Prospect Report

Thursday, March 3, 2016
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have six and a half weeks to mount their playoff push. Photo: Nina Weiss/The Home News
Editor's note: The monthly feature aimed to inform fans about the progress the prospects have made each month is back. This is the fifth installment of the Flyers' AHL monthly prospect report and reflects the month of February, which spans a 11-game stretch from February 5th to February 28th. For either of the previous month's reports, click below:
October Prospect Report
November Prospect Report 
December Prospect Report
January Prospect Report  
Entering the month of March, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms (26-26-2-3) have 19 games left on their regular season schedule, and still sit on the outside of the playoff picture - six points behind the Bridgeport Sound Tigers for the final playoff spot entering the month of March. After this weekend, there's only six weeks remaining in the 2015-16 regular season.

Entering the AHL's All-Star break on a five-game win streak, the Phantoms had closed the gap to the final playoff spot to just two points, or one win away. After a 4-5-0-2 showing in 11 February games, the deficit is up to six points with time running out on Lehigh Valley if they hope to sneak into the 2016 Calder Cup Playoffs.

UPDATE: The Phantoms 3-2 shootout win on March 2nd has them five points out of playoffs with 18 games left.

Special Teams

Power Play

Season Stats: 58 games played, 43 for 245 = 17.6% - 13th in AHL (1 shorthanded goal against)
February Stats: 11 games played, 12 for 51 = 23.5% (1 shorthanded goal against)

Penalty Kill

Season Stats: 58 games played, 185 for 224 = 82.6% - 15th in AHL (5 shorthanded goals for)
Febraury Stats: 11 games played, 29 for 35 = 82.9%

February's Three Stars

Third Star - Forward Phil DeSimone - Grade A
2015-16 Season Stats: 16GP, 4G-6A, +3, 8 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 4G-5A, +5, 8 PIM

DeSimone has been a valuable addition to the team, joining in late January from an overseas professional hockey league in Austria. An injury to center Tim Brent and subsequent call up of Nick Cousins left the team thin down the middle. DeSimone has stepped up and filled the role well, forming a nice trio with linemates Taylor Leier and Chris Conner.

Second Star - Forward Taylor Leier - Grade A+
2015-16 Season Stats: 53GP, 18G-21A, +5, 31 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 6G-5A, +2, 7 PIM

Leier is hands down the best two-way forward in Lehigh Valley. He has the ability to make plays in tight space and take control of games when his team needs him most, evidenced on February 20th when his two third period goals turned a regulation loss into a point in the standings. His well-rounded two-way game translates well to the next level. He might be NHL-ready right now, and I would be surprised if he doesn't make the NHL roster next fall.

First Star - Forward Chris Conner - Grade A+
2015-16 Season Stats: 41GP, 12G-29A, +9, 8 PIM
January Stats: 11GP, 2G-11A, -2, 0 PIM

Since returning from injury, Conner has been the team's MVP. He has points now in 17 of his last 18 games (seven goals, 18 assists) and is currently in the midst of a nine-game points scoring streak (two goals, 10 assists) that when asked about it after Sunday's game in Hartford, replied that he was unaware of the stat and just plays the game and tries to help his team win.

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

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Anthony Stolarz - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats: 36GP, 19-12-5, 2.46 GAA, .920 SV%, 0 SO
February Stats: 7GP, 3-2-2, 2.60 GAA, .926 SV%, 0 SO

Stolarz has been carrying a bulk of the starts as of late, starting in net for the team's last eight games including March 2nd's game in Syracuse Wednesday night. While his record is close to .500, he's been playing much better than he was in January. Two of his four losses in February came when he made a combined 76 saves on 80 shots. The Phantoms will need continued strong play in net from Stolarz if they are to have any chance of pushing for playoff contention.

Jason LaBarbera - Grade C
2015-16 Season Stats: 21GP, 7-12-0, 2.96 GAA, . 898 SV%, 1 SO
February Stats: 5GP, 1-3-0, 3.58 GAA, .868 SV%, 0 SO

LaBarbera is back on the injured list. After dealing with a nagging injury over the past several weeks that limited his starts in February, he took a puck off his hand while on the bench backing up Anthony Stolarz last Friday night at home against Hartford and hasn't appeared since. Martin Ouellette has been called up to backup Stolarz.


Mark Alt - Grade B
2015-16 Season Stats: 56GP, 4G-10A, +10, 30 PIM
February Stats: 10GP, 1G-0A, -2, 2 PIM

Alt continues to work the shutdown pairing with Sam Morin and while he doesn't put up a ton of points offensively, he's a reliable two-way defender that plays in all situations. He has a giant role on this team and also logs big minutes on the penalty kill and in late-game situations.

Sam Morin - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 58GP, 3G-12A, -6, 84 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 0G-2A, -5, 9 PIM

Morin is still learning the pro game and working on his positioning and situational play. There  have been a lot asking if he will make the Flyers next fall out of camp, and while he isn't playing poor;y by any stretch of the imagination, I think it's best to temper those expectations. Young defensemen take time to adjust and GM Ron Hextall preaches patience. As I wrote last month, Morin is learning to keep it simple.

Robert Hagg - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 47GP, 2G-4A, -8, 26 PIM
February Stats: 10GP, 1G-1A, -1, 2 PIM

Since his short stint as a healthy scratch and likely in Scott Gordon's doghouse, Hagg is getting back on track and playing much better hockey of late. Hagg himself admitted he needs to be better in a 1-on-1 interview with The Home News earlier this month.

Davis Drewiske - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats: 55GP, 3G-7A, Even, 14 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 0G-2A, -6, 4 PIM

Drewiske hit a bit of a rough patch in February, finishing seven of the month's 11 games in the minus column. He started to pick it up toward the end of the month, tallying assists in back-to-back games and even rating in the last four games. Drewiske's veteran presence is valuable and doesn't show up in the stat sheet, and it's hard to tell if the dip in numbers is a result of less offensive production from the stay at home defender than last month's five-point month.

Christian Marti - Grade C
2015-16 Season Stats (AHL): 19GP, 0G-1A, -7, 8 PIM
February Stats (AHL): 8GP, 0G-0A, -2, 6 PIM

Marti has been rotating in and out of the lineup as the team's 7th defensemen and seems to be taking some time to get adjusted to playing on the right side on defense. Injuries have really halted him from getting into a rhythm this season.

Maxim Lamarche - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats (AHL): 25GP, 1G-4A, -4, 19 PIM 
February Stats (AHL): 7GP, 0G-0A, -2, 4 PIM

Lamarche is playing typical third pairing minutes while also rotating as an occasional healthy scratch. He hasn't been overly effective or detrimental to the Phantoms' successes or shortcomings in the last month and plays a simple game, something he needs to continue to do in the final year of his entry level contract if he hopes to sign another NHL deal this summer.

Adam Comrie - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats (AHL): 16GP, 3G-2A, +2, 7 PIM
February Stats (AHL): 11GP, 3G-1A, +1, 2 PIM

Comrie joined the Phantoms in late January and had been tearing it up offensively in the ECHL with Reading prior to his recall. He's been a good addition to the team's power play, using his big shot from the point for two power play goals last month.


Cole Bardreau - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats: 36GP, 10G-11A, -2, 28 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 2G-3A, -13, 7 PIM

After putting up 12 points (6G-6A) and a plus 11 rating in route to being named the AHL's Rookie of the Month for January, Bardreau had a pretty rough February with a minus 13 in 11 games last month despite putting up five points. Those are the ups and downs a first year pro goes through, and it will be interesting to see how Bardreau responds in March.

Tyrell Goulbourne - Grade C
2015-16 Season Stats: 58GP, 7G-8A, -9, 43 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 1G-0A, -3, 13 PIM

Goulbourne had gone 33 games without a goal before his late 2nd period tally in Springfield on February 21st, but he's learning to be an effective bottom-six forward that plays physical and with energy. He admitted he was getting away from what had made him successful earlier in the season but that he's getting back to playing to his strengths and embracing his role as a bottom-six grinding type forward that shuts down other team's scorers.

Colin McDonald - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 36GP, 11G-11A, -3, 21 PIM
February Stats: 8GP, 2G-2A, -7, 2 PIM

The Phantoms' captain followed up a superb January with a sub-par February, also missing three straight games with an undisclosed upper body injury. The duo McDonald formed in January with Cole Bardreau was nowhere near as dominant as the two were last month. These are determined, hardworking players so expect a strong March from them.

Aaron Palushaj - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 47GP, 10G-13A, -11, 40 PIM
January Stats: 11GP, 2G-3A, -5, 20 PIM

Palushaj is starting to get into a rhythm now that he's healthy and in the lineup regularly. He has said he plays better down the stretch and so far he's got six points in his last 11 games. Even when he's not scoring, he's generating chances with regularity. The Phantoms need guys like Palushaj to continue to generate offense at a time of the season when scoring is at a premium.

Kevin Goumas - Grade C+
2015-16 Season Stats: 55GP, 5G-7A, -12, 14 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 1G-3A, Even, 4 PIM

Goumas had a much better month in Febraury than he did in January for the Phantoms. The speedy forward routinely generates chance on the penalty kill and plays well on the forecheck in his bottom six role. He's also centering a line now with more skilled wingers in Danick Martel and Aaron Palushaj and the three seem to work well together.

Danick Martel - Grade B
2015-16 Season Stats: 50GP, 20G-11A, -7, 45 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 5G-1A, -8, 0 PIM

Martel continues to work hard and the hard work is paying off. He tallied his 20th goal of the season Wednesday night in Syracuse to kick off the month of March. He's tied for second among AHL rookies with those 20 tallies. The speedy winger is undersized, but not over matched in the AHL - he plays a feisty game and doesn't let his size prevent him from going to the net.

Petr Straka - Grade B+
2015-16 Season Stats: 48GP, 17G-16A, +5, 21 PIM
February Stats: 9GP, 0G-6A, -4, 4 PIM

Straka has returned to the lineup and is starting to get things going again after missing a month's worth of games from mid-January to mid-February. It's a crucial time for Straka to continue to produce, as he's in the final season of his entry-level contract and is a restricted free agent after this season.

Joe Rehkamp - Grade B-
2015-16 Season Stats: 37GP, 1G-2A, -7, 16 PIM
February Stats: 11GP, 0G-0A, -3, 6 PIM

Rehkamp has been the team's fourth line center and plays with speed and tenacity. The hard-working undersized center plays a pivotal role on the penalty kill and is one of the Phantoms' unsung heroes playing a less than glamorous role.

Honorable Mentions

This section features players who either did not appear in enough games in January to receive a grade, or are no longer on the team/with the organization.

Defenseman Jesper Pettersson - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats (AHL): 23GP, 1G-2A, -4, 10 PIM 
February Stats (AHL): 1GP, 0G-0A, Even, 2 PIM

Pettersson joined the Phantoms for their final game of February and played in Hartford on Sunday, but has been regularly an ECHL player, tallying six points (1G-5A) and a plus four rating in 11 games with Reading last month.

Defenseman Andrew MacDonald - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats (AHL): 43GP, 5G-31A, +7, 30 PIM
February Stats (AHL): 4GP, 0G-6A, -4, 0 PIM

MacDonald was called up before Saturday February 13th's home matchup against Utica, and will remain with the Flyers the rest of the season.

Forward Nick Cousins - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 38GP, 12G-26A, +13, 45 PIM
February Stats (AHL): No stats

Cousins was called up following the AHL All-Star break and hasn't returned since, besides the paper transaction to Lehigh Valley on trade deadline day to allow him to be eligible to play for the Phantoms in the postseason, should the Phantoms sneak in.

Forward Dalton Smith - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 18GP, 1G-0A, Even, 24 PIM
February Stats: No stats

Smith made his Phantoms debut in the team's first game in March after signing a PTO with Lehigh Valley in late Febraury. His father, Derrick Smith, and uncle, Keith Primeau, both played for the Philadelphia Flyers during their respective NHL careers - making this opportunity for Dalton Smith that much more meaningful.

Forward Pavel Padakin - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats (ECHL): 21GP, 8G-9A, +5, 6 PIM
February Stats (AHL): 5GP, 0G-1A, Even, 0 PIM

The Phantoms sent Padakin to Reading to get ice time and his confidence back and he returned with more confidence in his game at the AHL level, scoring his first career AHL goal in the final game before the All-Star break. Ultimately, Padakin's skill set is better suited in a top-line role in the ECHL than grinding it out on the fourth line in the AHL.

Forward Tim Brent - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 37GP, 5G-14A, +4, 26 PIM
February Stats: No stats

Brent injured his hand in Bridgeport and after it was initially not expected to be a major issue, it took a turn for the worst and required surgery to repair. He's expecting a return later this month.

Forward Jay Rosehill - Grade Incomplete
2015-16 Season Stats: 16GP, 1G-2A, -1, 12 PIM
February Stats: 4GP, 0G-1A, +1, 2 PIM

Rosehill got back into the Phantoms' lineup in February for the first time since December 27th. He still adds value to Lehigh Valley both on and off the ice, mentoring a guy like Tyrell Goulbourne on what he needs to do with his specific skill set to carve out a role in the NHL down the road.


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