While the exciting comebacks and incredible overtime thrillers that have transpired in the Stanley Cup Playoffs certainly command every hockey fans attention, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms run at the Calder Cup is certainly worth watching if you’re a fan of the Philadelphia Flyers. After coming in second in the entire AHL in the regular season, several junior prospects are now playing for the team in the playoff run.
Even though the forward position is rather thin, Scott Laughton, Taylor Leier, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel are all worth scouting. While it’s unlikely any of these players will have more than a bottom six role they’ve all shown potential throughout their junior careers. If injuries arise it wouldn’t be surprising to see one of the three log minutes for the Flyers, much like Jordan Weal this season. Of the trio Leier has preformed the best this season, earning a spot in the AHL All-Star Classic for his efforts.
On defense the Phantoms roster boasts Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, and Phillipe Myers, all elite prospects. Hagg, Sanheim, and Morin have logged big minutes for Lehigh Valley the entire season, while Myers ravaged his competition in the QMJHL scoring 35 points in 34 games in an injury shortened year. All four were first or second round picks in their respective drafts.
With the Flyers building their future around their defense in particular, it will be exciting to see how these four prospects handle their composure in a playoff atmosphere. These four players are worth keeping your eye on the most of all the Phantoms skaters, and one or two could easily land a spot on the Flyers next season.
Sadly at goaltender, Anthony Stolartz suffered a season ending injury for the Phantoms after a successful year at Lehigh Valley coupled with seven appearances with the Flyers. Still, Alex Lyon and Carter Hart have loads of potential, and Lyon figures to receive the start for the Phantoms.
Lyon excelled in the NCAA posting a .936 and .938 save percentage in his junior and senior collegiate seasons for Yale, and had a 2.74 goals against average for the Phantoms this season. The 18-year-old Hart however, perhaps has an even more impressive resume. Hart not only commanded the Canadian U20 team to the silver medal in the IIHF World Junior Championship, but posted the best save percentage and goals against average in the WHL playing for the Everett Silvertips.
Transitioning from the AHL to the NHL of course, isn’t a given for most prospects competing to make league. Still, there have been several impact players in Stanley Cup Playoffs this year that have competed in the AHL recently. Jake Guentzel scored a hat trick and the overtime game winner for the Penguins in Game 3 of their series against Columbus, Viktor Arvidsson has provided two points in three games and has driven play with his speed in the Nashville Predators impressive playoff run, and Kasperi Kapanen scored two goals for Toronto in their Game 2 overtime win against the Washington Capitals. The hope, is that one of the key players competing now in the AHL playoffs will give a similar spark in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when the Flyers return to the postseason.