Ever since the Phantoms relocated to Lehigh Valley to start the 2014-15 AHL season, there have been a few mainstay players that have been with the team since the beginning. At the end of the 2018-19 season the team parted ways with forwards Chris Connor and Colin McDonald, who were with the team since 2015. Cole Bardreau, who was with the team since their inaugural season signed as a free agent with the New York Islanders during the summer of 2019 and longtime goaltender Anthony Stolarz was traded before the 2019 trade deadline.
That left the trio of Greg Carey, T.J. Brennan, and Reece Willcox as the last remaining O.G.s in the Lehigh Valley. But the winds of change blew yet again when Brennan’s play started to decline during the 2019-20 season and was ultimately dealt to the Blackhawks organization at the 2020 trade deadline. The other two, Carey and Willcox, finished out the season with the Phantoms before the AHL was paused in March.
Now, as the AHL gets ready to re-launch, the last two original pillars are nowhere to be seen. Neither the Flyers or Phantoms re-signed Greg Carey and Reece Willcox recently signed an ECHL deal elsewhere in the league.
Carey, who leads the Lehigh Valley incarnation of the Phantoms in games played (277) and goals (103), and second in points (195), will turn 31 years old in April and has been with the organization since the summer of 2016. He is still a free agent but there is no indication that he will return to the team he called home for the past four seasons.
Willcox played the most games among Phantoms defenseman with 232. He signed a deal with the ECHL Florida Everblades on January 5, 2021, but was loaned to the Hersey Bears of the AHL for the 2021 campaign, ending his Phantoms tenure after four and a half seasons.
The longest tenured Phantom on the roster now becomes Carsen Twarynski, who has suited up for 105 games in Lehigh Valley, which is 26th place in the organization’s history. Mark Friedman and Alex Lyon, who may or may not return to the Phantoms when the season starts, have 186 games and 145 games under their belt respectively in the AHL.
For the fans, it’s hard to say goodbye to longstanding players that have meant so much to the team and community. That being said, the Flyers have copious amounts of prospects that need time and space to develop and will earn the love of the Phantom’s faithful soon enough. Look for guys like Wyatte Wylie, Felix Sandstrom, Linus Hogberg, Maksim Sushko, among others to gain bigger roles with the team during the 2021 season.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: oursportscentral.com