If you’re like me, chances are that in 2021 you didn’t expect the Flyers to still be rebuilding. Yet, here we are. The main roster may be in the worst state it’s been in since 2014-15 and Chuck Fletcher will have some hard decisions to make about the forward movement of the organization. It’s going to take more than a few prospects to right this ship, but the Lehigh Valley Phantoms currently have a handful of young players on display that can provide hope in these dreary times.
Fletcher confirmed during his press conference on Wednesday that he’s keeping an eye on the players in Lehigh and some may get a chance on the main roster within the next few weeks. If the GM does resort to the Phantoms for help, who are the contenders to get called up?
The Samuel Morin at forward project has come to an end for the time being with the Phantoms as he has been deployed as a defenseman again since being sent down in late February. He originally moved to forward because the Flyers wanted to utilize his skillset and size, but the blue line was theoretically deep and he wouldn’t of had a spot in the NHL. Well, the Flyers defense has crashed and burned this year and they could desperately use Morin’s size and physicality around the net. The move to forward hasn’t gone as planned so it may just be time to scrap that plan all together and let Morin go back to his natural defense and get another shot with the big club.
Kase is now in his third season with the Phantoms and in terms of a development standpoint, may have done all he can do in Lehigh. He has been given tastes of NHL action a few times over the past two seasons, but has never been able to earn a spot. He may not be a glamorous scorer or have a mensa level hockey IQ, but he can be a perfectly fine bottom six forward with decent upside. It kind of feels like he was in Alain Vigneault’s doghouse after his call-up this season, where he played one game then got scratched in favor of a Maksim Sushko, who played five minutes in the same game, then got sent back down to Lehigh while the Flyers played Mark Friedman on the wing during the Lake Tahoe game. Hopefully it was just a comedy of errors on the part of AV that came off as negative, but Kase should be a guy that can earn a fourth line role as soon as next season with the futures of Laughton and Raffl up in the air.
Wisdom, who has been leading the charge as an 18-year-old in the AHL, currently leads the Phantoms in goals and points with six and ten respectively. He is enjoying a tremendous stretch before his junior team, the Kingston Frontenacs, have their fate determined by the Canadien government in the OHL. If the Ontario league does indeed start up again, he will have to be returned to his junior club, but in the meantime, he will continue to learn and gain valuable experience in the AHL. If the battle between the OHL and Canada takes much longer, it’s not impossible to believe he may get a game or two in the NHL as a reward for all his hard work this season.
Willman just received a two-way contract from the Flyers, and it’s very much deserved and done for a reason. He was signed to an AHL contract with the Phantoms and spent most of last season with the Reading Royals after his college career at Brown and Boston University came to an end. He has six goals and eight points through 11 AHL games this season. Willman turned 26 in February, so he is on the older side to be considered a prospect, but if he continues to rise through the ranks of the system, and with a contract in hand, it’s not impossible to believe he gets a look at the NHL level before the end of the season. Seems worth noting he was teammates with Joel Farabee for a year at Boston College.
Finally making the jump to the professional level after a successful college career at Ohio State, Laczynski has opened eyes with his stellar play in Lehigh. He missed the early part of the year with an injury, but has posted six points in 10 games and is getting rave reviews for his hockey IQ and two-way abilities. He should’ve been a consideration for the main roster in camp, but between the injury and a packed forward group, the opportunity wasn’t there. Now that the roster has been sifted through and needing all the help they can get, Laczynski has the chance to earn the spot that was lost during training camp.
Another player who dealt with an injury from training camp until his first AHL game on March 14, Allison is already putting the organization on notice and re-lighting the potential he once had. An ACL injury during his college career temporarily put his career in limbo, and his return wasn’t quite as dominant as he had hoped, but now at the professional level Allison is hoping to get everything back on track and earn an NHL call-up ASAP. He has recorded two goals and three points in his first two AHL games and looks more than mature enough to hang with the professionals. Chances are he’ll need a few more weeks of reps with the Phantoms before he is considered ready, but if he can maintain this kind of offensive production there is no reason why he won’t be a Flyer by season’s end.
It’s been a bumpier-than-expected ride for Zamula during his first professional season, but at the moment he’s still the best defensive prospect they have at the ready and given how bad the Flyers’ defense has been, he couldn’t do much worse. He is playing the role of the top defenseman for the Phantoms and has been fine, but he clocks in at 6’4 and 177lbs which is about the same measurements of a light post. As he continues to grow and fill out his frame his game will come together and his hockey IQ will shine through. His 21st birthday is on March 30, so he has plenty of time to figure things out at the professional level.
Maybe the Flyers’ last ace up their sleeve in terms of a bona fide prospect, York is expected to turn pro after the conclusion of his season at Michigan State early next month. He’s still unsigned by the organization, but expect that to change the second he makes his decision. Will he make the NHL immediately? Possibly. Chances are the team would like to get him some reps with the Phantoms first, but given how bad the defense on the main roster is, Fletcher may be tempted to try his new toy out early. If York can hit the ground running and be a solid middle-pair defenseman it could go a long way to stabilizing the current core. Though there is no need to rush his development, especially if the season looks like a lost cause when he arrives.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: hockeydb.com