For the first time in a long time, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are poised to ice a fairly competitive lineup. There is a new wave of young players that are looking to establish themselves at the pro level after getting their feet wet during the shortened 2021 season. Wether top guys looking to prove themselves or under-the-radar players ready to make a name, which Phantoms are poised to break out in 2021-22?
Number 5: Yegor Zamula
Zamula made the jump to the AHL last season and had his share of growing pains, but also proved his hockey basics are up to snuff. He is reminiscent of Phil Myers or Travis Sanheim at this stage of their respective careers, a tall, two-way defenseman who needs to adjust to the game physically. This will be his first taste of a full, normal professional season, so Zamula will have a better chance to adapt to the game, and if he can put the pieces together he could have an NHL spot calling his name sooner rather than later.
Number 4: Isaac Ratcliffe
Ratcliffe has been one of the more disappointing Phantoms since he made his professional debut during the 2019-20 season. The 6’6, 200lb, former 50 goal scorer during his junior career, struggled to adapt to the AHL level and has dealt with his share of injuries as well. By all accounts, Ratcliffe has had a great camp with the Flyers, finally unafraid to shoot the puck and use his size to his advantage. If he can keep his momentum and confidence up going into the real season in Lehigh, he could finally establish himself.
Number 3: Felix Sandstrom
Sandstrom had a busy 2021 season, but didn’t actually play much hockey. He only suited up for 11 games in Lehigh where he recorded a .903 save percentage and 3.19 goals against average, but his play looked better than his numbers suggest. Throughout the season he was called up to the taxi squad, then sent back down to the Phantoms to get a game or two in to avoid getting rusty, it was a role he split with Alex Lyon. Now things are back to normal and Lyon is gone, the AHL crease is Sandstrom’s to lose. His competition will be either rookie Samuel Ersson or returning Kirill Ustimenko, who is battling back from hip surgery last season, so expect Sandstrom to the be regular starter in Lehigh and possibly see his first taste of NHL action if an injury arises with the big club.
Number 2: Cam York
Thanks to a logjam on the blueline in the NHL, Cam York will probably find himself on the outside looking in to start the season, so York will more than likely take a top role with the Phantoms out of the gate. Even though he is a highly touted prospect, the 20-year-old has just 11 professional games under his belt. Getting a chance to further develop in the AHL for at least part of the season won’t hurt his future and could help carry the Phantoms during his time in Lehigh. He’ll more than likely see big minutes both at even strength and on special teams, anything that could get him ready for the show he’ll more than likely dabble in.
Number 1: Tyson Foerster
Even after years of drafting and developing, it’s been years since the Flyers had themselves a prospect like Tyson Foerster. The 6’3, 194lb, 19-year-old made his AHL debut last year thanks to the pandemic forcing the junior leagues to shutdown for the year. It is expected he will return to the Phantoms this season and with an offseason to train and a full training camp to learn, big things are expected during his sophomore campaign. He had 10 goals and 17 points in 24 games last season, and as long as he can stay injury free this year, Foerster’s ceiling could be unlimited.
Sushko quitely put together a solid rookie season with the Phantoms in 2019-20, but between covid, a flurry of other injuries, and a recall to the NHL where he made his debut, his 2021 season, where he only played 11 total games going pointless, was less than amazing on the stat sheet. Though with a regular offseason to train and a full, normal season on the horizon, expect Sushko to get back on the horse and potentially see top six minutes on the wings in Lehigh Valley and get his career back on track.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: phantomshockey.com