24-year-old former 2016 second round pick Wade Allison has had a rollercoaster of a season. From overcoming injuries to his battle back to the NHL, he has been a highlight of the the Flyers’ prospect pool. Even though he is still playing with the Phantoms in an effort to gain his conditioning back, he has been doing something incredibly important down there- earning the love of the fans.
Now that Claude Giroux is gone, the Flyers need a new hero. A new babyface of the franchise, loved by all corners of the fanbase. There’s nobody left on the current roster that a vast majority of fans can agree upon liking. Provorov and Konecny no longer fit that bill, and even a guy like Oskar Lindblom has his detractors these days. That role could be filled by a hometown boy like Johnny Gaudreau, but obviously there is no guarantees the Flyers can land him in the first place.
As a Lehigh Valley Phantoms season ticket holder, there are things that I can notice during the games that either don’t get broadcast on TV or noticed by fans who don’t pay attention to the AHL product overall. And it’s these little things that make him such a likable guy. He often spends the dying seconds of warmups going along the half wall and giving every kid a puck, occasionally even tossing his stick over the glass to a lucky fan. He has been known acknowledge fans along the boards before faceoffs, even waiving to fans higher up in the arena, and pump up the audience during TV timeouts. The fun he is having on the ice is palpable.
It’s that kind of stuff that builds relationships with the fans. Even if the team’s on-ice product isn’t at it’s best, people will walk away from the game happy, in some cases even starting a life-long fandom because of a positive interaction with a player. All things the Flyers could use their fair share of right now.
Not only is he a good dude, but he’s a pretty good hockey player as well. He’s got 10 goals and 17 points in 22 AHL contests this season, with his strong offensive game and willingness to get to the dirty areas on display every shift. He also possess a cannon of a shot, something he has put on display at both the AHL and NHL levels.
The main complaint people have when it comes to Allison are the injuries, which is a fair but overblown talking point. He missed the start of the 2021-22 season with a high ankle sprain suffered during a rookie game in the fall. He returned in January and made it all the way back to the NHL after seven games in Lehigh Valley, but them missed over two months with an MCL sprain. He once again returned in early March and has been good to go ever since, only missing two games total, one recovering from a skate laceration on his wrist, and the other a maintenance day for a minor back tweak.
Even if he’s not an 82-game guy, there’s no reason to believe he can’t regularly see at least 60 starts a season. Players get hurt. It happens. That doesn’t mean you have to throw in the towel on the kid. I think that mentality stems from other Flyers players who go down and are never seen again, a la Nolan Patrick, Samuel Morin or Ryan Ellis.
Allison will turn 25 at the start of the 2022-23 season, plenty of time to get and maintain a long NHL career. He will highlight some of the NHL-ready players who could make the jump to the Flyers next season. If he makes the jump and can stay healthy and a broader audience can experience the same fun-loving guy the Phantoms fans do, he’ll be embraced by the fans as a light in the otherwise black abyss the is Philadelphia Flyers hockey in 2022.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: inquirer.com