Just as their main roster counterparts have become less relevant over the last handful of years, so have the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Once the Hextall pipeline dried up, it’s been a long few seasons with underwhelming rosters, a coaching change and more injuries than feasible to count. They haven’t made the playoffs since 2018, and have only had two postseason appearances since they arrived in the Valley in 2014, but this season things seem brighter than in the past. Most of the remaining fledgling Hextall-era prospects have been flushed out and some new very promising youngsters are ready to make their professional debuts, or in some cases, return to the pros.
For all intents and purposes, Tyson Foerster is their guy right now. The lone bullet in the chamber when it comes to potential in-house superstardom. He missed most of last season after undergoing shoulder surgery, but returned to his junior team, the Barrie Colts, for their late season push and playoff run. He scored seven goals and 15 points in 19 total games. Foerster made Team Canada’s World Juniors squad and recorded three goals and six points in seven games during the summer of 2022.
It’s possible he earns a roster spot out of camp, but the more likely option is he spends a month or two with the Phantoms and when things inevitably go wrong for the Flyers, he’ll get the recall and be tagged as the hero of the day. If he can get off to an early hot start with the Phantoms, it’ll only increase the likelihood he sees NHL ice time sooner rather than later. He’s got 12 goals and 20 points in 33 games as a Phantom during his two seasons with the club.
Potentially the most intriguing prospect poised to make his professional debut next season is 2020 fifth rould pick Elliot Desnoyers, who has been tearing up juniors ever since he was drafted by the Flyers. He posted 42 goals and 88 points in 61 games for the Halifax Mooseheads last season while wearing the “C” for the club. He posted 63 goals and 137 points in 98 games total since his draft year.
Now that he’s making the jump to the AHL, all eyes will be on his development to see whether or not he’s got that kind of offensive firepower in him in the pros. If he can be a contributor with the Phantoms, it’ll be a huge boost to their prospect pool as someone who can play both wing and center. The center depth in the AHL isn’t looking great, especially if Laczynski makes the main roster out of camp, so if he does opt to play center and can score there’s plenty of reasons to be excited.
Wisdom’s ceiling at the professional level still seems unknown, but he has plenty of factors to his game that will make him an intriguing option now that he’s making his full-time jump to the AHL. His offensive totals upon his return to Kingston were underwhelming, posting only nine goals and 38 points in 43 games. Down from his 2019-20 stat line of 29 goals and 59 points in 62 games. The dip in production can probably be attributed to his rehab from shoulder surgery, which he underwent last summer.
He spent the pandemic season in 2020-21 with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms as an underaged player, but posted seven goals and 18 points in 28 games and was praised for his work ethic on a shift-by-shift basis. He may not be the next top star, but a bottom six workhorse with an offensive upside could be a decent piece of the puzzle at the end of the day.
To some, Wade Allison is the new Michal Neuvirth- you sneeze in his general direction and he’ll break a bone. But to the folks that have kept a keen eye on the Phantoms over the last few seasons, they know what they’ve got in the 24-year-old winger. He’s got the potential to be an offensive powerhouse with a bubbly personality that will easily launch him into stardom when he does lock down a full-time NHL gig. He’s a power forward who can crash the net, he can take a net front role on the powerplay, and he’d got a flat out cannon of a shot and will use it anywhere on the ice. Not to mention he’s not afraid to get in a scrap now and again.
Is Wade Allison a guy who will ever suit up for an 82-game season? Probably not, but the rumors of his demise are greatly exaggerated. He plays a style of hockey where injuries are bound to happen, but the production you’ll get in between will be more than worth it. Let’s all just hope he can get out of the gate in one piece and establish himself early in the campaign to avoid the mess that was his 2021-22 season..
Laczynski should make the Flyers roster out of camp considering he’s one of the few players in the entire organization who can actually play center, but that would also mean giving the Flyers the benefit of the doubt that they do something right, not something easily given these days. Laczynski returned from double hip surgery in February and, finally healthy, look pretty good for the Phantoms. He had seven goals and 17 points in 28 games last season, looking good at both ends of the ice.
The 25-year-old has six NHL games to his name, used sparingly during the 2020-21 season, mainly being deployed on the fourth line to take faceoffs. It’s a role he may take once agaun for the Flyers this season, at least out of the gate. If he does end up with the Phantoms to start the season, he could see and uptick in his offensive production alongside players like Foerster and Allison.
There’s a good chance Zamula starts the season in the AHL thanks to the crowding on the left side at the NHL level, but a little extra time in the AHL won’t hurt the 22-year-old. The main, and really only, major complaint about his game is his size, standing at 6’4 but weighing in at just 180lbs. He’s a very lanky guy, but he looked very good for the Phantoms last season, getting better as the year went on. Zamula played 10 NHL games during the dying days of the 2021-22 season, never really looking out of place doing so, but went pointless and recorded a -6 on the lackluster Flyers squad. He’ll probably be the Phantoms top pair lefty to open the campaign with Cam York all but a lock to make the NHL, so he’ll have a few months to put his skills on display yet again to audition for an NHL job in the very near future.
Attard got his feet wet at the NHL level with a 15-game sample size after his college career at Western Michigan came to an end, and the NHL exposure pointed out both the strengths and weaknesses of his game. He was clearly over his head from a defensive standpoint, something that’s not uncommon for a college kid making the jump to the pros, but on a positive note, he had a booming shot from the point and seemed to have an above-average IQ in the offensive zone.
He’ll probably start in the AHL and take the season to hone his skills and adapt to the speed and talent of the professional game, but if he can modify his game to hang with the demands of playing defense while simultaneously keeping the strong offensive style, the Flyers could have themselves a diamond in the rough with their 2019 third round pick.
It helps that he’s a right shot as well. If an injury does strike an RHD on the main roster, he could very well get an NHL recall early.
Wylie isn’t the flashiest player to ever lace up the skates, but he grew quite a bit during the 2021-22 season for the Phantoms. He is one of the very few right-handed defensive prospects the organization has, so he’d got an edge if he does indeed develop. He posted five goals and 18 points in 65 games for the Phantoms in 2021-22. He’ll spend the season continuing to hone his two-way skills, and if his development continues its upward trajectory, he could find himself in the discussion for a main roster spot in 2023-34.
Hogberg had quite a bit of hype in his native Sweden before making the full-time jump to North America last season, where his play was slightly underwhelming. He played 58 games in the AHL with zero goals and eight assists, and even made his NHL debut, playing five games racking up two assists, even walking away with an even plus/minus, a meaningless, but rather impressive feat considering how bad the team was late in the season. He’ll more than likely get another crack at the AHL level, and could see improved ice time with Cam York out of the picture. With another season to develop under his belt, we’ll have a much better idea of the player Hogberg can be.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: AHL.com