The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been an underwhelming squad for the last few seasons, with lackluster prospects combined with injuries on the main roster and in their own backyard hampering any potential success. But the 2022-23 campaign could be different. A new waive of youngsters are set to make their full-time jump to the professional level and they bring with them a much great aura of talent the the previous generation. So which players should you keep an eye on during the 2022-23 AHL season?
Number 5: Zayde Wisdom
Wisom got his feet wet in the AHL two seasons ago during the pandemic and he scored seven goals and 18 points in 28 games with the Phantoms. He was one of the better underaged players in the league that season and his offensive upside and work ethic were on full display. A shoulder injury and subsequent surgery kept him out of the lineup for most of the 2021-22 season and he was returned to juniors when he was deemed healthy. Now he’s back in the AHL and ready to show his stuff. His ceiling isn’t regarded to be as high as fellow prospects, but if he can develop into a hard working third line winger with a scoring upside, that could be just as valuable to the big club as a top goal scorer.
Number 4: Samuel Ersson
Ersson made the jump to North America last season, but missed all but five games with a lingering groin issue. He underwent surgery towards the end of last season and appears to be 100% heading into the 2022-23 campaign. With Sandstrom destined to be the backup this season, the crease in Lehigh will belong to Ersson and his new partner Troy Grosenick, who has been one of the better AHL goalies over the last few seasons. The 23-year-old Ersson has looked good in his brief appearances, so there’s reason to believe he won’t have a decent season this year. The organization is still putting quite a bit of stock into Ersson as a potential NHL option down the road.
Number 3: Elliot Desnoyers
Desnoyers had a successful junior career since his selection in the fifth round of the 2020 draft. He posted 42 goals and 82 points during the 21-22 season. The most intriguing thing about Desnoyers is he has transitioned to center from his natural winger role. Considering the Flyers are light on center prospects these days, if Desnoyers can properly make the transition to center and keep a bit of his offensive touch at the professional level, he’d be a huge piece of the puzzle for the Flyers moving forward.
Number 2: Ronnie Attard
Attard made the jump to the NHL late last season after his college career at Western Michigan came to an end. Given the logjam on defense, he will start the season with the Phantoms, more than likely serving as their top right-handed defenseman. His offense is explosive, possessing probably the best shot from the point in the system, but his play in his own zone is going to need a bit of work. He’ll be tasked with brushing up his defense, and if he can get it up to an acceptable level, there’s no reason to think he won’t be on the main roster next season and potentially be one of the bets secret weapons in the league.
Number 1: Tyson Foerster
This will technically be Foerster’s third season as a member of the Phantoms, as he played with the club during the pandemic season as well as started the 2021-22 season before a shoulder injury sidelined him, but this will be his first full season at the professional level. He’ll challenge for a main roster spot out of camp, which he could very well earn, but chances are with the logjam on the wings, he’ll at least see a little bit of action in the AHL first. He’s got 12 goals and 30 points in 33 games AHL contests, as well as racking up six points in seven games for Team Canada at the World Juniors during the offseason, and six goals and 11 points in 17 games during his return to the Barrie Colts, his junior team, late last season when he returned from his shoulder surgery. If he lights the lamp early and often this season, it will only better his odds he sees a quick recall to the NHL.
23-year-old forward Olle Lycksell was drafted in the sixth round in 2017 and is finally making his jump to North America, and he’s been raising eyebrows all during the preseason. He was on a line with Elliot Desnoyers and Zayde Wisdom during the rookie games, and it’s very possible that is a trio who could start the season together with the Phantoms. He had 14 goals and 34 points in 47 games in the SHL last season, a career best, and his shot was on display at the rookie game with a laser off the faceoff. The expectations certainly aren’t as high as many of his fellow rookies, but the unknown factor he brings makes him somebody to keep an eye on as he transitions to AHL ice.
Hodgson is a well-traveled 26-year-old ECHLer that impressed with the Phantoms last season, scoring 19 goals and 31 points in 46 games, even earning a real contract with the club and an eventual recall to the Flyers where he posted three points in six games. He was signed to a two-year extension during the offseason, so he’ll be tasked with replicating his offensive output from last year. Whether or not he ever sees NHL ice on a full-time basis is up for debate, but if he finds his name on the score sheet more often than not, he may be able to snag a bottom six role with the big club once again.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: mcall.com