Phantoms End-of-Season Prospect Grades

The 2022-23 season marked a new era for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The last few lingering Ron Hextall-era prospects were removed and the first wave of Chuck Fletcher’s draft picks arrived and established themselves. It led to their first playoff berth since 2018 and renewed hope that the Flyers have some enticing prospects in the pipeline after all.

Tyson Foerster: A-

Slowly but surely, Tyson Foerster came into his own this season. His NHL call up in March sparked consistency and pushed him into the team lead in points by season’s end with 48 in 66 games. Up until about February, his offense was consistently inconsistent, with a scoresheet that resembled James Van Riemsdyk levels of streakiness, but he posted three goals and 15 points in his final 16 games of the season. His skating and knack for taking ill-advised penalties can still be cleaned up a bit, but overall, Foerster’s development suggested there is a high-end NHL-caliber scorer within.

Bobby Brink: B+

The main takeaway from Brink’s scouting report in college was his offense had a tendency to be a bit inconsistent but he always played the game the right way. Now, that is a phrase that is relatively generic and blanketed scout speak… that is, until you get to watch him live. He returned from offseason hip surgery in January and immediately made a noticeable impact on the roster. Despite being listed at just 5’8, 165lbs, he was arguably one of their more aggressive forwards both physically and offensively. Brink did rack up 28 points in 41 games, including eight points in his final eight games. The reasonable offensive output partnered with his work ethic and energy on the ice means there should be a middle-six winger spot with the Flyers in his near future.

Elliot Desnoyers: A-

The fifth round pick in 2020 had a high bar to live up to after exploding in the QMJHL after his draft year, and he did a great job reaching that bar during his rookie AHL season. He scored 23 goals, which was a LVP record for rookies, and may have been their best overall forward on the roster. His offense slowed down toward the end of the season with just five points in his final 12 games, which ultimately cost him the team lead he once held comfortably, but as the only worthwhile natural center prospect in the system currently, there’s hope the Flyers have a solid reinforcement coming sooner rather than later.

Olle Lycksell: B-

The Flyers’ sixth round pick in 2017 finally made his jump to North America during the 2022-23 campaign and had a phenomenal season. He racked up 45 points in 53 games, clinging on to a point-per-game pace for almost three-quarters of the season before a late slump forced him to just barely miss that mark. He also had a much higher than expected two-way game as well. Lycksell earned a few NHL recalls, though barely played when he was with the big club. For a team that is a bit shallow at left wing, it wouldn’t be surprising if Lycksell makes the Flyers’ opening night roster for the 2023-24 season, it’ll just be about whether or not he can translate his game to the NHL level… or if he’ll be given a proper opportunity to do so.

Ronnie Attard: B

Ronnie Attard was the last player cut from main roster training camp, ultimately being sent back to work on the defensive side of his game in addition to proving he can contribute offense regularly at the pro level. It took almost the entire season for him to mesh both sides of his game together but by the time 2022-23 came to an end, he was producing offense regularly, finishing with 12 goals and 32 points in 68 games, easily leading the Phantoms defensemen in scoring as well as holding his own defensively. For the Flyers, who are starved of talent at right-handed defenseman and scoring from the blue line in general, Attard could be a very good tool for them to utilize. All he’s got to do is come out of the gate hot in next season’s training camp to hold down a spot this time around.

Egor Zamula: B-

Even though Egor Zamula did make the roster out of camp, he often played second fiddle to Nick Seeler and was eventually demoted because wasn’t going to get regular ice time in the NHL. When Cam York got recalled in December, Zamula became the number one left-handed defenseman in Lehigh and grew into that role nicely. He’s not going to be the flashiest player or highest scorer, but he’s a solid pair of hands that can make under-the-radar smart plays. A late-season shoulder injury ruined what ended up being a positive season for Zamula, but rumor has it that he should be ready for training camp in the fall, so hopefully he can once again snag a roster spot and hold onto it this time around.

Emil Andrae: A

Andrae made the jump to North America late in the 2022-23 season, but he left a great first impression with his new club. He racked up six points in 10 regular season games and took over the 1LHD and PP QB responsibilities when Zamula went down with an injury. There were some timing and spacing issues as you’d expect from European transitioning to North American ice, but the positives he displayed far outweighed the negatives. He may not challenge for a NHL gig out of camp, but there’s no reason to think he won’t be an NHL regular within the next two seasons.

Adam Ginning: C+

Many had already written off Adam Ginning upon his arrival to the Phantoms as Ron Hextall’s least favorite draft pick, but he put together a very solid season on the blueline. Ginning scored 19 points in 68 games as well as tying the LVP record for +/- in a season with +24. His 6’4, 205lb frame was used smartly on defense, not quite the “big guy smash” mindset all the prospect gurus had claimed. His ceiling may not be as high as his teammates, but he should be more than able to handle a depth role in the NHL at some point in his career.

Sam Ersson: B-

It was a roller coaster of a season for Ersson, who played his first full campaign in North America. He suited up for 42 AHL games (plus three playoff contests) as well as 12 NHL games and was sufficiently exhausted by the time the season came to an end. He was near bulletproof from November through December but ended the season with a save percentage above .900 in just five of his final 16 contests. His short NHL stint left fans ready to pack Carter Hart’s bags and coronate Ersson the starter, but his late season slump should pump the brakes on making such an outlandish call so early. He will challenge Felix Sandstrom for the backup role out of camp, but it raises the question as to whether or not it’s smarter for him to continue to see regular minutes with the Phantoms or play once every two weeks with the Flyers.

Jackson Cates: C-

Jackson Cates was never regarded as high as his brother Noah, but this season really established Jackson as a depth AHL forward as he was leapfrogged in the lineup by Elliot Desnoyers and veteran Adam Brooks. He registered just a single goal and two assists in his final 25 games and finished with 23 points in 65 games. He’s still a guy capable of being plugged in for a few spot starts at the NHL level, he did suit up for five games with the Flyers this season, but with the AHL prospect pipeline refilled, there just isn’t any room for Cates longterm.

Zayde Wisdom: D

In a season when a vast majority of the prospects were handled well and had great seasons, Wisdom was the exception to that rule. He played in just 45 games, mainly on the fourth line and was a healthy scratch for parts of the season before eventually ending up in the ECHL to end the year. His play wasn’t noticeably bad, so it could just be a case of being the odd man out on a team overloaded with wingers. So with any luck, a few guys will start the season in the NHL and thus Wisdom’s ice time will receive an uptick in the AHL, but if the rosters remain relatively the same, it could be another long year for Wisdom.

Wyatte Wylie: D

Wylie, a fifth round pick in 2018 and one of the few right-handed defenseman in the system, theoretically gave him an advantage when it comes to carving out a roster spot and ice time, but that just hasn’t been the case. He took up residence on the third line behind Louis Belpedio and Ronnie Attard and wasn’t particularly effective when he was playing. Given his entry-level contract is up and Ethan Samson is slated to make the jump to the AHL next season, who knows if Wylie even gets re-signed. He once looked like an under-the-radar prospect, but he has seemingly fallen out of favor with the organization.

Hayden Hodgson: F

Hodgson came out of nowhere last season and posted 31 points in 46 games for the Phantoms and thus earned a two-year contract from the Flyers. He followed that up by scoring just eight points this season along with 83 penalty minutes. Definitely didn’t capture the lightning in a bottle the Flyers were hoping they did when they signed him to that deal. It doesn’t really matter as it’s just $800,000 but his contract is also one-way next season, too. Thanks, Chuck!

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

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