The Philadelphia Phantoms will be playing their final season at the storied Spectrum arena this season. The Spectrum will be demolished following the season and a massive entertainment complex will be put up as a replacement.
But in the meantime, the Phantoms will look to add their third Calder Cup championship to the team’s resume. With a blend of youth and veteran leadership, the Phantoms will look to build upon their playoff appearance last year on their quest to the Calder Cup. Since the Phantoms are most likely to relocate to a city outside of Philly, this will be the fans’ final chance to take advantage of having the Flyers of the future playing right next door to the home of the Flyers.
This year’s crop will be anchored by some top NHL prospects, as well as some solid role players who are expected to someday make it. Claude Giroux, who competed seriously for a roster spot with the Flyers, will start the season with the Phantoms. After dominating the QMJHL last season, Giroux was unable to crack one of the top three lines in training camp. Rather than play Giroux out of position on the fourth line, where he would not get enough ice time, the Flyers decided to have Giroux start the season with the Phantoms. This decision had more to do with the fact the Flyers have superior depth at the forward position rather than Giroux not being ready to make the NHL.
Andreas Nodl was another top prospect who impressed during training camp, and he should add some skill and scoring up front for the Phantoms. During the Phantoms vs. Flyers exhibition game, Nodl played on the top line along with Giroux. This will be Nodl’s first full season in the AHL, after playing in three regular-season games and 10 playoff games last year for the Phantoms.
Patrick Maroon, 20, will play in his first full season in the AHL, after playing for the London Knights of the OHL last season and appearing in one game with the Phantoms. A sixth-round pick in the 2007 draft, he may end up being one of the sleepers of that draft. Maroon, who had weight and conditioning problems in the past, has done wonders in losing weight and getting into professional hockey shape. The 6’4 power forward winger scored 35 goals in 64 games as a rookie in the OHL last season. Look for Maroon to play a similar role with the Phantoms.
Freddy Cabana has spent the past couple of seasons with the Phantoms playing an agitating-checker type of role. He should continue to develop and with his solid skating ability and solid work ethic should play a valuable role for the Phantoms, especially on the penalty kill.
Rob Bellamy will make his full-time Phantoms debut after playing collegiate hockey at the University of Maine and appearing in one game with the Phantoms last season. The 23-year-old Bellamy plays a strong defensive game and plays with a real physical edge. Bellamy should also help the Phantoms in the corners and in establishing the fore check.
Matt Clackson, 23, is a second generation pro hockey tough guy, as he is the son of former NHL enforcer Kim Clackson. Though listed at 6’0 and 205, Clackson took on some much bigger fighters during the preseason, and can certainly scrap with the heavies in the AHL. He plays the game with the trademark Phantoms toughness and his play will pay homage to the many scraps seen at the Spectrum over the years.
Garret Klotz, who doesn’t turn 20 until November, will no doubt be a fan favorite for the Phantoms. Klotz, who is listed at around 6’5 and 235 pounds, will be the next generation of great enforcers to play for the Phantoms. He has been praised for being a good skater for a player of his size and toughness. Klotz has taken on some of the biggest and best enforcers of the rugged WHL league the past few seasons, and the next step is taking on the AHL’s best.
Danny Syvret, 23, is a solid defenseman who saw extended time with the Flyers this preseason. Syvret was acquired this offseason in a trade with the Edmonton Oilers for Ryan Potulny. Syvret has played in 26 NHL games with the Edmonton Oilers, and should add to the Phantoms blue line.
Mike Ratchuk, 20, had an impressive training camp scoring a number of goals for the Phantoms during their preseason play. Ratchuk will add speed and skill to the Phantoms blue line and help out on the power play. This will be Ratchuk’s first full season with the Phantoms after playing collegiate hockey and appearing in three regular season and five post-season games for the Phantoms last year.
Oskars Bartulis had a solid rookie season for the Phantoms last season, finishing the year at plus 10 while appearing in 57 games. The 21-year-old defenseman can continue to develop his offensive game, while solidifying the Phantoms blue line with strong defensive play.
Nate Guenin has seen extensive time with both the Flyers and the Phantoms over his career after playing for the Ohio State Buckeyes. Guenin plays a rugged game and will both drop the gloves and punish opponents with body checks. Guenin, who moves well for a big, physical defenseman, is a right-handed shot, which is a commodity on the blue line.
A couple of other right-handed defensemen, both drafted in 2004, will make their Phantoms debut. R.J Anderson, 22, and Chris Zarb, 23, both make their professional debuts after playing collegiate hockey. Anderson was highly touted while playing high school hockey in Minnesota and continued his hockey career at the University of Minnesota. Both Anderson and the 6’4 Zarb play offensive-minded games.
The Phantoms starting goaltender could end up being veteran Jean-Sebastien Aubin, Scott Munroe, or 2005 fourth-round draft pick Jeremy Duchesne. Duchesne will have a chance to gain a step up on the other goaltender prospects in the organization and open some eyes this year. Being a young goaltender, learning from a veteran would be a good development tool for Duchesne if he is delegated to a backup position.