Flyers 2008-09 AHL/ECHL prospects update

By Kevin Forbes

For an organization as successful as the Philadelphia Phantoms, including two Calder Cup Championships over their 12-year history, the Phantoms’ future appears to be in doubt. The Phantoms’ current home, the Wachovia Spectrum is scheduled to be torn down following the 2008-09 season. With the Phantoms looking for a new haunt, there is a possibility that the franchise could be sold and relocated to another city.

The Phantoms currently find themselves ninth in the middle of the tightly packed AHL Eastern Conference. A difference of two or three wins could make all the difference between 5th spot and 11th in the conference and more importantly, only a few points stand between teams in playoff contention. The Phantoms stand at 5th in the Eastern division after they finished second in the division and fourth in conference in 2007-08. Philadelphia has been set back this season after a large chunk of their talent has gotten the call by the Flyers organization when injuries have ravaged through the parent NHL club. Thanks to the proximity between the two clubs, the Flyers have been able to send prospects up and down with regularity to address their needs.

Forwards

The biggest blow to the Phantoms lineup could be if forward Claude Giroux sticks with the Flyers for the rest of the season. The team scoring leader at the time of his call-up, Giroux posted 17 goals and 33 points in 31 games for the Phantoms. Despite making the jump to the NHL on Boxing Day, Giroux continues to lead all AHL rookies in scoring. In four NHL games, Giroux has a pair of assists, but has been out of the lineup since suffering a concussion on January 2.

Helping carry the Phantoms offensive load has been center Jared Ross. Ross’ 1.11 point-per-game is the most among Philadelphia players, while his 31 points (13 of which are goals) in 28 games places him third among all Phantoms. Ross has also seen a taste of NHL action, playing in five games for the Flyers in October and November, being held off the score sheet.

Andreas Nodl has been another Philadelphia forward who has spent time both with the Phantoms and the Flyers. Making the jump from the NCAA, Nodl started the season with the Phantoms but soon got the call from the big show. After spending most of the first two months with the Flyers, he was returned to the Phantoms in mid-December, before heading back to the Flyers early in the New Year. In the 28 NHL games he has played for the Flyers, the Austrian has a goal and four points. Meanwhile, in the 12 games that he’s laced up for the Phantoms, he has two goals and five points.

Agitator Jon Kalinski is yet another prospect who has hopped between the AHL and the NHL. Like Nodl, Kalinski started the season with the Phantoms. After a six-game look in the NHL during November, Kalinski was brought in by the Flyers again just prior to the Christmas break. After appearing to carve out a role for himself on the Flyers fourth line, Kalinski suffered a leg injury that required surgery and is currently on the injured reserve. In the 12 games he has played for the Flyers, Kalinski has a goal and three points, meanwhile in 23 AHL games with the Phantoms; he has three goals and 10 points.

Thankfully for the Phantoms, there has been some stability in the forward corps, starting off with a pair of young prospects. Patrick Maroon is in his AHL rookie season, while his teammate Jonathan Matsumoto is in his second full year with the club. Maroon made a name for himself as an offensive star in the OHL and is off to good start to begin his pro career. In 39 AHL games, he has 14 goals and 24 points, with his eight power-play markers leading all Phantoms. Not to be outdone, Matsumoto has seven power-play goals and in total he has 14 goals and 21 points in 37 games for the Phantoms. His .57 point-per-game pace is near identical to his previous season’s efforts, but the Phantoms have to be hoping he will improve on last year’s 44 points, especially if the revolving door among the Phantoms forwards continues.

Maroon is hardly the only first-year forward on the Phantoms. He’s joined by a freshman class that includes a pair of bruisers in Matt Clackson and Garrett Klotz and University of Maine grad Rob Bellamy. Clackson currently leads all Phantoms and all AHL rookies with 138 penalty minutes in 40 games. His scoring prowess isn’t as impressive, with a goal and four points to his name. Klotz has only seen action in 24 games with just an assist and 39 penalty minutes to his name. Bellamy has fared a bit better with two goals and four points in 30 games.

Rounding out the Flyers prospects among the Phantoms forwards is Josh Beaulieu. A rough and tumble second-year forward who spent his junior days with the London Knights, Beaulieu has struggled with injury and has been limited to just 11 games, being held without a point.

Defense

Like the forwards, the defensive squad in Philadelphia has also seen a share of injuries though thankfully the impact hasn’t been as dramatic.

The most notable player making the trip between the AHL and the NHL is Ryan Parent. After finishing the 2007-08 season with the Flyers, Parent suffered a shoulder injury prior to this season and has only recently returned to the ice. Appearing in five games with the Phantoms, he has been held without a point. Once his game gets back up to speed, it is expected that the stay-at-home Saskatchewan native will make his way back to the NHL.

Though a former first-round pick like Parent might be the biggest name on the Phantoms blue line, it would be hard to find a player more important to Philadelphia’s defensive unit than Danny Syvret. An offensive defenseman, Syvret leads the Phantoms in scoring with five goals and 35 points in 39 games. Those numbers also place him tied atop the AHL defensive scoring race. A weapon with the man advantage, Syvret is a key cog in the Phantoms’ 10th ranked power-play unit and his 18 power-play assists are tied for the league lead. With 26 NHL games under his belt already, Syvret is ready should the Flyers come calling.

After Syvret, the remaining defensive prospects on the Phantoms are hardly as offensively prolific. Rookie defender Michael Ratchuk was known as an offensively skilled blue liner during his time with Michigan State University and certainly looked promising when he scored a goal and three points in a three game audition with the Phantoms at the end of the 2007-08 season. But over the course of his first full season of professional hockey, he has yet to be able to duplicate those results. In 38 games, he has scored two goals and added another seven assists for nine points.

Nathan Guenin is a familiar face on the Phantoms blue line, playing in his third season for the club after spending four years at Ohio State University. A hard-nosed defenseman, Guenin has six assists in 31 games for the Phantoms. Since 2006 he has seen action in 11 NHL games with the Flyers, but has yet to get the call this season.

Another Phantoms defenseman is Oskars Bartulis. A sophomore with the squad, Bartulis was known as a two-way force during his time in the QMJHL and that reflected in his rookie season where he posted 21 points in 57 AHL games. Unfortunately, this season he finds himself well off of that pace with just four assists in 39 games with the Phantoms.

Finishing off the Philadelphia defensive prospects is Patrik Hersley. Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings during the offseason, Hersley has had trouble breaking into the Phantoms blue line, finding himself more often out of the lineup then in. He’s appeared in just four games for the Phantoms and has been held without a point.

Goaltending

Perhaps one of the bigger concerns for the Flyers as an organization is the lack of a viable goaltending pipeline. With both of their regular NHL goaltenders scheduled to become unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, there simply is not any NHL level alternatives in the organization. This weakness reflects on the Phantoms, where their 125 goals against is third-worst in the AHL’s Eastern Conference. The Phantoms have had to rely on veteran goaltenders, as opposed to up and coming youngsters to fill their needs between the pipes.

With veteran Scott Munroe filling in for injured Antero Niittymaki as the Flyers’ backup goaltender, the Phantoms have added prospect Michael Teslak to their roster from the Mississippi Sea Wolves. In five AHL games, he has a record of 2-2 to go with a 3.31 goals-against-average and a .915 save percentage.

ECHL

The Flyers ECHL affiliate this year is the Mississippi Sea Wolves. The Phantoms have had to call up their players from Mississippi at times to fill holes in their lineup.

One such player is rookie defenseman Chris Zarb. Leaving Ferris State University a year early, Zarb spent time at the beginning of the season with the Sea Wolves, tallying six assists in ten games. The puck mover was called up to the squad on Boxing Day. He has since seen action in two games with the AHL, being held pointless.

The aforementioned Teslak has also seen time in the AHL and the ECHL, where the numbers game in Mississippi led to him starting the season with the Elmira Jackals. He played five games with Elmira, with a goals-against-average of 2.69 and a save percentage of .911 to go along with a record of 1-2-2. Prior to being added to the Phantoms lineup, Teslak also appeared in a single game for Mississippi. All told, his ECHL numbers total up to a GAA of 2.93 and a save percentage of .909.

Jeremy Duchesne is with Mississippi as well. After seeing just over 30 starts in the ECHL during his rookie year last season, Duchesne is not only on pace to see less action but also posting poorer numbers. It has been an up and down year for the former QMJHL netminder, with strong showings such as a 33-save shutout and a 60-save win being balanced by the fact that in six of his 11 games he has given up five or more goals against. All told, Duchesne has a record of 3-5-2, a save percentage of .881 and an unenviable goals-against-average of 4.66. He is a backup to Ryan Munce.