Flyers Minor League Report

By Bill Meltzer

Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL) Report:

The Phantoms have really scuffled this season. Goals and wins have been hard to come by. Going into Saturday night’s game against Norfolk, the club sported an unsightly 6-11-0 record and had scored a paltry 37 goals (to 51 goals against) in the 17 games played.

After encouraging wins on Saturday and Sunday, however, Coach John Stevens is breathing a little easier. The goals came in bunches on Saturday, as the Phantoms blew out Norfolk 8-2. On Sunday, goaltender Brian Regan and the defense stepped forward, recording a 2-0 shutout.

Comings and Goings

Struggling backup goalie Dan Murphy has been demoted to Trenton (ECHL). Brian Regan , who was a perfect 8-0 and had a stellar .933 save percentage for the Titans, has been called up in Murphy’s place.

Since our last update, Petr Hubacek was recalled to the Flyers. He played one game before being sent down again. Hubacek has been battling the effects of a slight groin pull that kept him out of two games before his Flyers recall. The same problem led to one injury-related scratching for the big club before he was returned to the farm team. He has not missed any action since coming back to the Phantoms. For the AHL season, Hubacek has 1 goal and 2 assists in 8 games. The two helpers came on Saturday against Norfolk.

Ruslan Fedotenko and Todd Fedoruk are still on recall to the Flyers. Both have been impressive. Fedotenko, in fact, has played so well that may not be coming back to the Phantoms any time soon. Fedoruk, cut for 12 stitches on Friday in a fight with Atlanta veteran Jeff Odgers, was scratched from the Flyers Saturday game against Washington. With healthy players finally returning to the Flyers lineup, Fedoruk is caught in a numbers crunch. I would not be surprised if he were sent back to the Phantoms soon. But even if he is, he’ll be back in the NHL at some point.

Mark Greig was returned to the Phantoms after a one-game callup to the Flyers. This is old hat for Greig. He is used to riding the NHL/AHL shuttle.

Brad Tiley was called up to travel with the Flyers as a spare defenseman when the Flyers’ Michal Sykora did not make the trip, due to a back problem. Tiley was with the Flyers in Toronto as a healthy scratch. He was then returned to the Phantoms.

With all the Phantoms roster depletions due to injuries and call-ups, the team added Sean Ritchlin to the roster to fill out the lineup. He has scored a goal and has a +2 rating in 6 games played to date. There are still playing jobs to be had on the Phantoms roster, so Ritchlin has a shot of staying around, rather than going back the ECHL, where he began the season.

Who’s Hot

Brian Regan was strong in goal in Saturday and Sunday’s wins. He recorded his first AHL shutout on Sunday.

In one of the most encouraging recent signs with the team, rookie Vaclav Pletka has begun to assert himself offensively in recent games. He scored goals in three straight games and registered at least one point in four of five games. He was, however, very quiet in the Sunday game- perhaps a product of fatigue. The Phantoms played one of those infamous three game night in a row weekends, which is something that Pletka never had to do in the Czech Extraleague.

Veteran minor league sniper Michel Picard was expected to carry a large scoring burden for the Phantoms this season. His lack of early season production was a big disappointment. Of late, however, he has come on strong. He is now up to 6 goals and 17 points in 17 games.

Rookie checking line forward Chris Heron has quietly been playing well for the Phantoms all season. There is not much pro offensive upside with him, but he is a heady, fundamentally sound, player.

Rookie Jason Beckett continues to look like the most advanced of the Phantoms young defensemen. Beckett is a punishing hitter but also seems to know when to stay back. Beckett is no offensive D, but he recently scored a shorthanded goal for his first tally as a pro; a nice reward for him.

Who’s Not

Would somebody please wake up Derek Plante and tell him that his once-promising career is in severe jeopardy? At his current rate, not only does Plante have little chance of getting called up to the Flyers, the level of interest from other NHL teams- even the weakest ones- will also be virtually nil.

I don’t know whether it’s a matter of destroyed confidence or a sheer lack of interest, but Plante is invisible far too often. With Plante’s natural offensive ability and given the difference between NHL and AHL caliber defenses, there is no reason whatsoever that the player should not be having a field day. Players of far less native talent ( Peter White being an obvious example) have been big time offensive stars in the American League.

Plante is still reasonably young (29) and has been a 3 time 20+ goal scorer and 50+ point getter in the NHL. American League opponents should be no match for Plante, especially given the urgency to prove that he ought to be given another chance in the big show. If Derek is feeling a sense of urgency, he is hiding it well. By sheer merit, he is dragging around a team worst -8 rating and a pedestrian 10 points(4 goals)in 16 games. It is past time for Plante to get going on the ice before he gets going right out the front door.

Third year defenseman Mikhail Chernov continues to be maddeningly inconsistent in his own end of the ice. He has gotten away from his physical game and he has been prone all season to coverage gaffes and unforced turnovers. Chernov reportedly had solid all-around games on both Saturday and Sunday, even apart from scoring a powerplay goal in Sunday’s tilt. He needs to build off that. For the season, Chernov has 4 goals, 2 assists, 10 PIM, and a plus/minus rating of -7. Only the goal total is where it ought to be at this point.

Francis Lessard has had a rough time since returning to the Phantoms lineup from a broken jaw. He is no longer wearing his protective shield but the timing is still not there yet.

Injury Report

Tomas Divisek and Bruno St. Jacques continue their respective recoveries from shoulder surgery. There is a chance Divisek could be able to play by late December.

The Phantoms are also still without the services of veteran defenseman Dean Melanson

Trenton Titans (ECHL) Report:

The Titans are off to a great start, roaring out to first place in the Northeast Division with a 10-2-1 start. They have had the stingiest defense in the league, to complement good goaltending and strong play up the middle. That’s a winning formula in any league.

There are currently three players on the Titans whose rights are owned by the Flyers:

Second year player Sergei Skrobot has 2 assists, a +3 rating and 16 PIM in 12 games. Depending upon the Flyers and Phantoms injury situation on their bluelines, Skrobot may get another look in the American League within a few weeks.

As expected, rookie Ian Forbes continues his slow initiation process into the pro game. The big defenseman is one of the Titans few minus-rated players at -2. He has, however, shown his characteristic willingness to mix it up physically, amassing 58 PIM in his 11 games to date.

Dan Murphy was torched in a pair of ugly losses for the Phantoms prior to switching places with Regan in Trenton. Murphy needs playing time to work through his problems and restore his confidence.