Phantoms sign forward Ben Eager to ATO

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League announced yesterday that the team has signed 20-year-old left winger Ben Eager to an amateur tryout contract.

The 6’2”, 215-pound prospect made his professional debut last night in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, taking a regular shift in a 4-1 victory over the Penguins. His junior career with the Oshawa Generals ended earlier this week, when the team was eliminated in the first round of the Ontario Hockey League playoffs by the Mississauga IceDogs.

Eager enjoyed a strong 2003-04 season for Oshawa, compiling 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists) and 204 PIMs in 61 games. He led the team in goals and PIMs, and finished second in points.

The Ottawa, Ontario native also led the Generals in playoff scoring with five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and 31 PIMs in seven games, and was named the best body checker and third-best skater in the OHL’s Eastern Conference in an end-of-season coaches poll.

For his four-year junior career with the Generals, Eager compiled 139 points (59 goals, 80 assists) and 795 PIMs in 243 games. He led the team in PIMs during each of the past three seasons, with totals of 255, 216 and 204.

The Flyers acquired Eager’s NHL rights on February 9 in the trade that also netted goaltender Sean Burke and forward Branko Radivojevic from the Phoenix Coyotes in exchange for forward Mike Comrie.

Eager was originally drafted by the Coyotes with the 23rd overall selection of the 2002 Entry Draft.

Eager remains unsigned by the Flyers, and could re-enter the entry draft this offseason if a deal is not reached by the June 1 deadline. His tryout with the Phantoms will go a long way in helping general manager Bob Clarke and his staff assess his long term value within the organization.

The Phantoms conclude the home portion of their regular season schedule tonight against the Binghamton Senators, then will play road games against the Albany River Rats, Bridgeport Sound Tigers and Hershey Bears next weekend to round out the campaign.

The team currently sits atop the AHL’s Eastern Conference with 97 points (45-24-6-1) in 76 games and looks poised for a strong playoff run. Thus, Eager should get plenty of opportunities to show what he can do in crucial games at the pro level over the next few weeks.