Flyers sign Eager to entry-level contract

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Flyers announced yesterday that the team has signed left wing Ben Eager to a three-year, entry-level contract. Financial terms were not disclosed, as per team policy.

The 6’2”, 215-pound power forward made his professional debut over the weekend, skating in two games with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League after agreeing to an amateur try-out contract on Saturday.

“Ben is a big kid, a left winger who is an excellent skater for his size,” said assistant general manager Paul Holmgren. “He is a tough kid, and we think that he is going to improve dramatically.

“The fact that he is here now and working with the Phantoms and actually playing games for the Phantoms gives him a little bit of a boost on the start of his professional hockey career. He is a good young player. He works extremely hard and he is going to be fun to watch for Flyers fans.”

Eager, 20, registered 52 points (25 goals, 27 assists) and 204 PIMs in 61 games for the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League this season. 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.

He was originally selected by the Coyotes with the 23rd overall selection of the 2002 Entry Draft. He could have re-entered himself in this offseason’s draft had he not signed a contract with the Flyers by the June 1 deadline.

Eager will remain with the Phantoms through the end of the season. He has not recorded a point in the two games he has appeared in with the team, but has looked very comfortable in a checking-line role.

He immediately impressed the team’s coaching staff with his apparent skillset and willingness to step right in and play a physical brand of hockey. Thus far, he looks to be a good fit on the circuit’s most penalized team (2176 total PIMs).

“Certainly his size and ability to skate are some of the strengths that he brings to the table,” said Phantoms head coach John Stevens. “But he seems like he can do things in traffic like handle the puck.”

The Phantoms currently sit atop the AHL’s Eastern Conference with 98 points (45-24-6-2) in 77 games, and look poised for a strong playoff run.

The team will finish its regular season schedule with a trio of road games this weekend – at Albany or Friday, at Bridgeport on Saturday and at Hershey on Sunday evening.

Eager is expected to play in every game from this point on, and thus will pick up valuable experience in a number of important games right at the start of his pro career.

“It’s been great so far,” he said, commenting on his first few days in Philadelphia. “I’m really pleased to be here.”