PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The Philadelphia Flyers organization is going through some turbulent times, which extend to their AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley, as the Phantoms will be drastically different than their 2021-22 edition. Philadelphia let a few faces go and signed a few players to fill the void during the first day of free agency, moves that were largely overshadowed by the organization’s confusing first day, but a plethora of prospects and restricted free agents will be the core group of the Phantoms when the puck drops in the fall. The Phantoms look to get back to their days as contenders during the 2017-18 season with a quick retool much like the one that was touted by their NHL affiliate going into free agency.
It’s no secret that the 2021-22 season was a disappointment in Allentown. Ian Laperriere’s first season as head coach of the Phantoms saw the season go off the rails partially due to their NHL affiliate’s injury and recall issues. A late playoff push fell short as internal struggles with the team played a factor in a last place finish for the squad. The Flyers let Maksim Sushko, Matthew Strome, and Kirill Ustimenko depart as free agents, but submitted qualifying offers for Wade Allison, Jackson Cates, Morgan Frost, Hayden Hodgson, Linus Hogberg, Tanner Laczynski, and Isaac Ratcliffe among players to have previously skated in Lehigh Valley. Getting those players under contract and back within the organization is the biggest step towards rebuilding the Phantoms at this stage. Most of those players also made an impact in brief stints in Philadelphia, and there’s always the opportunity to land a permanent spot on the NHL roster.
Lehigh Valley re-signed a big piece of their core group in Cal O’Reilly during the first week of free agency, a player who embodies the style of play that Flyers fans love. He was the brightest spot on the Phantoms’ roster last season, scoring 21 goals and adding 32 assists, and is someone that young players will want to emulate in this organization. Perhaps the Phantoms’ best weapon for the new season is one that comes from within with Tyson Foerster making his return to the professional ranks, as two attempts to break into the AHL and perhaps go further to the NHL have been cut short with injuries. After 33 games over two seasons, Foerster will be playing his first official season of his entry level contract as a result of the strange circumstances. Lehigh Valley will have highly regarded prospects like Elliot Desnoyers and Zayde Wisdom making their full-time jump to the AHL level as exciting additions.
The Flyers did some work to bring in intriguing AHL players to Allentown. Cooper Marody, Adam Brooks, and Louis Belpedio highlighted the list of skaters with a combination of AHL and NHL experience. Most interesting is the addition of Troy Grosenick, a goaltender with the potential to play in the NHL and comes in as a challenger to the backup role to Carter Hart with Felix Sandstrom. Lehigh Valley has the likes of Samuel Ersson available to them, and despite the situation surround Ivan Fedotov, the Phantoms are still shaping up to have a strong tandem.
While it’s clear the Flyers have plenty of work to do as an organization, there are many interesting players to keep tabs on as it pertains to the Phantoms. It wouldn’t be surprising to see many of them make an impact at the NHL level, but it’s important for the Phantoms to be competitive with the large group of prospects available. Philadelphia’s future lies in Allentown, and it’s safe to say it’s a telling year for the Phantoms.
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