AHL Logo Ranking: No. 15 – Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Jared Clinton
Lehigh Valley Phantoms logo (via SportsLogos.net/Chris Creamer)

(The AHL has undergone a season of change and one-third of the league has changed locations or logos for the 2015-16 season. Leading up to the new season, The Hockey News will be ranking the logos of the league’s teams and offering a brief look at the history of each franchise. See the rest of the rankings in our AHL feed.)

It’s been a while since the once dominant Phantoms franchise has found its way into the post-season. Can 2015-16 be the year they make the jump from AHL pretender to Calder Cup contender?

Since 2009-10, the club has failed to make the playoffs and there has been quite a bit of change to the Phantoms roster in time for the new season. Gone are 12 regulars from last season’s lineup, including top-10 scorers Jason Akeson, Blair Jones and Zack Stortini. On the backend, Adam Comrie, Steve Delisle, Oliver Lauridsen and Brett Flemming are all off to new opportunities for the upcoming campaign.

The big names coming in are Chris Conner and Colin McDonald, who scored a combined 87 point in 101 games this past season. That should make up for the production lost this off-season and there’s also some youth that could be on its way to town. Young defenseman Samuel Morin, one of the Flyers’ top prospects, could start his campaign in the AHL, and Tyrell Goulbourne and Pavel Padakin might be able to provide some scoring up front as first-year AHLers.

In goal, the addition of veteran Jason LaBarbera provides some stability in goal, especially with how much Anthony Stolarz struggled this past season. It’ll likely be the combination of 35-year-old LaBarbera and 21-year-old Stolarz defending the net for the Phantoms in 2015-16.

Entering their second season in Lehigh Valley, a playoff berth would be a pleasant surprise for the Phantoms. Read more

Is Wayne Simmonds right to be optimistic about his Flyers?

Matt Larkin
Wayne Simmonds. (Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images)

Want to make an NHL player bristle? Just follow these easy steps:

(a) stand a foot away from him;
(b) remind him his team missed the playoffs last season;
(c) ask him if his team is rebuilding.

The experiment works like a charm on Philadelphia Flyers right winger Wayne Simmonds between training sessions at BioSteel’s 2015 hockey camp, where players from all over the league – and other leagues – gather to compete, hone their skills and rehabilitate. Reminded of the Flyers’ sixth-place finish in the Metropolitan division, and asked whether a new coach and large shipment of elite young defense prospects signifies a rebuild, Simmonds shakes his head so fast you can practically see the sweat fly.

“No,” he said, recoiling slightly, brow furrowed. “We’re a good team right now.”

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Daniel Briere retires as a trailblazer

(Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

It would be disingenuous to say Daniel Briere came out of nowhere. After all, he was a first-round pick of the Phoenix Coyotes back in 1996, the same year he scored 163 points for Drummondville of the Quebec League.

But since he was waived by those same Coyotes seven years later, after failing to make a permanent impression on the club, it is remarkable to think how quickly he became one of the most dangerous players in the NHL shortly thereafter.

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Futures mailbag: best of the 2015 draft’s defensemen, Scott Laughton and more

Noah Hanifin (photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Thanks to summer world junior camps, prospects have been in the spotlight this week and for some, that meant reinforcing decisions on where they will play next season. Calgary’s Brandon Hickey says he’s going back to Boston University, Leafs pick Jeremy Bracco confirmed his commitment to Boston College and Zach Werenski is indeed headed back to Michigan. And speaking of Werenski, he’s part of our first mailbag question this week. As always, if you have a draft or prospect-related question, hit me up on Twitter at @THNRyanKennedy, using the hashtag #thnfutures with your question.

Let’s get to it.

Which of the first round 2015 defensemen has the biggest upside? And who is closest to being in the lineup?

– Tomas Djupsjobacka (@tdjupsjo)

In terms of upside, I’d go with either Carolina’s Noah Hanifin or Columbus’ Zach Werenski. Both have great size and skating ability, plus they can play in all situations. If you had asked me right after the draft who was closest to being in the lineup, I would have said Philadelphia’s Ivan Provorov, since he has the hockey IQ and physical edge to compete right away. But then Carolina signed Hanifin to his entry-level deal, ending his Boston College career after one stellar campaign. Perhaps he goes to the AHL this season, but given Carolina’s lack of depth on the back end, Hanifin may end up being the answer to both questions (Provorov also has more competition in Philly).

 

Very curious about your opinion on Sean Day’s development in Mississauga

– Alex Sloan (@Alex_Sloan)

Funny how that question became a flashpoint this week, what with Day missing the cut for Canada’s under-18 Ivan Hlinka squad. But I can also expand on the defenseman’s trajectory here. I think Day has been good so far in Mississauga, but this will be a huge year for him – and not just because he’s up for the draft. Conditioning was reportedly a factor in his national team cut, so that should be a priority. The Steelheads are also growing around him, so I need to see good offensive numbers, but also improvement in his own end. With his natural physical gifts, Day has great potential as an NHLer, if he can harness it and become a student of the game.

 

Which five NHL teams do you feel are in the best position when it comes to prospects and which five are in the worst position?

– Keenan Clarry (@KeenanClarry)

Here’s my best:

Edmonton – The high end of Connor McDavid and Darnell Nurse vaults the Oilers to the top since McDavid is such a sure thing. I’m also a big William Lagesson fan.

Buffalo – Jack Eichel is the Sabres’ McDavid equivalent, plus you have Sam Reinhart, Justin Bailey and some nice long-term catches in Will Borgen and Christopher Brown.

Winnipeg – The deepest pool. Nikolaj Ehlers, Josh Morrissey, Nic Petan, Connor Hellebuyck, Eric Comrie, Kyle Connor, Erik Foley…it’s almost unfair at this point.

Arizona – Another great assembly with Max Domi, Anthony Duclair, Dylan Strome, Christian Dvorak, Max Letunov, Brendan Perlini and Nick Merkley,

Anaheim – Already a great team, the Ducks have reinforcements ready in Nick Ritchie, Nic Kerdiles, Shea Theodore and Kevin Roy, plus longer-term gems such as Julius Nattinen and Jacob Larsson.

And my worst, with the caveat that some of these teams are in a win-now window and have therefore sacrificed prospects:

San Jose – Timo Meier and Nikolay Goldobin are solid, but not much depth behind them.

Pittsburgh – Derrick Pouliot used to be surrounded; now he’s one of the last elite prospects in the pipeline.

New Jersey – Pavel Zacha will help, but there isn’t much more scoring coming otherwise.

Toronto – Mitch Marner, Kasperi Kapanen and Scott Harrington have all really helped the Leafs’ outlook recently in this category, but they were thin before.

New York Rangers – Just don’t have the critical mass of prospects since they’re in their Stanley Cup window right now. Adam Tambellini and Pavel Buchnevich are good, though.

 

It’s been three years since he was drafted, but what can we expect from Scott Laughton?

– Vincent Mongrain (@vincentM10)

If the Flyers move out Vincent Lecavalier, Laughton is in a great position to make an impact on Philadelphia’s third line – which may not sound impressive for a first-rounder, but it’s a good role because Laughton can handle the responsibility. With Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier ahead of him, Laughton won’t be getting the big assignments in the early parts of his career anyway, but he can be a solid contributor and a two-way player.

 

Flyers owner Snider recieves lifetime achievement award at Global Sports Summit

Jared Clinton
Ed Snider receives the lifetime achievement award from NHL commissioner Gary Bettman at the Global Sports Summit. (Evanta Ventures, LLC)

Philadelphia Flyers owner Ed Snider was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the Global Sports Summit in Aspen, Colo., Monday evening.

Snider was presented the prize by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman and received the award as an owner who, “has made a lasting contribution to their team, league, and community through their leadership and commitment over an extended period of ownership.” And an extended period it has been.

Snider, 82, has been the owner of the Flyers since they came into the league as an expansion team in 1967, and is the longest tenured owner in the NHL.

As the Flyers’ owner, Snider worked to construct the Philadelphia Spectrum, which played host to Philadelphia’s two Stanley Cup championship teams. In 1971, he became the owner of the Spectrum and, three years later, Snider created Spectacor, which would make way for the creation of Comcast SportsNet.

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A Toronto-Philadelphia rivalry primer for Drake and Meek Mill

Tie Domi (far left) and Donald Brashear  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

One of the biggest pop culture stories going around right now involves rappers Drake and Meek Mill, former friends turned enemies. The beef between the pair began over hurt feelings and escalated into several freestyle diss tracks…you don’t care about this. We’re The Hockey News. But since Drake used the Blue Jays’ World Series victory over the Phillies as ammo against Meek Mill (guess which two cities these guys are from?), I thought we should hockey this thing up, just in case the rappers need more material (and after hearing Meek Mill’s “Wanna Know,” they do).

Here’s a brief history of the bad blood between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Philadelphia Flyers:

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Flyers cap situation could make for tough choices in 2016-17

Jared Clinton
Vincent Lecavalier

Whether you’re a fan of Jakub Voracek’s new contract or not, there’s one thing everyone can agree on: the Philadelphia Flyers are going to be in some serious cap trouble.

While this season’s cap situation looks like it could cause some difficulties, what with the Flyers having less than $600,000 in available cap space, it has nothing on what the outlook for the 2016-17 campaign will be if Flyers GM Ron Hextall is unable to make some savvy moves to free up room.

The biggest concern for the Flyers isn’t necessarily the money they’ve spent or the contracts for their top players — Voracek and Claude Giroux would be worth $8-plus million on the open market. What is worrisome, however, is that when 2016-17 begins, unless Hextall makes some moves before then, the Flyers will have only 15 players under contract. That could make the 2016-17 season an incredibly trying one in the City of Brotherly Love. Read more