Phantoms set for a playoff run
With their playoff spot and home ice advantage secured throughout the Atlantic Division, the Phantoms are going to have a couple extra players on hand for the final two games of the regular season this weekend. With junior leagues done, teams are bringing some of their young draft picks into the AHL for an abbreviated audition and the Phantoms will have two of those young players on their roster.
Forwards Pascal Laberge and Isaac Ratcliffe have joined the team from their respective Canadian Hockey League teams following the end of their seasons.
Both players were taken in the second round of the NHL Draft, with Laberge being selected 36th overall in 2016 and Ratcliffe coming into the Flyers family with the 35th overall pick in the 2017 Draft.
Laberge, 20, played four seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, scoring 62 goals and notching 116 assists in 224 games. In the 2017-2018 season, Laberge split his time evenly between Victoriaville and Quebec with a combined 17 goals and 30 assists.
The 19-year old Ratcliffe played with the Guelph Storm of the Ontario Hockey League and led the team in both goals (41) and points (68). The high-scoring winger completed his third season with the Storm and in 180 games has scored 74 goals and tallied 61 assists. He’s also picked up 147 penalty minutes in his career with the Storm.
The Phantoms also brought David Drake onto the roster on an amateur tryout contract (ATO) following the completion of his senior season at the University of Connecticut. In his final college season, the defenseman had career highs in games (36), assists (8) and points (8). An ATO allows a team to get a look at a young player who has completed either their college or junior hockey career and will be looking to turn pro.
Drake has been pressed into action because of the injury to defenseman Phil Myers, who has been placed in a walking boot. Myers has had a rash of injuries this season which have limited him to 50 games in which he’s scored five goals and picked up 16 assists for the Phantoms. Head coach Scott Gordon has confirmed the injury but didn’t elaborate on how long Myers may be sidelined for or whether he’ll be available for the playoffs.
Defenseman James de Haas has also missed the last five games with an undisclosed injury. Another defenseman, Sam Morin, has been out since January and it’s likely that he’ll be out for at least the early part of the playoffs.
THE PLAYOFF PICTURE ... Theoretically, the Phantoms could host Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, Providence or Charlotte in the first round of the Atlantic Division playoffs. The most likely scenario is Charlotte, but the Checkers and Bruins are battling to see who will finish third and who finishes fourth in the division. The two teams meet Friday night in a game that will likely determine who plays the Phantoms in round one.
TORONTO IS TOPS ... The Toronto Marlies have wrapped up home ice advantage throughout the Eastern Conference playoffs meaning that if Lehigh Valley and Toronto advance to the Conference Finals, the Phantoms won’t have home ice advantage.
WRAP IT ALL UP ... The regular season comes to an end this weekend with the Phantoms hosting their two final games on Friday and Saturday night at the PPL Center. Bridgeport is in on Friday and rival Wilkes-Barre/Scranton comes in for the season finale Saturday. Lehigh Valley currently has a five-game home winning streak and the best home ice record in the AHL at 25-6-3-2.