Northampton Press

Friday, May 29, 2020

Former Phantoms playing well for the Flyers

Thursday, January 23, 2020 by chuck hixson Special to the Press in Sports

The NHL trading deadline is just over a month away on Feb. 24. This year’s deadline finds the Flyers in somewhat of a precarious position; they definitely need some help for their lineup, but they’re also up against the salary cap so they don’t have much wiggle room financially. Injuries – especially ones to Oskar Lindblom (bone cancer) and Nolan Patrick (chronic migraines) - have left a couple of holes in the lineup.

A saving grace for Philadelphia has been the play of a couple of former Phantoms players who don’t have quite the star power of some of the team’s prospects, but have turned into steady NHL players who are helping the team work their way through the season.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, 23, and Connor Bunnaman, 21, have slowly worked their way into bigger roles with the Flyers as the team allows more highly touted prospects like Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Mikhail Vorobyev to work their way through the process of becoming full-time NHL players at a slightly slower pace, although all three have seen time in Philadelphia this season.

Aube-Kubel played in six games with the Phantoms in the 2015-2016 and has played over 200 games in the AHL since arriving in the Lehigh Valley. Aube-Kubel made his NHL debut last season and has 26 games with Lehigh Valley this season and 16 more with the Flyers. Bunnaman joined the Phantoms last season and has just 83 AHL games under his belt and has eight with the Flyers after making his debut earlier this season.

Aube-Kubel and Bunnaman have progressed at different speeds, but both have become players that could be important cogs for the Flyers as the season progresses. That doesn’t mean that the more highly touted prospects have seen their last of the NHL for the season and it certainly doesn’t mean that the team is anywhere near giving up on them.

Truth be told, the Flyers would have been lucky if one of Frost, Farabee and Vorobyev would have become big impact players this season. Frost lit things up when he first arrived in Philadelphia, but as the league became wise to his skills he saw more pressure and wasn’t able to keep up a pace that was strong enough to keep him in Philadelphia, so he’s back with Lehigh Valley to get more seasoning. In a meeting with the media last week, GM Chuck Fletcher seemed to hint that Frost will be back with the team at some point this season, but didn’t pinpoint exactly when or what they’re looking for him to prove with Lehigh Valley.

Vorobyev is also back with the Phantoms after playing in 20 games with Philadelphia where he notched a goal and two assists, a far cry from the 18 points in 24 games he has amassed with Lehigh Valley this season. For now, Vorobyev is somewhat of an enigma because he is so effective at the AHL level and yet seems to succumb to the pressures of the NHL when given the opportunity to play there. The 23-year old may just need some time to adjust to the pressure and convert the confidence that he plays with as a Phantom to the ice in Philly.

Meanwhile, Farabee is currently with the Flyers. As the 14th overall pick in the 2018 NHL Draft, Farabee is still just 19-years old and played just four games with Lehigh Valley this season before heading to Philadelphia. Without much work at the AHL level, it’s a big ask for Farabee to instantly produce with the Flyers, but in 39 games, he’s picked up five goals and nine assists.

With no easy route to adding talent through a trade, the Flyers may simply have to hope for the best out of young players for the rest of the NHL season.

THANKS FOR THE HELP... Having some of their key players back from Philadelphia has helped Lehigh Valley to turn around their fortunes. The team that was mired in last place in the Atlantic Division suddenly has a five-game winning streak and six wins in their last seven games. The Phantoms have pulled ahead of Bridgeport and stands just four points behind Wilkes-Barre/Scranton for sixth place in the Atlantic Division. They’re currently nine points out of a playoff spot.

THE CENTURY MARK... Greg Carey scored his 100th goal as a member of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms Saturday in a two-goal effort, helping to down Rochester 4-0 Saturday. The 29-year old Carey now has 12 goals and nine assists this season, his fourth with Lehigh Valley. Carey also has 29 goals in three AHL seasons prior to joining the Phantoms as a member of the Portland Pirates and Springfield Falcons.

LYON HART... With Carter Hart out for at least two weeks after suffering a right lower abdominal strain, Alex Lyon was summoned to Philadelphia to help out in goal. Lyon made his first NHL start of the season against Montreal and was shelled for three goals in a three-minute span and four goals overall in the 4-1 loss.