Blueline prospects seem to be the Flyers’ thing. Philippe Myers, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, the Flyers are no stranger to having a stocked farm system, especially when it comes to defenders.
This year is interesting. Whereas there’s usually an influx of prospects coming up to the Phantoms, we have free agents who signed in the offseason. Tyler Wotherspoon, Nate Prosser, Andy Welinski, and Chris Bigras all join the Phantoms after completing last season under a different team. There is no shortage of talent on the Phantoms blue line, but much of it isn’t homegrown like it has been in the past.
The lone defensemen the Phantoms have left on their roster are Mark Friedman and T.J. Brennan. Friedman is out after having abdominal surgery but is expected back by the start of training camp. Do the Phantoms have a contingency plan in place? Maybe not formally, but there is one prospect waiting in the wings, ready to make the jump to the AHL.
Everett Silvertips standout Wyatt Wylie will be 20 in early November, making him a candidate to sign an ELC. Sure, he could play out the season in Everett, but what would he gain from another season of competition against 18 and 19-year-olds? Wylie is ready to make the jump, and with Friedman’s injury, he’s a great option in case he isn’t ready by training camp.
Signing him now may seem rash, but it most certainly has its advantages. Getting him with the Phantoms now gives him more time to become acclimated to a new setting. Getting him involved with his new teammates and surroundings would surely help ease the transition from the WHL to the AHL. With training camp set to start Friday, it would behoove Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher to make this move as quickly as possible. Say, today?
Another thing to keep in mind is that sure, Fletcher brought in all these new defensemen likely to play for the Phantoms. However, with Friedman hurt, there are only 6 on the roster. You have Brennan, Prosser, Welinski, Bigras, Wotherspoon and Reece Willcox. Prosser could easily slide to the 7th defenseman role, given that he hasn’t played a full slate of games in his 10-year career, and hasn’t broken the 27 point mark in all those years either.
The Phantoms are filled with right-handed defensemen. Prosser, Welinski, Willcox, and Friedman are all righties. If Wylie signed his ELC, that would add one more to the mix. However, if he simply took Prosser or even Willcox’s spot for that matter, it wouldn’t matter much.
There also isn’t much left for Wylie to prove in the WHL. He’s been drafted, been one of the most consistently solid defenders not just for the Silvertips, but in the entire league as well. He posted 11 goals and 36 assists last season after Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers tabbed his offensive game as a “work in progress.” Those 47 points came after a season where Wylie took even more steps to solidify his offensive game the season before. He posted 31 points in his sophomore campaign with the Silvertips, after posting just 10 points in his first season with Everett.
All in all, there’s much more to gain by having Wylie with the Phantoms this year, as opposed to having him serve another year in juniors. Room can be made, and with Willcox and Welinski on the last year of their respective deals, it may be best suited for Wylie to get in while he can and prove that he can fill that void if either decides to depart.
Wylie has the talent to make things happen at the AHL level. His game is very well-rounded to this point. He also has the veterans who can help him get his bearings once he is a Phantom. The time is right for Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers to extend an entry-level contract to Wyatt Wylie.
Mandatory Credit: Alex McIntyre