From the Glass is an opinion column that is new to Philly Sports Network. I spend a good portion of my time photographing the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and I get a lot of questions on the progression of different players and the overall performance of the team. Week to week, I plan to write a weekend wind down piece to keep you in the loop with what’s going on in Allentown through my eyes (or lens, if you will). I hope you enjoy this column and I encourage feedback, discussion, questions, and commentary.
This weekend, the Phantoms played two games against two teams that are no stranger to PPL Center: the Wilkes-Barre Scranton Penguins and the Hershey Bears (American league affiliates of the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Washington Capitals, respectively). Ending the weekend with a cumulative record of 1-1-1, the Phantoms got the best of the Penguins, but fell to the Bears with one second remaining in overtime.
Just kidding, though he is very good. The best part about hockey season falling more into a routine is you can start to see the pattern of who is adjusting well, who will be racking up goals, and who just generally does a good job of making their presence known on the ice and Farabee fits each of these categories like a glove. He, along with another fan favorite, Phillipe Myers, seem to stick out like a sore thumb. Both players are very much NHL caliber and it shows in just about every shift. Farabee has two goals in his first two games, both of which demonstrate an immense amount of skill, and he leads the team in goals. Myers’ time with the Flyers last season has done wonders for his confidence and the offensive side of his game is growing rapidly. In the event of a call up, I’d bet any amount of money that one of those two gets it (obviously, depending on the needs of the team).
Room for improvement:
I don’t want to put Morgan Frost here, but his inability to find the net as well as some minor growing pains land him in this category. Frost stays true to his claim to fame of being a playmaker – this is not something I think anyone would be able to take from him – but something just seems off. He plays hard and he makes his presence known, but sometimes does too much and causes turnovers that may leave you scratching your head and wondering his thought process.
In addition to Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe is another player that doesn’t look bad but also has room to improve (though he potted his first goal of the season off a pass from Kurtis Gabriel against the Bears). Ratcliffe makes good plays and also plays a very physical game, but I’ve found that he’s more absent than not and his shifts aren’t consistent. I would say the game against Hershey was his best showing so far.Its early in the season and I’m not worried about either of these two. Once they find comfort in their game in this level, I think the Phantoms will be that much more of a threat in the AHL.
The Phantoms have a solid veteran core and, while I was concerned with the loss of Colin McDonald, I’m confident in saying that as the chemistry improves, the vets will have a huge role in the team earning a playoff berth following this season. So far, my eyes have been drawn to Cal O’Reilly and Kurtis Gabriel. Both players bring the skill to drive plays but also bring the grit that old school hockey fans love to see. They keep the game lively with big hits, but they bring more value than just physicality and that’s not something you can say about all AHL veterans.
Assets (Old and New):
There are plenty of players sitting on the Phantoms roster that are huge assets to this team. As expected, we have seen consistent game play from the, “on the fence,” players: Mikhail Vorobyev, German Rubstov, Nic Aube-Kubel, and Mark Friedman. However, there is great chemistry between Kyle Criscuolo and Maxim Sushko and we’ve seen a lot of great game play from Chris Bigras. These are all players who will make a clear contribution to the Phantoms’ success, but may not ever impact the Flyers.
Overall, after three total games, the Phantoms seem to have improved from last season but not substantially enough to blow my mind just yet. Multiple players, however, are still working hard to adjust to a new level and new teammates, so I’m going to give it a bit more time before I really finalize an opinion. For now, the Phantoms look good. They’re not great, but I think they have the potential and talent to be (the infamous tale of the Philadelphia Flyers organization). I’m looking forward to watching this group grow together as a team and work hard for future success.
I’ll be making my way back to Allentown on Friday, October 18th and will cover two more games this upcoming weekend against two new opponents. I’m looking forward to providing my insight all season long from my view against the glass.