The Lehigh Valley Phantoms are unique in terms of their captainship. They carry three captains and those players rotate who wears the, “C,” in every game. However, these players are all new faces to the PPL Center. In a recent discussion with my PSN colleagues, we realized there are also a few additional leaders who fly under the radar but definitely do their part to guide the up and coming.
When Colin McDonald was not extended at the end of the 2018-2019 season, the question was raised as to who would fill his shoes as captain. Would it be a long time forward who is infamous for carrying the Phantoms on his back? Or could it be a fan-favorite defenseman who all but owns the blue line? Could they shake things up and give it to the tenured goalie who has done his part for the Flyers and the Phantoms?
While all were good guesses, and some I even had myself, none of them ended up being correct. However, “C,” or no, “C,” these players lead their teammates, succeed in their own roles, and have become the favorites amongst Phantoms fans.
Owning the Offense
Greg Carey joined the Flyers organization in 2016 when he was signed on the first day of free agency. In the 16-17 season, he put up 51 points (28 G, 23 A) in 74 games. Now, in his fourth season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Greg Carey is the winger who always comes through and we all know a dependable forward is invaluable. He has improved with each season and has quickly grown in the hearts of fans.
In his third season with the Phantoms, Carey, alongside Colin McDonald, was invited to the 2019 AHL Allstar where he competed in the hardest shot competition; Carey recorded a shot of 100.4 mph and won. He continues to make Phantoms fans proud this season and will look for a second consecutive Allstar invitation in 2020 as he’s the current point leader. In 31 games this season, Carey has 17 points (9G, 8A).
Boss of the Blue Line
Moorestown, New Jersey native, TJ Brennan, is also in his fourth season with the Phantoms and he’s the textbook definition of fan favorite. When Brennan is in control of the puck, energy is instantly boosted and the crowd roars with people cheering, “C’mon TJ,” as if he’s their next-door neighbor. However, what makes Brennan stand out in a crowd is he treats each and every fan the exact same way right back. The Phantoms will often do a post-game meet and greet, where Brennan will often spend five to ten minutes with each fan who stands in his ling.
While Brennan has had a long professional hockey career (beginning in 2009), his time with the Phantoms proves to be his most consistent stint to date and this could contribute to the leadership role Brennan has adopted. In the past, TJ has gone seasons where he saw ice time in only 25 games for an entire season. Playing a constant minimum of 60 games per season has helped Brennan solidify his game and having a confident defenseman is crucial to any team dynamic.
Guiding in Goal
The Flyers have been bursting at the seems with goaltending prospects (Hart, Sandstrom, Ustimenko) and, especially given the goalie situation last season, there have just been too many for everyone to be in the NHL. This overflow has created a tenured goaltender for the Phantoms who is also in his fourth season: Alex Lyon.
Alex Lyon has had his ups and downs with Flyers fans, but when given the choice, Phantoms fans will always look to Alex Lyon. From maintaining an average save percentage of .914% over four seasons to saving 94 out of 95 shots and coming out on top of a five-overtime game, Lyon never leaves fans disappointed. With a player like him in goal, any skater should feel comfortable.
Photo credit: Alex Mcintyre