Some of the best moments in a hockey season are when a minor league player succeeds at a major league level. There is something special about witnessing the first NHL assist or goal of a career.
Players recalled from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are responding to Mike Yeo. The locker room is finding its confidence after the coaching change. In addition, the Philadelphia Flyers are improving their play in the second period. There is renewed energy.
Jackson Cates scored his first NHL goal. Before that, Max Willman secured his first. Morgan Frost continued to prove his worth at the NHL level. Kevin Connauton was an upgrade over Nick Seeler; both would be AHL players if Ryan Ellis were healthy. Even Felix Sandstrom looked swell in a Flyers sweater, backing up Martin Jones versus the Ottawa Senators.
One Phantom who hasn’t received a recall to Philadelphia following the coaching change is Connor Bunnaman.
Simplifying the system has helped players transition to the NHL. Yeo and his staff open the lanes, using a higher volume attack. Ian Laperriere deserves credit for coaching a Lehigh Valley lineup that translates fluently to the Flyers’ demands.
Morgan Frost received his call up when Alain Vigneault was the head coach. He performed well for both of the Philadelphia Flyers head coaches this season. Unfortunately, his removal against the New Jersey Devils meant he went into COVID protocol. We’ve all seen enough flashes from Frost to get excited, but missing time in a contract season isn’t ideal.
Max Willman tallied three points in seven games with Yeo. Like Frost, he’s missing ice time in COVID protocol too.
Then there’s another forward who answered the call…
Jackson Cates made his season debut against the Montreal Canadiens, scoring his first career goal in front of no one. He did register one NHL point in front of a crowd, however. Cates notched an assist on the road against the Devils on April 27th, 2021. Every recalled forward from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are finding ways to contribute with Yeo.
Cap Friendly Upgrades
There was a rawness to Nick Seeler that earned the endearment of Philadelphia for a little while. As long as Alain Vigneault was the head coach this season, Seeler was called upon to replace Rasmus Ristolainen or Ryan Ellis. Then, Chuck Fletcher claimed Kevin Connauton from the waiver wire.
Now, that isn’t to say that one is having a better season than the other. Connauton is a better compliment to Keith Yandle, however.
Seeler would often be deep in the offensive zone, leaving his partner vulnerable in transition. Yandle, who hasn’t been efficient with the puck and lacked hustle victory versus the Ottawa Senators, needs a partner who stays home in the defensive zone. Connauton is a better band-aid until Ryan Ellis returns. Since he joined the Flyers, they’ve been on a point streak, starting with the win to break the ten-game losing streak.
Patrick Brown and Zack MacEwen are two other cap-friendly upgrades that buzz with Yeo. Brown and MacEwen were available on the waiver wire, ready to become AHL players. As it turned out, MacEwen brings the energy that Nicolas Aube-Kubel had. While Derick Brassard remains out of the lineup, Brown has performed better than Nate Thompson.
Laperriere to Yeo Pipeline
On a fundamental level, the system needed adjustments. Simplification might be the adjustment. Darryl Williams encourages the powerplay to shoot more, and his units secure the first multi-powerplay goal game since October 20th, 2021. A shoot-first mentality seems contagious, and Ian Laperriere delivered that message to the Lehigh Valley Phantom forwards that made the NHL transition.
The Philadelphia Flyers haven’t been on the bright side of a healthy lineup throughout the season. These contributions from rookies and roleplayers demonstrate an organization that prioritizes scoring throughout the lineup. Most of them are products of the Flyers’ system.
Maybe a defenseman will be recalled from the Phantoms to Philadelphia at the start of next season. That would be a vote of confidence for Laperriere.
Currently, the players representing Laperriere from Lehigh Valley are good spokesmen.
(Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre)