For the first time since 2018, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms will be competing in the AHL Calder Cup Playoffs. Although there will be no playoff hockey in Philadelphia for a third straight season, the Flyers’ youth movement is taking significant strides.
A comeback win over the Springfield Thunderbirds on April 8th, 4-3, clinched the postseason berth for the Phantoms. A healthy mix of young and veteran players are making a postseason push guided by their head coach, Ian Laperriere. On Tuesday, they’ll begin their first round on the road in a best-of-three series against the Charlotte Checkers.
Multiple young prospects flashed in their recalls to the NHL this season and will battle for a roster spot during training camp before next season. These four prospects to watch will help the Phantoms pursue their third Calder Cup in team history, their first since leaving Philadelphia.
Sam Ersson turned heads in twelve appearances with the Flyers this season. Overall, Ersson finished with a 6-3-0 record, starting white hot but eventually cooling down during his time in the crease. He shut out the Buffalo Sabres on January 9th, an elite NHL offense.
With Lehigh Valley, Ersson was as good. He owned a 24-17-1 record with a 2.84GAA and 90%SV. He is the backbone of the Phantoms. In the last ten games, Ersson is 7-3-0. He missed significant time in 2021-2022 due to injury, but his comeback season helped lead the Phantoms into the postseason.
Ersson can steal wins in the NHL. He’ll need to remain consistent in the postseason to help the Phantoms go on a run for the Calder Cup.
Tyson Foerster made an impact during eight games with the Flyers this season. He scored seven points (3G, 4A) while proving ready to push for a full-time NHL roster spot next season. Foerster gained respect from the Flyers’ front office, John Tortorella, and the Flyers’ locker room.
“I think he’s handled himself really well. He still hasn’t even filled in, he’s just a tall drink of water, he’s just trying to fill into his body. He’s going to get stronger.”John Tortorella; 3/17/2023
In the AHL, Foerster was the Phantoms’ points leader with 48 (20G, 28A) in 66 games. He represented the Phantoms, alongside Ronnie Attard, at the AHL All-Star Weekend. With an elite NHL shot, Foerster showed he can battle for pucks and block shots in the defensive zone, fitting Tortorella.
Foerster ran with each opportunity presented to him. In the postseason, he’ll continue to be a go-to player in the hunt for the Calder Cup. In 2022-2023, he’ll be a favorite to break into the Flyers’ opening night lineup.
Elliot Desnoyers played four games with the Flyers this season. He didn’t register any points but received high praise from Tortorella after his NHL debut:
“I thought he was terrific. He was involved; he banged. He wasn’t intimidated by anything.”John Tortorella; 2/25/2023
Desnoyers plays a gritty game most coaches enjoy, but he can also score goals. On Wednesday, Desnoyers scored his 23rd of the season, setting a new franchise record for goals by a rookie forward. Overall, he had 44 points in 65 games.
With Foerster, Desnoyers drives the offense. Desnoyers could be in the mix for a roster spot next season, bolstering the bottom six. He’s developing into a steal from the 2020 NHL Entry Draft.
Emil Andrae is one of the most exciting prospects in the Flyers’ system. He made an immediate impact since joining the Phantoms. Andrae joined the Phantoms on an amateur try-out before signing a three-year entry-level contract that goes into effect next season.
In ten games, Andrae has six points (2G, 4A), adapting well to the North American pace since coming over from Sweden. He was already a standout player in the SHL and for Team Sweden in the World Junior Championships. His AHL success isn’t a surprise.
Standing at 5’9″, he plays physically. He also moves the puck well, staking strong with a high hockey IQ. Andrae is one of the most intriguing defensive prospects in the system. He’s only 21 and might need more time after the postseason with the Phantoms, but he is progressing exceptionally well. In the second chapter of the rebuild in Philadelphia, Andrae could make his debut stint with the Flyers next season.
(AP Photo/Jeff Chiu)