Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Prepare for take-off 1/9

When an American Hockey League player is removed from his team's roster, an X appears next to his name on the statistics page of the league's website to indicate that is no longer with the club.

With the impending certification of the National Hockey League's collective bargaining agreement, the Adirondack Phantoms' roster is about to look a lot like a drunken pirate's treasure map.

The transactions have not been formally announced, but five Phantoms forwards will be heading to Voorhees, N.J. to take part in the Philadelphia Flyers' training camp, expected to begin this weekend.

The camp can't open until both the NHL and its players formally approve the deal to which they agreed in principle on Sunday, but some Flyers have already begun skating at the team's practice facility in informal, unofficial workouts as they prepare for an expected Jan. 19 season start date.

Brayden Schenn, Eric Wellwood, Zac Rinaldo and Tye McGinn received word today they will  join the Flyers, Phantoms coach Terry Murray said. Sean Couturier, who had stayed in the Philadelphia area after seeing a doctor for a pre-arranged medical appointment Monday, is also on the camp list.

The other four found out shortly after noon, minutes after the Phantoms concluded practice at the Civic Center. Wellwood said he was relieved to learn he would be heading back to Philadelphia with a chance to earn a roster spot, after what he candidly characterized as a "really bad" start to his year.

"There are a lot of good players down here and a lot of guys that are playing well," he said. "Speaking for myself, my start of the season was really bad so I didn't know if I was going to get the call or not. To finally get the official word, it's obviously a big relief."

There's a reason why Wellwood is getting the call. After that start, which saw him post five points in 21 games, he has been a completely different player in the past few weeks. He has started to look a lot more like the speedy winger who worked his way into Philadelphia's line-up in the 2012 playoffs.

If that Wellwood shows up at camp, Murray thinks he's got a good chance of sticking in the NHL.

“That’s what the team needs — that speed and quickness, ability to carry the puck and do a good job on both sides of the puck,” the coach said. “He got everybody’s attention last year in the playoffs and it’s just an opportunity right now to continue to build on it and be a good player for them.”

Schenn and Couturier were shoo-ins for promotions and Rinaldo brings something to the table that no other young forward in Adirondack does: he's a premier agitator who can really throw some hits and punches. Glens Falls did not see that much fighting from Rinaldo this season, as he said he was focusing on retooling his game to be more of a complete player. He finished with five points in 32 games, but he did rack up 92 penalty minutes. That element of his game is still alive and well.

McGinn is an interesting choice. He is the only one in the bunch who does not have NHL experience, but he has found himself a home in front of the opponents' nets, taking goaltenders eyes away on the power play. A lot of his nine goals this season have been scored from within a few feet of the net, several of them on deflections or rebounds. Those are the kinds of goals you have to score sometimes.

Can he play in the NHL? Murray thinks so, and so do I. But it's a numbers game. Philadelphia is expected to bring 2012 first round draft pick Scott Laughton in for an audition. With him, they would have 14 healthy forwards in training camp. Danny Briere is recovering from a wrist injury that could force him to miss some games. That's 15 forwards right there. Tom Sestito is a potential 16th, though Flyers inside reporter Antony SanFilippo notes the winger has the mumps. Most teams carry 13 or 14.

"This is a nice opportunity for McGinn to go there and play with the NHL players and just get a toe hold in as a Flyer," Murray said. "Does this mean he's going to step in and be on the hockey club and play? I hope so. I don't know that. ... but I do know this -- it's a great opportunity for him to go play and try to now establish himself as an NHL player."

With their promotions come some related roster moves. Forwards Shane Harper, Andrew Johnston, Matt Mangene and defenseman Tyler Hostetter will be joining the Phantoms from the ECHL's Trenton Titans, Murray said, and the quartet is expected to be in town for practice Thursday.

Those transactions are official, per the ECHL's daily log.

Harper was sent to the ECHL earlier this month to get some games in and build up his confidence. He responded by scoring two goals and two assists in a three-game stint. Johnston began the season with the Phantoms -- scoring one goal in 10 games -- but he was sent to the ECHL to get top-line minutes. He had one goal in eight games there, but he missed several weeks with a concussion. Mangene also had a bout with a concussion, which he sustained in Adirondack's Oct. 28 game at Syracuse. He was sent to Trenton once he was healthy and responded by scoring six assists in 14 games. He can play every forward position, Murray said, and he played defense in college, though that's not in the plan.

Hostetter had 11 assists in 29 games with Trenton, but was with the Phantoms in training camp this season. He also has 10 games of AHL experience under his belt with Adirondack over the past two seasons. He gives the Phantoms eight healthy defensemen, and could free up blueliner Zack FitzGerald to begin taking more shifts at left wing. Here's who'll be here Thursday morning:

Forwards (12): Jason Akeson, Rob Bordson, Tyler Brown, Matt Ford, Shane Harper, Andrew Johnston, Matt Mangene, Marcel Noebels, Garrett Roe, Ian Slater, Mike Testwuide, Harry Zolnierczyk

Defensemen (8): Jeff Dimmen, Cullen Eddy, Zack FitzGerald, Tyler Hostetter, Blake Kessel, Oliver Lauridsen, Brandon Manning, Danny Syvret

Goalies (2): Scott Munroe, Cal Heeter
 Hope to talk to some of the new guys tomorrow.

Until next time,


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