Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Harper, FitzGerald on Wahl 2/26

Shane Harper checked his cell phone Monday night and noticed an unread message from an old friend.

Before the Adirondack Phantoms winger ever had a chance to welcome Mitch Wahl to the organization, the former Calgary Flames prospect had reached out to Harper, one of his off-season workout buddies.

“He said ‘Hey, I just got traded to Philly,’ ” Harper said Tuesday. “ I said ‘Right on, See you soon.’ ”

Wahl, acquired yesterday in the deal that sent Mike Testwuide to Calgary, is expected to arrive in Glens Falls later Tuesday and join his new team for practice Wednesday at the Glens Falls Recreation Center.

That practice will represent Wahl’s first formal introduction to many of his new teammates, though the center will instantly recognize Harper’s face. The two forwards are Southern California natives who played for the same youth hockey organization, though their birth years divided them between individual teams.

“He played on the California Wave ’90 team,” Harper said. “I was on the ’89 team. We grew up together and he’s a real nice kid. I skate with him in the summers. … He’s just a skilled forward that can help us.”

Wahl, 23, is a former second-round draft pick who has never able to crack the AHL in Calgary’s system, and had spent most of his three-year pro career in the ECHL. He had 59 points in 45 games with Utah this season, and was displaying the skills that made him one of the Western Hockey League’s top scorers in his final season of junior hockey for the Spokane Chiefs, 2009-10. There, he recorded 96 points in 72 games.

“I played against him in Spokane when he played in the WHL and I was in Everett,” Harper said after the Phantoms practiced Tuesday morning. “He did really well on their power play. He has a real good shot.”

Despite that, though, Wahl had played in just six games with Abbotsford this season, and 54 games at the AHL level since turning pro at the end of 2009-10. Though the Heat went through 17 different centers last season – and 48 different skaters – Wahl was in the line-up for just five of the Heat’s games. The Flames loaned him to the Hamilton Bulldogs, a Montreal Canadiens affiliate, and he made 22 appearances there.

Harper has kept in touch with Wahl, one of several professional players in his summer workout group in El Segundo, Calif. Players like Sidney Crosby, Ryan Miller and Matt Duchene have also skated there.

“I think he was trying to get a new change of scenery for a little while now and I think it happened for him, finally,” Harper said of Wahl, who has 15 career AHL points. “It’s just kind of cool that he’s coming here.”

There is a hope that Wahl will be able to spark a Phantoms offense that is scoring just 2.41 goals per game, which ranks 25th in the AHL. They are on pace to finish the season with both the fewest goals scored and the fewest points recorded in the franchise’s history, dating back to the team’s 1996 start in Philadelphia.

“He’s a good, hard-working kid,” said Phantoms winger Zack FitzGerald, who was teammates with Wahl last season in Hamilton. “He plays hard. He’s a good, Philly-style player. It should be good.”

Though disappointed to see Testwuide leave, Harper said the deal may ultimately also be better for him.

The 26-year-old winger had been buried on Adirondack’s fourth line or scratched when healthy. He will begin anew in the Calgary organization, and expressed excitement to the team’s website about the deal.

"I'm super excited to have a new opportunity ahead of me," Testwuide told the Flames website. "The Flyers have a great organization and were great to me. But it's going to be nice to go somewhere new and have a fresh start."

Until next time,


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