Monday, April 22, 2013

Akeson, Laughton, McGinn, Konan called up 4/22

After Jason Akeson scored the second of his two goals against the Connecticut Whale last Saturday, a booming slap shot that gave the Adirondack Phantoms a come-from-behind overtime victory, he was asked about the prospects of him getting a call up to the National Hockey League.

“It’s always going to be in your mind,” Akeson said on that day. “That’s where the ultimate goal is. I’m playing in the AHL for a reason. It’s not to stay here. It’s to get a shot up there. Hopefully.”

Akeson’s hopes came to fruition on Monday afternoon, as the Philadelphia Flyers called him and three other Phantoms up to skate with the parent club in this final week of the NHL season. The Phantoms ended their season Sunday. It is the first career call-up for the winger, who concluded his second AHL season with elite numbers.

The 22-year-old Orleans, Ontario, native produced 13-15-28 over his final 25 games, giving him a team-best 20 goals and 53 points despite appearing in just 62 of Adirondack’s 76 contests to date.

He was a bright spot on an offense that struggled mightily to score, and finished the season with 182 goals. That is the lowest total ever recorded by any AHL affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren visited Glens Falls last week to watch two Phantoms games, and was impressed with what he saw out of Akeson. Though a bit undersized at 5-foot-10 and 190 pounds, Akeson has worked on becoming more of a shooter and a two-way presence.

He was one of the more-used forwards on a penalty kill that ranked seventh in the AHL at 85.2 percent, and ran the point on the power play. His 11 power-play goals tied him for 10th in the AHL.

“We like the way Jason has come along,” Holmgren said last week. “He’s coming out of junior hockey, where he was a very prolific scorer. He’s come here and put up really good numbers and also – I think the most important part for him – is improve his game away from the puck. He’s a smart game. I think his skating has improved. He’s certainly a guy that we talk about a lot.”

Akeson led the Phantoms in scoring for the second straight campaign, despite spending nearly two months in the ECHL with the Trenton Titans at the start of the season. He was sent there to work on his two-way play, which has come along, and because of the influx of talent the Phantoms got because of the NHL lockout. Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier had two top-six roster spots.

“To Jason’s credit, he went to Trenton and worked hard,” Holmgren said at Adirondack's games last week. “He didn’t pout. He didn’t complain. And then when he came up, he’s been a good player since then. Like I said, he’s a guy that we talk about a lot. He’s a gifted young hockey player and he’s just going through the development phase of trying to get better in all areas and he’s doing that.”

The Flyers have three games remaining, and are mathematically out of playoff contention. That could increase Akeson’s chances of making his NHL debut during this call-up. The Phantoms dressed many younger players, fresh out of junior and college hockey, after they were out of the playoff hunt.

The Flyers also recalled defenseman Matt Konan, winger Tye McGinn and center Scott Laughton. All three have previously been called up to the NHL, though only Konan has yet to make his NHL debut. He was a healthy scratch in a game last week, but his chances of playing may also increase.

McGinn, who has five points in 18 games with the Flyers this season, thrived in an increased role under Phantoms coach Terry Murray. He set career highs in goals (14), assists (12) and points (26) despite appearing in 17 fewer games than his rookie campaign one year ago. After the Phantoms concluded their season Sunday, McGinn was asked if he thought that was his final game in the AHL.

"You want to play in the NHL," he said after Adirondack beat Albany. "The American Hockey League is a good league as well. I strive to be in the NHL for hopefully next year. It's something I'm going to work hard (for) this summer. I like it in Glens Falls, but I want to be in Philadelphia."

The only player in that group unlikely to get into a game is Laughton, as doing so would burn a year of his entry-level contract. That means he would be one-year closer to free agency. Earlier this year, the Flyers sent him back to his junior hockey team in Oshawa to avoid that exact scenario.

Even if the quartet does not play, they will still have the chance to practice with the parent club for a week. The experience may prove invaluable for a group of young players vying to win NHL jobs.

The rest of the Phantoms had their break-up day today, and said their final goodbyes before they headed home for a five-month summer. Check for a blog post on that later tonight or tomorrow.

Until next time,


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