Recent Phantoms Graduates Already Making an Impact in Philadelphia
By: John Williams
Aside from winning the Calder Cup, the overall mission of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms has always been developing the young, talented players inside of the Philadelphia Flyers organization to help them find long-term success at the NHL level.
Over the past handful of seasons — as the Flyers have rebuilt their organization from within — the Phantoms have been graced with a plethora of quality prospects looking to master their craft. And, with the Flyers’ roster now filled with a number of Phantoms’ alumni, the organization is beginning to see the fruits of its labor become ripe.
Early into the 2018-19 NHL season, it appears that some of those prospects are well on their way to full-time roles in the show.
Since his first call up by the Flyers on February 19, 2018, forward Oskar Lindblom has been a mainstay in the Philadelphia lineup.
The native of Gävle, Sweden, tallied two goals and four assists in 23 games with the Flyers at the end of last season and after a terrific AHL playoff performance where he notched seven points (4G-3A) in 11 games for the Phantoms, Lindblom spent a majority of the summer in Voorhees, New Jersey, at the Flyers’ practice facility, continuing to acclimate himself to the smaller ice surface that North American hockey is played on.
After a strong training camp in September, Lindblom made the team and is already having an impressive start to his “official” rookie season. He’s appeared in all five contests thus far and also netted the Flyers’ first goal of the season against the Vegas Golden Knights in the season opener on October 4.
Currently playing on the second line with Jordan Weal and Travis Konecny, the 6’1” winger will look to build off his hot start throughout the season.
Vorobyev came over from the KHL at the start of the 2017-18 season and he began producing right away for the Phantoms. In 58 games, the native of Ufa, Russia, tallied nine goals and 20 assists.
In his second NHL training camp, the 21-year old opened the eyes of the Flyers’ coaching staff and earned himself a spot on the Flyers’ opening night roster.
Centering the team’s third line, which also features Scott Laughton and Wayne Simmonds, Vorobyev tallied his first NHL point in the season opener against the Golden Knights with a secondary assist on Robert Hägg’s first goal of the season. In his second NHL game, a Saturday night affair against the Colorado Avalanche, he netted his first NHL goal.
Through five games, Vorobyev is averaging 13:14 of time on ice and has received playing time on the power play as well. The former fourth-round pick will try to build off his strong start and parlay that into even more playing time with the big club.
In a four-year span from 2013-14 to 2016-17, Hägg was developing his game with the Phantoms. He suited up in 202 games for the club — 10 of which were when the team played in the Adirondacks — tallying a total of 50 points (16G-34A). The native of Uppsala, Sweden, played the ninth most games of any defenseman in Phantoms franchise history.
Since Hägg’s rookie season, where he skated in 70 games for the Flyers and earned an average TOI of 18:08, he’s been working to develop his all-around game by chipping in offensively for the Flyers. Through four games, Hägg has already tallied three points (2G-1A), bringing him just six points shy of his 2017-18 total. He’s also earned 17:33 TOI on the team’s second pairing with Andrew McDonald.
Another area where Hägg has been excelling on the defensive side of the puck is checking. During the 2017-18 season, Hägg finished tied for 7th in the league among all players with 238 hits. Currently, he sits tied for fourth in the NHL with 19 total hits in just five games this season.
Throughout Scott Laughton’s three-year entry-level contract, he split time between the Phantoms and Flyers. Since signing his second contract in the summer of 2017, Laughton has stuck with the big club.
Last season, Laughton produced 10 goals and 10 assists in 81 games for the Flyers. Coming into this year’s training camp, a full-time roster spot was anything but guaranteed, but Laughton took the opportunity and ran with it with a strong preseason performance.
Laughton has further cemented his role on the Flyers since opening night, where he garnered his first goal of the season against the Golden Knights. Since then, Laughton has already scored two more goals, both in the team’s 7-4 victory over the Senators in Ottawa, and he’s currently tied with linemate Wayne Simmonds for first place among Flyers goal scorers.
The Flyers will be depending on the 24-year old from Oakville, Ontario, to again play a big role on the penalty kill this season, an area where they have struggled in the past.
A former first-round pick in 2014, Travis Sanheim is highly regarded in the Flyers organization, and for good reason. In his time with the Phantoms, spanning three seasons, Sanheim notched 12 goals, 44 assists and 56 points in 98 games.
This past season, Sanheim split time between the Flyers and Phantoms. In a 48-game stint with the Flyers, Sanheim tallied two goals and eight assists in 15-plus minutes a night. After being loaned to the Phantoms on January 22, he recorded 16 total points (1G-15A) in 18 contests — which included an eight-game point streak — before he was recalled to the Flyers on March 9.
Although the 2018-19 season just started, Sanheim is already leaving his mark on the big club. Through five games, the native of Elkhorn, Manitoba, is averaging 15:42 TOI and has earned an expanded role on the Flyers’ special teams. The 22-year old tallied his first point of the season against Vegas in the October 4 season opener.
After being acquired by the Flyers from the Los Angeles Kings in January 2016, Weal spent most of the 2016-17 season with the Phantoms. In 48 games, the 5’10” center scored 47 points (15G-32A) in just 43 games and was named an AHL All-Star. He was called up to the Flyers in February of 2017 and has been with the NHL squad ever since.
Weal appeared in 69 games with the Flyers in 2017-18 and finished seventh on the team with three power-play goals. By season’s end he sat just outside the top 10 of scorers on the team after tallying a total of 21 points (8G-13A).
With a few injuries plaguing the Flyers dressing room at the start the season, Weal has now received his opportunity to make an impact. He’s played two games on a line with Oskar Lindblom and Travis Konecny, averaging 10:16 TOI and winning 70 percent of his faceoff attempts.