Yesterday afternoon, I was granted the opportunity to attend a professional hockey game for the first time in a long time. I was in attendance at the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and Hershey Bears matchup in Hershey, PA. Fortunately, being at this game gave me the chance to watch some of the bright future stars for the Philadelphia Flyers up close and in person.
The Phantoms dominated the Bears 4-1 in what could have been considered an important matchup in the shortened 2020-2021 American Hockey League season. At home this season, the Bears have played fairly well and have won five straight, but that all ended yesterday afternoon.
The Phantoms are stacked with young and talented players that the Flyers have drafted over the past couple of seasons. With players like Tyson Foerster, Zayde Wisdom, and Wade Allison, the future is bright for the Flyers.
Foerster, the Flyer’s first-round selection from the 2020 National Hockey League Draft, made his professional hockey debut with the Phantoms more than a month ago but was sidelined with an injury after a scary collision during a game on Feb 6. He missed about a month of hockey with a shinbone fracture sustained during the collision. He returned to play at the beginning of March eager to get back into the action. The 19-year-old forward has looked towards the veteran forwards on the team to get him ready for that next level of play at the AHL level.
Foerster continued to play well since returning to the lineup but only tallied one point in six games played. He was looking to prove himself to the Flyers brass as he realized the importance of playing well to make it to the NHL. During yesterday’s game against the Bears, he scored his first professional goal early in the game on a 2-on-1 pass from Phantoms forward, David Kase.
Overall, Foerster played well against a tough and physical Bears team. The forward looked to be in the right place during critical moments in the game and was even willing to battle it out in the corners. He took a few cross-checks to the back in certain instances but that did not seem to phase him. It will be interesting to see what he continues to do during his time with the Phantoms, but he still has a lot to prove in order to be called up to the Flyers.
Allison, the Flyer’s second-round (52nd overall) selection in 2016, finally made his professional hockey debut yesterday afternoon versus the Bears. After spending the last four years at Western Michigan University, he put up 97 points (45G,52A) in 106 games with the Broncos. He opened up camp with the Flyers at the start of the 2020-2021 season but was quickly sidelined. Allison missed a month and a half before the season after undergoing ankle surgery to repair a nagging injury.
Allison entered the Phantoms lineup after being assigned to the team earlier in the weekend by the Flyers. In his professional debut, he collected his first pro goal on an absolutely beautiful shot from the left circle after a forced turnover in the offensive zone. The celebration was almost as good as the goal as the pure joy and excitement that filled his face was worth the price of admission alone.
Overall, Allison played well in his pro debut. He was not afraid to get physical in the corners and in the defensive zone. He is expected to crack the Flyers lineup at some point this season, but the time he will spend with the Phantoms is much needed as he has not played in nearly a year. Flyers fans have been looking forward to seeing him in action since he was drafted and it seems like all that waiting is finally paying off.
Wisdom, the Flyer’s selection in the fourth round with the 94th pick, has been tearing up the AHL since joining the Phantoms at the beginning of the season. He currently leads the Phantoms in points with 10 (6G, 4A) in 12 games played. Among rookies, he currently sits tied for 5th in points so far this season.
In the game against the Bears, Wisdom moved the puck well and played a key role in the victory. Although pointless in the game, he was on the top line and top powerplay unit, which was successful two out of seven attempts. He picked up a penalty of his own late in the second period, which was not successful for the Bears.
The 18-year-old forward has shown flashes of brilliance so this season which is exciting for the future of the Flyers. While the ceiling of Wisdom is not known just yet, the Flyers are excited for his potential in the future. He could potentially see time with the Flyers by the end of the season, but that would all depend on how far the team makes it this season.
The Phantoms will look to make a push towards the AHL playoffs with the roster full of young talents like Foerster, Allison, and Wisdom. The ceiling is very high for this team, but no one really knows what they are capable of since they are so young. There is a nice balance of rookie and veteran players on the team that could make a solid push towards the Calder Cup Playoffs this season.