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A new beginning for Flyers prospects in Allentown

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers

One of the greater advantages of having your top affiliate 70 minutes away instead of 300 is how much more convenient it is for the brass to check out the talent.

Another good thing about the Flyers relocating from Glens Falls, N.Y. to Allentown would be in case Craig Berube personally has to yank callups out of the Phantoms’ lounge, sauna, steam, video and changing rooms.

What if they don’t want to come up?

“We are hoping the difference in NHL pay will be incentive for them, ” deadpans Flyers President Paul Holmgren.

During the first AHL regular-season game, Friday night at the PPL Center, the Phantoms put themselves in the penalty box for 26 minutes, seeming to show compassion for the now-Adirondack Flames, who have moved into the former Phantom digs with the 4-man-only weight room.

Eventually the Phantoms got over it, winning in overtime, 4-3 on a goal by Brandon Manning, then, just for old time’s sake, boarded the bus for Glens Falls, for the second game of the home and home, which was won by Adirondack, 4-2.

Scott Laughton leads the team and is tied for 2nd in the AHL with four goals in three games through Saturday's.

(see below for additional photos)

Frankly, they had seemed in no hurry to leave, just like the sold out crowd of 8,647, enjoying a spacious mid-level concourse, 37 suites, 1017 club seats, three open-to-the-public restaurants, 320 televisions and a center-hanging video board that is almost bigger than Shayne Gostisbehere’s and Scott Laughton’s promise.

“There also is a health club, rehab center, the yoga room, spinning room (as part of the adjacent medical complex), just an amazing setup,” said Coach Terry Murray.

“This is a miniature NHL building at the high end.”

“I stayed at the door when we came in here for the first time (after camp in Voorhees), wanting to see the players’ faces.”

It’s Christmas every day at the PPL Center, even for the Flyers, who haven’t had this many true prospects playing for their AHL affiliates since, 1972-73, when Bill Barber, Orest Kindrachuk and Jimmy Watson were at Richmond.

The outmoded facilities and geography in Glens Falls were a tough sell to veteran AHL types, part of the reason why the Phantoms failed to make the playoffs even once during the five-year exile that followed the Spectrum’s closing. But also most of the Flyers’ young talent was in Philadelphia.

Sean Couturier made the jump right out of the draft,” said Holmgren after participating in the puck-dropping ceremonies. “Jeff Carter and Mike Richards had a full year with the Phantoms but that was during the lockout.”

That year, you couldn’t rush anybody to the NHL.

New GM Ron Hextall has announced he won’t do it any year, why Scott Laughton, the 2012 first rounder, who has four goals in three games will get most, if not all, of a year’s development here.

Because the Flyers recently have been trading fewer picks, a scoot up the turnpike also will give you a glimpse of future pieces of their defense like Gostisbehere (3rd Round in 2012) and Robert Hagg (2nd Round in 2013).

Friday night, Gostisbehere whipped a backhand pass across the points and off the sideboards to Manning, whose seeing-eye shot ended the game.

“When our team has the puck [Gostisbehere] really excels,” said Murray, “He has incredible quickness, is at full speed within two strides and has quick hands, pulling the puck from one side of his body to the other as well as most you are going to see.

“I have had some [defensemen] -- Paul Coffey, Al Iafrate -- who played on the (risky) edge. A lot of times they play defense by skating forward back into their own end, pressuring guys from behind. I see that in Shayne’s game and that’s okay; I don’t want to discourage the big stuff in this kid by [insisting] he always be in the perfect position defensively.

“I am not going to tell him it’s too dangerous to make that backhand pass across the points. Those are the plays that players like him make. And for a player of good puck skills, what I love about him the most is that he has a shot-first mentality. He has a really heavy one that gets through to the net.”

Laughton gets rid of the puck almost as fast as a No. 1 pick has been expected to get to Philly. Time here still will be well-spent.

“You can see from how he released the puck that he is a skilled player with good hands,” said Murray. “He gets himself to good positions but he’s going to be in critical situations here playing against men, not teenagers. We have a great facility for off ice work to get stronger.”

Of course, there are a couple of those in Philadelphia, too. In the meantime, there isn’t a better place to be in minor league hockey.

For more photos visit PhantomsHockey.com





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