The Flyers had 10 rookies appear for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. How did they perform?
Out of the list of rookies that the Phantoms iced this season, four of them saw regular playing time during the season. The veterans of that group were Maksim Sushko and Isaac Ratcliffe, both appearing in 53 games. Behind them was German Rubtsov with 42 games and Morgan Frost with 41. The latter two appeared in the NHL this season as well.
Out of that group, Ratcliffe was the only one to actually have appeared in the AHL before this season. He made his debut in 2018, scoring his first professional goal in his first game.
Players such as Pascal Laberge and Matthew Strome spent most of the season with the Reading Royals of the ECHL. While Laberge has appeared in the AHL before, he only had a total of 17 games. Strome made his AHL debut the previous season, appearing in six games.
None of the team’s rookies lit the AHL on fire. Frost was the most productive, finishing 19th among all AHL rookies with 29 points. For reference, the league’s top rookie scorer was Josh Norris, a Senators prospect. It would be a long way to find the next Phantoms rookie on the list.
That would be Sushko, finishing with 21 points in 53 games. That would have him ranked 48th among all AHL rookies. Ratcliffe was next on the list as he collected 15 points in 52 games.
Starting with the Phantoms’ most productive rookie, it took Frost a few games to find his bearings in the AHL. It was understandable for a player who had been vying for an NHL roster spot. He found his game quickly after that, posting a nine-game point streak where he registered four goals and five assists. Frost would see himself called up for 20 NHL games, posting seven points.
He posted three points in his first two games while averaging just under 14 minutes a game. After coming back to the AHL for the remainder of the season in January, Frost continued to polish his game. He posted 17 points in his final 25 games. He was also a part of the AHL All-Star Classic.
For Sushko, his first season with the Phantoms was a strong effort. The points didn’t come as frequently for him as they did Frost. But it was still a season to be happy about if the league does not resume play. He seemingly got better as the season progressed and was rewarded with more ice time.
Injuries to some of the Phantoms likely played a role in that. But Sushko will have a solid year to build on going into next season.
For Ratcliffe, he has had a harder time adjusting to the AHL. While it hasn’t been a disappointing year, one would have hoped he would have put up bigger numbers. He is just 21-years-old so there is no rush. His season starting off promising as he grabbed three points in the first five games. But length pointless droughts followed him throughout.
The longest was a stretch of 11 games from December 6th-January 5th. That was almost a month of no production from Ratcliffe. Using his size to his advantage is something that he will need to continue learning at the AHL level. A top prospect for the team, Ratcliffe has certainly come far from where he started the season. But there is still a lot of ways to go.