Lehigh Valley Phantoms 2021 AHL Season Preview

Tyson Foerster, Barrie Colts (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images)
Tyson Foerster, Barrie Colts (Photo by Chris Tanouye/Getty Images) /
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It’s finally here. The Lehigh Valley Phantoms open their 2021 AHL season in Hershey, PA against the Hershey Bears Saturday with a 4:00 PM puck-drop at the Giant Center.

Lehigh Valley will play a total of 38 games: 19 home and 19 away. It certainly will look a little different this year with no Calder Cup Playoffs or a Championship awarded. This is strictly a developmental league for the season. When the AHL schedule was announced the first question was with each AHL team playing only three teams in their respected division how would the playoffs work? Well, we’ve got our answer.

The Phantoms will be playing three teams this season and every away contest will be 100 miles or less. In the North Division, Lehigh Valley will play Hershey (14) Wilkes Barre (10) and Binghamton (14) who will play out of Newark, NJ this season out of the New Jersey Devils practice facility. The abbreviated schedule was created with geographic closeness in mind, as the Phantoms longest road trip of the season will be an hour and 22 minutes. The Phantoms won’t be seeing the rest of the North Division such as Rochester, Utica, and Syracuse. Lehigh Valley is playing about three games a week spaced out from time to time to not only cut down on travel but allowing rescheduling for games if COVID-19 is affected by any team. There is also time for any COVID-19 protocols in place and the time for tests to come back to their respected team.

Some top-tier AHL talent is currently being housed by the taxi squads of the NHL teams. This leaves a few big gaps in the AHL. The Phantoms are no exception.  How will they fare without the likes of Andy Andreoff, Carsen Twarynski, Samuel Morin, Connor Bunnaman, Nate Prosser, and Alex Lyon? Once the AHL season gets going is there a possibility that the Phantoms and Flyers will flip players with two-way deals on the Taxi Squad with how close in proximity those two are? I wrote about that potentially happening at the beginning of January.

Compared to prior seasons, the atmosphere of the games will be drastically different. Energy may have to come from within the team between having seriously reduced fans or, in some cases, no fans at all. How is this energy going to be created?

Chemistry across the team and lines might be a little more challenging for this season to come. With so many different types of players and the OHL season not coming to an agreement to play this season, there are so many different line combinations that can be flipped and created by head coach Scott Gordon. With only the one Phantoms’ pre-season game, it is difficult to even get an idea of how the lines work or react to different situations in the game.