We’ve come to that time of the year where AHL teams are trimming their rosters down and giving their ECHL affiliate the leftovers. Over the past few days, the Phantoms are wasting no time stacking up Reading as they have assigned six players (three forwards, one defenseman, two goalies) to the Royals, including some familiar faces with a few more on the way. Let’s break them down shall we.
Kevin Goumas: Spent most of 2014-15 with Lehigh Valley, appearing in 63 games tallying six goals and 11 assists. He only played one game with Reading going pointless on 1/16/15 in Elmira, then was recalled right back to AHL where he stayed for remainder of season. It is hard to fully evaluate him since we did not see him at all inside The Jungle. He is a guy who I believe can bring the scoring punch that we lost this past summer with most of our key contributors going overseas/retiring. Goumas would look solid as a perhaps third or even second-line contributor.
Derek Mathers: Rough and tough Mathers comes back to Reading, after appearing in three games for the Royals last season, registering one assist, then spending the rest of the camping in the AHL. He is not afraid to drop the gloves against anyone, as he impressively put on display during the 1/20/15 game home vs Elmira, going toe-to-toe with 6’6” Justin Sawyer. He was the OHL PIM leader with Peterborough during 2010-2011 season (177). I expect Mathers to be the stand-up for your teammates role this season and drop them when needed. Perhaps a third line guy or wherever Courville can get something out of him.
Geoff Walker: A ECHL veteran (at least in my opinion) joins his fourth team in the league (Ontario, Florida & Missouri) and is a huge addition for Reading. Signed by Lehigh Valley as a free agent this summer, Walker brings in leadership that the Royals will need if they want to have a good season, and can also be a steady hand on the offensive side of the puck. Walker had 43 points (18 goals, 25 assists) in 60 games last season split between Ontario and Missouri. He also has a grand total of 269 AHL games under his belt. I suspect Waker on a line (perhaps 1st) with Czarink this season. A quickly developing chemistry between those two would go a long ways for the Royals.
Adam Comrie: Comrie returns for his third stint in Reading. He spent the majority of last season with the Phantoms, deservedly so as he was a key factor in the defensive unit for Lehigh Valley. He registered 18 points in 40 games and has a cannon of a shot you want in your defenders. A-Bomb is what the fans like to call him here in Reading, and he will hopefully be bringing that bomb of a shot when the season starts next week. According to EliteProspects, Comrie is described as a two-way defenseman with excellent size and reach, and plays a tough game in his own zone. He doesn’t shy away from physical battles and also likes to join the attack. That is 100% accurate in every way and I see him as part of the first defensive pairings. I would like to see him paired with Sam Windle (both 6’4). A tandem of big-bodied defensemen has been lacking in Reading and it is something the fans here have wanted to see for a long time. We may finally get our wish.
Connor Knapp: Returns after an impressive season with Reading in 2014-2015. A tall (6’6) goalie with good movement and versatility looks to repeat after starting 41 games last season. Knapp had an impressive 24-11-4 record with .915 save percentage along with one shutout. He earned a few call-ups but did not play. Hopefully he will get that chance again this season if he continues to shine between the pipes. If Connor continues to develop and play at a high level, I see him shouldering the load for the Royals in net, and he may see a game or two as a Phantom.
Martin Ouellette: After a stellar four-year collegiate run with the Maine Black Bears, Ouellette didn’t waste any time getting familiar with the professional game at the ECHL level. Marty appeared in 29 games and was just three wins shy of 20, going 17-10-2 with a shutout last season. He was pretty spectacular here in Reading earning him a call-up and had six starts with the Phantoms, going 3-2-1. Expect more of the same from Marty and if there is an injury in either Lehigh Valley or Philadelphia, he will be the first to be called upon. Let’s cross our fingers and hope all goalies stay healthy in the Flyers organization.
More bodies are expected to make the trip from Lehigh Valley, and will more than likely be on the blue line. I would expect two defenseman (Maxim Lamarche & Nick Luukko are my guesses) to complete the assignments for opening night rosters. Don’t be shocked to see maybe another forward as well. The Royals are just missing a top defenseman at the moment and the scoring punch leaves a little to be desired, but hopefully the new guys (including college refreshments) can transfer nicely to the ECHL and we will be in for a good season once again.