There aren’t a lot of things to look forward to the rest of the season for the Philadelphia Flyers. They’re all but mathematically eliminated from the playoff race and have laid a few stinkers since the trade deadline. However, there are a few young players worth keeping an eye on. Wade Allison is one of those players.
Allison was called up last week and made his NHL debut on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. He impressed in his debut while playing on the fourth line with Oskar Lindblom and Nolan Patrick. He followed that up with his first NHL goal on Saturday afternoon and another hardworking effort on Sunday evening.
The Flyers needed a spark and Wade Allison has provided it.
It hasn’t been an easy road for Allison. He dealt with injuries during his NCAA career at Western Michigan while working his way to the NHL. Then, after finally turning pro this year, he missed the start of his first AHL season with an ankle injury.
“It’s been a long road. There’s been a lot of ups, a lot of downs, but I did it,” Allison said after his NHL debut. “It’s pretty cool, something I’ll remember forever, something that nobody can ever take from me. It’s pretty special.”
Wade Allison gets to work
Allison got right to work in his NHL debut. He was impressive in all three zones and tied for the team lead in shots on goal (four) in the shootout win against the Penguins.
Those weren’t four cheap ones either; Allison had four shots on goal and four scoring chances, all of which were high-danger opportunities. He was also immediately placed on the power play, getting 2:05 of ice time on the man advantage.
Alain Vigneault took notice of Allison’s debut.
“For a player coming in and not having a practice with us, I thought, for the most part, he played how he was described: strong on the puck, goes to the net,” he said. “[Allison] had some opportunities tonight. It was a good start for him.”
Allison seemed to be a bit snakebitten in his debut, which Vigneault also touched on.
“Couldn’t buy a goal, he had some great opportunities, but couldn’t buy one tonight,” Vigneault said on Thursday. “Hopefully, next time he can buy one.”
It wasn’t something Allison was concerned with, though.
“I’ll get a bounce here soon, it’s not something I’m worried about,” Allison said after having four high-danger scoring chances in his debut. “I’ll just keep doing the same thing, playing the game right, taking care of the defensive zone, and one’ll pot for me I’m not worried about it.”
Allison wasn’t worried and he showed why in his next game.
Wade Allison moves up lineup and lights the lamp
After playing the right way and up to expecations in his debut, Vigneault moved Allison up the lineup. The rookie was on the right side of Claude Giroux, with another youngster in the form of Joel Farabee on the left side. In one of the Flyers’ worst games of the year, Allison made it bearable.
The rookie was behind only his linemate Giroux in 5-on-5 ice time in the game. He was on the ice for seven of the Flyers’ 24 shot attempts and four of their 11 shots on goal at 5-on-5 in the game. As I said, it was an abysmal effort overall, but Giroux’s line had some energy.
Allison made his mark on the power play in the loss. He scored his first NHL goal off a great passing play by Giroux and Hayes.
“Not too many times you score your first goal,” Allison said after the game. “Very excited. Very cool. I have to go buy Haysey a dinner because it doesn’t get much easier than that one.”
Allison knows that he has a great opportunity to make an impression on the coaching staff and front office, and he’s making the most of it.
“You only get one shot at a first impression, so you’ve got to get out there, do your best, move your feet and bang some bodies and take care of the ‘d’ zone,” he said after Saturday’s game. “You’ve got to start strong, because if you don’t have a good first impression, you put yourself behind the 8-ball.
He certainly started strong and got rewarded for it.
Allison caught the eye of Vigneault to get moved up the lineup and he was given more ice time throughout the game as well. Not only was he on the power play, but he was also out on the ice with the goalie pulled for the extra attacker late in the game.
Even Allison himself wasn’t expecting the opportunities that he’s been given.
“Yeah, very surprised. I didn’t expect to play this much, but I’ll take it,” he said. “I definitely won’t complain about it.”
Allison had a fantastic first two NHL games. He was one of the best Flyers on the ice in his debut and scored his first NHL goal in his second game. It was a pretty good start for the rookie.
Allison keeps the energy going
That good start continued on Sunday evening. He was on his third different line in as many games, playing on the right side with Kevin Hayes at center and Farabee on the left side.
The Farabee – Hayes – Allison line was the Flyers’ best trio in the game. In 9:39 of ice time at 5-on-5, they six of the Flyers’ 18 scoring chances and four of eight high-danger chances.
Individually, Allison led the Flyers with a Corsi For of 70% (14-6 shot attempts) and 73.54% Expected Goals-For. Unfortunately, just like the rest of the team, he couldn’t find the back of the net.
Still, it’s been a great start for Allison in the NHL. It’s a small sample size, but he’s definitely provided a spark.
Of the Flyers players to play in each of the last three games, Allison is arguably one of the best. He leads the team with a 52.83% CF and 62.5% xGF at 5-on-5 play.
In all situations, Allison is tied for the team lead in scoring chances with seven and high-danger chances with six. He has eight shot attempts (seven on goal) in 40:46 through his first three NHL games.
Allison, 23, is more experienced than most NHL rookies. He played four years at Western Michigan before turning pro. He’s made the transition pretty smoothly with nine points in his first eight AHL games and a tremendous trio of NHL games to start his career.
The Flyers’ second-round pick (52nd overall) from the 2016 draft is finally in the NHL and he’s giving the orange and black a much-needed spark at the end of a miserable season.
Photo: Heather Barry Images
Stats via Natural Stat Trick