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Carchidi Column: ‘Nobody Wants to Play for Me,’ Says Flyers’ Top Minors Coach

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Olle Lycksell, Philadelphia Flyers
Left winger Olle Lycksell has 12 goals in 18 games for the AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Flyers may soon recall a player. Photo: AP.

Ian Laperriere, the good-natured coach of the Philadelphia Flyers’ top minor-league team, says “nobody wants to play for me.”

He doesn’t take it personally.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms coach understands why they want their coach to be John Tortorella instead of him.

“Their dream isn’t to play in the AHL;  it’s to play in the NHL,” he said in an interview Thursday.

But that doesn’t mean the Phantoms aren’t playing hard for the man affectionately known as “Lappy.”

The Phantoms are on a roll, having picked up points in their last six games (5-0-1) to improve their record to 9-6-3. More importantly, promising players like Samu Tuomaala, Olle Lycksell, Elliot Desnoyers and Adam Ginning are making strides. Ditto defensemen Emil Andrae, who is back from an injury, and Helge Grans.

Forwards Tanner Laczynski and Wade Allison, and defenseman Ronnie Attard — three players who have spent time with the Philadelphia Flyers — are also contributing.

Bottom line: Laperriere is pleased with the progress the Baby Flyers are making.

A call-up coming?

With center/winger Noah Cates sidelined for six to eight weeks with a broken foot, the Flyers have only 12 forwards on their roster. That means one of the Phantoms’ forwards could soon be recalled by Philly.

By production alone, Lycksell could get the call. The 5-foot-11, 176-pound  left winger has 12 goals and 18 points in 18 games.

“He’s put the work in every day since he came back” after being demoted by the Flyers during training camp, Laperriere said. “He’s producing, and I feel like he’s getting better in his 200-foot game. To go up there and stay in the NHL, you have to be good in the details, and I think he’s made huge strides in that regard.”

Lycksell and his entire line — which includes center Laczynski and right winger Tuomaala — have been the Phantoms’ best unit. By far.

Tuomaala, 20, a Finland native who has has four goals and 17 points in 17 games, was a second-round selection in 2021.  He has matured dramatically since a two-game stint with Lehigh Valley two years ago. This is his first full season in North America.

“He’ been great,” Laperriere said, adding that Tuomaala’s English was “so-so” in 2021, “but it improved so much this summer and that’s helped him. And he’s made a great adjustment to the North American game. It’s a big thing for players who come over from the wider ice (in Europe), where you don’t have to be as strong. He’s been producing, and he’s been better in his board work.”

Added Laperriere: “He’s been working hard and he’s a joy to work with. He’s such a good kid and he’s getting rewarded; he’s getting points pretty much every night. But for me, points is one thing, but I like the way he’s playing away from the puck.”

Role model for youngsters

Laczynski, (six goals, 17 points), 26, has provided veteran leadership and “has been leading by example for those young guys and he makes my job so much easier,” Laperriere said.

Asked who he thought the Flyers might recall if they add a player, Laperriere wouldn’t bite.

“That’s above my pay grade,” said Laperriere, who is also high on wingers Cooper Marody and Allison. “It all depends what they’re looking for. They’ll make that call when they need to make it.”

Allison played 60 games with the Flyers last season, so it was a jolt when he was sent to the Phantoms and it took him a while to regroup. The 26-year-old right winger has played better lately, and overall has five points and a plus-4 rating in 17 games.

“He was disappointed,” Laperriere said of Allison’s demotion to Lehigh Valley, “but what I like about Wade is he put the work boots on and now he’s one of our best leaders.  He has an NHL body and he’s an NHL player, but now he’s with me. There’s a reason why he’s with me, so he needs to put the work in and he has been putting the work in. I can’t give him enough credit.”

Laperriere said Allison’s “stats don’t show it, but he’s getting chances every night, so for me, it tells me he’s doing the right things.”

On the back end, Ginning, 23, who was impressive during the Flyers’ training camp, has been the Phantoms’ steadiest defender, “He’s playing like he did last year,” Laperriere said. “He does everything right and he really helps his partner, no matter who it is.”

Ginning, like his teammates, is playing hard for the coach nobody wants to play for.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called Bullies: A Love Story. Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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