Conner Returns to Lehigh Valley
The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have made official the signing of Chris Conner to an AHL contract for two years, along with one-year AHL contracts for goaltender John Muse, defenseman Frank Hora and forwards Derek Hulak and Matt Willows.
The biggest news here is that Conner will be back with the Phantoms. The 33-year old forward is showing no signs of slowing down – finishing his third straight 50-point AHL season with the Phantoms last year with 22 goals and 34 assists in 70 games.
Conner’s game-winning overtime goal in Game Three of the Phantoms’ first round series against Hershey kept the team’s season alive, and the Phantoms took the Bears to a winner-take-all Game Five after trailing the best-of-five series two games to none. His experience is a welcomed addition back among the Phantoms forward core this fall.
The four other AHL deals appear to be for depth, although forward Derek Hulak is only a year removed from back-to-back 40-point AHL seasons with the Texas Stars. He missed almost the entire 2016-17 with Utica due to what Travis Green called an upper body injury, only appearing in 17 games this past season – tallying four goals and an assist.
Utica Comets’ beat writer Ben Birnell noted that he never saw Hulak skate after December.
Goaltender John Muse will replace Martin Ouellette’s role as the Phantoms’ third goaltender behind Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz. Muse went 3-8-0 with one shutout in the AHL with the Rochester Americans last season.
Defenseman Frank Hora appeared in three AHL games with the Cleveland Monsters last season, but will begin his first full pro season in the Phantoms’ organization this fall after captaining the OHL’s Kitchener Rangers last season – tallying five goals and 17 assists in 53 games.
Forward Matt Willows has been primarily an ECHL-level scoring threat in his first two years of pro hockey, most recently appearing in 46 games with the Phantoms’ ECHL affiliate in Reading in 2016-17. In all, Willows tallied 22 goals and 39 assists in 63 ECHL games last season.
With these latest signings, here’s what the projected Lehigh Valley Phantoms roster looks like for the 2017-18 season:
Forwards (15): Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Cole Bardreau (RFA), Greg Carey, Chris Conner (AHL – 2 years), Radel Fazleev, Tyrell Goulbourne, Derek Hulak (AHL), Corban Knight, Taylor Leier (RFA), Danick Martel, Colin McDonald, Steven Swavely (AHL), Phil Varone, Mikhail Vorobyev and Matt Willows (AHL)
Defensemen (8): Mark Alt, T.J. Brennan, Mark Friedman, Frank Hora (AHL), Phil Myers, Will O’Neill, Travis Sanheim and Reece Willcox
Goaltenders (3): Alex Lyon, John Muse (AHL) and Anthony Stolarz