The weekly reader's mailbag questions answered!
Editor's Note: The weekly Tuesday's Talk feature will remain a free article for everyone to read after our premium content kicks into effect in September. We want to continue interacting with our readers, clearing up common misunderstandings/misconceptions around the American Hockey League (AHL) and more.
@ViktorAllvin on Twitter - Three players and one team you're most excited to see, or cover, this season?
For the team I'm most excited about seeing this season, I'd probably have to go with the Charlotte Checkers solely based on the fact that I will be able to cross another AHL venue off my list when the Phantoms travel there this upcoming season. Excluding now-defunct AHL arenas/teams, I've seen every Eastern Conference rink besides Toronto and now this season Belleville and Laval.. I've also been to Chicago and Cleveland's rinks in the Western Conference.
I'm hoping to see some of the Western Conference teams when they come in to the area this season as well when they play nearby Phantoms rivals Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and Hershey.
As for players I'm looking forward to seeing/covering this season, I'll go no further than the Phantoms expected roster with defenseman Phil Myers and forward Mikhail Voroybov. Watching the development of incoming rookies at the North American pro level, and even their progress made over the course of an entire season is something I've always found interesting/intriguing.
@markleach58 on Twitter - When will west coast teams play the same number of games as all other teams?
Ah, yes. This gripe is common among fans across the American Hockey League.
For those unfamiliar, the AHL's regular season schedule is 76 games for all but six teams in the league. The five California teams - Bakersfield, Ontario, San Diego, San Jose and Stockton - as well as Tucson each play only 68 games in their regular season schedule despite being in the same league as the other 24 teams who play a full 76-game schedule. Odd right?
The reasoning is that these teams are isolated geographically from the rest of the league and with travel costs in the AHL one of the main iissues for an AHL team's survival as a franchise, these six teams in the Pacific Division play eight less games with a schedule focused on playing primarily amongst themselves and with divisional games against the other two members of their division - the San Antonio Rampage and the Texas Stars.
Long story short, reaching a common ground for all 30 teams now that this type of a schedule has been laid out the past few years will be difficult. There were rumblings during the 2017 AHL All-Star Classic, and I was specifically told from a staff member of one of those six teams playing less games, that perhaps meeting in the middle and having all teams play 72 games was a logical and talked about possibility.
The problem with a 72-game schedule for teams currently playing 76 games a year is the loss of two home games (and the revenue it brings) which is likely not going to sit well with those teams playing the full schedule.
It will be interesting to see how that all plays out. Great question.
@Im_Mike_Y on Twitter - What about guys who are signed to ELCs but aren't in NHL or AHL? (Olympics eligibility)
The AP's Stephen Whyno has an article going into detail about the rules of who can / who can't participate in the Olympics, and I believe that while junior-level players will be eligible to play that Team USA, Team Canada and the other participating countries are going to shy away from any conflicts with players they choose.
It's looking like Team Canada went heavy on players playing overseas judging from their preliminary rosters for pre-Olympic exhibition tournaments, and I'd expect AHL-only contracted players and college hockey athletes will have a shot at Team USA's preliminary roster when its announced.
@gavin_lee13 on Twitter - Can we get a reveiw of where Morin is in his development? I keep seeing Flyers' writers pencil him onto the NHL roster. I don't see it yet.
Here at Inside AHL Hockey, we currently have something in the works for our subscribers that are Flyers/Phantoms fans to really get to know these prospects inside and out. I won't go into detail on exactly what that is, but Sam Morin's development will certainly be thoroughly examined at a later date.
To answer your question on the surface, I think Morin has a chance to nab a spot on the NHL roster out of training camp. He's unlike the other high-profile blue line prospects in the system in that he is at his best when he plays a simple game predicated on a good first pass out of the defensive zone and being tough to play against in the hard areas of the ice.
Morin's size and strength are suited for being able to handle the daily grind of the NHL, and I don't think he's all too far away from cracking the NHL on a full-time basis. It's going to be an important training camp coming up for him and the other bubble prospects on defense aiming to make the jump to the NHL.
@Adam_Zielonka on Twitter - Tony, congrats on the new venture! How's one of my old favorites, Tyrell Goulbourne? Is he starting this season in Reading (ECHL) or Lehigh Valley (AHL)
This is a big season coming up for Goulbourne. In the final year of his entry-level contract, he'll really need to prove he's a fit in this organization at the pro level. Last year was a tough one for him, being lost in the shuffle among depth in the forward core - spending most of last season in the ECHL with Reading and being a non-factor at the AHL level in 2016-17.
During Goulbourne's rookie season in 2014-15, he came off as a determined player aiming to prove his critics wrong. He had a nice start to his first pro year, but inconsistency and trying to do too much outside of his role/skill set has proven costly at this point.
If one thing is for sure, Goulbourne will again be coming into camp with a chip on his shoulder. Making the Phantoms' roster this season isn't a guarantee, but I think he will begin the year at the AHL level.
@jeplaza14 on Twitter - Any chance at all that German Rubtsov is with the Phantoms this year? Him, Vorobyov and Vecchione would be deadly, in my opinon.
I think the Flyers' plan for Rubtsov is another year in the QMJHL, and I also think it's the right move. With all the forwards signed in the organziation, it's probably best to allow Rubtsov another year competing against players at his own age level than rushing him through to the AHL level.
However, if his junior team's season ends early he is certainly a candidate to join the Phantoms' roster down the stretch this spring. I wouldn't at all be surprised if he was a late season addition on an amateur tryout with the Phantoms in April.