• May 19, 2022

Leighton Clears Waivers, Joins Crowded Phantoms

Having cleared waivers, goaltender Michael Leighton (1-3-0) has returned to the Adirondack Phantoms. Unfortunately, it comes at the worst possible time, as the farm team is already crowded with goaltenders in need of playing time.

On the same day that Leighton was waived, the AHL named prospect Brian Stewart (3-5-0) their Player of the Week. According to Tim McManus of the Post Star, Stewart produced a 1.34 goals-against-average over the course of the week, earning wins in all three games he started. Stewart had been sent down to the Flyers’ ECHL affiliate, the Greenville Road Warriors, earlier this season as his play struggled. He was recalled again when goaltender Johan Backlund (3-12-0) went down with a groin injury.

Starting today (of all days), Backlund is back to full health and practicing with the team. He is expected to be the back-up for Leighton.

Prospect Nicola Riopel (3-7-0), meanwhile, has already been sent down to the Road Warriors. Riopel has nothing left to prove at the junior level, but he will need much more time at the AHL level before earning a call-up to the big club. In his last three AHL starts, he earned a shutout in one game and was a revolving door in the others.

Neither Stewart nor Riopel are signed beyond this season, and from a numbers perspective, I would expect one of these two to be traded or not re-signed next season. In order for them to continue to develop, they will need playing time, which the Flyers simply can not offer at this point.

The fate of Stewart remains a mystery, as the Road Warriors now have two goaltenders. It’s amazing that as soon as hope glimmers on the mess that is the Adirondack Phantoms, it’s dashed away thanks to an improbable series of events.

As unlikely a scenario as there ever was one, I wonder if the Flyers would consider loaning one of Stewart or Riopel to a European team. In particular, KalPa of the Finnish hockey league SM-liiga is owned by former Flyer Sami Kapanen and current members Kimmo Timonen and Scott Hartnell. A loan to another AHL team is more likely, but if I were a 20 year-old like Riopel, an international hockey experience for two to three months would be exhilarating.

It certainly beats sitting on the bench in the ECHL.

Josh Janet

Josh Janet was raised in Northern New Jersey, but by an odd set of circumstances, is a Philadelphia sports fan. While recently converted to the Phillies, Josh is a diehard Flyers fan and can be expected to stay on top of the latest NHL news.

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