March 09, 2023
Tyson Foerster was lying in bed playing video games when he got the call every prospect dreams of.
He'd be making his NHL debut Thursday night in Carolina, with Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Ian Laperrière on the other end delivering the news.
"Lap called me and said 'It's your big moment, go enjoy it,'" Foerster said, and also, that he had 30 minutes to grab his gear at the rink and catch his flight down.
No time to think. He's getting thrown right into the fire.
With forwards Wade Allison and Brendan Lemieux "banged up," per head coach John Tortorella, and defenseman Tony DeAngelo suspended two games for spearing Corey Perry during Tuesday night's 5-2 loss in Tampa, Foerster and fellow top prospect Elliot Desnoyers were made emergency recalls from the AHL to fill out the Flyers' lineup against the Hurricanes.
Foerster, the 23rd overall pick in the 2020 draft, is getting slotted right into the second line right of Noah Cates (center) and Scott Laughton (left wing).
Desnoyers, a 2020 fifth-rounder now on to his second stint with the Flyers, will center the third line with James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Hayes on his wings.
“It’s your big moment. Go enjoy it.”#FueledByPhilly | @tfoerster8 pic.twitter.com/wdz9bP2Jzb— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) March 9, 2023
Both 21 years old and huge pieces to the Phantoms this season up in Allentown, the Flyers' front office has viewed the two as prospects they struck a hit on and ones who looked well on their way to a late-season call-up.
And each with 38-point campaigns in the AHL this year – Foerster with 18 goals and 20 assists, and Desnoyers with 20 goals and 18 assists – the opportunity finally arrived.
Desnoyers averaged 12:41 of ice time across his first two games with the Flyers – the 7-0 blowout from the Devils on February 25 and then the 3-2 takeover from the Rangers in overtime on March 1. He went -1.
Foerster? Right into the fire.
"I don't want him worrying about mistakes, I don't want him overthinking, I just want him to play," Tortorella said. "I just told Ty that now, so [assistant coaches Rocky Thompson and Brad Shaw] will get to him a little bit of information, but then he just needs to go and play."
Tuesday night's loss to the Lightning was another in a long list of games the Flyers would rather forget this season – heck, the past three seasons at this rate.
It especially wasn't pretty for winger Joel Farabee and defenseman Travis Sanheim, who both got called for first-period penalties that led directly to power-play goals for Tampa Bay.
Neither of them skated in the second period, and though they each got another shot in the third, Tortorella seemed at a loss following the game after having benched both – justifiably or not – already earlier in the year.
"Yeah, I don't know where I go there," he said postgame Tuesday night, and as always, when asked for individual evaluations, he said he had to review the tape.
It's been a brutal year for Farabee and Sanheim in general.
Farabee, who had to come back from artificial disk replacement surgery in his neck over the summer, is at the start of a six-year contract extension, and while he's shown offensive flashes throughout, he's struggled to maintain it likely due to the lack of a full offseason. Still, it's been a disappointing performance, even for himself, regardless, and it seemed to reach a boiling point again Tuesday night with a costly penalty and a subsequent benching.
"I don't want to take away that aggravation that he has," Tortorella said. "But he's gotta do it in a better way. But that's not why he sits. It was a struggle away from the puck with him in that game. I think he's trying to get it all together, it's part of the process."
With Sanheim, who has an eight-year extension kicking in next season and isn't going anywhere because of it, his game fell off a cliff almost inexplicably.
The 26-year-old excelled at moving the puck up ice and keeping it pinned down in the offensive zone once the Flyers made their way in, but that aspect of his game just hasn't been working this year and the rest of his skillset hasn't made up for it either.
But there's a good chance this season could just be an anomaly – same goes for Farabee – and that the key to a bounce-back could be a shift in mindset. It's what Cam York needed, after all.
"Sanny's a guy that I see so much in him but I want him, for me the biggest thing with him is I want him to have a more aggressive mindset," Tortorella said. "That's not out there hollering and yelling and running people through the wall, I want him to constantly think about, in his head, trying to make a difference.
"I think that'll transform into everything and in his game will be better."
And both back in the lineup will have another shot against the Canes.
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