VOORHEES, N.J. – If they ever invent a game where they use a football and it’s played on ice skates, Wade Allison would be an automatic first-round draft pick.
Alas, they haven’t come up with that fantasy sport just yet but that hasn’t stopped the Flyers power forward from competing in what some would call a reckless physical style.
The current hockey season has been no exception. Allison, a second-round pick in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, has been in and out of the lineup.
He’s managed to play in just 45 of a possible 67 games. Due to an assortment of injuries dating back to his college days at Western Michigan University – a list which includes a torn ACL and a significant shoulder ailment – Allison has only competed in 60 NHL games.
His latest problems started with an oblique strain and a hip pointer spanning parts of November and December. Now he’s coming off an undisclosed injury which caused him to miss three games.
The Flyers hope to have him back in the lineup for Friday night’s home game against the Buffalo Sabres.
When Allison does get on the ice, he’s a pretty effective player. In those 45 games, he’s registered eight goals/13 points with a plus-5.
The problem is, as coach John Tortorella pointed out after Thursday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, “he’s always hurt.”
This constant in-and-out shuttle makes it hard to evaluate a young player such as Allison, a 25-year-old native of Manitoba, Canada.
“Has improved tremendously,” Tortorella said. “When he plays the game, when he knows who hs is as a player, he’s improved. Plays straight ahead. Done a lot of good things on the wall. His game’s improved (but) always hurt.”
Young players are always striving for consistency but again, if you’re on the injured list a lot, it’s hard to maintain a steady level of play.
“It’s hard to be consistent when you’re always hurt,” Tortorella reiterated. “That’s my struggle. You see him coming and then he’s out again.
“There are certainly no negative thoughts or comments when he’s playing. I wanted him more business-like, how he approaches himself at the rink. Understanding what it is to be a pro in this league. I think he’s done that. I’ve seen his game improved.”
Tortorella was asked if Allison’s physical style sometimes might cross over the line to “reckless.”
“I have no idea,” the coach said. “He’s always hurt.”
It sounds like Allison should be ready to go for these last 15 games, if he’s not back in the medical room again.
Allison doesn’t claim to have all the answers.
“I feel good, I’m ready to play,” he said. “Pick yourself up and get back out there.”
His goals for the last 15 games are rather simple.
“Just do my best, show up everyday and do the best I can,” he said. “I don’t put expectations on it.”
The coaching staff wants to get a good look at Allison down the stretch, providing he can stay in the lineup.
“I’m aggravated that he’s always hurt,” Tortorella said.
Asked if that plays into his decision whether or not to play Allison, Tortorella made his answer clear.
“It does,” he said. “We still have another month. I’m not sure what’s going to happen there. It’s not just the coach, it’s the organization. You’re talking about contracts and stuff like that. That has to come into play.
“I’m not taking anything away from his effort, I’m not trying to run him down. I think for him to be an effective player, he just can’t get hurt.”
>Couturier’s first practice
Sean Couturier took another positive step in his comeback from multiple back surgeries by participating in his first practice.
“I didn’t even watch him,” was Tortorella’s comment. “I was watching some other things. There’s not going to be a ‘Coots’ update everyday because I’m really not watching him. Not that he’s not important but I’m watching the guys and certain things we’re doing in practice.”
Tortorella has been impressed by the play of rookie right wing Tyson Foerster.
“The good part of what I’ve seen is I just love his puck poise,” the coach said. “I like how he protects it at certain times. I don’t think there’s a lot of panic in his game. Big body, obviously can shoot the puck. It’s been encouraging his first three games here.”
The one challenge here is trying to decide whether Foerster should play here or help the Phantoms with their drive to try to make the playoffs for the first time in five years.
Lehigh Valley has a full week off coming up on the schedule so Foerster will take part in some of the games in the Flyers’ ongoing six-game homestand.