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Wade Allison Part of Logjam at Right Wing as He Enters Crucial Season with Flyers

(Heather Barry Images, LLC)

Under contract for one more season until he hits restricted free agency, Wade Allison enters the 2023-24 season as a true make-or-break candidate. He’s jovial, rugged, and full of energy and when he’s on his game, Allison can truly make a difference.

However, the massive caveat in his game has always been his health, while also not having much of an impact with his passing and creativity.

Allison was drafted in the 2nd round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, 4 picks after Carter Hart, thanks in large part to the Kimmo Timonen trade that netted them 2 second round picks. He was plucked out of the Tri-City Storm in the USHL, where he scored 25 goals and 47 points in 56 games before adding 9 goals and 16 points in just 11 postseason appearances. His style, energy, and goal scoring capabilities were on full display as he was not going to escape the clutches of the 2nd round:

Kyle Woodlief of Red Line Report – June 20th, 2016 – “He projects to be a rugged, pro style winger who can score and has lots of jam.”

Chris Dilks of SBN College Hockey – May 23rd, 2016 – “Allison is strong and tough. He uses his big frame to win puck battles and is difficult to knock off the puck. Allison does his best work in front of the opposition’s net where he can use his size and strength. He makes strong moves towards the goal and is willing to fight through contact to make a play.”

Ryan Kennedy of The Hockey News – May 3rd, 2016 – “And when Allison is confident, he’s hard to stop. A small-town Manitoba farm boy, Allison grew up around cattle and crops and strength is a big part of his game now.

“I’m a power forward,” he said. “I take the puck to the net and take the body. I try to make the other team’s ‘D’ not want to go back to get the puck.”

Chris Dilks also mentioned in his pre-draft piece on Allison,

“No player is coming into the Draft with more momentum than Allison. He made the biggest jump of any player from Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings to their final rankings, jumping from 192nd to 62nd on the North American skaters list. And he had a great finish to his season after the final Central Scouting rankings came out. He had a league-best nine goals in the USHL playoffs, leading his team to the USHL playoff championship and being named the league’s playoff MVP. It’s a small sample size, but he’s showing tremendous upward trajectory.

It was shortly after committing to Western Michigan University, where the injuries started to pile up for Allison. He tore his ACL in 2017-18 in the midst of a breakout season where he had 15 goals and 30 points in just 22 games, only suited up for 22 games the following season but was still hampered by his previous injury even upon his return, and then shortly after signing his ELC with the Flyers in 2020 but was forced to miss some time due to ankle surgery.

In 4 seasons with Western Michigan, Allison scored 45 goals and 97 points in 106 games that included 2 injury-riddled seasons and a 2019-20 that was cut short due to the pandemic. During the shortened 2020-21 season, Allison started off in the AHL where he scored 4 goals and 9 points in 10 games before getting the call-up to the NHL. In 14 games for the Flyers, Allison scored 4 goals and 7 points, averaged 12:56 TOI, delivered 28 hits, and blocked 10 shots. It was a short stint but he took it by the horns and positioned himself for a roster spot heading into 2021-22.

Unfortunately he suffered a high-ankle sprain in September that kept him on the sidelines until December. He spent the rest of the season in the minors with the exception of one NHL game as he tried to get back into game shape, get his confidence and momentum back, and try to position himself to secure a roster spot in the NHL for 2022-23. In 28 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he scored 10 goals and 17 points, once again making quick work in the minors.

This season was a little bit of the same but also a little different as he suffered 3 injuries but also suited up for 60 games. He suffered an oblique muscle strain and hip pointer that forced him to miss 5 weeks from November 12th to December 20th, he then had a one- game absence after getting hurt blocking a shot in January – fortunately the All-Star break was right around the corner – and then he missed 3 games from March 8th to March 17th because he was “banged up”.

John Tortorella had an interview that caught the attention of the media in mid-March when he labelled Allison as “always hurt”.

“It’s hard to be consistent when you’re always hurt. That’s my struggle,” Tortorella explained. “You see him come, you see him come – now he’s out again.

“Listen, I don’t want to take anything away from his effort, either. I’m not trying to run him down, I think he needs to have — for him to be an effective player — he needs to have that (energy and intensity) in him. He just can’t get hurt.”

When he was in the lineup, he scored 9 goals and 15 points in 60 games, primarily playing bottom-6 minutes. He averaged 12:54 TOI, had 89 shots on goal, but had 62 blocks, 20 takeaways to 7 giveaways, and was 2nd on the team in hits with 190. He was also tied for 7th on the team with a 49.1 FF% and 4th in FF% relative for players who played more than 27 games.

Charlie O’Connor mentioned something in a recent article that also points to why this could be a make-or-break season.

“…Allison finished with just 0.40 assists per 60, which ranked him 393rd out of 413 NHL forwards, and it was even worse when just looking at primary assists. In nearly 750 minutes of ice time, Allison produced just one primary assist on a teammate’s goal, ranking him 407th by primary assists per 60.

“It wasn’t just bad luck, either — Corey Sznajder’s manually tracked metrics back up the narrative that Allison just wasn’t an effective passer at all in 2022-23. If he wasn’t creating the chance or goal while he was on the ice, it wasn’t getting created. Nor can one blame quality of linemates — his most frequent ones were Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes, Noah Cates, James van Riemsdyk, Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee…Allison had help. He just wasn’t able to return the favor to them.

“Allison’s play-driving decline was also a legitimate disappointment. In 2020-21, during his 14-game audition with the big club, Allison was an advanced stat monster. His +0.155 xG isolated impact would have ranked him in the 75th percentile among NHL qualifying NHL forwards, and his 60.20 percent xG For percentage was eye-popping for such an underwhelming Flyers’ club. Over his first full NHL season, however? He was down in the 45th percentile and posted a 48.52 percent raw on-ice rate, largely because of newly apparent defensive weaknesses that hadn’t shown in 2020-21. It’s an area in need of improvement.”

While we can probably live with the lack of creativity as long as he is in the lineup, crushing bodies, and scoring goals for the third or fourth line, there is a serious log-jam of forwards and specifically right wingers on the Flyers roster heading into 2023-24.

Sean Couturier and Cam Atkinson will effectively replace Kevin Hayes and James van Riemsdyk but in terms of right wingers there is Travis Konecmy, Cam Atkinson, Owen Tippett, Tyson Foerster – most likely – and Garnet Hathaway. You can mix and match however you see fit but there is a good chance – health permitting – that the top-9 will look like:

Travis Konecny – Sean Couturier – Cam Atkinson

Joel Farabee – Morgan Frost – Owen Tippett

Scott Laughton – Noah Cates – Tyson Foerster

The fourth line could very well be Nicolas Deslauriers, Ryan Poehling, and Garnet Hathaway. Deslauriers is a lock after the 2022-23 season he had and the intangibles that he brings to the ice that can’t be replicated by most. Hathaway signed a 2-year deal this summer and is a very effective bottom-6 winger who can score, bang bodies, and plays excellent defense, while Poehling might have a leg up on the rest since he plays down the middle but you can put Laughton down there and find a different 3LW if need be.

There’s still Elliot Desnoyers, Bobby Brink, Olle Lycksell, and Tanner Laczynski waiting in the wings and fighting for a spot. Training camp is going to be a battle ground for all 3 positions, which means you’re going to have to bring your A-game or else you will assuredly be usurped by someone else.

Allison a good power-forward-type player for the bottom-6 if he can find consistency in his scoring and health. He did manage to play in 60 games this season and had his moments under the sun but the Flyers had far less competition than they do this coming season. Kieffer Bellows and Tanner Laczynski didn’t do all that much to get in the good graces of their head coach. The Flyers also went with a 7 defenseman rotation quite often for that very reason.

There’s a chance the 26-year-old doesn’t make the team out of training camp but there are a few things that have to be checked off first in 1) Couturier and Atkinson return to the lineup, 2) Tyson Foerster does indeed make the roster, and 3) Allison is beat out by Hathaway and Poehling. If two of these are checked off at the very least, then Allison could be in line for a bumpy season.

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