Allentown, Pa. — Though disappointed he wasn’t able to crack the Philadelphia Flyers’ opening night roster, Joel Farabee isn’t too far removed from the NHL while beginning his professional career with the Flyers’ American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
After a strong showing in training camp and preseason, the Cicero native was the final forward cut from the NHL roster prior to the Flyers’ regular season opener last Friday.
Fast forward one week, and Farabee is set to make his highly anticipated pro debut with the Phantoms Friday night against the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
And with the way he spoke about his transition from not making the NHL team to preparing for his AHL debut, it’s hard to remember he’s entering the pro ranks as a 19-year-old.
“I definitely think it was in the best interest of everyone,” Farabee said after Wednesday’s practice. “I talked to a lot of the staff with the Flyers, and coming down here I’ve talked to most of the coaches. So I think it’s in my best interest to come down here, and I’m pretty excited.”
It wasn’t until after the Flyers departed for Europe that it was determined that Farabee wouldn’t make the opening night roster against the Chicago Blackhawks in Prague. To say he’s excited to make his pro debut and get into game action would be an understatement.
“It kind of (stunk) because I missed the first game in the NHL and then because I was over there I missed the first game in the AHL,” Farabee said of missing the Phantoms’ opener last weekend. “So yeah, I’m definitely ready to play a game. This weekend should be a lot of fun.”
Farabee said he received a lot of positive feedback from the NHL’s coaching staff and general manager Chuck Fletcher upon being informed he was going to begin the year in the AHL with the Phantoms.
“There was a couple of little details he wants me to work on, but I think the biggest thing is just getting comfortable and playing big minutes down here,” Farabee said of his conversation with Fletcher.
Under different circumstances, perhaps Farabee might have even made the NHL roster out of camp. With the Flyers up against the salary cap and opting not to place any of their injured players on long-term injured reserve (LTIR), they began the season with only 21 players on their roster while rules allow teams to carry as many as 23 players.
“If I had stayed up there I’d be playing less than 10 minutes a night. Just getting that experience down here will be good for me and it will help me in the long run,” he said.
One of the first things Farabee mentioned when talking about the anticipation of his pro debut and the upcoming pair of games on the weekend was his comfort level.
“Up there, I think they looked at me as a rookie. Down here, I feel like I’m looked at as more of an equal,” Farabee said, explaining “Not really as an equal, but I just feel a lot more comfortable here whereas I was a little nervous up there.”
Farabee certainly made a good first impression with Flyers’ new head coach Alain Vigneault, who had plenty of complimentary things to say about his potential.
“At the end of the day, I thought Joel had a real good camp other than being able to get on the scoresheet,” Vigneault told reporters in Voorhees Tuesday. “The chances were there, the effort was there.”
“I had a good talk with Joel in Europe about if he goes to Lehigh Valley with the right mindset, the right work ethic, willingness to get better and get his game to where it needs to be, there’s no doubt in my mind that if he plays well, at some point we’ll probably see him back here.”
If Farabee’s strong showing with the Flyers in training camp and the NHL preseason carries over into his AHL debut, is sounds like his time in the minors could be a short.
“Obviously, the AHL is really good league. You make mistakes, the other team will make you pay,” Farabee said. “I have to play smart hockey, listen to what to the coaches have to say, play the systems here and it should work out.”
“I feel like this weekend’s games will be a good test for me. I’m ready to go.”