Sam Morin and the Phantoms open the AHL playoffs on Friday

ALLENTOWN - Sam Morin has some extra motivation.

The towering defenseman believes the way he and some of his Lehigh Valley teammates play in the AHL playoffs will help determine if they start the 2017-18 season with the Flyers.

The Phantoms, the Flyers' top farm team, will open their best-of-five series Friday by hosting Hershey at the PPL Center in Allentown.

"I need to have a good playoff," the 6-foot-7, 227-pound Morin said after practice Wednesday. "I think management is going to look at training camp, too, but you need to be in the present here and need to focus on the playoffs. I'm pretty sure they don't just look at your training camp. That's just two weeks. They look at your whole season to make sure you're consistent, and they look at the playoffs.

"I don't want to say this is a showcase, but I want to show that I can do it," Morin said in his thick French Canadian accent.

Morin, 21, and fellow defensemen Robert Hagg and Travis Sanheim are the Phantoms with the best chance of starting next season with the Flyers. Center Scott Laughton and goalie Anthony Stolarz - who is injured and will miss the playoffs - are among the other candidates.

Morin and Hagg each received a late-season call-up from the Flyers. Both were impressive in their debuts.

"It was an awesome experience for me to come up and play my first game, but all the focus is on this team and the playoffs now," Hagg said.

Hagg, 22, in his third year with the Phantoms, was the team's most consistent defenseman this season, coach Scott Gordon said.

"I figured out how I had to play to be successful," Hagg said. "When I figured out that, positive things started to come."

Gordon "was all over me to play more simple, and I see that now," Hagg said. "It's made me more successful to make the simple play instead of the home run play."

Sanheim, 21, in his first full season with the Phantoms, made a smooth transition from the Western Hockey League.

"I think it's come a long way compared to a season ago," he said of his game. "Just playing against older guys and having to play my one-on-one battles a lot harder. . . . In juniors, you're obviously playing against much younger players, and these guys have a lot more strength. I struggled at times, but I think I found some pretty good techniques."

The Phantoms ended a seven-year playoff drought. They improved by 26 points in the standings this season and went 7-4-1 against Hershey.

"It's going to be a great series," said Morin, who is expected to be paired with Mark Alt while Sanheim is with Hagg. "It's a quick one. It's just a best of five, so we need to be ready Friday."

Hershey (43-22-11) has a veteran team that lost to Lake Erie in the Calder Cup finals a year ago.

"They're a good team, and they have some great players that are super-skilled, and I think we can match them that way," said left winger Greg Carey, who led the Phantoms with 28 goals. "I think it's going to be a tough place for them to play this week."

"We weren't just looking to make the playoffs," said defenseman T.J. Brennan, a Moorestown native who played on a Toronto Marlies team that lost to Hershey in last year's Eastern Conference finals. "We're looking to have an impact on it. We believe in our team here."

The high-scoring Phantoms (48-23-5) finished in a tie for the second-highest point total (101) in the 30-team league.

"I've seen growth from the beginning of the year in what we wanted to accomplish and where we are now," said Brennan, who scored 21 goals and led the Phantoms with 60 points.

With Stolarz sidelined, Alex Lyon could see all of the action in goal for Lehigh Valley.

"We have two amazing goalies this year," Morin said. "Stolie was up [with the Flyers] for a long time, so Alex got more ice time, and he got a lot better. He's always calm in the net and doesn't get [ticked] off, and that's what you want from a goalie."

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