PROFESSIONAL HOCKEY will be played in the Delaware Valley this week. It just won't be at the NHL level.

With established NHL players like Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo and Erik Gustafsson chewing up valuable Phantoms roster spots during the lockout, the Flyers assigned six prospects to the ECHL's Trenton Titans on Monday.

One of the surprise cuts was Jason Akeson, who spent a good part of the summer training with Claude Giroux in Ottawa. Akeson, 22, led the Phantoms last year with 55 points in 76 games. Though he was Adirondack's leading scorer, Akeson was left off the Flyers' playoff practice squad, having been criticized for his lack of defensive awareness.

Another relatively big name was 6-7 Finnish goaltender Niko Hovinen, who struggled mightily in a preseason game last week for the Phantoms by allowing three goals in the first 8 minutes. Hovinen, 24, was one of the most anticipated arrivals this fall, after spending the last five seasons in Finland's top Elite League. Instead, Hovinen was beat out by Ohio State product Cal Heeter - an undrafted free agent - and veteran Scott Munroe.

Also assigned to Trenton were fourth-round pick Marcel Noebels; former OHL dynamo Luke Pither; Lancaster native Tyler Hostetter; and Blake Kessel, who is the younger brother of Maple Leafs All-Star Phil Kessel. Another two or three players are expected to be sent to Trenton before the season starts this weekend.

Trenton opens their ECHL schedule on Friday night at the Sun National Bank Center, while Adirondack begins play on Saturday night in Glens Falls, N.Y.