Flyers Development Camp 3v3 Tournament Recap

By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)

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Prospects Galore

Everyone loves prospects! Before they become NHL’ers, it’s all upside, all left to the imagination. The reality is that a lot of prospects don’t pan out for whatever reason. Because of that, it’s important to stockpile them.

Fortunately for fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, no general manager has done as good a job stockpiling young talent over the past few years than Ron Hextall. You can read my (somewhat outdated) list of the Flyers Top 12 Prospects here – I’ll be updating it soon with the likes of Nolan Patrick and Morgan Frost.

Even with the graduation of stud defenseman Ivan Provorov, who led the team in ice time this past season, and Travis Konecny, who showed moments of brilliance and figures to improve leaps and bounds, the Flyers cupboard is filled with talented prospects at all positions.

Which brings us to one of my favorite annual summer events, the Flyers Development Camp!

Flyers Development Camp – Fun, Frivolity, and a Tournament

Every summer many of the best Flyers prospects gather at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ, to become integrated into the organization’s culture. Off the ice, they learn about proper nutrition, watch video, and bond by sending out strange social media posts, like this one on Snapchat by Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers.

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Additionally, and as the focus of this piece, they gather on the ice for a number of days of drills, followed by my favorite part, the 3v3 tournament!

My personal belief is that it’s extremely hard to get a sense of a player’s ability to compete in a game situation by watching them do drills. I’ve seen soccer players who can juggle the ball 100 times in a row but are incapable of doing anything of substance when they actually get on a field surrounded by opponents.

Admittedly, the 3v3 tournament, in which they separate a full rink into two smaller rinks, is also not the ideal setting to truly judge a player’s ability to succeed in the NHL. It’s a much smaller area of play, which can mitigate a player’s speed advantage, and there’s also very little contact.

However, I find that true talent often finds of ways to shine in the tournament, and I personally think it’s tremendously fun to watch.

Tourney Teams – Soviet Red Army Part 2

There were 45 prospects at development camp, and they split up into four teams for the tournament – Orange, Grey, White, and Black.

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They try to split up the top prospects, but one thing that immediately jumped out to me was that all of the Russians were on Team White.

My first thought was that Team Orange would be tough – so of course they finished in last!

One important note is that the #2 pick in the recent NHL Entry Draft – Nolan Patrick – did not participate in the on-ice portion of the Development Camp because of the abdominal procedure he had done on June 13. He is expected to be back on the ice soon – and is spending most of the offseason in Philadelphia to prepare for the upcoming season.

Additionally, Flyers defense prospects Sam Morin and Robert Hagg didn’t participate even though they are still NHL rookies, presumably because both 22-year-olds are viewed as experienced enough in previous camps not to partake.

Tournament Results

Team Black, led by incredible goaltending by Felix Sandstrom, and Team White, led by amazing chemistry and movement from the Russians, were far and away the two best teams, and ended up playing in the championship.

Team White controlled the play, but couldn’t solve Sandstrom early on. Team Black took an early 1-0 lead, and for a while it looked like they might get shut out, but then Radel Fazleev scored this beauty of a goal.

The game went into sudden death overtime tied at one apiece, and neither team could score, resulting in a second sudden death session. After numerous great stops by Sandstrom, Team White’s attack was simply too much, and Swedish Defenseman Linus Hogberg finally scored the game winner.

Here were the leading scorers…

Olle Lycksell — 5
Travis Sanheim — 4
David Kase — 4
Nicolas Aube-Kubel — 3
Radel Fazleev — 3
German Rubtsov — 3
Linus Hogberg — 3
David Bernhardt — 2
Brendan Warren — 2
Maksim Sushko — 2
Wyatt Kalynuk — 2
Mark Friedman — 1
Cam Lee — 1
Oskar Lindblom — 1
Wade Allison — 1
Phil Myers — 1
Matthew Strome — 1
Noah Cates — 1
Isaac Ratcliffe — 1
David Drake — 1
Tanner Laczynski — 1
Ivan Kosorenkov — 1
Connor Bunnaman — 1
Derek Lodermeier — 1

Instead of focusing on the game results and the stats, I am going to list the six most impressive players that I saw over the course of the tournament, and then have a few random thoughts on others.

I picked six because that’s how many guys I was extremely impressed with. Let’s start off with one of my personal favorites…

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#1 – Felix Sandstrom

The Flyers have two of the top five goaltending prospects in the world in Carter Hart and Felix Sandstrom. Hart has won two consecutive Western Hockey League Top Goaltender Awards playing against his peers, while Sandstrom has played very well for Brynas in the Swedish Hockey League against professionals.

Additionally, Sandstrom was named the Top Goalie in the most recent World Junior Championships, a tournament in which Hart struggled.

I think both are phenomenal, but I’m in the minority of folks who rate Sandstrom slightly ahead of Hart. This is partly because I like that he’s been playing against men, and partly because whenever I’ve seen them on the same stage, Sandstrom outshines Hart.

That continued to be the case at Tuesday’s tournament.

Sandstrom was a black hole, devouring almost every shot that came in his general vicinity. He’s listed at 6’2″, 195 pounds, but to my eyes he looks even bigger than that when he’s in net.

And he’s extremely athletic. Just look at this save he made in the finals.

Sandstrom makes going side-to-side effortless. I love everything about how he plays the position, and my money is on him to become the Flyers eventual number one goalie.

But even if he doesn’t…

Save of the Tourney – Carter Hart

I’m taking a slight detour because I have to show you this insane save that Carter Hart made in the tournament.

Truth be told, I’m almost as proud of myself for capturing it on my phone than as amazed I am by the save.

In all seriousness, what a save!

Aside from that save, I was not blown away by Hart in the tournament. While Sandstrom was eating up almost every puck that came at his direction, Hart let up some soft goals.

Either way, these are two extremely good prospects and the Flyers are in the enviable position of having both.

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#2 – Travis Sanheim

Travis Sanheim appeared to me the most NHL-ready player in the tournament. The 21-year-old defenseman has really filled out his 6’4″, 200 pound frame and confidence now oozes out of him.

Last year in development camp, you could tell that he was a little unsure of himself. He didn’t necessarily want the puck on his stick, and he was a bit tentative.

After a very successful first season in the American Hockey League, scoring 10 goals and 27 assists for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, the difference in Sanheim is clear.

He will always be one of the best skaters on any team that he’s on. He is such a good skater that I have often compared him in that regard to Peter Forsberg. It’s not hyperbole. That’s how smooth and fast Sanheim is on the ice.

He’s also a sensational passer – I’d rank him behind Provorov but ahead of Myers and Ghost in terms of passing ability.

And this year in the development camp tourney, you could tell that Sanheim was quite aware that he was one of the best players on the ice. He conducted himself like a leader, always talking to his teammates, even dropping the puck for the center-ice faceoff in the Team White v Team Black final, even though his team had been eliminated.

He also scored four goals, good for a tie with David Kase as second-most in the tournament.

Sanheim’s play in his own zone, which was suspect at times in the juniors with the Calgary Hitmen, really came on during the second half of the Phantons season, and for a player as talented, big, and strong as he is, it was really just a matter of time.

The Flyers have two open defense spots, and it seems like Sam Morin and Robert Hagg have the upper edge based on their seniority.

However, Sanheim clearly has the most upside of that group and I will be surprised if he doesn’t force his way onto the Flyers at some point next season, if not for the start.

#3 – Philippe Myers

As many know, the Flyers are absolutely rife with elite defense prospects. Provorov graduated last year to the NHL, Sanheim is knocking on the door, and checking in with a similar ceiling is Philippe Myers.

Undrafted in 2015, the 6’5″, 200 pound righty was signed by the Flyers after attending a training camp session and has proceeded to have two incredible seasons in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies, racking up 80 points and a plus-73 rating

Myers has been so good that he served on Team Canada’s top defense pairing with Ottawa Senator prospect Thomas Chabot in the recent World Junior Championships.

He’s had some injury struggles this season, with two concussions, but is fully recovered and also showed up to development camp looking like a bodybuilder – he’s in great shape.

Myers’ game is what I would describe as effortless and I think he might be the most well-rounded of any of the Flyers defense prospects, except for Provorov. He is a terrific skater, a great passer, and does everything very efficiently. I also feel that he is underrated in the defensive zone.

I see no weaknesses in his game.

Here’s some video of him using his skating ability, shielding the puck, and setting up a teammate with a great pass.

Whenever he was on the ice, Myers was the clear go-to guy, lugging the puck and setting up scoring opportunities. He was the Sanheim of Team Black.

He will likely start the season with the Phantoms, but playing his way onto the Flyers this upcoming season is not out of the question.

#4 – German Rubtsov

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If I had to pick which player I enjoyed watching the most during the tournament, it would be 2016 first-round pick German Rubtsov.

Albeit not the elder statesmen of Team Russia (aka. Team White), Rubtsov was clearly their leader on the ice. He also seemed to miss the memo about not taking the body or playing aggressively in the tournament, as illustrated in the below video.

That’s Rubtsov and Carsen Twarynski getting into it – and he also got into it with multiple other players at times, including Myers.

In addition, he was also the best player on the ice for Team White. He finished tied for fourth in the tournament in goals with three (including an awesome snipe on Hart), had multiple assists, and thoroughly enjoyed having the puck on his stick.

Rubtsov plays the game with an edge and an enthusiasm that gets my blood pumping.

After coming over midseason this past year to play in the QMJHL for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, Rubtsov exploded offensively for 22 points in only 16 games, including a few highlight reel goals.

His main issue to this point, unsurprising given his style of play, is staying healthy. I think he might need to throttle it down a bit this coming season. He’ll probably be back in the QMJHL, although he would be eligible for the Phantoms.

Either way, he’s a supremely exciting player to watch and I can’t wait to see him continue to develop.

#5 – Morgan Frost

Morgan Frost was a polarizing player for Flyers fans before they even got to see him play.

He was acquired with one of the two first-round picks that the team acquired for trading away Brayden Schenn, a fan favorite and the NHL’s leading power-play goal scorer this past season. Additionally, some viewed his selection at #27 a reach because many of the scouting services had him in the 40’s.

After watching Frost in the tournament, I can conclusively say that the Flyers have acquired a very talented forward with a ton of upside.

The 5’11” Frost has many skills that should translate extremely well to the NHL. He’s not only very fast at top speed, but he also has tremendous acceleration, possibly the best of any Flyer I saw in the tournament. He’s also very shifty and is adept at stickhandling through traffic.

Frost is also very aware on the ice – just look at this sensational backhand pass he makes after keeping the puck from top prospect Oskar Lindblom.

Keep in mind that Lindblom is a terrific defensive forward who was one of the top players in the Swedish League last season.

At the risk of annoying some Flyers fans, and making some Penguins fans irate, when I watch Morgan Frost play hockey I can’t help but be reminded of Sidney Crosby. He obviously has nowhere near the level of world-class talent that Crosby has, but his playing style is extremely similar. Low center of gravity, shifty, great acceleration, excellent stickhandler in traffic, great passer.

I came away from this tournament very excited about Frost, and I expect him to light it up this coming season in the Ontario Hockey League with the loaded Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.

#6 – Mikhail Vorobyev

Going into development camp, the biggest piece of news on this 6’2″ Russian center was that he was changing the spelling of his last name from Vorobyov to Vorobyev.

However you spell his last name, he is a very impressive player.

For a player who I think is almost a lock to make the Flyers eventually as a 2nd or 3rd line center, it’s amazing how little hype Vorobyev has gotten.

I understand it though – he’s not flashy and he’s not a goal-scorer. However, in the 2017 World Juniors, he led the entire tournament with 10 assists. He was the perfect center to play with the flashy Kirill Kaprizov, a top Minnesota Wild prospect, and Dennis Guryanov, a Dallas Stars first-round pick.

What Vorobyev lacks in flash, he makes up for in offensive and defensive awareness, passing ability, and an all-around complete game. He is a deceptively good skater who almost always makes the smart play.

During Team White’s domination of the tournament, he was a rock, always there defensively and always putting pucks right on the tape of his teammates.

He is slated to play the full 2017-18 season with the Phantoms, and if he gets some potent wingers on his sides, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him lead the team in even-strength assists.

Ultimately I feel his game is a lock to transition well to the NHL, and view him in a similar vein as Sean Couturier.

Additional Thoughts

OK, so I shared the six guys who really stood out to me, let’s now go over some odds and ends…

  • Oskar Lindblom was notably missing from my top players. He simply doesn’t have the skill set that excels in this type of format, mainly because his best assets are winning pucks along the walls, his physicality and strength, and his finishing skills in front of the net. However, his body of work in the Swedish Hockey League (47 points in 52 games and named the league’s top forward this season) speaks for itself, and I think it’s pretty safe to pencil him into the Flyers opening day lineup playing left wing on one of the top three lines.
  • Olle Lycksell, a recent sixth-round pick, led the entire tournament with five goals. He displayed good touch around the net and a real good shot, although aside from the goals he didn’t necessarily stand out. As the youngest player in camp, leading everyone in goals is still very impressive and I’m looking forward to seeing him progress. The Flyers scouting in Sweden has clearly really improved under Hextall, what with Lindblom being a fifth round pick in 2015.
  • As I touched on earlier, I thought Sandstrom played better than Carter Hart, but the latter still made some spectacular saves. Hart will likely be back in the WHL with Everett for another year, where he has proved that he can dominate. Assuming he makes Team Canada for the World Juniors, I’d love to see him step up his level of play there there, as he was not great in the most recent WJC. I have still have some questions about him that will only be answered when he steps up his level of competition.
  • As the oldest player in the tournament, I was expecting more from Mike Vecchione. He didn’t do anything to stand out and with the Flyers glut of potential fourth-line forwards this coming season, I think he’s in real danger of starting the season in the AHL.
  • Non-drafted development camp invitee Ivan Kosorenkov played well for Team Russia, but then again that entire team was impressive. I’m not sure if it was enough to get a contract, but we’ll see.
  • Radel Fazleev and Nicolas Aube-Kubel both played very well, with three goals apiece. Both struggled mightily this past season with the Phantoms, and this coming season is going to be pivotal for determining if they’re potential NHL’ers. Looking at who the Flyers have on their roster currently and who’s coming up, I think both may have a hard time ever cracking the big team.
  • I thought Wade Allison was better in last year’s tournament. For a guy who’s main ability is scoring goals, to only put in one is disappointing. However, he had a terrific first season for Western Michigan University (12 goals, 17 assists in 36 games) and I am still very excited to see how he progresses. Especially since the Flyers are lacking somewhat in high-volume shooters.
  • Issac Ratcliffe and Matthew Strome, the team’s second- and fourth-round picks this year, respectively, are clearly works-in-progress. Ratcliffe’s skills haven’t caught up to his huge 6’6″ frame, and Strome really needs to improve his skating. Neither were much of a factor in the tournament.
  • David Kase scored four goals, but I’ve still never come away that impressed after watching him play. That includes the World Juniors the past few years. He’s still only 20-years-old, but I have a hard time seeing him as an NHL’er.
  • Linus Hogberg, who the Flyers took in the fifth round of the 2015 draft, could be another mid-round Swedish steal. The 6’0″ defenseman scored three goals in the tournament, including the championship game-winner, and displayed smooth skating and puck skills. He’s not a goal-scorer, as his zero goals in 38 games last season illustrates, but at 18-years-old, there’s some real potential there.

OK, I hope you enjoyed reading my Flyers Development Camp Tournament thoughts as much as I enjoyed watching all these dynamite prospects play.

The future is supremely bright, Flyers fans!

Dan Silver

I'm a lifelong Flyers fan and season ticket holder who was born too late to enjoy the Stanley Cups in the 1970's. I'd give anything to have been at the Spectrum for the first Cup win and the game against the Soviet Red Army team. I firmly believe the Flyers will win a Cup within the next decade. One of my professional highlights was working as a play-by-play announcer for the Missouri River Otters minor league hockey team in the now-defunct United Hockey League. That was a real thrill!

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