Flyers Top 15 Prospects

By Dan Silver (dsilver88)

Back in March, I put together my list of the top 10 prospects for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Since then, a lot has happened.

On Saturday, April 29, the Flyers parlayed a 7.3 percent chance of picking in the top three of the NHL Draft into the second overall pick.

On Friday, June 23, the Flyers selected potential franchise-center Nolan Patrick with that pick.  Later that night, in a surprising move, they traded Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for two first round picks and Jori Lehtera. They used the first of those picks to draft Morgan Frost, who will be discussed later in this piece.

On Tuesday, July 11, the Flyers had their annual development camp 3v3 tournament, one of my favorite events. You can read my recap here, which includes a number of videos from the day.

Finally, on August 15, ESPN.com’s annual ranking of NHL organizational prospect pipelines pegged the Flyers first (Insider account needed), likely for the first time in franchise history.

It would seem that the time is right for me to update my list of the Flyers top prospects, and given how strong the system is, let’s take it 15 deep!

Patrick-Gold-1

#1 – Nolan Patrick

Age – 18
Position – C
Acquired – 1st Round, 2017 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’2″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – Opening Day 2017-18

Miraculously obtaining the second overall pick in the recent 2017 NHL Draft allowed the Flyers to take a player who has the potential to be one of the best players in franchise history.

Nolan Patrick had an absolutely sensational 17-year-old season. Playing with Flyers top defenseman Ivan Provorov on the Western Hockey League’s (WHL) Brandon Wheat Kings, Patrick put up 102 points in 72 regular season games. He was even better in the playoffs, adding 30 points in 21 games and leading his team to the league championship.

At that point, Patrick was the consensus number one prospect for the 2017 NHL Draft – with no one close.

Unfortunately, injuries became the story of his 2016-17 season, as he battled abdominal injuries all campaign long in addition to a knee injury that officially ended his season. In late June, it came out that Patrick’s initial 2016 offseason injury was misdiagnosed and he needed additional core body surgery, which was performed by the renowned Dr. William Meyers on June 13.

When healthy, Patrick has everything that a team covets in their number one center – size, speed, skill, high hockey IQ, a terrific compete level, and a sensational shot. You can see all his skills on display in this piece I wrote comparing him to Nico Hischier, who ultimately went first in the NHL Draft to the New Jersey Devils.

Here are a few of his beautiful top-shelf wristers on display.

Patrick is supposed to be all systems go for training camp in September. If he is indeed healthy, it’s a safe bet that he will be on the Flyers opening day roster as the third line center.

Injuries are the only thing that can prevent him from becoming the Flyers franchise center for the next 10-15 years.

Myers

#2 – Philippe Myers

Age – 20
Position – D
Acquired – 2015, Undrafted Free Agent
Height, Weight – 6’5″, 210 lbs
Flyers ETA – Opening Day/Midseason 2017-18

While the Flyers are stocked with promising young players at every position, their strength on defense is staggering. The electric Shayne Gostisbehere (24-years-old) will probably quarterback the top power play unit for the foreseeable future, while the otherworldly Ivan Provorov (20-years-old) should lead the team in ice time for the next ten years.

Beyond those two, the Flyers still have two potential top-pair NHL defensemen, and the one I have rated slightly higher is Philippe Myers. It’s been well documented – the towering defenseman went undrafted in 2015 after a season where he scored eight points and was a minus-14 for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s (QMJHL) Rouyn-Noranda Huskies.

The Flyers saw something in him, signed him, and the next year he had a meteoric improvement, scoring 45 points and registering an incredible plus-52 rating.

Myers is the complete package – he has size, skill, is strong in his own zone, and is an extremely good skater. The overall strength of his game was on full display when he was playing on Canada’s top defense pairing during the 2017 World Junior Championships (WJC).

As one of the few right-handed defensemen in the Flyers stable of prospects, Myers projects as Provorov’s long-term defense partner.

The only major question mark surrounding Myers is his concussion injury – he sustained two this past season, including one that knocked him out of the WJC. He looked terrific in development camp and has noticeably bulked up.

As a 20-year-old, Myers is behind the development curve of the other Flyers defense prospects and will likely start with the American Hockey League’s (AHL) Philadelphia Phantoms. However, it’s certainly possible that he will force his way onto the big team at some point during the 2017-18 season.

Sanheim2

#3 – Travis Sanheim

Age – 21
Position – D
Acquired – 1st Round, 2014 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’4″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – Opening Day 2017-18

Of all the Flyers defense prospects, I believe that Travis Sanheim made the greatest strides during the past season.

Sanheim has a sensational skillset – he’s a fast, smooth, and explosive skater with great offensive awareness and passing ability. When he’s cycling in the offensive zone it reminds me of the great Peter Forsberg, as illustrated by the below two shifts, the first for the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen and the second for the Phantoms.

In three years with the Hitmen, Sanheim scored 162 points in 186 regular season games – outstanding output from a defensemen.

The one area that had been missing from Sanheim’s game was reliability and presence in the defensive zone. Watching him in juniors, there were times when he looked lost and out of position. This might have been a function of being asked to contribute so much offensively.

Because of this, I had real concerns about how he would transition that part of his game to the AHL playing against seasoned professionals.

For the first half of the season, Sanheim concentrated on improving his defensive positioning, which was great to see. This resulted in a lack of impressive offensive numbers.

However, he put it all together in the second half, playing strong defensively and also contributing offensively, putting up 37 points and a plus-7 rating in 76 games. The fact that he wasn’t on the top power play unit made his point totals that much more impressive.

In development camp, Sanheim was one of the most talented players, and more importantly, he was clearly taking on a leadership role among his peers. When asked about making the Flyers next season, he didn’t mince words.

“I feel like I’m ready, I’m going to compete for a spot,” Sanheim said. “Until somebody tells me differently, that’s my goal. I’m coming to make the Flyers.”

It’s great to see how much more confident Sanheim is now than he was a year ago.

It is very clear to me that that Sanheim is ready to take the next step and join the Flyers, whether it be opening day or at some point during the season.

Lindblom

#4 – Oskar Lindblom

Age – 21
Position – LW/RW
Acquired – 5th round, 2014 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’0″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – Opening Day 2017-18

While Sanheim made the most progress last season among Flyers defense prospects, Oskar Lindblom clearly was the most improved forward.

Drafted in the 5th round of the 2014 draft, he projected as a power forward with questionable skating ability and limited offensive creativity. Playing the last three years against grizzled veterans in the Swedish Hockey League (formerly the Swedish Elite League), he has blossomed into a dynamic all-around force with the potential to be a 1st or 2nd line NHL winger.

He’s become a very good skater who is strong in all areas of the ice, has a hard and accurate wrist shot, a deft touch around the net, and makes great passes in the offensive zone.

This past season, as a 20-year-old with Brynas, he scored 22 goals and added 25 assists, finishing 3rd in the league with 47 points. The only two players in the league with more points than him were a 28-year-old and a 32-year-old. For reference sake, at the same age in the same league, Henrik Zetterberg scored 46 points, Peter Forsberg scored 44 points, Daniel Alfredsson scored 30 points, and Patric Hornqvist scored 30 points.

Yes, the Swedish league is not as strong as it was when many of those players were in it, but it’s still arguably the 3rd best league in the world, and for Lindblom to do what he’s done at the age of 20 is nothing short of remarkable.

It’s very likely that Lindblom will start the season with the Flyers on one of the top three lines. He’s probably not going to provide a ton of flashy highlights, but the overall strength of his game is something that should provide invaluable to the team. And there’s still a ton of room for growth on the offensive side.

Rubtsov

#5 – German Rubtsov

Age – 19
Position – C/LW
Acquired – 1st Round, 2016 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’0″, 190 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2018-19

German Rubtsov is a personal favorite of mine – a physical two-way forward with excellent speed and stickhandling ability who plays with a real chip on his shoulder.

He had a rough start to the season, not seeing much playing time for his Russian Kontinental Hockey League team Chekhov, and playing sparingly when he was in the lineup. He played well in the Russian minors system, but also missed time with a foot injury.

Somewhat surprisingly given head coach Valeri Bragin’s penchant to defer to older players, Rubtsov was chosen as the only 18-year-old member of Russia’s team at the World Juniors, but he saw limited minutes and missed the end of the tournament with facial injuries.

Fortunately for Rubtsov and the Flyers, Chekhov let the 18-year-old forward out of his contract and a few months ago he came over to play for Chicoutimi of the Quebec Major Junior league. Patrolling left wing on the top line with fellow top prospect Nicolas Roy, Rubtsov put up 22 points in 16 games before sustaining an upper-body injury that caused him to miss the end of the regular season and the beginning of the playoffs.

However, it was apparent in the 16 games he played for Chicoutimi that Rubstov boasts tremendous upside as a defensively responsible two-way forward with terrific skating and playmaking skills and the ability to bring the fans out of their seats with highlight-reel goals.

Make sure you listen to this one with the volume turned up.

Rubtsov’s play in the recent development camp cemented his status as one of my personal favorites. Playing with many of his fellow Russian Flyers prospects on Team White, he was clearly the emotional leader of the team. He always wanted the puck on his stick and was one of the few guys who got into it physically with opposing players.

Although he’s eligible to play in the AHL with the Phantoms next season, given Hextall’s penchant to take his time with prospects, and the fact that Rubtsov had an injury-riddled season, it’s likely he plays another season in Chicoutimi before potentially making the Flyers roster in 2018-19 or 2019-20. Either way, I’m very excited to watch his continued development.

Sandstrom2

#6 – Felix Sandstrom

Age – 20
Position – G
Acquired – 3rd Round, 2015 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’2″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – Late 2018-19

Here’s where I’m going to start diverging from most other Flyers prospect lists. The organization has two elite goaltending prospects, and almost everyone has Carter Hart ranked ahead of Felix Sandstrom.

Not me.

It’s incredibly difficult to project goalie prospects because there are so many factors that play into their statistics – the league they’re playing in, their relative age, the strength of their team, and a decent amount of randomness.

Sandstrom is playing against men in the Swedish Hockey League while Hart is playing against his peers in the WHL. For that reason, it’s expected that Hart’s statistics will be better than Sandstrom, and they are. By a lot.

The reason that I slightly prefer Sandstrom is that I have seen them on the same playing surface three times, and all three times Sandstrom has outperformed Hart.

The most relevant was at the 2017 World Junior Championships, featuring the best players under the age of 20. In seven games for Sweden, Sandstrom went 4-2 with a .915 save percentage and a 2.17 goals-against-average.

He was named the tournament’s Best Goaltender.

Then, albeit in a much more casual setting, Sandstrom outperformed Hart in both the 2016 and the 2017 Flyers Development Camp 3v3 Tournaments.

Sandstrom was so good this year that I had him as the most impressive player of the tournament in my recap.

Sandstrom has decided to play one more season in Sweden with Brynas, and it will be a disappointment if he doesn’t improve from his 2016-17 stats – 14-7-0 with a .908 save percentage and a 2.25 goals-against-average.

The expectation is that this will be Sandstrom’s last season in Sweden and next year he will be manning the pipes for the Phantoms, with a Flyers call-up as a possibility.

Hart

#7 – Carter Hart

Age – 19
Position – G
Acquired – 2nd Round, 2016 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’1″, 190 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2020-21

Carter Hart has made an absolute mockery of the WHL the past two seasons with the Everett Silvertips.

2015-16 – 63 games, 35-23-4, .918 save percentage, 2.14 goals-against-average, six shutouts, named WHL and Canadian Hockey League (comprising WHL, QMJHL, and Ontario Hockey League) Goaltender-of-the-Year

2016-17 – 54 games, 32-11-1, .927 save percentage, 1.99 goals-against-average, nine shutouts, named WHL Goaltender-of-the-Year

He’s a consensus Top 5 goalie prospect in the entire league (Sandstrom is typically thought of as Top 10).

For his upcoming 19-year-old season, Hart will once again be in the WHL, and will be expected to put up similar numbers to the past two seasons.

For me, the key will be his performance in the 2018 World Junior Championship. He struggled at times in the 2017 WJC, and was outshined by Sandstrom, who admittedly is a year older.

That’s not to say he didn’t have moments of brilliance in the tournament.

Hart is the favorite to be the starter for Canada in the tournament, and if he performs dominantly I would consider moving him ahead of Sandstrom on my Flyer goalie prospects depth chart.

In the recent development camp, Hart was decent, although he let in a few too many soft goals for my taste. But he did make one absolute beauty of a save!

It should be a sensational year ahead for Hart, and in 2018-19 he will likely be with the Phantoms, splitting time with Sandstrom. He could be with the Flyers in 2019-20, but a more conservative estimate would be 2020-21.

Morin

#8 – Sam Morin

Age – 22
Position – D
Acquired – 1st Round, 2013 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’7″, 230 lbs
Flyers ETA – Opening Day 2017-18

It feels like Sam Morin has been a Flyers prospect forever, and he’s one of the few players on this list not drafted by Ron Hextall. He was also the second-to-last player from the first round of the 2013 Draft to reach the NHL (a one-game trial last season).

As to be expected from a towering, defensively-oriented blueliner, it’s taken a long time for Morin to develop. After playing four years with Rimouski in the QMJHL (registering a combined plus-46), he’s spent the last two seasons with the Phantoms.

Fortunately for Morin, he does not have to be a top pair defensemen to make an impact on the Flyers. Aside from Radko Gudas, the organization is lacking in overly physical and mean blueliners. And that’s exacty where Morin fits in.

In addition to his pugilistic prowess, Morin is a deceptively fast skater who is also nasty in front of the net and in the corners. He’s worked diligently to improve his defensive position and outlet passes over the past few years.

From what I’ve seen, there will always be questions about his decision-making on the ice and he’s simply not as quick as a lot of the forwards that he will be going against.

However, as a second or third pairing defender playing big minutes on the penalty kill and instilling fear into opposing players, there’s a definite role for Morin on the Flyers in the coming years.

He will be given every chance to make the team this coming season, and is expected to be in the opening day lineup. But with Myers and Sanheim nipping at his heels as higher-upside defensemen, Morin will need to have a good showing in training camp to ensure a roster spot.

Morgan Frost of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Photo by Terry Wilson / OHL Images.

#9 – Morgan Frost

Age – 18
Position – C
Acquired – 1st Round, 2017 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 5’11″, 170 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2019-20

Despite being one of the newest and youngest members of the Flyers organization, there’s already a lot of controversy surrounding Morgan Frost. He was acquired using one of the first-round picks (#29) acquired from the Blues in the trade that sent fan-favorite Brayden Schenn packing.

Additionally, many of the draft pundits didn’t have Frost pegged to go as high as the Flyers took him.

Ron Hextall and his team of scouts have an excellent track record in the draft, and at this point I believe they have earned our trust, especially when they come out and say something like this:

“There are very few guys where our whole staff likes the guy, and our whole staff liked this guy [Frost]. He’s an extremely intelligent player and reads the ice well. Good two-way player who showed up good in the testing,” Hextall said.

I’ve been very impressed with what I saw from Frost, both in highlights and watching him in person at the recent development camp tournament.

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.

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 expect Frost to light it up this coming season in the Ontario Hockey League with the loaded Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and take another big step up the Flyers prospects rankings next year. I’m very excited to follow his progress.

Russia v Slovakia - 2017 IIHF World Junior Championship

#10 – Mikhail Vorobyev

Age – 20
Position – C
Acquired – 4th round, 2015 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’2″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2018-19

Mikhail Vorobyev is the most underrated of all the Flyers prospects. He’s a big Russian center who is a good skater and an excellent passer with superior two-way play and on-ice vision.

In 2017, he led all players in the World Championships with 10 assists.

For a point of comparison, here are the last five players to lead the WJC in assists.

2017 – Mikhail Vorobyev (2015 – 104th overall pick)
2016 – Jesse Puljujarvi (2016 – 4th overall pick)
2015 – Connor McDavid (2015 – 1st overall pick)
2014 – Teuvo Teravainen (2012 – 18th overall pick)
2013 – Ryan Nugent-Hopkins (2011 – 1st Overall Pick)

Quite an impressive list.

What’s also impressive is that Vorobyev played as an 18-year-old in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) with UFA Salavat. The KHL is commonly regarded as the second best league in the world and for a player that young to get ice time says a lot about his maturity and overall play.

Last year as a 19-year-old for Salavat, Vorobyev put up 11 points in 44 games.

Vorobyev officially signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers this summer, and he should be patrolling the center of the ice for one of the top three lines on the Phantoms.

His extremely solid two-way play, combined with his offensive awareness and passing ability should result in him having a very high floor, and I think he’s a safe bet to ultimately be no worse than the third-line center for the Flyers.

Hagg

#11 – Robert Hagg

Age – 22
Position – D
Acquired – 2nd Round, 2013 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’2″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2017-18

I’m torn on Robert Hagg. He’s not spectacular in any one facet of the game. I’ve watched him play more than a dozen times on the Phantoms and never come away being overly impressed with his play, but there also weren’t many moments where I was exasperated by something negative that he did.

This was his third full season in the AHL, and by all accounts his best, with 15 points through 50 games, plus-10 rating, and a more confident game in all zones.

He had a one-game trial with the Flyers towards the end of the season and looked very good, not making any major mistakes and jumping into the play on a few occasions. It was an encouraging performance, albeit in a fairly meaningless game.

Hagg would probably be a serviceable third pairing defenseman on most NHL teams, but on a Flyers team that is looking at a D corps comprised of Provorov, Myers, Sanheim, Morin, Gostisbehere, and Gudas, I’m not sure where exactly Hagg fits in. He might be a more solid all-around defenseman than Morin, but the latter’s toughness might give him the edge as a third pair guy for the Flyers.

Hagg will be given every chance to make the Flyers opening day roster, but if Sanheim wows in training camp, and Morin also makes a good showing, it’s possible that Hagg could be the odd man out.

Allison

#12 – Wade Allison

Age – 19
Position – LW
Acquired – 2nd round, 2016 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’2″, 210 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2020-21

Allison put together a very good freshman campaign at Western Michigan University, scoring 12 goals and adding 17 assists for 29 points in 36 games, in addition to a plus-6 rating. That was good for fourth on the team in scoring, behind a trio of 22-year-old seniors.

From watching him in development camp the past two years, it’s clear that Allison has terrific hands around the net and also is an excellent stickhandler and shooter. He’s also an above-average skater, although that’s a facet of his game that he needs to continue to improve.

Another area of improvement for Allison is going to be his consistency. Understandably, as a freshman he went through some real hot and cold streaks. Additionally, I thought he was much more impressive in the 2016 development camp than he was in the 2017 development camp.

Allison will have plenty of time to develop at Western Michigan, and doesn’t figure to factor into the Flyers plans for at least a few more years.

Tanner

#13 – Tanner Laczynski

Age – 20
Position – C
Acquired – 6th round, 2016 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’0″, 190 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2020-21

Tanner Laczynski looks like he might be a late-round steal for the Flyers. As a freshman at Ohio State, the stocky center scored 10 goals and added 22 assists for 32 points in 34 games.

Additionally, he was chosen to represent the eventual gold-medal winning United States team in the World Junior Championships, in which Laczynski put up two points in seven games.

Laczynski is a defensively-responsible forward who is above-average with his skating and stickhandling to go along with terrific offensive awareness and passing ability.

He’s not elite in any aspect of his game, but if he continues to develop he could eventually become a bottom six forward for the Flyers.

JustSports Photography

#14 – Anthony Stolarz

Age – 23
Position – G
Acquired – 2nd round, 2012 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’6″, 210 lbs
Flyers ETA – Midseason 2017-18

The upcoming season is a pivotal one for Anthony Stolarz. The oldest inclusion on my Flyers Top 15 Prospects list (23yo), the towering goalie is coming off a subpar season that ended with a lower body injury.

Due to injuries to Michal Neuvirth and Steve Mason, Stolarz played in seven games for the Flyers in 2016-17 and put up very good numbers – going 2-1-1 with a .928 save percentage and a 2.07 goals-against-average.

The problem last year for Stolarz was his mediocre play for the Phantoms, where he went 18-9-0 with a pedestrian .911 save percentage and 2.92 goals-against average.

By this point in his career, the 23-year-old Stolarz should have at least cemented a back-up role with the Flyers.

Unfortunately, due the season-ending injury and his lackluster play this past season, there was no way for Hextall to go into the upcoming season confident relying on Stolarz to be part of a goalie timeshare with Neuvirth.

The Flyers signed Brian Elliot to share the netminder duties with Neuvirth, and Stolarz will have to wait for an injury to get his chance to stick in the NHL.

Guelph Storm v London Knights

#15 – Isaac Ratcliffe

Age – 18
Position – LW
Acquired – 2nd round, 2017 NHL Draft
Height, Weight – 6’6″, 200 lbs
Flyers ETA – 2019-20

One of the advantages of having more than a dozen picks in the recent NHL Draft was that the Flyers were able to package picks to move up if there was a player they really wanted to draft.

They did just that in the second round, trading picks 44, 75, and 108 to move up to 35 and select the physically-imposing winger Isaac Ratcliffe.

While extremely raw, the 6’6″ forward put up 28 goals and 26 assists this past season for the OHL’s Guelph Storm.

He has good speed and hands for a big man, which he shows off on this beauty.

Outside of Wayne Simmonds, the Flyers don’t really have any power forwards in the organization, which may have prompted the selection of Ratcliffe. And since Simmonds’ contract is up after the 2018-19 season, I’m sure the franchise didn’t want to be completely bereft of power wingers with hands around the net.

Based on how many picks the Flyers gave up to trade up for Ratcliffe, it’s clear that they see immense potential in him, and it will be very interesting to track his progress over the coming years.

The Future is Bright

The Philadelphia Flyers have the deepest prospect pool in the NHL, and as seen in this article, they have an outstanding mix of forwards, defensemen, and goalies.

Combine this sensational group of prospects with the current group of players on the roster – veterans Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Radko Gudas, and youngsters Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Sean Couturier, and Shayne Gostsbehere – and Hextall has built a franchise that has a chance at becoming a perennial Stanley Cup contender starting in a few years.

Photo Credits: QMJHL, WHL, OHL, Philadelphia Phantoms, SHL, NCAA Hockey

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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