By: Mark Lester @futureofphilly
Ever since Ron Hextall took over as the Philadelphia Flyers general manager, the team has practiced drafting and developing. Hextall has selected 34 players from NHL Entry Drafts between 2014-2017. The Flyers arguably possess the deepest crop of young talent in the NHL.
The following list consists of ten Flyers prospects that fans should follow closely during the 2017-18 campaign.
Mikhail Vorobyev (C)
If there was one prospect that grabbed Flyers fans’ attention over the course of last season, it was Mikhail Vorobyev.
Last season, the 6’2” center cemented himself a third-line spot in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL), which is widely regarded as the second-best hockey league in the world . It was an impressive feat for a youngster like Vorobyev.
His 11 points in 44 KHL contests with Salavat Yulaev Ufa does not sound very impressive to the average hockey supporter. Where Vorobyev really caught the eyes of Flyers fans was at the 2017 World Juniors. Vorobyev was a standout at the WJC for Team Russia, leading all players with 10 assists in 7 games.
Vorobyev decided to sign an entry-level contract with the Flyers instead of re-signing in the KHL. The native of Ufa, Russia, will be AHL-bound in 2017-18.
Vorobyev will likely be a middle-six center for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season. The 20-year old owns superb vision and passing ability, while playing a strong 200-foot game.
If Vorobyev proves that he can excel on North American ice, the former fourth-round pick could see himself in a Flyers uniform as soon as 2018-19.
Maksim Sushko (RW)
While his numbers last season will not blow you away, 2017 fourth-round selection Maksim Sushko may be primed for a breakout campaign.
Last year was Sushko’s first in North America. Sushko played on a deep squad, the Owen Sound Attack. The Belarusian winger managed to register 32 points in 54 regular season contests, while adding 11 points in 17 playoff games. Perhaps Philadelphia’s scouting staff believes that last season was a transition year for Sushko, and that playing on a talented team kept his ice time and point totals lower than what he is truly capable of.
Barring injury, he is a lock to represent Belarus at the 2018 World Juniors in December.
Although Owen Sound are expected to be one of the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) top teams in 2017-18, Sushko may have an opportunity to take on a larger role. It will be intriguing the see how the 6’0” forward fares in his second OHL season.
Wade Allison (RW)
If there is one thing the Flyers may be lacking in their system, it’s a high-end sniper.
Wade Allison may be that guy.
Allison wrapped up his freshman year at Western Michigan University tallying 29 points in 36 games. Plucked in the second round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft, Allison owns a lethal release and shot.
Expect Allison’s point totals to hover around the point-per-game mark in 2017-18, but the 19-year old will need to add more consistency to his game. Nevertheless, it will be exciting to watch the 6’2” right winger develop into what the Flyers hope is a high-volume shooter.
Matej Tomek (G)
Following two frustrating seasons at the University of North Dakota, Matej Tomek is finally heading elsewhere.
Tomek will play for the Waterloo Blackhawks of the United States Hockey League (USHL), where he is hoping to turn his career around. The USHL is composed of players 20 years of age or younger, so it will be a great opportunity for the Slovakian goaltender to get some games under his belt. Tomek will undoubtebly be the No.1 goalie for Waterloo.
The Flyers had high hopes for the 6’3” netminder after selecting him in the third-round of the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. He has yet to live up to the hype, but he is still young enough to get his career back on the right track. After this season, Tomek has the option to sign with the Flyers or return to the NCAA to finish up the two years of collegiate eligibility he has remaining.
David Kaše (RW)
This upcoming season will be absolutely crucial for Flyers 2015 fifth-round pick David Kaše.
Kaše has spent the past two seasons in the Czech Extraliga with Piráti Chomutov. He did not receive a great amount of ice time, as he often centered Chomutov’s fourth line. When the skilled forward did get the occasional opportunity to play in the top-6, Kaše proved that he could produce at a decent level. In 32 games last season in the top Czech league, the 20-year old recorded 8 points.
Kaše elected not to re-sign with his native country Czech Republic for 2017-18. Instead, he has taken his talents to Scandinavia to play for Mora IK of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL). The SHL is regarded as the third best league in the world by some, whereas the Czech Extraliga is a notch below.
Despite the fact that he will be playing at a higher level, Kaše will receive more ice time in the SHL than he did with Piráti Chomutov. Mora IK were recently promoted to the SHL this summer. As a result, they do not possess an especially strong roster compared to the lineups that fellow SHL teams can boast.
Kaše, who was once seen as a second-round talent in the eyes of some scouts, has to prove that he has a future in Philadelphia’s organization.
Morgan Frost (C)
At the 2017 NHL Draft, the Flyers traded Brayden Schenn to St.Louis for Jori Lehtera, a conditional 2018 first round pick, and the 27th pick of the 2017 draft. With that 27th selection, GM Ron Hextall opted to draft skilled playmaker Morgan Frost.
Frost played on a deep Soo Greyhounds squad last season, yet still managed to produce 62 points in 67 regular season games. The Greyhounds lost a lot of talent from last season, as high scoring forwards Zachary Senyshyn, Bobby MacIntyre, and Blake Speers all turn pro this season. As a result, Frost will have an expanded role in 2017-18.
Hextall raved about Frost’s hockey sense following the draft, saying that the 5”11 center is “an extremely intelligent player and dissects the game better than most players.”
Frost is at least a couple years away from the NHL, but if he continues to develop quickly and scores at a high rate in juniors, fans will see him in the orange and black sooner rather than later.
German Rubtsov (C/LW)
German Rubtsov’s draft+1 campaign was filled with ups and downs.
Rubtsov finally came into his own when he joined the Chicoutimi Saguenéens of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) late in the season. The 6’0 forward registered 22 points in 16 games before a hand injury forced him to miss the rest of the regular season and playoffs.
The 19-year old is eligible for the AHL this season, but considering the depth on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms roster and Rubtsov’s injury history, the QMJHL seems like the most likely destination for Rubtsov in 2017-18.
Rubtsov should be able to light up the QMJHL with ease. Chicoutimi is not expected to be a great team this year, so trading Rubtsov to a contending QMJHL team at some point during the season is not out of the question.
The Flyers 2016 first-round pick will certainly join Team Russia for the 2018 World Juniors, barring injury.
As long as he stays healthy, it will be interesting to see how well Rubtsov develops over the course of the 2017-18 season.
Felix Sandström (G)
Flyers fans are expecting that either Carter Hart or Felix Sandström is the future between the pipes.
We know what to expect from Carter Hart this year in the Western Hockey League (WHL). He won ‘Canadian Hockey League (CHL) Goaltender of the Year’ two years ago and has won ‘WHL Goaltender of the Year’ in back-to-back seasons.
But what about Sandström?
The native of Gävle, Sweden, took big strides in the SHL last season, holding his own in 22 regular season games and appearing in 13 playoff contests for Brynäs IF. Sandström represented Sweden at the 2017 World Juniors, where he was named goalie of the tournament.
After re-signing with Brynäs IF for one more season, Sandström will split time with veteran netminder David Rautio in 2017-18.
Unfortunately for Sandström, he will miss the first couple weeks of the SHL season recovering from a minor surgery.
Hopefully Sandström can take yet another step forward at the SHL level this season, as it could very well be his last in Europe before pursuing his NHL dream in North America.
Philippe Myers (RHD)
Philippe Myers has gone from going undrafted, to being cut from Calgary Flames development camp, to becoming one of the best defense prospects on earth.
Myers had an excellent season in junior, recording 35 points in 34 games for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMJHL. The smooth-skating blueliner turned heads at the 2017 World Juniors, as he manned Canada’s top defence pair with Thomas Chabot before being concussed by Minnesota Wild prospect Luke Kunin.
Since Travis Sanheim has one year of AHL experience, while Sam Morin and Robert Hägg each have multiple, Myers’ chance to crack the Flyers roster out of camp seems slim. Assuming he gets sent down, Myers will slide into a top-4 role in the AHL for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Wherever he plays, it should be exciting to watch the 20-year old develop over the course of 2017-18.
If Myers’ transition from junior to pro goes smoothly, fans across the NHL are going to start wondering how this 6’5” defenceman went undrafted.
Pascal Laberge (RW)
Pascal Laberge has faced a lot of adversity in the last two years alone.
His stepmother passed away at the start of his draft year. Last season was a nightmare for him as well. Laberge suffered a major concussion which caused his point totals to take a nosedive.
In his draft year, Laberge racked up 68 points in 56 regular season games in the QMJHL. 2016-17 was a different story, as he tallied a mere 32 points in 46 matches.
The former second-round pick will return to the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL this season. Victoriaville is expected to be a contender, but a lot will depend on whether or not Laberge can bounce-back.
The native of Châteauguay, Québec, gained approximately 15 pounds of muscle this summer, according to the Victoriaville Tigres general manager.
If Laberge returns to the dynamic offensive threat he was in his draft year, he may have a chance to represent Canada at the 2018 World Junior Championship.
Here is a list of all Philadelphia Flyers prospects and the teams they will play for this season (Note: this assumes Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom make the NHL roster).
Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)
Canadian Hockey League (CHL)
German Rubtsov (Chicoutimi Saguenéens)
Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville Tigres)
Ivan Kosorenkov (Victoriaville Tigres)**
Morgan Frost (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds)
Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph Storm)
Matthew Strome (Hamilton Bulldogs)
Maksim Sushko (Owen Sound Attack)
Connor Bunnaman (Kitchener Rangers)
Anthony Salinitri (Sarnia Sting)
Carsen Twarynski (Kelowna Rockets)
Carter Hart (Everett Silvertips)
United States Hockey League (USHL)
Noah Cates (Omaha Lancers)
Matej Tomek (Waterloo Blackhawks)
David Kaše (Mora IK)
Olle Lycksell (Linköping HC)
Linus Högberg (Växjö Lakers)
David Bernhardt (Djurgården IF)
Felix Sandström (Brynäs IF)
Kirill Ustimenko (MHK Dinamo St.Petersburg)
Ivan Fedotov (Toros Neftekamsk)
** if signed by the Flyers