(photo via Chris Knight)

(photo via Chris Knight)

Flyers Prospect Watch: Forwards

It’s quite obvious that the Flyers have been focusing on drafting blueliners lately. In the last 3 years they’ve taken a defenseman with their first pick (Provorov, Sanheim, Morin). That’s the direct opposite of the years before which saw them draft Couturier, Laughton, and stretching back further Giroux, VanRiemsdyk, and even Downie. There was of course Sbisa in between somewhere, but let’s just say dumping him in the Pronger trade was probably for the best.

The focus on drafting forwards has drifted  because of the organization’s need for young defensemen. So much so that the rate at which the Flyers draft forwards has dropped to 39% between 2012 and 2015. When you compare that with the previous 52% rate from 2008 to 2011, and know that they’re spending high picks on D it’s easy to see why there’s no new Claude Giroux storming the ranks.

With that lack of prospects it’s likely they dip back into the forward market at this June’s Entry Draft. Matt Bernot has a few profiles on forwards like Julien Gauthier, Alex DeBrincat, and Luke Kunin who will probably be available near the #18 Philadelphia pick.

Head over here for Goaltending Prospects!

Or Check out Defensemen!

Forwards 2016-17 – A TL;DR

  1. Hextall could resign RFAs Brayden Schenn and Nick Cousins, along with UFA Ryan White, and come back with almost exactly the same forward group as last season. No one would bat an eyelash. It seems like Laughton and Cousins have graduated from ‘prospect’ and they’re likely in the NHL to stay.
  1. Gagner would be nice to get back at a cheaper rate, but if he’s looking for $3m again.. he’s replaceable. Umberger looks like he will be bought out. Other than that there probably won’t be much change at the NHL level. RFAs Alderson and Mathers have been up and down between Lehigh Valley and Reading so they can probably go.
  1. Is Konecny ready? Would he improve the NHL club? With an established group of productive forwards, does it even make sense to throw him into the NHL? Those are tough questions.. with a strong development camp/training camp he will force Hextall and company to answer.
  1. I wouldn’t label any of the forwards in the AHL group difference-makers at the NHL level. That being said Weal, Straka, and Palushaj are (to varying degrees) productive AHL RFAs so bringing them back on cheap contracts to strengthen the organization’s depth makes sense. I’ve stuck UFA Tim Brent in there too, but just as a space-filler, he could be replaced by just about any AHL vet. Lindblom, Fazleev and Aube-Kubel should provide some fresh blood and a skill upgrade over departing RFAs.

NHL

Voracek – Until He Ded – $8.250m   /   Giroux – 6y – $8.275m   /   Simmonds – 3y – $3.975m

Schenn – RFA – $2.500m   /   Couturier – 6y – $4.333m   /   Read – 2y – $3.625m

Raffl – 3y – $2.350m   /   Laughton – 1y – $0.863m   /   Cousins – RFA – $0.842m

Bellemare – 1y- $0.712m   /   VandeVelde – 1y – $0.712m   /   White – UFA – $0.800m

Weal – RFA – $0.632m

AHL

Lindblom – Unsigned   /   Martel – 2y – $0.680m   /   Conner – 1y – $0.575m

Leier – 1y – $0.779m   /   Brent – UFA – $0.600m   /   Aube-Kubel – 3y – $0.703m

McDonald – 2y – $0.625m   /   Bardreau – 1y – $0.680m   /   Straka – RFA – $0.925m

Goulbourne – 2y – $0.677m   /   Fazleev – 3y – $0.702m   /   Parks – Unsigned

Palushaj – RFA – $0.575m

Junior Eligible

Travis Konecny – 3y – $0.925m

Spare Parts

Umberger – 1y – $4.600m, Gagner – UFA – $3.200,

Alderson – RFA – $0.767m, Mathers – RFA – $0.585m

Signed Prospects

Travis Konecny (2015 – 24th Pick)

(photo: ottawa67s.com)

(photo: ottawa67s.com)

The only reason he slipped to 24th is his size. At 5’10” and 176 pounds he was knocked as ‘smallish’ in a draft that featured some monsters like 6’4″ Crouse, 6’3″ Zacha, and 6’3″ Gurianov. Thankfully, that didn’t stop Ron Hextall from selecting him. Despite the fact Konecny was traded this season from Ottawa to Sarnia, he threw up a cool 101 points in just 60 OHL games. That was more than 8 CHL forwards drafted ahead of him; Zacha (64pts), Meier (87pts), Crouse (56pts), DeBrusk (65pts), Senyshyn (65pts), Barzal (88pts), Chabot (79pts), and Svechnikov (79pts). Only Dylan Strome (111pts) and Mitch Marner (116pts) had more than Travis out of 2015 draftees playing in the CHL, and he was 8th overall in OHL league scoring.

Basing a scouting report on just those stats alone is enough to tell you his offensive game is pretty close to top-6 NHL quality. Is that scoring enough to give him a shot? Does the fact that he’s a right-hand shot give him an advantage? Perhaps, but the Flyers forward group isn’t a weakness. What about the rest of his game? We just don’t know, and at this moment I would guess he’ll go back to the OHL. Management will say something like, “he needs to get stronger.” A fair sentiment, especially since the Flyers need more help defensively than anything else. It’s a heck of a lot tougher to see Konecny getting a roster spot than it is to see a defense prospect like Provorov, Sanheim, or Morin getting one.

Jordan Weal (2010 – 70th Pick)

Coming over from LA in the deal that dumped off Lecavalier and Schenn there are literally no expectations for Weal. He could totally bomb out, and that would be okay, in fact if he’s anything more than a spare part that trade will have been a success. His 14 NHL games (and 0 pts) last season are his only NHL games. However, Weal has proven he can score at the AHL level where he excelled with LA’s farm team the Manchester Monarchs. He had back to back seasons of 70 and 69 pts respectively. Therefore it’s fair to assume that Weal could be Nick Cousins 2.0 in terms of what he can offer offensively. He might not be as pesky as Cousins, but his overall talent level appears to be similar. He’s a depth NHL forward, or perhaps an AHL star.

Taylor Leier (2012 – 117th Pick)

Unlike Weal, Leier is looked on as a defensively sound player. He was known as a north-south, no nonsense type of guy on a Portland Winterhawks team that boasted offensive gems Petan, Bjorkstrand, Leipsic, and De Leo at one time. One Phantom that has raised his stock, he’s coming off a 20 goal – 49 point season after putting up 31 points as a rookie. Given that Cousins left the Phantoms and many other top-6 options were in and out of the line-up with injuries, Leier faired alright as a cornerstone playing 71 games. He may be ready to contribute in the NHL as a checking line wing similar to Bellemare or VandeVelde, but more seasoning in the A wouldn’t hurt. If his production takes another uptick to 60-ish points then he may get a longer look.

Danick Martel (2015 – Free Agent)

22 goals as a rookie is decent enough accomplishment for the 5’8″ center. I expect Martel to be on either the 1st or 2nd line this season for the Phantoms, and I would hope to see a point total of more like 50-60. He only had 15 assists in his 67 games to go along with those 22 goals (37 pts), but just like Leier he was pulling the line mostly by himself. There really wasn’t any scoring depth in Lehigh Valley. With a few more weapons coming along Martel should have an easier time finding competent linemates this season.

Nicolas Aube-Kubel  (2014 – 48th Pick)

(photo: Chris Knight)

(photo: Chris Knight)

In a similar vein as Leier, Aube-Kubel was known first as a guy who can get up and down the ice playing a tight shutdown game. It only helped his stock that after he was drafted Val d’Or matured into a really solid group of players and Nicolas proved he could score. With a 38 goal – 80 point season followed by another 38 goal – 84 point season he’s developed a great nose for the net. It’s also fair to mention that he potted 2 goals and 1 assist during his 6 game try out contract at the end of this season with Lehigh Valley. I don’t think it’s much of a stretch to pencil him in as a top-6 AHL forward, but at the least he should be a 3rd line staple as a rookie.

Radel Fazleev (2014 – 168th Pick)

The Flyers definitely went out on a limb when they picked Fazleev in 2014, but they had been scouting Sanheim closely and noticed his Russian teammate. Radel was hurt for half of his draft year notching 25 points in 38 games, but he had a strong 1st Round playoff series with 7 points in 6 games. Hextall and company have been rewarded with steady play and developing scoring as he’s potted 122 points in 130 WHL games since then. I would’ve liked to see a try out contract here as well, but I guess circumstances didn’t pan out. Regardless, he will be in the AHL this season and slotting him into the 3rd/4th line role seems like a fair estimate as he’s also a defensively-oriented forward.

Cole Bardreau (2015 – Free Agent)

Known as more of an athlete, Bardreau surprised us with 30 points in 54 games. There were many opportunities for him to grow his offensive game on a weak Phantoms team, but I don’t think anyone expected him to produce 13 goals and 17 assists. He was never really a scorer in the NCAA so I don’t expect his point totals to get any greater, but there’s no reason he can’t be a 3rd line checking center in the AHL. He may even challenge guys like Martel for top-6 minutes if he’s running hot, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Along with Weal and Leier, Bardreau could be a late cut, or even a guy that steals VandeVelde, or Bellemare’s job.

Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 72nd Pick)

I will admit I was upset when Philly took Tyrell in the 3rd round of the 2013 draft. He was at worst a Zac Rinaldo clone. Goulbourne has done his best to convince me he can actually play since then as he both increased his point totals and decreased his pims in the WHL. During his last junior season in particular he upped his goal total to 22 and had just 76 pims becoming a useful part of a Kelowna team that won a WHL championship, and came within 1 goal of a Memorial Cup. His first year in the AHL was spent in the bottom-6 where he had a quiet 7 goal – 10 assist campaign while taking 75 pims. As long as he keeps his head in check, that’s a good enough result. He’s already miles better than Rinaldo who had 16 points in 97 AHL games, and a hamstringing 446 pims! While the days of the enforcer are gone teams still have need of annoying players that can both get under the skin of the opposition and get up and down the ice quickly. Goulbourne may eventually be able to do that.

Unsigned Prospects

Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 138th Pick)

(photo: Nina Weiss)

(photo: Nina Weiss)

I’ve slotted Lindblom into the 1st unit on the Phantoms despite being unsigned.. kind of against my own rules, but I feel strongly that he should be signed.. and soon. After being drafted very low he ended up in some heady company on the Swedish World Junior team scoring 15 points over 14 games and 2 years at the tournament. According to Flyers’ scouts he’s gotten bigger, stronger, and faster since being drafted. He’s now played 85 Swedish league games (very comparable to the AHL) over the past 2 years tallying 16 goals and 40 points for Brynas. That would be enough in my mind to give him an Entry deal and see how he pans out in Lehigh Valley, but then there was his try out period. Oskar scored twice and added 5 assists in 8 AHL contests giving fans a glimpse at what he could be for this team, and eventually the NHL club. He may work his way into the Flyers’ top-9 forward group soon, but I think some AHL seasoning is probably a good idea.

Petr Straka (2010 – 55th Pick)

Perhaps the biggest question mark in terms of free agents is Petr Straka. The Czech has never lived up to offensive expectations, but has streaks of fantastic play. In 2015 he rode one such streak to a 3 game call-up to Philadelphia and even snuck in 2 assists! Then to start off this past season he notched 12 goals by November 27th! (20 games)… then added just 7 during the rest of his 44 games.. very, very frustrating. Just like many Phantoms the graduation of Cousins probably had an effect on his quality of competition, and his overall stats. Despite this frustration I think he’s worth bringing back with a thin forward crop. A streaky scorer is better than no scorer, and with a few more talented youngsters coming in he’ll either find some chemistry, or simply get played out of a job.

Michael Parks (2010 – 149th Pick)

Parks was a part of the 2014/15 North Dakota team that came up just short at the Frozen Four losing their semi-final to eventual runner up Boston U. It’s a shame he wasn’t a year younger! Parks wasn’t signed by the Flyers last year, and instead was given a 1-year AHL contract with the Phantoms to try and prove himself. Sadly his season was ended prematurely due to a horrible shoulder injury and he played just 3 games. If he’s back I don’t see why he couldn’t be a solid AHL forward, he displayed excellent checking and decent scoring potential in the NCAA.

Samuel Dove-McFalls (2015 – 98th Pick)

A solid 200+ pound 6’2″ defensive center, he was selected after a 34 point 66 game draft year. Had a bit of a rough campaign this year though, dressing for just 29 of Saint John’s regular season games. He had just 12 points before getting healthy and posting 7 in 17 playoff games. It was a tough year for him and we definitely need to see more before judgement is passed. Another healthier year in Saint John would be a good start, but there are a lot of defensive forwards coming through the pipe. Unless he shows off some unseen offensive talent this year I don’t really know if he’ll be able to carve out a spot in the pros.

Mikhail Vorobyov (2015 – 104th Pick)

He wasn’t deemed quite good enough for the World Junior Team this past year, but he was close (he had previously played in the Under-18 world championships). Shuttled between the KHL club and the MHL affiliate in Ufa this season. He had 2 goals and 1 assist in very limited playing time over 28 KHL games, but was much more dominant in the junior circuit with 23 points in 21 games. No idea what his KHL contract looks like, but another full year of pro hockey in Russia wouldn’t hurt.

David Kase (2015 – 128th Pick)

Similar to Vorobyov, Kase’s season was split between the Czech club Pirati Chomutov and a 2nd Division team SK Kadan. Again, like Vorobyov, he probably needs more time to grow as he struggled to get many opportunities with Chomutov. He had just 2 points in 30 games there, but excelled with Kadan netting 14 points in 16 games. He was also an assistant captain at the World Juniors for a Czech team that was underwhelming. They were crushed 7-0 in their quarterfinal match-up with the US, and Kase had just 1 assist in 5 games. It seems like it might be a long road for the 5th Round pick if he sticks with the dream of making the NHL.

Cooper Marody (2015 – 158th Pick)

A great rookie season at U. Michigan has Marody riding high, and perhaps even passing several guys above him on this list. He had 10 goals and 14 assists in 32 games for a stacked Michigan team that will look very different next year. They’ll lose a few graduates, but may also lose Kyle Connor, J.T. Compher, and Zach Werenski before they play out their eligibility because those 3 guys are probably too good to be there. As a result it could be a pretty bare cupboard in Michigan next year and while that’s not great for the program it will give Cooper more time to shine. Unless Marody explodes in the coming year like Connor did this past season it’s kind of unreasonable to imagine him forgoing his 3 remaining years of NCAA eligibility. Probably a forward to just sit and wait on.

Marcel Noebels (2011 – 118th Pick)

It’s pretty doubtful that Noebels ever makes a North American comeback. He gave the AHL a shot (34pts in 95 games), and was obviously too good a young player to be stuck in the ECHL (30pts in 31 games as a 20-year-old), but never really impressed. He’s spent 2 years with Berlin in the German league now where he has 53 points in 87 games. Meh.

Minor Pro Depth

Steven Swavely (2016 – Free Agent)

He joined the Phantoms on a try out basis for a 15 game span at the end of last season. He had just completed his 4 year stint at U. of Maine captaining the team for his Senior year. Ended his career with 81 points through 146 games so he’s probably not going to develop into a scorer. That said, he did put up 3 goals in his 15 AHL games, and didn’t seem out of place. So he could be a solid checking line forward if the Phantoms need one. If not he may be able to develop a bit more scoring in the E with Reading.

Pavel Padakin (2015 – Free Agent)

The Ukrainian wing went undrafted after a relatively successful WHL career (180 points in 257 games), and was signed to a 1-year minor pro deal last year. He looked good at Reading with 8 goals and 9 assists in 26 games, but didn’t fair nearly as well with Lehigh Valley where he registered just 2 goals and 7 assists through 41 games and limited ice time. He’s only 21 so there’s time for him to develop, but with Aube-Kubel, Fazeleev, and Lindblom coming his opportunity may have been last year, and last year only.

Dalton Smith (2010 – 35th Pick)

A former 2nd Rounder by Columbus, Smith had a very good draft year with the Ottawa 67s.. and never progressed. He was a tough kid who ended up with 44 points in 62 games to go along with his 129 pims. The Blue Jackets definitely reached at 35th overall, but it looked like he might be a pesky forward who could play a little, similar to Goulbourne. However, his sweet 17 ended up being his best OHL campaign as he struggled thereafter. Now a veteran of 226 AHL games his 40 points make it fairly obvious that Dalton will never be much more than a replacement level player in the AHL. I don’t see a reason to keep him around this year unless Reading want him.