Tis’ the season for Prospect Rankings. Look around on NHL fan sites these days, and you’ll see them. Rankings of team’s prospect pools. I’m not going to sit here and rank every Flyers’ prospect in order from 1st to 25th. I’m only a part time amateur writer. I don’t have time to write 25-30 articles on prospects in a month! And you don’t want to read that many!
Therefore, I think it was rather fortunate that I stumbled upon a method recently that I really enjoy. Prominent Leafs’ Twitter/Youtube Personality Steve Dangle is an absolute joy to interact with and watch. He’s a very entertaining social media savvy person. I highly recommend giving him a follow. Just last week he put out a 10 minute Youtube video of what he called the ‘Prospect Pyramid’. This is definitely something I can get on-board with.
Steve Dangle unveils his Prospect Pyramid, his opinion on how the Leafs’ Prospects stack up.
Instead of ranking prospects 1st to 25th we do them in tiers of potential. For the Toronto Maple Leafs there are some pretty clear divisions. Auston Matthews at the top of the pyramid, Mitch Marner/William Nylander on the 2nd tier, Kasperi Kapanen and company on the 3rd tier, and beyond. It makes a lot more sense to me than numbered rankings.
So without further ado, here’s how I personally view the Prospect Pyramid for the Philadelphia Flyers.
The 2016-17 Philadelphia Flyers Prospect Pyramid (defensemen on the left side)
Top Tier Prospect: Ivan Provorov
There’s not much to say here. Ivan Provorov is rated as one of the best defensive prospects in the entire world. He’ll have an opportunity to make the Flyers out of camp, and could make an immediate impact. Sure he’ll have to win a job, but at this point I think Hextall will be looking for any excuse to boot a veteran. Streit, and Schultz are 3rd pair defensemen at this stage of their careers, both have expiring contracts, and one or both will be gone by the trade deadline. Provorov ideally would soak up some of their minutes as the Flyers transition to some sort of a Gostisbehere / Del Zotto / Gudas / Manning top-4. It also helps Ivan’s chances that Radko Gudas recently injured his wrist. That opens up a spot for at least a week or two at the start of the season. Among the wealth of Flyers’ defense prospects he’s the best.
Ivan Provorov (photo via NHL.com)
2nd Tier Prospect: AKA the Travis Tier
Just below Provorov, and it’s really not a huge gap, Travis Sanheim was excellent in the WHL last year. He finished 4th (Provorov was 1st) in scoring by a defensemen. That’s a bit unfair though as Sanheim was actually 1st in points per game by a defenseman. He only finished 4th because he missed 20 games. It’s entirely possible that Travis ends up having a higher ceiling than Provorov, but for now the consensus is that Ivan is more ready for the NHL. The fact that Sanheim’s eligible for the AHL and Provorov isn’t doesn’t help his chances of having an immediate impact.
Travis Sanheim (photo via phantomshockey.com)
Easily the best Flyers forward prospect, Travis Konecny is a dynamic offensive player. He’s probably not ready for a full NHL workload right now as he’s smallish (5’10” – 175~) and likely not tremendous defensively. If his minutes could be limited and skewed to the offensive zone and powerplay (similar to Brayden Schenn’s deployment in the past) he could contribute valuable offense. He’ll push for a spot in training camp, but right now all signs point to him heading back to junior as the Flyers are pretty set at forward.
Travis Konecny (photo via ottawa67s.com)
3rd Tier Prospect: Potential Top-4 D/Top-6 F
Phillipe Myers could be an absolute diamond in the rough. The Flyers signed him out of nowhere last year and he delivered in a big way for Rouyn-Noranda in the Q. He’s big (6’5″ – 200+) and unlike Sam Morin he can score a little bit. He might take a little longer to develop (just like Sam), but I feel he projects slightly and has a chance to be a Top-4 two way D.
Phillipe Myers (photo via Minas Panagiotakis/Getty Images)
The Flyers probably shouldn’t have taken Sam Morin as high as they did (11th), but his size is something you can’t teach (6’7″ – 230+). He wasn’t out of place in the AHL last year as a rookie, and penciling him in as a number 5 or 6 defenseman in the NHL seems like a lock. With that 5 or 6 position locked down there’s still room to grow so jumping into something like a 2nd pair role isn’t too far-fetched. There are a lot of Luke Schenn comparisons out there, and those aren’t totally off-base. Essentially he’s Schenn with about 6 extra inches of reach, and maybe a bit more offensive flair.
Sam Morin (photo via Frank Fimmano – Fimmano Photography)
The one guy who has a real chance to surprise people this season is Oskar Lindblom. He could find himself at the top of this chart, or take himself right off of it becoming an NHL regular by next year. He’s only 20 years old and has played parts of 3 pro seasons already in the Swedish league. Last year he had 25 points in 48 games becoming a useful player for Brynas; not to mention he debuted in Lehigh Valley netting 7 points in 8 games. It seems like his floor is somewhere around the 3rd line, but his ceiling could be much higher. Watch out for him to turn some heads in the Swedish League this year as he’s signed with Brynas.
Oskar Lindblom (photo via Nina Weiss)
Unfortunately German Rubtsov will be back in the KHL for at least this season with Chekhov Vityaz. He’s already suited up for 3 games this season. It would have been nice to see him closer to Philly, but he’s 18 years old and playing pro hockey. Vityaz aren’t the strongest club so he’ll probably get a decent amount of playing time.. although so far he’s averaged just 7 minutes a night. It’s not an ideal situation, but Rubtsov is a 1st Round Pick. He’ll have plenty of incentive to come over to North America unlike lower Russian picks who sometimes disappear and opt to stay in the KHL. Best to put him on the back-burner for now and let him simmer.
German Rubtsov (photo via 360tv.ru)
4th Tier Prospect: Depth Guys Who Might Have A Shot
Dismissing a prospect who’s only 21 years old is pretty stupid, but that’s where I am on Robert Hagg. He’s been completely unimpressive in 2 seasons in Lehigh Valley. He’s been leaned on too heavily, and might fare better in a lesser role this season. He still has a chance at being something.. maybe a 3rd pairing NHL D, but he’s falling behind in what’s now a pretty deep pool of defensemen.
Mark Friedman’s been a pleasant surprise for Bowling Green State U. as he’s quickly become their best defenseman. A bit on the small side (5’10” but listed at 190) it’ll probably be a while before he has a shot to make the Flyers, but he’s been good in college so far. 2 more years of NCAA eligibility, no reason to rush him at this stage.
Taylor Leier is only ranked behind Lindblom and Rubtsov here because he has very little chance of being a Top-6 NHL forward. He could absolutely become a 3rd/4th line forward, maybe even this season for Philadelphia. A good checking assignment guy, but not much else. If you were looking for guys to make an immediate impact, look no further, but in terms of future Flyers’ star players.. he just won’t get there.
Taylor Leier (photo via Frank Fimmano – Fimmano Photography)
I view Radel Fazleev much the same as I viewed Leier not so long ago.. a defensive forward who is skilled enough to chip in offensively sometimes. He’s got a shot to be a depth NHLer. We’ll get a clearer picture of his skill in the AHL this season. Definitely worth noting that having Fazleev and new free agent addition Roman Lyubimov already in the Flyers system provides a bit of a safety net for bringing over other Russian prospects like German Rubtsov and goaltender Ivan Fedotov.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel is a better offensive forward than both of Fazleev / Leier as he’s shown a knack for finding the back of the net. Back-to-back 38 goal seasons in the QMJHL has me wondering what he can do in the pro’s. It’s possible he’s been underestimated and he vaults into a higher tier pretty quickly as the AHL season starts. I’d rank Aube-Kubel right behind Lindholm in terms of ‘guys who might surprise us in training camp’. Had a solid audition in Lehigh Valley at the same time as Lindblom and will probably take a top-6 role there this season.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (photo via Chris Knight)
The book on Pascal Laberge is pretty similar to German Rubtsov. A talented two-way centerman who can play in all situations. Both played as U-18 internationals, both will probably get a crack at their respective u-20 teams, and both are a few years away from Philly. The only difference is Rubtsov is already playing pro, and projects a bit higher.
A big winger who saw his stock rise quite a bit last year, Wade Allison was dangerous in the USHL (especially in the playoffs) for Tri-City. That said Allison is still a project, much like Laberge. Years away from making an impact. He’s headed to Western Michigan U. this year so we might not get a real read on him for 3 or 4 seasons.
Cooper Marody is probably one of the least talked about Flyers prospects. A former 6th Rounder, he had 24 points in his rookie season for U. Michigan last year. Could turn out to be a steal, but he’ll need time to develop.
5th Tier Prospect: Probably AHL Level / Not Enough Info
Mark Alt is a pretty good measuring stick for most of these prospects. He’s an AHL regular who can pull spot-duty in the NHL, but not much more than that. Reece Willcox showed absolutely no offensive promise during a full ride with Cornell, but fared better than expected in a late season audition with Lehigh Valley. Right now a comparison to Mark Alt is apt and projecting him any higher than ‘fringe NHLer’ would be sketchy at best.
Mark Alt (photo via Frank Fimmano – Fimmano Photography)
Linus Hogberg suited up for a couple of games as a 16 year old in the Swedish league last year. Other than that he played well in the Swedish Junior league, and that’s about all the info we have to go on. Getting into pro hockey games in your draft year is a good thing. If he gets a regular shift with Vaxjo this season and consideration for the Swedish World Junior team in December then we’ll know the Flyers have done well.. if not then we’ll have to wait a little longer to get a read on him.
Terrance Amorosa nursed an injury last year, but was probably Clarkson University’s best defensemen as a Sophomore. Very similar situation as Mark Friedman, but Amorosa didn’t make as good an initial impact. He was a late round pick and there isn’t a whole lot of information floating around just yet. He had the best points per game rate of any Clarkson D so that’s something.
Just like Alt, Petr Straka is the measuring stick I’ll use for AHL level forwards. Straka has pretty much topped out, and has been used in a few NHL games, but has never done enough at the AHL level to get an extended audition. I see Cole Bardreau, Danick Martel, and Tyrell Goulbourne at the same level as Straka right now. Goulbourne probably the lesser of all 4, but given the same role with the same linemates I could see Tyrell producing similar numbers simply by going to dirty areas. All 3 were essentially rookies last season and were serviceable AHLers. Unlike Straka I think they may have the potential to grow a bit more and climb this chart.
Petr Straka (photo via Frank Fimmano – Fimmano Photography)
Mikhail Vorobyov was a 4th Round pick by the Flyers in 2015. He’s now in his 2nd year of KHL hockey with Salavat Yulaev Ufa where he’s registered 3 goals and 1 assist in 31 total games. We just don’t know enough to say he’s legit. Similar to Vorobyov I’m just barely slipping David Kase into this bottom level. He’s shown flashes of being brilliant at the international level for the Czechs, but hasn’t done anything in the Czech pro league yet. Still, he’s playing in a pro league (albeit a lower tier pro league).
The Flyers had a good view of Carsen Twarynski last season with the Hitmen as they watched Sanheim and Fazleev develop. They were familiar with him and took him with a late 3rd Round pick. Difficult to say much about him as he wasn’t starring with the Hitmen, he’ll get a bigger role this year and we’ll find out if he has anything to offer. The same sentiment can be applied to Connor Bunnaman of the Kitchener Rangers. He wasn’t a featured forward, but Philadelphia took him in the 4th Round this past Entry Draft. Not enough info, will receive a bigger role as an 18 year old.
Finally there’s Tanner Laczynski who has been good enough in the USHL to get the attention of the American national program. He’s played for the U18s and U19s so there’s a good chance we’ll see him at the U20s. Like Wade Allison he’s headed to the NCAA this season to play some college hockey for Ohio State; another long term project.
Off the pyramid there’s a mix of late round reaches like Anthony Salinitri, AHL dumpster fires like Jesper Pettersson, a couple guys who had injury plagued seasons last year Samuel Dove-McFalls / Michael Parks, and some seemingly long term defense projects David Bernhardt / David Drake. You could also lump Valeri Vasiliev, or Christian Marti into this group, but they’re destined to be Euro League lifers I think. These are the types of players that fill out prospect depth charts. It’s difficult to say if they’ll ever be even close to the NHL level, but at worst they can probably be AHL depth.