Welcome to the Bi-Weekly Prospect Report! This is the first in an on-going series of posts which will monitor the development of Philadelphia Flyers’ prospects over the course of this season. Hopefully the information I present here is as enjoyable to read as it will be for me to gather. In coming reports, I’ll be trying to go more in depth; watching a lot of game footage and highlights, whatever I can get my hands on. For this first report though, I thought I would cover the basics of what’s happened over the first 10-20 games for these young men.
Forwards in the Professional Ranks
Scott Laughton tries to jam one in during play against the Marlies Nov 15th (via phantomshockey.com).
Scott Laughton (2012 – 1st Round)
Lehigh Valley have gotten off to a so-so start (more information here from Sean Gold) going 6-6-1. That’s actually an alright start considering the results the farm team had in the 5 seasons in Adirondack. They had a winning record once.. if you were interested.. you probably weren’t.. they were bad. However, a new infusion of talent from a revitalized prospect pool has people in a more optimistic state of mind.
First and foremost that revitalization starts with Laughton. If the Flyers weren’t so deep at center already Scott would probably be playing a shut-down role for Philadelphia similar to what Couturier occupies. That’s a tough pill to swallow; Sean takes about 60-70% of his face-offs in the defensive zone against the opposing team’s best players. Every night. So it’s probably a good thing Laughton is getting to flex his offensive muscles a little more at the AHL level. While 6 goals and 5 assists in 13 games isn’t Superstar-calibre it’s certainly a great start for a player who projects as a defense first center. Scott was instrumental in the Phantoms’ 3-2 win vs the Marlies this past Saturday with a goal and an assist.
Nick Cousins (2011 – 3rd Round)
Cousins has always been regarded as a good offensive player, but his status as a prospect had been inflated because of the lack of depth in the Flyers’ system. He’ll now be overshadowed by some bigger names, but that’s probably a good thing because a lot of the pressure that was on him to produce has been placed on the shoulders of other players. With Laughton getting most of the attention from other teams Cousins has been freed up to play against lesser competition and his 11 points in 13 contests attests to that. The fact is he’s an offensively talented yet undersized (5’10”) centerman, and it’s likely going to take a long time for him to gain enough respect to get a shot at the NHL (see: Jason Akeson).
Taylor Leier (2012 – 4th Round)
If Cousins is rowing the undersized forward boat Leier is sitting beside him with the other oar (5’11”). Unlike Cousins, Leier has never been regarded as an elite offensive talent. Sure he was a point per game player in the WHL, but he’s more of a defensive type and one thing working to his advantage is that he ISN’T a center! The Flyers are fairly thin at LW and for that reason I think we’re more likely to see him at the NHL level sooner than Cousins. It also helps his chances that he’s quite highly regarded; Captaining a strong Portland team out of the WHL and surprising many by making the Canadian World Junior team last Christmas and putting in some quality minutes in a defensive role (alongside Laughton). 6 points in 13 games is a fair start to his pro career.
Petr Straka (Free Agent)
A player that kind of fell through the cracks of the Blue Jackets’ system (2010 – 2nd Round), Straka has had a bumpy ride in his short career. Drafted out of Rimouski in the QMJHL, struggled in subsequent seasons, unsigned by Columbus, traded by his junior team, etc. Disregarding all of that, I think the Flyers have found a good complimentary forward here who has really bulked up recently (close to 200 pounds now). Another beneficiary of the improved farm system, Petr has 7 points in 11 games for LV. Considering he had just 9 goals all of last season, putting 3 on the board in just 11 games is a step in the right direction.
Oskar Lindblom (2014 – 5th Round)
Perhaps the most intriguing prospect on the list for the Flyers is Lindblom. Currently he’s playing for Brynas in the Swedish Hockey League as a professional at 18. He’s listed at 6’1″ and 195 pounds which means he’s already got enough on his frame to make the jump to the North American pro ranks. He has 2 goals in 7 games for Brynas and he’s also picked up 2 assists in 3 exhibition matches for Sweden’s U20 junior team. I look forward to seeing what he can do at the World Juniors this year in Toronto/Montreal.
Kevin Goumas (Free Agent)
Coming off a great College career at the University of New Hampshire I expected Goumas to have a bit of a better start to his AHL career. He’s struggled with just 2 points for LV, but he’s being buried on the depth chart because of the guys in front of him. After scoring 18, 34, 42 and finally 52 points for UNH I think he deserves a chance to contribute in a top-6 role. I can’t see Goumas struggling for an entire year at the AHL level, but maybe size is again a factor here as everything I’ve seen lists him at 5’10” and a very light 160-170 lbs.
Brandon Alderson (Free Agent)
One of the few bigger forwards in the Flyers’ system is Alderson. A winger who was signed because he was linemates and presumably buddies with Nick Cousins in junior, Alderson was surprisingly effective last season when he scored 14 goals. Granted he was getting way too much ice time last year thanks to a thin ADK roster, but he performed admirably for a guy who was overlooked by the rest of the NHL’s scouts. 4 points in 13 games thus far is in line with what I would expect.
Forwards in College or Junior
Michael Parks (2010 – 5th Round)
From a development point of view it probably would have benefited both Parks and the Phantoms to have the winger ditch his last year at the University of North Dakota and play pro this season. You certainly can’t fault him for wanting to finish up his 4th year though. Parks is another guy who has packed on some pounds since being drafted way back in 2010 (he’s up to 200) and it showed at this past training camp where he was impressive. After a solid 30 points for UND last season he’s upped the ante and has poured in 14 points in just 11 games this year. Definitely a guy to keep an eye on heading into training camp next year as he might be able to make the jump as a checking line player.
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
Fazleev has been adequate for the Hitmen so far this season with 18 points through 20 games. It’s more impressive when you know that he plays a defensive role on that team and often doesn’t get very good zone starts as he plays against the opposing teams best forwards. I’ve had the pleasure to watch Radel in person a lot (I live in Calgary) and he’s what I would call a responsible forward. I’d like to see him take more risks, but Calgary have cast him in a checking role. He doesn’t have elite level finishing ability, but he is a good puckmover. Along with that he’s a great forechecker and almost always finds himself in good position in all zones. He’s one of those players who is always in the way (like Couturier), he finds ways to block passing lanes and turn pucks over.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
Drafted 120 spots in front of Fazleev this past June, Aube-Kubel had a strong training camp which led to him nabbing an entry level deal. He was largely overshadowed by rising star Anthony Mantha (Red Wings) in Val d’Or last season, but still managed 53 points in 65 games. This year he’s stepped into a larger role with the Foreurs and has found more of a goal scoring touch (9 tallies in 17 games) as the team tries to replace Mantha’s 57 goals. Much like Fazleev and Parks, Nicolas is a two-way forward who plays the entire length of the ice. Seems like the Flyers scouts are focused on grabbing as many players in that category as possible. Keep an eye on Val d’Or as they have a slew of draft eligible players this year. Chances are fairly high the Flyers are watching Aube-Kubel and go back to that watering hole to nab one of their 17-year-olds.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
Goulbourne looked like a horrible pick by the Flyers’ brass in 2013. He was taken in the 3rd round after a 27 point – 135 PIM season for Kelowna. He would’ve been available in the 7th.. or as a free agent for that matter if they wanted him. He has 15 points (10 goals) in 14 games this season in the WHL as a 20-year-old, but that’s not his doing. He’s playing for a super-powered Rockets squad that has demolished the dub for a record of 20-1-1. My first instinct is he’s nothing more than Rinaldo 2.0, but the finishing ability is slightly intriguing. On another positive note his PIMs are down to just 14 in 14 contests. He’ll likely get an AHL contract of some sort for next season and we’ll be able to evaluate him at that level more thoroughly.
Defensemen in the Professional Ranks
Shayne Gostisbehere (2012 – 3rd Round)
Oh you thought we were done with this sob story? I’m here to shove it into your face one more time. After a promising start to the season the player affectionately known as Ghost is all but done for this year after an ACL tear. It’s a shame since he was sure to factor into any success Lehigh Valley might have this year not to mention this will really hurt his development. As we found out this weekend Ghost had successful surgery, but will be out at least 3 to 3 and a half months. He could be back for a playoff push if things go well for the team in his absence.
Horrible way to start to his professional career but there is some good to take away from the early audition he had with the Flyers. He made some risky looking plays skating his way through and out of traffic, but for the most part he was successful in escaping checks. He can skate his way out of trouble the way Erik Karlsson of the Senators does (he’s not Karlsson good, but he’s definitely got the skills to be a top-4 NHL defender). For all the offensive acumen we did see flaws in his defensive game. He was caught running around and didn’t look like he could out-muscle NHL forwards just yet. 5 assists in 5 AHL games and a solid albeit limited 2 game NHL debut have hopes running high for the contributions he might bring to the Flyers.
Robert Hagg (2013 – 2nd Round)
Flying much more under the radar than his North American compatriots, Robert Hagg has played as advertized for Lehigh Valley. Steady. Through 13 games he’s managed 7 points (1 goal) and because of the Ghostisbehere injury we’re far more likely to see Hagg pulling major Powerplay time this year. For the most part though he’s been impressive when a man short. There was a 6-on-3 sequence during the Phantoms game against the Marlies this past weekend where Hagg blocked shots and saved a goal when Rob Zepp was caught out of position. No doubt Hagg has the skill and size at 6’2″ and 200+ pounds to defend at the NHL level. If the Flyers can clear out some of these albatross contracts in the coming seasons he could easily step in.
Mark Alt (Free Agent)
23-year-old Mark Alt had a great season for a troubled Adirondack team last year with 26 points in 75 games. This season however, he’s had an early shoulder injury that’s kept him out. His return is expected in late November which is great for the Phantoms who could use his playmaking ability with the loss of Ghostisbehere. Mark will probably be the main beneficiary of Shayne being out as he’ll get a chance to be the PP quarterback, it’ll be interesting to see how he runs with this opportunity in the coming months. It could go a long way to solidifying his place among a growing stable of defensive prospects.
Jesper Pettersson (2014 – 7th Round)
Pettersson’s stat line from the Swedish league.. 1 goal 3 assists in 62 games in his 18 and 19-year-old seasons. He’s not going to contribute on the scoresheet, we know this much. He’s a stay at home defender who’s game is basically not to get scored on. Pettersson has been paired up with Hagg recently and it wouldn’t be ridiculous to see his points jump up if he comes across a few secondary assists, but with 2 assists in 13 games he’s pretty much lived up to his billing.
Literally everything you need to know about Pettersson can be summed up in this video of him leaving the box to join a brawl in a World Junior game vs. Russia. Yes, you’ve probably already seen that, but it’s just too great not to watch again. He’s 5’9″ but built like a cinderblock.
Valeri Vasiliev (2012 – 7th Round)
Like Pettersson, Vasiliev was taken with a 7th Round pick. It’s pretty common practice in the NHL for teams to take big swings on Europeans in the late rounds of the draft in hopes of finding a diamond in the rough. It seemed to be a good selection since Valeri was ranked as high as 12th among European skaters during his draft year, he was selected to the Russian World Junior team and is now competing in his 3rd season at the KHL level. In total he’s had 7 points in 69 KHL games while compiling just 31 penalty minutes. We’ll have a better idea of what he might become if he decides to sign a professional contract in North America, until then I can only speculate that he’s a similar player to Pettersson based on what I’ve read.
Defensemen in Junior or College
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
I’ve talked at length about Sanheim on twitter and on other blogs before, he’s a bonafide stud at the WHL level. He had an outstanding training camp where he pushed the big three (Gostisbehere, Hagg, Morin) and in many ways (at least in my opinion) surpassed them. At 6’3″ Sanheim has the size to compete with the biggest the NHL has to offer and he has a magnificent skill set to boot. He’s exhibited tremendous poise under pressure while handling the puck and is able to break up offensive rushes by efficiently separating players from the puck.
He’s been the driving force behind an slightly underperforming Hitmen team in Calgary. Pegged as a pre-season favourite to take the WHL title Calgary have had an up-and-down ride to a 10-8-1-2 record so far. A lot of that had to do with the absence of Jake Virtanen (Canucks) due to shoulder surgery. Travis showed he was more than ready to fill the leadership vacancy left by Virtanen though as he piled up a point-per-game through his first 10. He’s settled down now. but has still had 15 points in 20 WHL games (7 of which have been goals). We’re not likely to see him at the NHL level in the next couple of years due to the group of prospects ahead of him at the professional level. There’s no need to rush him to the NHL just yet.
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
A fractured jaw (puck to the face) in early October was a pretty big scare for the hulking defender. He’ll be returning to the Rimouski line-up by early December if all goes well with his recovery. When Morin was selected I wasn’t very excited. He’s big and lanky, but he takes bad penalties and has a really volatile temper. However in the season following his draft year (despite putting up even more penalties) his offensive game came together. He jumped from 16 to 31 points and also had 8 points in 11 playoff games. So I started to come around.
Morin is 6’7″ and somewhere near 230 pounds (tough to know as the listings are all over the place) so it’s plain to see he can handle the physicality of the NHL. On a bad note, from what I’ve seen he’s a bad puck handler. He’s been panicky when pressured in the prospect games and training camp videos I’ve viewed. That’s not to say he can’t be an effective shutdown type at the NHL level, and the word out of the Canadian World Junior camps last year was that he was out-skating Aaron Ekblad. That has to be worth something. Here’s hoping Sam gets well soon and turns out a dominating QMJHL season.
Mark Friedman (2014 – 3rd Round)
A 3rd rounder out of the USHL (where he was phenomenal 75 points in 115 games), Friedman committed to Bowling Green State. 12 games into his freshman campaign he’s managed to post 3 points. BGSU are 8-3-1 to start and are coming off a split with Ohio State in a home and home. Both games were decided by a 3-2 score. While Friedman doesn’t appear to be getting top-pairing minutes he is being deployed in a 2nd-pair role and he’s dressed for all 12 games. As a freshman that’s about all you can ask for if you’re a mid-tier prospect. One worrisome statistic considering he wasn’t known as a penalty-prone player in the USHL; his team leading 29 PIMs.
Anthony Stolarz (2012)
2 seasons ago when Stolarz announced he was leaving the University of Nebraska for the London Knights of the OHL I was both excited and wary. The fact that the Knights (perennial OHL Contenders) were interested is enough to tell you he’s a great player. On the other hand you never want to see any player leaving a team he committed to mid-season.
Stolarz delivered on his end in his OHL time as he went a combined 38-8-4 in 2 years of eligibility. It’s tough to judge him based solely on that record though because London have had some tremendous talent flowing through their pipeline in the last few years. Anthony had the pleasure of playing behind players like Maxi Domi, Seth Griffith, Bo Horvat, Olli Maata, Nikita Zadorov, Scott Harrington, and a guy who will be called in the first handful of picks this year Mitch Marner.
Based on what we’ve seen out of Lehigh Valley, Stolarz needs a lot of polishing which is okay because goalies take longer to mature; especially big goalies like Anthony at 6’6″. He’s gone 0-3 so far with a .909 s% and a 3.05 gaa. His starts have been okay and he’s faced a lot of shots, but he hasn’t had much for goal support (just 5 in 3 games). It looks like veteran Rob Zepp has taken the reigns for good, Stolarz will need to run hot to take the starting job.
Merrick Madsen (2013 – 6th Round)
Has yet to see game action behind Senior Steve Michalek; who’s been good with a .941 s% and a 1.79 gaa. Just a freshman and he’ll probably be there for the whole ride since the Flyers have Stolarz at the AHL level now.
On the Fringes
Brandon Manning (Free Agent)
Manning has been a band-aid for the Flyers for the past few seasons accumulating 12 games and 3 assists. He seems to run around entirely too much and plays very physically, but has yet to take an NHL penalty. Strange since he had 231 PIMs in Adirondack last year.. 2 game winning goals this year (one this past weekend) and 8 points total in 11 games. Maybe this is a new and improved Manning?
Oliver Lauridsen (2009 – 7th Round)
The Great Dane maybe isn’t so great.. a towering 6’6″ blueliner, Lauridsen hasn’t really made anything of himself after raising eyebrows in a 15 game stint for the Flyers 2 years ago. It’s likely Lauridsen gets buried behind the slew of incoming talent.
Matt Konan (Free Agent)
A concussion has sidelined Konan this season. Management seemed high on him last season as they gave him a 2 game cup of coffee with the Flyers.
Marcel Noebels (2011 – 4th Round)
He’s back in Germany because he couldn’t hold down a spot in the AHL. That’s generally not a good sign.
Nick Luukko (2010 – 6th Round)
A Senior of U. Vermont this year, it’ll be surprising if Luukko can turn out to be an NHL defenseman. 22 points in 100 Hockey East games. The teams he’s played on haven’t been good until Vermont’s turnaround this year but that change of fate hasn’t been Nick’s doing. He’s had 1 point in 10 matches.
Reece Willcox (2012 – 5th Round)
Has established himself as a stay-at-home defender for a mediocre Cornell team (1-4-1). 1 shot in 6 games, but 13 blocks and hasn’t been a liability. Won’t be a point producer at the pro level; 10 assists in 72 games.
Terrance Amorosa (2013 – 5th Round)
Just 4 games played for Clarkson U as a freshman, looks as though he’s battling for time vs other more senior defensemen.
David Drake (2013 – 7th Round)
A 2-5-3 start for the UConn Huskies hasn’t been the best. Combine that with the fact this is a pretty young team on defense and it means Drake will get opportunities at least. 1 goal in 8 games
Maxim Lamarche (Free Agent)
After a respectable QMJHL career Lamarche (like Noebels) hasn’t been able to keep his AHL job. With the rash of injuries on the Phantoms roster he’s likely to get some time, but he needs to do something drastic to prevent soon being lost under a pile of better prospects.
Andrew Johnston (Free Agent)
I’m not entirely sure why Johnston was ever offered an Entry-level deal.. yup he’s taking up a spot on the 50-man roster that’s about it. ELC runs out after this season and I can’t see any reason he’ll be back.
2015 Draft Eligibles
I thought it would be interesting to throw in a bonus at the end of my of posts. For said bonus I turn to prospects that aren’t in the Flyers’ system, but should be on their radar for the coming draft in the Summer of 2015.
Starting things off is a relatively unknown Russian that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing a lot because he plays for the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, Pavel Karnaukhov. Obviously I’m playing favourites here because he plays for the same team as Sanheim and Fazleev (whom I view every week), but Pavel is a legitimate prospect who will be picked during the 2015 draft. How high he goes remains to be seen, but the sky is the limit. He’s had 10 goals and 5 assists in 21 games and has landed on the top line with Virtanen lately. If he stays there flirting with a point per game pace isn’t out of the question.