Flyers Prospect Watch: Defensemen

But soft! What light through yonder window breaks? It is the East, and Ivan is the Sun. Arise, fair Sun, and kill the envious veterans who are sick and pale with sour shot attempt percentages. The only problem is Ivan’s rays of beautiful sunshine are having trouble bursting through a thick layer of dust on that window. The dust of dying careers like those of Streit, Schultz, and MacDonald. The Flyers have leaned heavily towards drafting high calibre defense prospects in the past few years, and this season it seems we will finally get to see some of the results at the NHL level. Provorov, Sanheim, Morin, Myers.. familiarize yourselves with these names.

Head over here for Goaltending Prospects!

And here for Forwards!

Defense 2016-17 – A TL;DR

  1. Streit, AMac, Schultz, Gostisbehere, Del Zotto,  and Gudas should all be back. Ideally there’s a market for one of the first 3 in that list, but it will be tough to move any of them before the trade deadline early in 2017. There is young blood on the way, but the blueline is a bit clogged this season. Maybe a buy-out? Probably not if Umberger is getting bought out. Thus, we have that group of 6. Brandon Manning is in “no manning’s land”.. nailed it.. between the AHL and the NHL because of the up-and-coming prospects. If Provorov stays, Manning is probably demoted. I think Provorov staying is likely, and therefore Manning would be the odd man out.
  1. The guys in the Spare Parts section.. should not be back. Medvedev was pretty ‘meh’ (he also got a DUI recently), Drewiske is a-dime-a-dozen, Alt looked promising but has been overshadowed by just about every other promising prospect in the system, and Lamarche looks like a career ECHLer. Time to move on.
  1. Manning, Sanheim, Morin, Hagg, Wilcox, Marti, and Pettersson make up what looks like a young and improving Phantoms defense group. The rest of the depth chart in Lehigh Valley can be filled out with AHL/ECHL contracts giving the Flyers freedom to sign 1 or 2 Entry Level deals with any new prospects that catch Hextall’s fancy.

NHL

Mark Streit – 1y – $5.25m   /   Shayne Gostisbehere – 1y – $0.925m

Michael Del Zotto – 1y – $3.875m   /   Andrew MacDonald – Eternity – $5.0m

Nick Schultz – 1y – $2.25m   /   Radko Gudas – RFA – $0.992m

AHL

Travis Sanheim – 3y – $0.894m   /   Brandon Manning – RFA – $0.625m

Sam Morin – 2y – $0.863m   /   Robert Hagg – 1y – $0.894m

Reece Willcox – 2y – $0.680m   /   Christian Marti – 1y – $0.793

Jesper Pettersson – 1y – $0.645m

Junior Eligible

Ivan Provorov – 3y – $0.925m   /   Phillipe Myers – 3y – $0.637m

Spare Parts

Yevgeni Medvedev – UFA – $3.0m   /   Davis Drewiske – UFA – $0.575m

Mark Alt – RFA – $0.782m   /   Maxime Lamarche – RFA – $0.767m

Signed Prospects

Ivan Provorov (2015 – 7th Pick)

photo: JUAN PROVOROV! Take it up with Forte font distributor Monotype alright? It's a capital 'I'.

photo: JUAN PROVOROV! Take it up with Forte font distributor Monotype alright? It’s a capital ‘I’.

Sadly for penultimate Flyer prospect Provorov, the Brandon Wheat Kings do not look very strong at the 2016 Memorial Cup. The WHL Champs are 0-2 right now with a game against the host Red Deer Rebels tonight (May 25th). They’ll have to win that game by 6 or more if they want to bump themselves to the semi-final. If they don’t they’ll have to play both Red Deer and Rouyn Noranda to get to London, who are off for 4 days now awaiting their opposition. It’s going to be a tough climb for Brandon.

The Wheat Kings were demolished 9-1 by London on the strength of Mitch Marner’s 4 assists and Christian Dvorak’s hat trick. Oh and 2016 Draft Eligible Matthew Tkachuk threw in a couple points to give the line a combined 10 point night! That loss came on the heels of opening the tournament with a 5-3 loss to QMJHL leaders Rouyn-Noranda. Despite that set back Provorov has registered assists on 2 of the 4 Wheat Kings goals. It’s not much, but he’s still breathing.

In total Ivan has 134 points in 122 WHL games, and 26 points in 40 playoff games. He’s fresh off a WHL championship, and he’s obviously outgrown the Junior ranks. Unlike when considering a guy like Gostisbehere who was (and still is to a degree) fairly slight, Provorov’s 6’0 – 200 pound frame doesn’t raise any questions. He’s thick. The question for the Flyers is are they desperate enough for competent blueliners that they push Ivan into service with a year of junior eligibility left? The answer is yes. The Claude Giroux group isn’t getting any younger and (believe it or not) are on the downside of their careers. Guys like Giroux, Voracek, and Simmonds aren’t getting any better. They’ve peaked. They’re only going to become less dominant from here on out. So bringing up a guy like Provorov to help a low-end NHL defensive unit makes a lot of sense. If he can pull the same trick as Gostisbehere and drag Schultz, or AMac around the ice while evening out their possession game he will have done his duty.

Sam Morin (2013 – 11th Pick)

If this season were in a vacuum I would be surprised if Morin didn’t break camp with the Flyers. He could realistically bump out Schultz or MacDonald (and that would probably be for the best), but it’s much more probable due to bad contracts that the Flyers go with a veteran and Sam ends up back in Lehigh Valley. The 6’7″ monster put up 19 points in a full AHL schedule last season, and kept his temper (mostly) in check (118 pims) so he still has room to improve in the AHL. For a big, physical, defensive guy that wasn’t a horrible first year of pro hockey; especially on a pretty rough Phantoms roster. Hextall shouldn’t be averse to throwing Morin into 3rd-pairing NHL duty, but with Provorov pushing and a glut of veterans I think the 2017-18 season is a more realistic goal for Morin.

Travis Sanheim (2014 – 17th Pick)

photo: Harry Fisher / The Morning Call

photo: Harry Fisher / The Morning Call

A year older than Provorov and a year younger than Morin, Sanheim (henceforth known as ‘the middle child’) finds himself in an awkward position. The funny thing here is.. because of his AHL eligibility.. he probably won’t get as much of an opportunity to make the team out of camp as Ivan will. As the middle child, he will likely start off the year with Lehigh Valley where he had 1 goal and 2 assists in a 4 game try out this Spring. The middle child.. okay that’s enough.. is coming off a 68 point campaign (52 games) with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. Which if you’re counting is 3 more points in 15 less games than last season. A good step up! He stands at 6’4″ and has surely added enough weight to tip the scales at over 200 pounds. Like Provorov, both his body and game seem ready for the big time, and it’s entirely possible (unlikely, but possible) that both make the team. Wouldn’t it be a breath of fresh air if the top-6 were Streit, Gostisbehere, Del Zotto, Gudas, Provorov, Sanheim!?

Robert Hagg (2013 – 41st Pick)

In the last year of his Entry deal, Hagg will have to improve vastly to make an impact with Flyers’ management. After a solid rookie year with 20 points in 69 AHL games, he regressed to 11 points in 65 games. It’s very possible that Hagg has been pushed a little too hard in the last 2 seasons on a thin Lehigh Valley blueline. He was tasked with tough assignments as a 19/20 year old and that might have been too much for him. The likely addition of Sanheim in particular to the AHL roster will probably take a lot of stress off Hagg and hopefully he can rebound. It would be a shame if his experience with a bad Phantoms team has been detrimental to what looked like a promising career.

Reece Willcox (2012 – 141st Pick)

Those familiar with the Phantoms will know that Willcox made a very positive debut on a try-out contract with Lehigh Valley at the end of the season. After scoring 29 points in his entire NCAA career (120 games for Cornell) Reece had 1 goal and 2 assists for Lehigh Valley in his 6 game audition. It’s been a long road for Willcox who was drafted out of the BCHL, but that short 6 game span is likely what cemented his contract status. Just ask Nick Luukko (see further down the list). Don’t expect him to produce at that sort of rate long term, but he looks to be a solid addition at the AHL level. Surely he can’t be as bad as the next 2 guys on the list.

Christian Marti (2015 – Free Agent)

Signed at 22-years-old, Marti rode some momentum off a successful 2 year span in the Swiss National League (and a few points at a World Junior tournament) to his current Entry deal. After 20 points in 82 total Swiss League games he wasn’t expected to produce much in the AHL, but everyone was hoping he might be a bit of a steal. His single assist in 27 AHL games really didn’t surprise anyone and he was later sent to the Reading Royals of the ECHL. You might be able to chalk this first North American season up as a learning experience, but if he can’t make anything happen this year he’ll probably be back in Switzerland for the 2017-18 season.

Jesper Pettersson (2014 – 198th Pick)

I guess you could call Pettersson’s selection in the 2014 draft a ‘waster’. Kind of like taking a shot at the goalie from center ice just to test him. Pettersson was that kind of shot. He played 51 games for the Phantoms last season and had 7 points, this year he managed 3 points in 24 games.. pretty similar results. He also had 20 points in 43 ECHL games, but that’s nothing to write home about. Petterson is a 5’9″ square block of a man.. kind of like a turtle. Like his stout-shelled brethern he sure seems set in his defensive ways. Those 20 ECHL points are the best offensive touch he’s ever displayed and he’s most famous for being involved in a rather dramatic World Junior scrum. He seems like nothing more than a replacement level AHL player.

Phillipe Myers (2015 – Free Agent)

photo: Jeff McIntosh / Canadian Press

photo: Jeff McIntosh / Canadian Press

6’5″ Phillipe Myers (seen above-right being terrified of what can only be spiders) has junior eligibility and his name isn’t Provorov.. safe to say he will be in Rouyn Noranda in 2016/17. Myers is an interesting story for the Flyers scouts. He was a development camp invitee in Calgary after going undrafted last June, and the Flames made no move on him. He then came to Flyers training camp as what looked like a space filler and out of nowhere he was signed to an Entry deal. It was very odd to seemingly waste a contract slot on a guy who had put up just 12 points in 106 career QMJHL contests.

Myers turned around and took a major step forward notching 45 points in 63 games, helping a strong Rouyn Noranda team dominate the Q to the tune of 54-9-3-2. Myers’ 16 points in 20 playoff games were 2nd most by a Huskies’ defender (only overage deadline acquisition Nik Brouillard had more – 20). This could be Myers driving play, or perhaps riding coat-tails.. anyway, there’s plenty of time to be patient with him as the Flyers have an abundance of defensive prospects. Rouyn actually won a match-up with Provorov’s Wheat Kings (as mentioned above), but lost to the host Red Deer Rebels, and the dominant London Knights falling 5-2 in both games. The Huskies will have to beat all 3 teams to take home the Cup which is very unlikely. Myers at least, has looked strong posting 1 goal and an assist on a team with a fizzling offense.

Unsigned Prospects

Mark Friedman (2014 – 86th Pick)

After making a splash in the USHL netting 75 points in 115 games over 2 seasons Mark was drafted, and decided to attend Bowling Green State University. He made another splash at BGSU by contributing 19 points in 39 games as a rookie. It’s not often that a rookie gets a good chunk of ice time in the NCAA, but Friedman made his case and shot up the Flyers’ depth charts. He’s coming off another solid season at Bowling Green where he had 23 points in 42 games. Just like Myers, I don’t see a reason to rush Friedman. However, if Friedman were of a mind to waive his last 2 years in the NCAA I wouldn’t be opposed to adding him to the AHL roster and sending someone like Pettersson to Reading full time.

Terrance Amorosa (2013 – 132nd Pick)

Last year Amorosa put up 5 points when he was sporadically dressed for 18 games. This year he was given a bit more respect as he put 16 on the board in 27 college games. It’s not a stretch to say Terrance was the best defenseman on an above average team, but he missed time due to injury so his season wasn’t all that noteworthy. Hopefully he can stay healthy and impress this upcoming season as he matures into a top-pairing role at Clarkson U.

David Drake (2013 – 192nd Pick)

Unlike Amorosa, Drake was thrust into a horrible situation as a rookie defenseman. UConn were bad last year, and maybe, just barely better this year thanks to Blues draftee Maxim Letunov who had 40 points in 36 games. 6’4″ Drake has now tallied 10 points in 57 games for Connecticut so I think we can probably just leave him there and see how he pans out.

Nick Luukko (2010 – 179th Pick)

After playing out his NCAA eligibility with Vermont Luukko wasn’t offered a contract by the Flyers because his 35 points in 131 games just wasn’t all that impressive. Unlike Reece Wilcox, Luukko was pointless in his 6 game AHL try out last year and he slipped to the ECHL level. He was given a minor league deal and he spent this season notching 14 points in 65 games for Reading. It’s going to be a tough road if Luukko is going to make it in a Flyers’ system jammed with more promising defensive prospects.

Valeri Vasiliev (2012 – 201st Pick)

There were rumblings of Vasiliev coming over to play at the AHL level before last season, and I expect there will be again this year. His stat line hasn’t been anything special in the KHL as he has just 10 points in 93 total games. He could be a piece the Flyers add to the AHL stable in hopes that he has developed a bit, or he may never come over from the KHL. He was a reach in the 7th Round; no harm done.

Colin Suellentrop (2011 – 116th Pick)

Taking a different University route, Colin went off to the University of New Brunswick in Moncton, New Brunswick after the OHL. It may seem unusual for an American-born player to play Canadian University hockey, but the UNB Reds have an excellent hockey program. In fact, in Canadian University hockey you see very good teams because there are lots of players who have played out their junior eligibility, then a year or 2 of pro hockey only to come back and get an education. There are none of those silly NCAA hang-ups. It shouldn’t surprise us then, that Suellentrop is at best a 3rd pair defenseman with the stacked Reds. He’s put up 17 points in 49 games over 2 seasons. Colin’s a bit of an afterthought at this point, but he could probably still play professionally if the desire is there.

Minor Pro Depth

Logan Pyett (2006 – 212th Pick)

Although he didn’t end up playing it seems unfair not to mention Logan Pyett who has had a tumultuous year. Pyett came into training camp last Fall as a potential veteran minor pro option and earned a deal with the Flyers’ affiliates. This was after a couple of seasons plying his trade in the KHL. His career however became secondary when tests showed he had a sarcoma in his leg. Initial reports suggested the cancerous tissue was isolated in the leg and chemotherapy was started right away. It’s a real shame because Pyett’s all around steadiness (132 points in 362 AHL games) would have been valuable on a Lehigh Valley blueline that was lacking last season.

I investigated a bit with Bob Rotruck the Radio Broadcaster in Lehigh Valley, and he told me things were progressing well (Logan’s girlfriend Jenna happily confirmed). Apparently, “he had surgery…to remove the tumor…all looked good to start. Surgery was after several months of chemo and radiation”. He’s on the road to recovery now, and while it would be a great story if he could find his way back Logan’s health has to come first. Get well soon!

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.