Due to losses and injuries there is just a single Flyers’ prospect still in action. Only defenseman Samuel Morin and his Rimouski Oceanic team are still competing for Canadian junior hockey supremacy. Tyrell Goulbourne’s Kelowna Rockets are still playing, but Goulbourne himself is down with an injury (possibly ending his WHL career). Aube-Kubel’s Val d’Or Foreurs lost to Morin’s Oceanic in the QMJHL semis, and in Calgary the Hitmen were steamrolled. A high-powered Brandon Wheat Kings team eliminated Calgary without much effort and prospects Fazleev and Sanheim are out of the WHL championships.
Flyers Prospects in Junior
Sam Morin (2013 – 1st Round)
Rimouski shut the Foreurs out twice and outscored Val d’Or 17-8 in a 4 game sweep on their way to the QMJHL finals against the Quebec Remparts. The Remparts were not among the favourites this year, but getting Anthony Duclair back in their line-up after an 18-game-stint with the New York Rangers earlier this year was a huge boost. They have a dynamic offense led by Bolts prospect Adam Erne (2013 – 2nd Round) who has 15 goals in 15 playoff games and 2015 draft eligible Dmytro Timashov (a Ukranian!). It also helped that Quebec went out and snapped up undrafted veterans Jerome Verrier and Vladimir Tkachev for the playoff push.
Quebec’s impressive 12-3 record is even more daunting when you know they’ve scored at a rate of 4.53 goals per game during the playoffs. That’s not uncommon in the QMJHL which is extremely offensive in nature. What is uncommon is the team they face. It’s relatively rare to find a team in the QMJHL that plays a defensive style, but here we are.. the Oceanic have allowed just 20 goals in 13 playoff games. That’s just 1.53 per game which by Q-standards is unfathomable. This will be a true test of offensive systems vs. defensive systems.
In case you’re wondering neither team was a slouch at the other end of the rink; Rimouski has scored at a 4.15 goals per game rate and Quebec have only allowed 2.40 per game.
Sam Morin gives an interview after the Oceanic swept the Val d’Or Foreurs en route to a QMJHL Finals berth (via @OceanicRimouski)
Morin himself has just 1 goal and 5 assists in 12 games this playoff year which is somewhat surprising since he continues to receive quite a bit of powerplay time for such a strong team. It’s pretty clear at this point though that the PP revolves around Czech-defender Jan Kostalek (2013 – 4th Round – WPG) who is much more offensively gifted than Sam. Morin has risen to the challenge and really played a big role in shutting down pretty good offensive players so far, but this will be his biggest test yet. Facing Quebec he’ll be seeing a steady diet of point-per-game forwards that are extremely quick and skilled. Rimouski’s aspirations may live and die by Morin’s defensive assignments in this series. Win or lose you will almost certainly be able to point a finger at Morin (who will be getting a load of ice time) as a difference maker.
Series starts tonight in Rimouski! Here’s a video of all the goals the Oceanic have scored in the playoffs to get you pumped up for Sam!
Radel Fazleev (2014 – 6th Round)
Radel ended up with 1 goal and 2 assist in the 5 games of the Eastern Conference finals of the WHL playoffs. The Brandon Wheat Kings REALLY took it to the Hitmen, they look very strong headed on to the finals. Team goal totals for the series; Brandon 29 – Calgary 13. Ouch.
Like most of the Hitmen roster Fazleev had trouble keeping Brandon off the board when he was on the ice. A lot of old-school analysts will look at his -5 in the series and say, “that’s a problem with his defensive game, maybe he’s not as strong there as we thought.” That would be an incorrect assumption. One of those goals against was in Empty Net situation and none of these goals were before the 14 minute mark of the 2nd period. In fact the Hitmen were behind by 2 or more goals already for every goal Fazleev was on the ice for. Playing in a checking role he was able to keep Calgary in games early before the Wheat Kings started rolling and torched them for 8 goals or more 3 times. It was a whole team failure and Radel played his part, probably better than most.
Another strong playoff season has Radel on the Flyers’ radar as a solid looking bottom-6 building block. 14 points in 17 playoff games is nothing to be ashamed of.
Travis Sanheim (2014 – 1st Round)
Staying on the same train of thought as what I was talking about for Fazleev; Sanheim was -4 in the series. More impressively than Fazleev, Sanheim was just -1 in the first 4 games of the series and Brandon scored 9-4 and 8-3 wins in 2 of those games. Travis’ -1 came in the 1st period of game 1 on an outside shot where he actually did a great job of isolating his man and Mack Shields let in a beachball. The other 3 goals against (1 an EN goal) came in the 3rd period of game 5 when the Hitmen were trying to push forward and extend the series. Can’t fault Travis for switching to 100% offense and pushing the envelope too far in that type of game.
For Travis 3 assists in 5 games of the WHL semi-final series (2 of those coming on the PP) wasn’t an overly exciting result. What is exciting is that he had 18 points in 17 games total and was in the top-10 in WHL playoff scoring before his Hitmen were shown the door. He’s had a very impressive 18-year-old season and his stock is rising rapidly.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014 – 2nd Round)
The Val d’Or Foreurs didn’t have another valiant comeback in store for the semi-final series against Sam Morin’s Oceanic team. The closest they got to a win was an overtime loss in game 1. Nic was a bit player last season when the Anthony Mantha-led Val d’Or team triumphed, winning both the Presidents and Memorial Cup (QMJHL and Canadian Junior titles). This year’s team was much younger (as often happens to junior teams that push for the win) dressing a pile of 17 and 16-year-olds. It was pretty fantastic that they were able to get to where they did.
Aube-Kubel scored 15 points in 17 playoff games, but (like the rest of his Foreurs team) just couldn’t beat the Rimouski defense in the semis where he had just 1 assist in 4 games. Val d’Or was able to score just 5 goals in the 4 game sweep and were shut out twice.
Tyrell Goulbourne (2013 – 3rd Round)
The Kelowna Rockets are off to the WHL finals against the Brandon Wheat Kings. Brandon are the sort of feel-good story of the WHL season as they kind of surprised a lot of people, but both of these teams were early favourites in the league. I won’t pretend that either team is an underdog because they just aren’t. They were equally dominant; Brandon going 53-11-4-4 (114pts) to Kelowna’s 53-13-5-1 (112pts) as both squads wiped the floors with opponents on route to regular season conference championships.
Both teams made major moves at the deadline, Brandon acquired Reid Duke (2014 – 6th Round – MIN) and Morgan Klimchuck (2013 – 1st Round – CGY). Kelowna raided Prince Albert’s roster (hah – I got jokes) grabbing Gage Quinney (undrafted), Josh Morrisey (2013 – 1st Round – WPG), and Leon Draisaitl (2014 – 1st Round – EDM).
Tyrell Goulbourne may not play in the WHL championship series, but he was on hand to wear a ceremonial Captain’s jersey to receive the Western Conference Championship trophy with other players who are likely moving on from Kelowna next season (via kelownarockets.com)
For Goulbourne personally there’s good news and very bad news. The good news is that he scored his first of the playoffs and the game tying goal in Kelowna’s Game 4 victory to tie the series with Portland at 2-2. It’s at about the 2 minute mark of the highlights here; he does a good job on the PP of getting the puck wide to Merkley who drives the net. Tyrell follows up and bangs in a rebound, nothing wrong with that! The bad news is he had his calf muscle cut by a skate in Game 5 as he went into the boards with a Winterhawks player (via http://flyers.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=766378). That laceration required surgery and Tyrell has no timetable to return to the playoffs; thus this may end his junior career. He had only a single goal and assist for 2 points in 12 games as his role diminished in the playoffs.