Throughout the tenure of Ron Hextall as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, up and coming prospects were a primary focus of the organization. While the NHL product proved to be frustrating to watch at times, there was always optimism when looking towards the future of the franchise.
Now, Hextall is gone and Chuck Fletcher is the GM in Philadelphia. However, Hextall’s impact on the team will still be felt as the prospects he drafted continue to make their way up the ranks. Before the former netminder to charge, Philadelphia’s prospect pool was as shallow as it gets. Now, it might even be too deep with young players that could eventually make a name for themselves in the NHL.
Let’s have a look-see at the current state of the Philadelphia Flyers farm system. We will take it in a position at a time, touching on various strengths and weakness. Don’t you worry Flyers fans, the strengths certainly outweigh the weaknesses this time around.
The best word to describe Philadelphia’s forward prospect pool is plentiful. In regards to numbers, the Flyers have a hefty amount. Unfortunately, quantity does not always translate into quality and there is some criticism that too few of these young players fall into that “high-end” category.
Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee indisputably sit atop this class. Both of them have experienced success in their respective leagues and bring with them top-line to top-six forward potential. Though he is not at the same level as Frost or Farabee, I am also willing to place Isaac Ratcliffe into that high-end level. It may take him a bit more season, however, Racliffe’s skill and size could prove to be lethal one day.
After those three, we move into a tier of prospects that could become very impactful players in the NHL in a middle-six forward role. This list includes forwards such as Matthew Strome, German Rubtsov, Wade Allison, and Jay O’Brien. Then, we have a ton of individuals that could slide into a bottom-six role, such as Tanner Laczynski and Noah Cates. To be blunt, the Flyers have a ton of prospects that could develop into “depth forwards”. Feel free to take that however you’d like.
The only knock on Philadelphia’s forward prospect pool is its plethora of questions marks. First, there are the uncertainties regarding particular players. Are the 14 successful games Rubtsov experienced in the AHL indicative of his future? What in the world is going to happen with O’Brien? Will the rest of the surprises in Lehigh Valley like Connor Bunnaman and David Kase continue to trend upwards? How about Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Mikhail Vorobyev? There are tons of players with potential that could go either way.
Next, there are questions involving the organization and its approach to all of these forwards. There are more prospects than there are roster spots and not every player is going to fit into the Flyers future plans. This especially applies to a lot of college players. Do the likes of Laczynski and Allison have a future with the franchise? If not, what will Fletcher choose to do with them?
The bottom line is the Flyers have a ton of forward prospects. It’s unclear how many of them have NHL potential and even more unclear when we attempt to identify those with true top-talent potential. This offseason, the Flyers must figure out a plan for what they want to do with all these players moving forward. It would not be surprising to see a few of them moved in a package for NHL-ready talent.
Defense is the area in the farm system Philadelphia needs to consider replenishing. All of the top defensive prospects from years past have found their way into the NHL. Now the Flyers have a class of blueliners that could translate into NHL defensemen, but also could fall short. The names that stand out the most to me are Yegor Zamula, Wyatte Wylie, and Linus Hogberg. All come with top-four potential and I believe that Wylie has the skillset to surpass expectations. Then, you have the group of question marks, such as Wyatt Kalynuk, Mark Friedman, and Adam Ginning. All of them come with promise, however, anything can happen.
Regardless, Philadelphia would be smart to grab a few defensemen with their earlier picks in upcoming drafts.
Believe it or not, the goalie position might be the strongest area for the Flyers, in regards to prospects. There are three young netminders in Felix Sandstrom, Kirill Ustimenko, and Samuel Ersson that could develop into starters one day. Of course, this comes at a time where Philadelphia has their starting goalie for the foreseeable future in Carter Hart. Still, all three of these prospects could see time as Hart’s backup down the road. At the same time, the congestion at the position could translate into one of these goalies getting traded for NHL pieces. Some people may not agree with this approach, however, it must be recognized as a possibility.
The Flyers also have two other goalies in the system. It is unlikely that we will see Ivan Fedotov or Matej Tomek as members of the organization. However, if I were to select one with a slight chance, it would be Fedotov. Unfortunately, Tomek has not panned out.
Currently, the Philadelphia Flyers are in a great position when it comes to prospects. The franchise is flush with options at forward and needs to start planning what they intend to do with each player. At defense, there is a lot of youth on the NHL roster but it is never too early to start replenishing that area. In regards to goalies, the Flyers are in a great place. One could argue that they have too much of a good thing.
It is safe to say that the future of hockey in Philadelphia is bright. The Flyers have a lot of promising youth that one day could lead the team to a Stanley Cup.
Mandatory Credit: David Banks-USA TODAY Sports