As sports fans, we always love a good “dark horse” story. Yes sure things are always nice but it’s great to see a player exceed expectations and get people talking. In this week’s “Flyers Prospects Mailbag” we touch on possible dark horse candidates as well as other hot topics surrounding the Philadelphia Flyers farm system.
Let’s get this party started!
This is a great question, Michael. First off, “out of nowhere” could be taken a few ways. I think that there are only two prospects that have a true shot at making the Flyers roster out of camp next season. Of course, those two players are Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. Honestly, anyone besides those two could fall into that “out of nowhere” category because most of them need more time to develop or aren’t really in the NHL roster plans at this point. The name to watch most of these players is Isaac Ratcliffe. It is very hard to ignore what he has accomplished with the Guelph Storm this season. Add in his 6-foot-6 and you have a prospect that could translate into a dominant NHL forward. Personally, I believe he still has some seasoning to do in the AHL but making the Flyers roster isn’t completely out of the cards.
Now if we move away from making the Flyers out of the 2019 camp storyline, a prospect I’ve always liked as a dark horse is Wyatte Wylie. The former fifth-round pick does not get talked about enough and is a bit undervalued at this point. His style of play could translate nicely to the NHL game and I believe he could become a prospect that translates into a valuable NHL piece. To me, he’s a perfect candidate for that “out of nowhere” category because I think a lot of people are on the fence about him.
You have to love when questions flow well with one another. Unfortunately, it is looking more and more like Philadelphia is not going to sign Wyatte Wylie which I think is a mistake. Lehigh Valley is going to look a little slim in terms of prospects on the blueline next year and Wylie would fit in quite nicely. At this point, it appears as though he will be back in the WHL playing for Everett next season.
Yegor Zamula will not turn 20-years-old until the end of March 2020. This means he will be headed back to the WHL as well next season. Of course, he could technically make the Flyers roster but that just isn’t happening. Unlike Wylie, I believe spending another year in the WHL will only do go things for Zamula’s development. I want to see another year of him being a dominant offensive-defenseman for the Calgary Hitmen.
The first question is quite challenging to answer due to all of the uncertainty surrounding this roster. Chuck Fletcher is going to bring in NHL talent to move the needle forward in Philadelphia. This means there will probably one, if any, prospect on the opening night roster. The three most popular candidates are Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Isaac Ratcliffe. Either of these three could have an immediate impact on the team. My apologies for such a vague answer, there are just too many unknowns at this point.
As far as a training camp surprise, I am going to go with Matthew Strome. I think he has a real NHL upside and has been plagued by the stigma of being a poor skater. He’s going to come into training camp and have a lot of people dropping their jaws. He won’t make the Flyer right out of camp but he will become a popular topic of discussion.
Physicality is always a concern when it comes to young players transitioning to the National Hockey League. Both Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee have added some meat to their bones since being drafted, however, they both could benefit from adding a little more. The average weight for forwards in the NHL 202.4 lbs. Frost currently weighs in at 185 lbs and Farabee is only 170 lbs. It’s safe to say that the weight room should be like a second home for both prospects this summer.
There are a lot of mixed opinions regarding NHL readiness for both Frost and Farabee. There are some who feel that both are ready to take on a roll with the Flyers. Others feel that Frost is more ready than Farabee while others believe the opposite. Then there are those who feel like they should season a bit in Lehigh Valley. The fact of the matter is that both will be given the opportunity to prove they can crack the NHL roster. If the timing is not right, they will continue to grow with the Phantoms.
The Flyers have to start restocking their prospect pool with defensemen this draft. I’m not sure if they will select a blueliner in the first round due to the plethora of quality forwards that will be available. However, they need to take a few defensemen in the following rounds because all of their best blueline prospects are now in the NHL. If the Flyers decide to address the defense in the first round, Victor Soderstrom and Cam York are names to keep an eye out for.
I have a strong feeling that Jay O’Brien is going to end up playing in the BCHL. The former first-rounder took a serious blow to his confidence last season and is going to try and regain it next year. The easiest way to do that is to select the league with the weaker competition. I respect the BCHL but compared to the three CHL leagues and the USHL, it is just that. The QMJHL, or any of the CHL leagues, would be the best option for O’Brien next season. He would get more games to develop and improve while facing strong competition.
Defense is the position of need the Flyers need to address most at the draft. All of the top young defensemen are now in Philadelphia and the cupboard needs to be restocked. Forward is next on the list. To be more specific, the Flyers need to focus on obtaining forwards that can put the puck in the back of the net. The organization has the most quality depth at goalie. We’ve talked at a lot about how well-off the Flyers are at goaltender and they do not need to put much focus there this draft.
Isaac Ratcliffe is the best goal scorer within the Flyers pool of prospects. Nobody really matches up to him. However, Matthew Strome is another player that has proven he can put the puck in the net throughout his OHL career. I expect him to be an effective goal scorer for Philadelphia down the road.
Thank you so much to all of the people who provided questions for Flyers Prospects Mailbag! If you missed out this week, keep an eye on Twitter for my next request for your prospect questions.
Mandatory Credit: Derrik Bobb
John Gove is a full-time elementary educator with a passion for sports media. He has covered various aspects of hockey and basketball for various outlets over the past five years. Currently, he serves as a contributor and editor for Philly Sports Network focussing on prospects within the Philadelphia Flyers farm system and Villanova Men’s Basketball. John also serves as a co-host of Pod Street Bullies, PSN’s flagship Flyers podcast. Follow him on Twitter at @PodStreetGove.