Coming into the Philadelphia Flyers Rookie Camp there are few names worth talking about when it comes to making the Flyers directly out of camp. It’s not because there aren’t other players who are able to make the jump or that could surprise people, but it’s clear that there are a few guys who are inching closer to the big leagues and everyone notices.
In my mind, Morgan Frost represents hope. Even if he doesn’t find himself on the Flyers roster to start the season, it brings warmth to my heart to know that if the Flyers lose any top talent at the NHL level, there is an elite point producer just waiting in the wings. Whatever the “it” factor is, Frost has it. He has it in spades. Frost does not look like a star athlete when he stands in front of you. However, when he skates, glimpses of elite players in the past come to mind. Currently weighing around 185, Frost has finally hit his weight goal by the organization. He’s never going to be a player who is physically imposing, but with the added muscle Frost can now confidently go into corners with adult men and not have to worry about being thrown aside. Something to keep in mind is that Claude Giroux weighs under 180lbs and has zero issues fighting off larger players. It’s not about the weight, it’s about where strength was added. Smaller agile and talented forwards do not need to be very strong, but they do need to have a lower center of gravity and core strength to displace incoming pressure. Giroux has a unique gift of being impossible to take off the puck. I see Frost as being a guy who is glued to the puck when it’s on his stick. With the newly added strength he should be able to compensate for anything lost moving up a level in competition.
Frost sees himself as a playmaker. Looking to make his linemates more effective and distribute with purpose. Essentially, a true play driver at the pro level. It’s been evident from development camp earlier in the summer to rookie camp in September, that Frost has chemistry with Ratcliff and Farabee and the club consistently puts them together in drills. While this isn’t something people have agreed with me on, I do sense that the Flyers want to see if Frost can become a center at the pro level first before converting him to the wing. This could hurt his chances of making the team out of camp, but it’s a safe move that would only benefit Morgan at the lower level. If Frost can find himself as a regular on the powerplay during the preseason that would be his best chance to play a key role at the NHL level from the jumpstart. If any of the young players can effectively play special teams, their chances of making the club increase. More minutes means more opportunity.
Joel Farabee seems to be the underlying talk of the town. While Morgan Frost is the reigning top prospect on most lists, that is quickly changing. Joel Farabee has something that most people can’t necessarily describe, but they notice that he might be better than most people initially realized. Farabee has left a lot of his draft counterparts in his dust as he went on to dominate the NCAA in the second half of last year after an excellent performance at World Juniors. It seems like that progress never halted as he now looks even more prepared for an NHL season than some of the older prospects in the Flyers organization. It’s difficult to say whether Farabee tops out as superstar winger, but it’s clear he’s going to play a top 6 role in the NHL sooner rather than later. Farabee reminds me of Simon Gagne’s emergence into the NHL. A scrawny, yet relatively tall left-wing goal scorer with an ability to play a top tier two-way game. The only thing holding Farabee back from being an NHL player today is his physical dexterity and ability to recover from shift to shirt. However, that seems to be changing everyday as his fitness continues to improve and even a couple months away from the club, Farabee looks older and more mature in person. He is a player who might be the perfect compliment to the top 9 the Flyers currently Ice and a 9 game tryout with the big club might be in his very near future.
While the entire Flyers fan base isn’t singing Rubtsov’s praises like Frost, Farabee, or Ratcliff, he should not be forgotten. German’s story comes with some sore spots as I wrote an article earlier this summer about Rubtsov and his ability to make the Flyers. I still stand by that and I anticipate that every preseason game will show how consistent and poised of a player he is at this age. German might not be a top tier prospect on most lists, but he has all the tools to be a highly effective NHL contributor and two-way point producer. When Scott Gordon was asked about his time coaching German Rubtsov last season, Gordon went on to echo what has been the constant message about Rubtsov since his arrival in Philadelphia. He always has a good game and even when he’s not on the scoring sheet he’s making an impact. This is the exact type of player that tends to make the NHL early. Don’t be disappointed if he’s the only young guy to make it far at rookie camp, there is plenty to be excited about when a player like Rubtsov is available to play pro. He’s as diverse as they come and it shows as he can play both the penalty kill and the power play effectively. To be honest, he might be a fantastic winger for any forward playing on the 3rd line for the 2019-2020 season.
Honorable Mention: Carsen Twarynski
I’m going to add a special shout out to Carsen Twarynski. He seemed very hungry in rookie camp. A player who seems to know his role early and has the potential to excel in it. Last camp, he stuck around longer than most people anticipated. Talking to Carsen I got the sense that he is incredibly focused on doing the work in the offseason to build towards his role at the pro level. He was very aware of his ability to play a physically imposing role, something that he has a big edge over most of the young players at camp. In the locker room, he could easily be considered the most physically mature players among the young group of hopefuls. If he keeps his game simple, there is no reason Twarynski wouldn’t get an opportunity with the big club on a 4th line role at some point. Currently, the Flyers have a few roles open in their bottom six and will be looking for a way to fill it from within. Carsen Twarynski biggest edge of getting an opportunity with the big club is that he is young enough to be waiver exempt and old enough to think like an adult. With the slight edge of being safely retained by the organization if it doesn’t work out and the combination of the physical tools to be effective in a checking role, Twarnyski stands a good chance to turn some heads within the Flyers brass and get a call up during the season.
One name noticeably missing from the list is Issac Ratcliff. I didn’t leave him off the list because he is of a lower caliber than the other players on the list above, but simply because of his size. While size most of the time being 6’6 is a big advantage to a player. However, with Issac, I believe he would be best served gaining more strength in his lower body. With size comes expectations of a physical game and NHL players will challenge that size. While Ratcliff looks like a man, I am going to make the assumption that the Flyers want him to be extra prepared. Being so large comes with the risk of lower-body injuries. For instance, Sam Morin has taken much longer to play in the NHL than most would have expected, but it’s really because of his size that it took extra time. Sam was set back by a few lower-body injuries in his young career. A risk is prevalent in taller players. With more strength added to his lower body and improved skating, Issac Ratcliff has a high potential to be 30 goal scorer future or top 6 role in the NHL. If the Flyers had a shallow prospect pool, he would the player everyone would have their eyes on making the team this season. In this case, he benefits from the spread-out expectations and can buy enough time with the fans to make his jump when he’s ready.
No matter what happens the 2019-2020 Flyers training camp is ripe with opportunity and the players available to fight for it are going to make it a very interesting battle. Get your popcorn ready to go because Hextall’s promise is finally starting to fill out the entire organization. It’ll be interesting to see if Flyers current GM Chuck Fletcher is as patient as his predecessor.
Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports