Following the latest ten cuts today, here’s a comprehensive list of who, where, and how the Philadelphia Flyers prospects performed in training camp.
Thus far, there have been few surprises surrounding which players will crack the NHL roster and which ones will find their place in the AHL. The Flyers starting lineup includes a cast of familiar extra forwards and defensemen, despite injuries. Injuries to Wade Allison, Samuel Morin, Tanner Laczynski, and Kevin Hayes created opportunities for a center, right-wing, or defenseman to make the right impression during training camp.
A week ago, Fletcher began making roster cuts. Last night, Philadelphia cut nine more.
What impact did these players make during training camp? Fletcher made ten more cuts today. Who will play with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2021-2022? Here’s a comprehensive list of every Flyers’ training camp cut:
Ethan Samson had a quiet rookie camp. In a Philadelphia Flyers win versus the New York Rangers in a rookie exhibition on September 18th, 2021, he earned an assist. Samson shot from the blue line, ultimately tipped by Nolan Ritchie for the score. Nine days later, the Flyers cut him. In 2021-2022, he’ll play in the WHL as an alternate captain with the Prince George Cougars.
His strengths include a consistent motor and the ability to establish himself in transition within the neutral zone. Samson only played 22 games with the Cougars in 2020-2021, but it was his best WHL season to date.
JR Avon received attention due to his speed. During rookie camp, many compared his skating to Samu Tuomaala. Unfortunately, Avon didn’t find his way onto the score sheet in the rookie series against the New York Rangers.
Cut at the same time as Ethan Samson, Avon did sign an entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers for 3yrs/$2.55mil. He’ll return to the OHL with the Peterborough Petes. In 2020-2021, Avon missed an entire season of hockey due to the OHL not operating. Brent Flahr and the rest of the Flyers scouts will be sure to follow Avon’s trajectory in 2021-2022 with Peterborough.
Dating back to October 7th, 2020, I called Connor McClennon a sixth-round gem. If the Philadelphia Flyers organization unlocks his full potential, he’s a steal based on his draft position from 2020.
Nearly a calendar year later, McClennon was drawing penalties and quarterbacking the powerplay with Linus Hogberg versus the New York Rangers. Then, when Wade Allison was injured, McClennon filled in. By hook or crook, he remained on the ice during critical situations in rookie camp.
He’s a shooter who could establish a net-front presence on the powerplay. In addition to his offensive potential, McClennon showed other strengths in his game. On the backcheck, he chases down the opposition in the neutral zone, retrieving the puck. There are shades of the two-hundred-foot effort Alain Vigneault appreciates.
McClennon is playing with the Winnipeg Ice in the WHL, where he already has three points in two games.
Ustimenko featured against the New York Rangers in rotation with Samuel Ersson during rookie camp. Felix Sandstrom originally planned to play in Finland, and Alex Lyon moved on to the Carolina Hurricanes. Suddenly, Ustimenko and Ersson looked like they would be battling for the third goaltender role with the Philadelphia Flyers.
Then, plans changed. Sandstrom accepted the offer to remain with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. As soon as a lane opened, it closed. Now, Ustimenko heads to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
A season ago, Ustimenko played in Belarus with HK Gomel. In two games, he touted a 2.5GAA and a 91% save percentage.
We have to go back to the Philadelphia Flyers’ “Tournament of Campions” from the development camp to reflect on Quinn Schmiemann. He scored during the three-team camp tournament. Unfortunately, Isaac Ratcliffe registered a hat-trick, stealing Schmiemann’s thunder.
The former alternate captain of the Kamloops Blazers will compete with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2021-2022. In 2019-2020, Schmiemann played sixty games with the Blazers, tallying 37 points (5G, 32A) in his best WHL season.
Jackson van de Leest
Expectations are usually low for camp invites, but Jackson van de Leest, based on size alone, had the Philadelphia Flyers’ attention during development camp. He’s 6’7″ and 238lbs. Developing with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms could spark this wildcard within the Flyers system.
Formerly with the Calgary Hitmen in the WHL, van de Leest is another former alternate captain. Chuck Fletcher followed a familiar trend during development camp, picking many leaders from their junior team. Philadelphia doesn’t have a ton of defensive defensemen. For the foreseeable future, van de Leest remains a fascinating prospect.
For my money, Ersson is the third goaltender the Philadelphia Flyers would employ if Carter Hart or Martin Jones missed time in 2021-2022. Eventually, the Flyers need to know what they have with Ersson and promote from within their system to save money at the goaltender position.
Ersson, featured more than Felix Sandstrom, was overwhelmed by the New York Islanders‘ powerplay and 3v3 overtime unit. Other than Anthony Beauvillier ruining his night, Ersson had a decent training camp. Yesterday, Philadelphia decided to put Ersson with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, partnering with Sandstrom.
A season ago, Ersson played with Brynas IF in the SHL. Through 42 games, he posted a 2.96GAA and 91.1% save percentage. In the playoffs with Brynas IF, he was better (1.30GAA and 94.9% save percentage.) He’ll make his debut with the Phantoms in 2021-2022, the first of his 3yr/$2.775mil entry-level contract.
Previously, Day spent a season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2020-2021. In 23 games, he was statistically on pace to have the best season of his AHL career.
He didn’t stand out in training camp. In all probability, he’ll remain a long-term AHL player. No surprise here regarding the Philadelphia Flyers’ decision to stash him on the Phantoms.
Of all the recent transactions, Samu Tuomaala is the most intriguing. He’s not going back to the OHL. Instead, Ian Laperriere will begin sculpting Tuomaala into an NHL player. The first draft selection for the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft showed his speed often during camp.
Many will wonder if it is the right decision to place Tuomaala in the AHL instead of the OHL. The concerns come from the right place, but the consensus is that Tuomaala has enough to begin his Lehigh Valley Phantoms journey. Tuomaala feels that he is capable of transitioning to the AHL instead.
Laperriere could easily mold Tuomaala into a grinder, who happens to be speedy and has a quick snap wrist shot. Upon draft night, skating was a weakness, according to some scouting reports. Based on his training camp, those were exaggerated criticisms. The Flyers were lucky Tuomaala fell to the second round. He could have been a late first-round pick.
Of them all, Millman is the only one remaining in the Flyers system.
Millman had a good camp that included an assist to Max Willman during Philadelphia’s Orange versus Black scrimmage. During rookie camp, Millman worked with Wyatte Wylie on the penalty kill. He’s received many different looks from the Flyers organization over the last two seasons.
Almost a year ago, Canada’s World Junior team cut Millman. His time with Philadelphia has had its ups and downs. Unfortunately, he’s shuffled deep in the deck of depth defensemen. Like Logan Day, it’s not a surprise he’s continuing with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
When COVID ruined the Philadelphia Flyers lineup in 2020-2021, Sushko took to the ice at Lake Tahoe versus the Boston Bruins. He’s never participated in a Flyers victory. Sushko has also only played two NHL games.
Most recently, against the New York Islanders, Sushko sent the game into overtime with a wrap-around goal on Ken Appleby. It was an enjoyable sight to see following a dismal 2020-2021 for Sushko, no matter where he played. In thirty games with Dinamo Minsk in the KHL, Sushko only tallied five points (2G, 3A.) He needs more time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, which is where he’s headed.
In March 2020, Wylie signed a 3yr/$2.625mil entry-level contract. He’s in year two of that deal but performed well enough during training camp. He’s heading into a critical stage of his entry-level contract, the second year. Now, Wylie expects to take a step forward with his development on the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
The former alternate captain of the Everett Silvertips (on the same team as Carter Hart) did well in his first season with the Phantoms. He displayed toughness against the New York Rangers in a rookie exhibition, blocking a shot before promptly securing an assist on a scoring play. When you look at the rest of the notable prospects within the Philadelphia Flyers system, then include Wylie, there’s an exceptional amount of talent in Ian Laperriere’s hands.
Willman always surprises me with his soft hands. He’s a very underrated puck handler. In March 2021, the Philadelphia Flyers rewarded Willman with a 2yr/$1.5mil entry-level contract.
To me, Willman could be in the bottom six of a few NHL teams. Within the Flyers organization, he has some traffic ahead of him. He’s a true center with the flexibility to play left wing. Due to Tanner Laczynski’s injury, my mind conjured Willman, Morgan Frost, and Jackson Cates as possibilities to take on a 4C role.
Last season was his best with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Ian Laperriere should have a great time finessing his offense with Willman as one of his weapons in 2021-2022.
Unfortunately for Strome, his training camp began with a puck glancing off his face. Strome got a slow start to the development camp due to missing time.
It wouldn’t be until a rookie exhibition versus the New York Rangers when Strome added his name to a score sheet. Less than a minute after Cam York scored, Strome, beat Talyn Boyko in traffic. There was too much stopping and starting throughout training camp to get a feel for Strome.
Time is on his side. He’s only 22-years-old. Last season, he spent more time with the Greenville Swamp Rabbits in the ECHL than the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. He’s in the final season of his entry-level contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Strome needs to break out, at the least, with the Phantoms in 2021-2022.
Considering how hot Elliot Desnoyers was last season, it’s a little surprising that he’s going back to the QMJHL. Let me add some context to his training camp:
Desnoyers was able to get under the skin of Morgan Frost, knocking him off focus. Alain Vigneault voiced that Desnoyers has his attention each time he’s on the ice. Being 19-years-old and getting into your first hockey fight at the NHL level is an eye-opener. He took down John Moore in his first professional scrum.
The reason why Desnoyers isn’t routing to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms is that he isn’t eligible. When he is, lookout; Vigneault already likes what Desnoyers brings to the ice. He also has the two-hundred-foot traits Vigneault looks for in his lineup.
Far and away, this is the biggest surprise on this list. Everyone was hollering for Frost to get a crack at the 3C role before training camp started. That was always a ridiculous assessment, especially considering the extension Scott Laughton signed in 2020-2021.
What wasn’t a ridiculous prediction was Frost to 4C. I had him pinpointed there at best. As it turns out, he’ll return to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for the first time since 2019-2020. To be fair, it’s intelligent. Frost has only played eight more games than Wade Allison, which doesn’t leave a satisfying sample size to insert as a center in the Philadelphia Flyers’ top nine.
This training camp put the spotlight on Morgan Frost. Could he crack the Flyers lineup? Alain Vigneault had been critical of Frost throughout the entire preseason. The turning point for me was when we saw Elliot Desnoyers out will Frost in a board battle, then score.
Without a doubt, Frost is on the cusp of a recall to Philadelphia. Before then, he needs to improve his “compete level,” as Vigneault would likely call it.
The mood is about to change the moment Tyson Foerster is ready for his NHL debut. Until then, everyone should be attending the Lehigh Valley Phantoms games to get a first-row look at his wicked shot. He’ll be a lethal scorer in the NHL.
When Mason Millman didn’t make Canada’s World Junior team, Tyson Foerster did. Everything about Foerster has been as advertised. He’s improved upon his explosiveness and remains hard to knock off the puck. Once he gets going, he’s an offensive powerhouse.
Philadelphia Flyers fans have salivated for a scorer. Be patient; Foerster will be that guy once he gets the call from the NHL squad.
Last season, Linus Sandin and Tanner Laczynski took their place on the taxi squad, replacing Connor Bunnaman and Tanner Laczynski. When he signed with the Philadelphia Flyers on a 1yr/$925k entry-level deal, he was the SHL leading scorer with HV71.
Soon after the announcement that Wade Allison was out indefinitely, Sandin seemed like a perfect option early on. It would make sense to see what Sandin has to offer at the NHL level before he’s an RFA at the end of 2021-2022. Alain Vigneault played with the lineup, securing a more established right-wing core without Sandin or Allison.
Isaac Ratcliffe is a possession forward who is also on the brink of a roster spot. He’s sizeable and can protect the puck very well behind the net. At 6’6″ and 201lbs, the 22-year-old has a lot of time ahead of him to work into a future Philadelphia Flyers lineup. He needs to remain healthy.
In the final year of his 3yr/$2.775mil entry-level contract (including a two-year slide,) Ratcliffe must put it all together with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2021-2022. With the lineup the way it is, it’s not a wild thought to think he could swap in with Nate Thompson in the 4C role. Again, considering his contract situation, the Flyers could be wise to see what he has at the NHL level.
Linus Hogberg was bitten by the injury bug during training camp, straining his oblique. He missed valuable time but returned during the preseason. Already, it’s simple to understand why he’s settling with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Last year saw a respectable debut for Hogberg with the Phantoms. He doesn’t commit many penalties and displays a disciplined approach to defense. In the recent preseason game against the Boston Bruins, Hogberg was noticeable. He nearly contributed to a scoring play with Adam Clendening, but Jeremy Swayman was locked in.
Ever since the news broke about Samuel Morin’s health, Clendening had linked with Nick Seeler regarding the seventh defenseman role. Clendening is going through waivers to go to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. It looks like he will not be the seventh defenseman, but all of that can change as the regular season progresses before Morin returns.
His last NHL game was back in 2018-2019 with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Since then, he’s been an AHL mainstay. This season will be his first with the Phantoms. Previously, he played for the Cleveland Monsters (Blue Jackets affiliate.)
Gerry Mayhew, formerly of the Minnesota Wild, arrived at training camp brand new. As camp progressed, his high motor and successful backchecking routinely caught my attention.
He’s a disruptive player who looks like a fit on the penalty kill. He routinely got pucks deep into the offensive zone, negating clean exits for the opposition in the neutral zone. A physical forward, nonetheless.
During his Wild days, his small sample size isn’t a bad one at the NHL level. Mayhew is a forward who could break into the fourth line. His style would complement what the Philadelphia Flyers want. Unfortunately, center and right-wing drown him with depth.
Basing on his track record with the Iowa Wild (Minnesota AHL affiliate,) he could be a fringe forward that Chuck Fletcher hand-selected from the ol’ Wild prospect pool.
A prospect in the Philadelphia Flyers system for a few years now, German Rubtsov is being waived with intentions to land with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
In 2020-2021, Rubtsov was on loan to the KHL with HK Sochi. Through 46 games, he totaled eleven points (3G, 8A.) Overall, a little worse than his 2019-2020 campaign with the Phantoms. After 2021-2022, he’ll be an RFA.
Connor Bunnaman never has to be told to hustle. You can see that he has a high “compete level.” When Ryan Ellis served a penalty for roughing against the Boston Bruins, both Bunnaman and Jackson Cates got after the board battles. To that extent, it’s understandable that Alain Vigneault always kept Bunnaman “in the mix” for the thirteenth forward slot.
From a production standpoint, the numbers don’t pop off the paper. Bunnaman is a player who does the right things off the puck. Vigneault felt highly of Bunnaman to call his number in the 2019-2020 playoffs for four games.
He has two more years left on his current contract. Let’s hope that Bunnaman can get back to his 2018-2019 ways in the AHL before sparking another trip to the Philadelphia Flyers.
I’ve mentioned this about Gerry Mayhew, Connor Bunnaman, etc. It’s the same with Cal O’Reilly. These players have a high motor and show a hefty “compete level.” O’Reilly put his on display in the same sequence with Isaac Ratcliffe during the preseason.
O’Reilly is the veteran here. The 35-year-old center served as a training camp body but didn’t go unnoticed during the preseason. Today, he was released from his professional tryout to report to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre