Evaluating the Flyers’ Forward Prospects in 2021-2022

Flyers' Noah Cates
NEW YORK, NY – APRIL 03: Philadelphia Flyers Left Wing Noah Cates (49) is pictured prior to the National Hockey League game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers on April 3, 2022 at Madison Square Garden in New York, NY. (Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)

Everything that could go awry did for the Philadelphia Flyers in 2021-2022. It is not a hot take to say they are the most disappointing franchise.

Chuck Fletcher clarified what he meant by “agressive retool.” Currently, the Flyers have ~$73.14mil tied into players under contract in 2022-2023. Among the players yet to be extended include future cogs in Philadelphia. There is a desire for high-end talent but is that champagne taste on a banquet beer budget?

Acquiring high-end talent requires meticulous, calculated moves. Fletcher noted that signing high-end talent presents a challenge with the cap space, but he has assets. Here are the Flyers: expensive with the fourth-best 2022 NHL Draft Lottery odds.

Expect trades that will blow up this roster, for better or worse. Travis Konecny reminded everyone to be patient, and…he might be right.

Here is a deep dive into the forward prospects who made their debut with the Flyers in 2021-2022 and other high-profile names within the system:

Bobby Brink

Yet to score a goal in the NHL, Brink played ten games in 2021-2022. Brink earned top-six minutes while Cam Atkinson recovered from a lower-body injury. On the powerplay, Brink could become a dangerous playmaker. It is not surprising that he and James van Riemsdyk found early chemistry.

Fletcher should be actively shopping van Riemsdyk to save cap space. He is the leading goal scorer for the Philadelphia Flyers, which heightens his value. It is a no-brainer; the money would go toward high-end talent. Brink mostly played on the same line as van Riemsdyk.

When Brink is on a line with van Riemsdyk, in six of his ten games, he has a 50.16%CF. Away from van Riemsdyk for four games, Brink shot up to 59.5%CF. Overall, his debut stint with the Flyers shows Brink is NHL ready.

Noah Cates

Of the rookie forwards, Cates scored at the highest pace. Brink and Isaac Ratcliffe are his competition, but Cates has the scoring touch. Mike Yeo decided to piece together “The Kids Line,” and watched them play with energy. Alongside Owen Tippett and Morgan Frost, Cates is spearheading the youth movement as of late.

Yeo made a necessary adjustment to link three prospects together on the third line. Those skaters elevate one another because they are playing freely.

“It’s nice to be around some younger guys. It feels a little easier to talk to those guys, and they’re a little younger and a little bit more personable.”

Noah Cates; 4/24/2022

He thrives on “The Kids Line.” When Cates plays with any line combination featuring Tippett or Frost, he carries a 49.4%CF. Away from those two, he drops to 42.3%CF. Yeo discovered depth, poised to stabilize the bottom six in 2022-2023.

Owen Tippett

Tippett and Frost are in the same boat. They are both hungry to make a strong impression on the Philadelphia Flyers roster. Frost has had more opportunities with the Flyers, but Tippett has eyes on him. He is the return Philadelphia received after trading Claude Giroux.

Again, credit Yeo for unlocking Tippett by the end of the season. His most consistent efforts (56.9%CF) were on “The Kids Line.” Scott Laughton, who played on a line with Tippett a few times, mentioned he liked playing with the acquired prospects. He played one game with Tippett and Cates, leading to this quote after a loss to the New York Rangers:

“I absolutely loved playing with Catesy, I got to give him a shout out. He’s a really good pro, he’s really good on the puck, and he’s fun to play with.”

Scott Laughton; 4/13/2022

What is funny about that quote is that Tippett arguably played his best game (69.6%CF) for Philadelphia in defeat. Both would make arguably the best third line with Cates. It begs the question: is Frost the best center with Tippett? Tippett does thrive more often with Cates (63.1%CF) than Frost (46.1%CF) on his line.

Morgan Frost

Before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, Frost was at his best when playing with Giroux. A surprise to no one, Giroux elevates his teammates.

Giroux was a healthy scratch against the Ottawa Senators before heading to the Florida Panthers. Frost only appeared in the penalty box, serving a penalty for hooking.

Notice the trend with these prospects; Yeo found they were thriving off each other. Cates plays a surprisingly smooth, well-rounded game while Tippett drives the offense. Yeo and Frost spent a lot of time with each other, leading to this very self-aware response:

“I think it definitely helps me, that I can be versatile in that sense and play both. I’m open to whatever will help me play here. As a center, compared to the start of the year, I think I drastically improved in that area; playing defensively, even faceoffs I’ve felt a lot better towards the end of the year. Wherever I can play here, I’m happy.”

Morgan Frost; 4/30/2022

In acknowledging his areas to improve, mostly his two-way game, Frost can vastly evolve “The Kids Line.” He looked more confident towards the end of the season. Frost must find consistency, which is it is crucial to keep him with Cates and Tippett. Keeping confident is the secret sauce to optimizing his potential.

Max Willman

Max Willman played in two of the final five games before the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. He appeared on the fourth line with Patrick Brown and Zack MacEwen.

After the trade deadline, Yeo experimented with Willman on a line with Frost and Tippett. His best efforts were with Frost and Tippett, but he did not compare to what Cates would bring. Following the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, the lineup changed throughout the game often. Willman had an equal chance to make the third or fourth line on the Philadelphia Flyers roster.

Jackson Cates

He was the first of the Cates brothers to make the Philadelphia Flyers roster in 2020-2021. Jackson Cates made his 2021-2022 debut during an overtime loss in Montreal in front of zero fans.

The fourth line is the gatekeeper of the NHL. It will tell you if prospects are NHL ready or if more development is necessary. Jackson needs additional development. Surrounded by NHL veterans like Brown and MacEwen, Jackson was serviceable.

In his eleven games with the Flyers in 2021-2022, Jackson had a possession metric of 48.1%CF with Brown and MacEwen. It fell to 25.3%CF with only MacEwen or on a different line. In winning hockey, puck possession is nine-tenths of the law.

Isaac Ratcliffe

Like Jackson, Ratcliffe did not make it past the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline. Overall, that team was a little more competitive with Ratcliffe in the lineup.

There was that time versus the St. Louis Blues where Yeo put Ratcliffe on a line with Giroux and Atkinson. Ratcliffe used his big frame to keep up physically, but he did not appear on the scoresheet.

Strangely, his most consistent performances were with Connor Bunnaman and MacEwen. They served as a decent fourth line to establish a rough-and-tough identity. When Brown returned, taking over for Bunnaman, Ratcliffe began to cool off before returning to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.

(Photo by Joshua Sarner/Icon Sportswire)