• Andrew McGuinness

Flyers Sign G Kirill Ustimenko to ELC; O'Brien Leaves Providence

Ladies and gentlemen, the Philadelphia Flyers have done a thing.

Granted, it wasn't a very big thing. But it's been over two weeks since we've had anything new to talk about, so we'll take it. Today, the Flyers signed goalie Kirill Ustimenko to his entry-level contract.

Ustimenko spent almost all of last year with MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg, a member of the MHL (a Russian minor league). The 80th pick of the 2016 draft (you may remember him as the guy taken with the Rinaldo pick) put up some impressive numbers: 30-12-3, .927 save percentage, 1.78 goals against average in the regular season, and a .917 save percentage in 6 playoff games. He even set an all-time MHL record with 12 shutouts this season. He made Team Russia for World Juniors, but didn't play in a single game for them.

In a crowded goalie pipeline for the Flyers, Ustimenko has done a good job making himself noticed. He's no Carter Hart (at least not yet), but he's in the same tier as other prospects like Felix Sandstrom and Samuel Ersson. However, because Sandstrom is set to make his pro debut next season, and Alex Lyon is still under contract through next year, Ustimenko is probably going to begin his North American career in the ECHL.

Many casual fans may not know what the ECHL is. Essentially, it's hockey's AA (for baseball fans), as it is one level below the ECHL. All 27 teams are affiliated with an NHL franchise - the Flyers affiliate is the Reading Royals. However, the level of play is much lower than not just the AHL, but most junior, European, and collegiate leagues. Most players that play there have no NHL future, but goalies are a bit of an exception due to the tighter numbers game. Ustimenko isn't going here because he's got not future, but rather because the Flyers and Phantoms don't have a spot for him in the present.

Ustimenko wasn't the only Flyers prospect in headlines this week. 2018 1st round pick Jay O'Brien is in the NCAA Transfer Portal after a disappointing season at Providence, where he put up 5 points in 25 games during an injury-plagued campaign. Even with the injuries, that's a really disappointing season for a 1st round pick in his Draft+1 campaign, even if he did make Team USA for World Juniors. O'Brien can now either go to another school, the BCHL (a Junior A League that has produced stars like Jamie Benn and Carey Price), or go to the CHL. Shawinigan of the QMJHL holds O'Briens CHL rights.