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  • Andrew McGuinness

Summer 2019 Flyers Prospect Pyramid: Tiers 4-6


Though the Flyers do have plenty of high-end prospects, it's the depth of the organization that makes their prospect pool so special. There are so many players that bring skillsets and the work ethic to become impact NHLers some day.

Some of them will bust. Some will flourish - some with the Flyers, some with others. That's the name of the game with prospects, especially when you have as many as the Flyers do. The math backs it up, but I'm too lazy and frankly not smart enough to figure it out precisely.

What I can do is give you my thoughts on the prospects I believe belong in the final three tiers of the Flyers prospect pyramid. What's a prospect pyramid, you say? Where are names such as Morgan Frost and Bobby Brink? Good questions, all of which part one of the pyramid can answer, as well as giving insight on my rules, how I rank these prospects, and where they were the last time I made a prospect pyramid in January.

Now that all of that's taken care of, the moment you've all been waiting for...

Tier 4

C Mikhail Vorobyev (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (AHL): 42 GP - 7 G, 19 A, 26 PTS; NHL: 15 GP - 1 G, 1 A

January Ranking: 4

Reviewing Misha's 2017-18 season requires taking the good with the bad. The good? Vorobyev built on a strong 2017-18 season in the AHL, and earned two NHL call-ups, including a spot in the opening night roster. However, he proved unable to lock down a permanent NHL spot on either occasion. He scored points in each of his first two games, but after that, he never looked like a true NHLer.

Vorobyev still could be as high in the line-up as a third line center, and he's not that far away from being ready. His compete level and consistency were called into question last year, and he'll need to improve those in order to stay in the big leagues for good. Misha is a good two-way forward and playmaker, but last year showed that he doesn't have enough talent to make the NHL on talent alone.

RW Nicholas Aubé-Kubel (NHL - Philadelphia Flyers)

2018-19 (AHL): 54 GP - 16 G, 14 A, 30 PTS; NHL: 9 GP - 0 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Having just been resigned on July 17 to a one-year deal, the focus on Aubé-Kubel now shifts to whether or not he can make the NHL roster out of training camp. He is no longer waiver-exempt, meaning he cannot be spent down to the AHL without passing through all other 30 teams without being claimed. The latter would be a disappointing fate for a former second round pick.

NAK may not have the upside of some of the others on this pyramid, but he didn't look completely out of place in a brief stint last year (though not scoring at all hurts). He's a good forechecker and has been able to score at the AHL level. If he can translate the latter to the NHL level, he could shift in and out of the lineup with Raffl and Pitlick on the fourth line this year. It's make or break time for NAK.

D Sam Morin (NHL - Philadelphia Flyers)

2018-19 (NHL): 5 GP - 0 G, 0 A, 0 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Morin was tier four in January and I can't justify moving him around considering he only played five games due to an ACL tear last year. But time is running out. With the additions of Niskanen and Braun, plus the emergence of Myers, Morin is seventh or eighth on the Flyers defensive depth chart. There still could be an NHL player here, but it seems more and more likely that it will have to happen with another club.

Even if he does become a consistent NHL regular one day, it probably won't be above the 3rd pair. He just doesn't have the high-end puck skills to play much higher in the lineup. The physicality is nice, and he's a good skater for his size. But it's all but a foregone conclusion that Morin will never live up to the hype of a former first round pick.

D Adam Ginning (SHL - Linköping HC)

2018-19 (SHL): 48 GP - 1 G, 4 A, 5 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Ginning was a high(ish)-floor, low-ceiling selection because of his play style. His lack of offensive and puck-moving upside will probably prevent him from being higher than a four at the NHL level. He had a decent draft plus one season, and played at World Juniors for Sweden. He didn't score a point in his final 18 SHL games, but then again, offense isn't his game. I'll leave him here from now, but this season will largely determine how I view Ginning going forward.

D Mark Friedman (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (AHL): 75 GP - 5 G, 21 A, 26 PTS; 1 NHL GP

January Ranking: 4

Friedman followed up a strong training camp that saw him be the last defenseman cut by making strides in his second season with the Phantoms. His point total went up by ten, he improved in his own zone, and played well enough to earn a one-game stint in the NHL.

Unfortunately for Friedman, the defensive depth chart is so clogged up it's going to take the return of the plague for him to have a shot and cracking the opening night roster. If he can continue to produce in the AHL, it's possible he gets a legitimate look at the NHL level in 2020-21.

D Jack St. Ivany (NCAA - Yale University)

2018-19 (NCAA): 30 GP - 6 G, 8 A, 14 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Jack St. Ivany's freshman year was more than respectable, not only scoring nearly .5 points per game as a freshman, but able to crack the US roster for World Juniors (he struggled there, but at least he made it). He possesses decent potential as a two-way defenseman - he's solid in most areas, but doesn't have anything that makes him truly stand out. That could change if St. Ivany builds on last season at Yale this year.

LW Noah Cates (NCAA - University of Minnesota Duluth)

2018-19 (NCAA): 40 GP - 9 G, 14 A, 23 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Everyone has their favorite tweener prospect that they'll go to bat for because, why not. Cates is that for me. I've liked him ever since the Flyers drafted, him and his freshman season backed that up. Scoring over .5 points per game as a freshman is solid - Cates' slick hands and scoring touch transferred over from the USHL. He also impressed playing with brother Jackson at dev camp, creating positive momentum to take into next season.

D Wyatt Kalynuk (NCAA - University of Wisconsin)

2018-19 (NCAA): 37 GP - 9 G, 16 A, 25 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Just because Kalynuk put up the same point total as his strong freshman year doesn't mean he didn't grow. The sophomore defenseman continued to improve in his own zone last year, and is one of the better prospects the Flyers have at breaking the puck out. He'll return to Wisconsin this year to fill out, and should see his scoring rise on a stacked Badgers squad. Expect him to turn pro next season.

D Wyatte Wylie (WHL - Everett Silvertips)

2018-19 (WHL): 67 GP - 11 G, 36 A, 47 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Wylie took the type of leap you'd expect for a legit prospect in his draft plus one season. There's a lot more to like than just his name. Wylie has decent offensive potential and plays a solid two-way game that should translate to the next level when he's ready. He may not have an elite trait to stand out, but Wylie is solid across the board. If he can take another step forward this year, the Flyers might have a player on their hands.

D Yegor Zamula (WHL - Calgary Hitman)

2018-19 (WHL): 61 GP - 10 G, 46 A, 56 PTS

January Ranking: 4

The Russian defenseman is well on his way to becoming the next Phil Myers. Just like Myers, Zamula went undrafted, failed to earn a contract at Calgary's rookie camp, then came to Philly, where he signed his ELC. Zamula then delivered an outstanding season, scoring at nearly a point-per-game rate as a defenseman. For comparison, Travis Sanheim (a 1st round pick) had 65 points in 67 games in his first season after his draft year.

As of now, Zamula's scrawny stature is going to prevent him from being a serious contender for an NHL spot. But once he fills out, there's a legitimate chance the Flyers have found a diamond in the rough. Zamula has the skillset to be an impact NHL player, but it's going to take some time.

C Connor Bunnaman (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (AHL): 62 GP - 19 G, 13 A, 32 PTS

January Ranking: 5

Only 6 AHL rookies scored more goals than Connor Bunnaman, the 2017-18 captain of the OHL's Kitchner Rangers. Bunnaman has never been known for his offensive prowess, which makes that stat even more surprising. Rather, the 2016 4th round pick has been known for his stellar two-way game and skating.

Though he's not a serious contender for an NHL spot this training camp, a good camp could go a long way for Bunnaman. He's probably not too far down on the call-up list in case of injuries. It's unlikely he's magically discovered a scoring touch, but there's more promise than ever that Bunnaman could be a beast of a bottom-sixer going forward.

G Kirill Ustimenko (ECHL - Reading Royals)

2018-19 (MHL): 46 GP - 1.78 GAA, .927 SV%

January Ranking: 5

Better known as the guy taken with the 3rd round pick acquired for Zac Rinaldo, Ustimenko probably could've been moved down a tier in the winter. After all, he failed to crack Russia's World Junior team and was unable to crack the VHL (the top minor league of the KHL), and even struggled early in the MHL.

However, Ustimenko proved my patience right with a strong second half and solid playoff push. Rather than continue in the Russian ranks, Ustimenko is heading to North America this year. Because of the crowded situation in the crease at Lehigh Valley, Usitmenko is liked to start in the ECHL, a league usually reserved for mediocre veterans and prospects that never developed. But goalies are a unique situation, as Usitmenko is only there as the result of the numbers game. So long as he plays well, starting in the ECHL should have no effect on his game long-term.

D Ronnie Attard (NCAA - University of Western Michigan)

2018-19 (USHL): 48 GP: 30 G, 34 A, 64 PTS

January Ranking: N/A

At 20 years old, Attard certainly qualifies as a late-bloomer. Having already been passed over in the draft before, Attard broke out last year with a 30-goal season (as a defenseman, remember) in the USHL, where he finished with 12 more points than the next highest defenseman. Attard's offensive abilities and aggressive instincts are good tools to have for the modern NHL, but he'll need to improve his skating before he's ready.

Tier 5

C Pascal Laberge (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (AHL): 15 GP - 5 G, 1 A, 6 PTS

January Ranking: 5

It's hard to grade Laberge too harshly or too positively on his performance last season, seeing as he didn't play a game until March due to injury. However, 6 points in 15 games is a promising stat line after missing so much time.

Laberge still has skill, but it's raw. He hasn't developed as hoped ever since taking a nasty hit to the head early in his draft plus one season. This season is very make or break for him - Laberge needs to show he can be more consistent in order to show us that he's still a solid prospect.

D David Bernhardt (SHL - Växjö Lakers)

2018-19 (SHL): 36 GP - 3 G, 5 A, 8 PTS

January Ranking: 5

After falling fast down the depth chart on his previous team (1 point in 16 games, declining ice time), Bernhardt had a much stronger second half (seven points in 20 games with Växjö). He's a very smart player with the potential to be a number four on an NHL defensive depth chart. He should be in North America with the Phantoms next year.

RW Maxim Sushko (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (OHL): 62 GP - 18 G, 33 A, 51 PTS

January Ranking: 5

Sushko's draft plus two season was a bit of a disappointment. After a strong 2017-18 season (60 points in 60 games), Sushko was not only unable to build on it, but he actually regressed a little bit. He retains his excellent skating and smarts, but perhaps his scoring upside isn't as high as once thought. Hopefully, he can rediscover his scoring touch in his first pro season.

LW David Kase (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (AHL): 40 GP - 8 GP, 15 A, 23 PTS

January Ranking: 5

Brother of Anaheim Ducks forward Ondrej Kase, David put up nearly identical numbers in his first AHL seasons as he did in his final campaign in the SHL. Injuries limited the Czech forward to about half a season of action, but he played well when healthy. At just 5'11'', there may be concerns if can handle a full season of NHL action. But when healthy, there's no denying the solid talent and gritty play style. If Kase continues to play as well as he did in this coming season, he will move up this pyramid in no time.

LW Carsen Twarysnki (AHL - Lehigh Valley Phantoms)

2018-19 (AHL): 69 GP - 10 G, 14 A, 24 PTS

January Ranking: 5

After a great training camp that nearly saw him make the team out of camp, Twarynski had a respectable first season in the AHL. He's never going to be a star if you're just going off points. But Twarynski is a physical forward, not afraid to go to the dirty areas, and is perhaps the platonic ideal of a fourth liner in the NHL today if he can reach his potential. It's unlikely he'll come as close as he did last year, if nothing else because the forward core is even more crowded. Don't let that disappoint year - Twarynski is still a solid prospect.

G Ivan Fedotov (KHL - Traktor Chelyabinsk) 2018-19 (VHL): 26 GP - 1.67 GAA, .929 SV%

January Ranking: 4

Fedotov backed up my ranking with a strong second half, including a strong 3-game audition in the KHL (.933 SV%). Whether he can earn a full time role in Russia's top league remains to be seen. Goalies are notoriously hard to project.

With the Flyers goalie prospect pool as crowded as it is, Fedotov will need another strong season in order to avoid being pushed out of the big picture. He didn't fall a tier because I think he's much worse than where he was in January. I just don't see a path for him to become a Flyer some day. Perhaps he could be a trade chip for the Flyers down the road if there isn't a spot.

LW Olle Lycksell (SHL - Linköping HC)

2018-19 (SHL): 51 GP - 5 G, 7 A, 12 PTS

January Ranking: 4

Lycksell didn't have a bad year by any stretch - getting every day playing time in the SHL is an accomplishment in itself. However, I may have jumped the gun on bumping Lycksell up to tier four in the winter. He had an inconsistent season and though 12 points isn't bad for the SHL, it's not amazing either. He's got great hands, but he needs to become more consistent before I can see him being anything more than a bottom-six forward.

D Mason Millman (OHL - Saginaw Spirit)

2018-19 (OHL): 66 GP - 3 G, 22 A, 25 PTS

January Ranking: N/A

The Flyers fourth round selection in June's draft is the final player in tier five. Millman is a very good skater, and that alone is reason for hope. We've seen several defenseman on this list that have leapt to a higher level from one season to another already on this list. Time will tell if Millman can join that list.

Tier 6: EVERYBODY ELSE!

If you are a Flyers prospect that hasn't been listed yet, then you are in tier six. There are simply too many to list. These players either don't have anything that stands out or a major concern that limits their upside. One or two of them will probably pull away from the rest and rise up the pyramid by winter. But for now, they all lie here.

So, to recap:

Tier 1 - Nobody

Tier 2 - Frost, Myers, Farabee, York

Tier 3 - O'Brien, Allison, Rubtsov, Strome, Sandström, Ersson, Laczysnki, Brink

Tier 4 - Vorobyev, Aubé-Kubel, Morin, Ginning, Friedman, St. Ivany, Cates, Kalynuk, Wylie, Zamula, Bunnaman, Ustimenko, Attard

Tier 5 - Laberge, Bernhardt, Sushko, Kase, Twarynski, Fedotov, Lycksell, Millman

Tier 6 - If you don't remember, you should probably seek medical attention for short-term memory loss.

That's THIRTY-THREE prospects spread out over four tiers! For reference, Steve Dangle's most recent pyramid last summer had twenty-five, basically an entire entry draft's worth fewer players. It's a testament to the incredible work of previous GM Ron Hextall and Chuck Fletcher's strong first draft in June.

It's also ten more than the maximum amount of players for an NHL roster. Obviously, they won't all be Flyers greats. Some will burn out, some will be traded, and some will be just meh. But when you have the quantity and quality of the Flyers farm system, it puts the Flyers in great shape, whether to use these prospects as trade chips for present help or as the building blocks for the future.

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