• Andrew McGuinness

Grouping the 28 Players at the Flyers Rookie Camp

In just a few short days, the Philadelphia Flyers will return to the ice. A long summer is ready to give way to training camp, the preseason, and eventually, the regular season opener on October 4th.

But before any of that, some of the youngest members of the Flyers organization will get their chance to shine. Philadelphia's rookie camp opens Saturday, September 7th, culminating with the rookie game against the Islanders at PPL Center (home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms) on Wednesday.

Every one of the 28 players participating in the camp comes in with different expectations. Some are hoping to establish themselves as NHLers, others are merely trying to make a strong impression, if not to the Flyers than perhaps to another organization. Here's a quick look at where everyone stands:

The NHL Dreamers (5)

D Phil Myers, C Morgan Frost, LW Joel Farabee, C German Rubtsov, C Mikhail Vorobyev

Phil Myers is a bit of an outlier in this group - not just because he's the only defenseman, but because he's the only one being penciled into the opening lineup by the Flyers brass. Myers made a strong first impression in 23 NHL games last year. For the younger players at the bottom of the list, Myers is an example of what a strong rookie camp can do - the undrafted defenseman signed an ELC with the Flyers after an impressive performance here in 2015.

There's an obvious opening at third line wing for one of the remaining players to fill, and with Tyler Pitlick likely out for most of the preseason, maybe a second could sneak in as well. Frost, Farabee, and Rubtsov are all former first round picks. Frost possess great puck skills and playmaking, Rubtsov is a good two-way player with a high hockey IQ, and Farabee a bit of a hybrid of the two. Vorobyev projects as a solid bottom-sixer going forward, but neither impressed much in brief NHL stints a year ago. All except for Farabee are natural centers with some experience playing wing.

While most fans are picking their favorite of the group to make the team, it's worth noting that there's a chance none of them make it. It will take a truly impressive effort, and for any of these players to make the team out of camp, they will have to prove there are ready for the grind of an NHL season. In a perfect world, at least one of them will bust the door wide open and make the opening night lineup.

The Pro Prospects (10)

LW David Kase, D Mark Friedman, RW Maxim Sushko, C Pascal Laberge, LW Isaac Ratcliffe, LW Matt Strome, LW Carsen Twarynski, C Connor Bunnaman, G Felix Sandström, G Kirill Ustimenko

There are several other players with potential that could fit into the Flyers long-term plans, though they need more experience before they're ready for the NHL level. Isaac Ratcliffe, a former 2nd round pick, is the cream of the crop here. The 6'6'' winger possess a knack for goal scoring and is a good skater for his size, but will need more seasoning to learn how to use his body to his advantage before he's ready for the big leagues.

Others pushing on the door include defenseman Mark Friedman, who drove play and drew an insane amount of penalties in the AHL last season, earning an 1-game NHL call-up. Matt Strome is a great goal scorer and overall offensive force, but his skating still needs to improve before he can sniff the NHL. Carsen Twarynski was a surprise standout at camp last year, nearly making the team - but after a meh AHL season, he'll need to show last year's camp wasn't a flash in the man. Former second-rounder Pascal Laberge has struggled with injuries and consistency so far, but still has enough raw talent to be something with the right growth. Kase and (especially) Bunnaman had solid AHL seasons a year ago - both are on their way to becoming a future NHL bottom-sixers.

Sandström figures to receive significant playing time in the AHL. He's had an up-and-down SHL career, but has been praised for his above-average athleticism and reflexes - just a few years ago, some had him above Carter Hart in the goalie prospect depth chart. A strong showing in the minors this year would provide much optimism for Sandström's fate, which could involve a backup role with the Flyers as soon as next year. Fellow goalie Ustimenko will likely be the starter for the Reading Royals (Philly's ECHL affiliate) and could receive AHL time if he performs well.

The CHL Prospects (5)

D Yegor Zamula, D Mason Millman, G Roddy Ross, RW Egor Serdyuk, D Wyatte Wylie

At the end of rookie camp, all of these players will leave the Flyers immediate grasp and return to their junior or European clubs. Much like minors, Zamula went from undrafted to high offensive upside after a breakout season in junior. Millman, a 2019 4th rounder, has reportedly well this summer and is already a great skater. Serdyuk was a solid goal scorer last year in junior. Wylie is both solid in his own zone and has some offensive upside. Ross put up solid numbers in 25 WHL games last season - goalies are historically a role of the dice in terms of development, so hopefully things role the right way for Ross. None of these players will come close to the NHL this year, but all have NHL upside.

The Hopefuls (8)

C Gerry Fitzgerald, D David Drake, LW Maxim Golod, D Robert Michel, LW Ben McCartney, D Sean Comrie, D Josh Couturier, C Mika Cyr

None of the eight players in this category come into rookie camp with an NHL contract. Some are candidates to sign an AHL only deal to play with the Phantoms or Royals - others are junior players hoping to make a positive impression to earn them an ELC, if not from the Flyers, than from someone else. None of them stand out as someone who could impress enough to earn a contract on paper, but perhaps a Myers or Zamula level camp could be enough to change the tide.

If you really want to find someone with a head start in this group, Cyr, Golod, and McCartney (all in the CHL) participated in the Flyers development camp in June and were invited back for another go. And, since I already know you're asking: no, Josh Couturier is not related to Sean.