Flyers 2019-20 Midseason Prospect Pyramid: Tier 1-3
Prospects. The path to hope for even the most depressing franchises. No matter how good or bad an NHL team's season may be going, better days are ahead when their top youngsters are ready to take the ice (or at least that's what fans tell themselves).
Fortunately, the Flyers have a lot of great prospects that make this potential scenario seem less like a dream and more like a potential reality. Ron Hextall's GM tenure did not end well, to say the least, but he did an outstanding job of building up the Flyers farm system, turning it into one of the best in the NHL.
Now, with some of the former top members of that system graduating to the NHL, the fourth installment of the Flyers prospect pyramid may not seem as strong as it has been in the past, even though it's probably still better than most of the league. The Flyers still boast outstanding young talent up front, on the back end, and between the pipes.
This exercise, just like previously, will take a look at all members of the Flyers organization under the age of 25 and with fewer than 25 NHL games played, which are the requirements to be eligible for the Calder Trophy for rookie of the year. That means Joel Farabee, Phil Myers, and Mikhail Vorobyev, who had fewer than 25 NHL games when I last updated these rankings over the summer, won't be eligible going forward.
The prospect pyramid, created in 2016 by popular YouTuber and die-hard Maple Leafs fan Steve Dangle, ranks prospects in a six-tier pyramid, ranging from tier 1, which is the best of the best, to tier 6, which is just everybody else. Steve has done this for the Leafs each of the last four seasons, and for the fourth time in the last two years, it's time to make another one for the Orange and the Black.
Some final ground rules before we get to the good stuff. Players are listed with their current team and all statistics come from Elite Prospects (unless otherwise stated). Where they ranked in the last pyramid is also included. There is NO specific order as to how the players are listed within the tier. After all, Steve created this to alleviate the frustration of ranking players one-by-one, which is why it's such a great system.
Tier 1 is reserved for the very best of the best prospects in the NHL. This is for players who are viewed as game-changers, generational talents, the type of player you build a franchise around. There is little to no doubt that someone here will be an impact NHLer in the very near future. The Flyers don't have a player who meets this criteria, and really haven't since Nolan Patrick in 2017, when he was fresh off being selected #2 in the NHL Draft. But that's ok; most teams don't.
C Morgan Frost (Lehigh Valley Phantoms)
AHL: 26 GP - 8 G, 10 A, 18 PTS; NHL: 18 GP - 2 G, 5 A, 7 PTS
Acquired: 27th Pick in 2017 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 2
With Farabee and Myers graduating to full-time NHL status (or at least pretty close to that), Frost is the obvious choice for the Flyers best prospect. Frost has flashed elite speed and skill over the last two seasons when he was lighting up the OHL. After a strong start with the Phantoms, Frost earned a call-up to the Flyers. He started well, but his game faded a little bit as Frost continues to get used to the faster pace that comes with playing in the pros. If Frost continues to produce, he should return to the Flyers at some point this season, where his elite offensive skills will likely make him a difference maker in Philly's lineup.
D Cam York (University of Michigan Wolverines)
NCAA: 18 GP - 4 G, 7 A, 11 PTS; WJ - 5 GP, 0 PTS
Acquired: 14th Pick in 2019 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 2
York has dealt with some injuries during his freshman season, and hardly got to play at the World Junior championships, rarely playing more than 5 minutes as Team USA's 7th defenseman. However, when he has been healthy, York has been producing well for a d-man on a Michigan team struggling to light the lamp. York has some nice skill and isn't afraid to jump up on the rush - he play style suits the modern game well. He's still coming into his own physically, and might need another year in college before turning pro. But York has had some nice early returns.
RW Wade Allison (University of Western Michigan Broncos)
NCAA: 13 GP - 3 G, 6 A, 9 PTS
Acquired: 52nd Pick in 2016 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 3
Allison has dealt with injury troubles the last three seasons, but when healthy, the ginger winger looks like a 2nd round pick. Allison has great offensive upside, possessing a great shot and offensive instincts. Ron Hextall's regime was very high on Allison; hopefully Fletcher's is, too. Allison is a senior, so the Flyers will have to make a push to sign him to an ELC when Western Michigan's season is over, or else he becomes an unrestricted free agent.
C German Rubtsov (Lehigh Valley Phantoms)
AHL: 30 GP - 2 G, 10 A, 12 PTS; NHL - 4 GP, 0 PTS
Acquired: 22nd Pick in 2016 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 3
Rubtsov got off to a hot start for the Phantoms, picking up right where his injury shortened yet promising 2018-19 campaign left off. However, after a brief 3-game stint with the Flyers in November, Rubtsov trailed off a little bit. The Germ has always been a stellar two-way player, and could be an excellent shutdown center in the NHL. But he does have some skill as well, and unlocking that will be necessary if Rubtsov is to become an impact player.
G Samuel Ersson (Brynäs IF)
SHL: 20 GP - 2.70 GAA, .894 SV%
Acquired: 143rd Pick in 2018 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 3
It's been a rough season so far for most of the Flyers goalie prospects, but Ersson has been holding steady in Sweden. His .894 save percentage looks disappointing at first glance, but Brynäs's defense is reportedly not the best at preventing high-danger chances. Goalies are always difficult to project, but I'll give Ersson some leeway based on his past performance.
LW Tanner Laczynski (University of Ohio State Buckeyes)
NCAA: 25 GP - 7 G, 18 A, 25 PTS
Acquired: 169th Pick in 2016 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 3
Laczynski has long been a dominant force at the college level; his point-per-game pace has him top-25 in the NHL. He's a very complete player with good offensive skill and can more than handle his own physically and in his own zone. Laczynski will also be a senior, so the same concerns with Allison remain here, but the Flyers appear confident they can get both signed.
RW Bobby Brink (University of Denver Pioneers)
NCAA: 24 GP - 9 G, 11 A, 20 PTS; WJ - 5 GP - 1 G, 1 A, 2 PTS
Acquired: 34th Pick in 2019 NHL Draft
Previous Tier: 3
So far, so good for Brink in his freshman season. The Flyers traded up to take Brink early in the 2nd round in June, and the early returns have been great. Brink has elite offensive skill and a great shot, and although his skating still needs to be improved, that hasn't stopped him from being one of top scoring freshmen in the NCAA. The 18-year old also had a solid showing for Team USA at World Juniors.
D Yegor Zamula (Calgary Hitmen)
WHL: 28 GP - 7 G, 21 A, 28 PTS; WJ - 7 GP - 2 G, 3 A, 5 PTS
Acquired: Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent in 2018
Previous Tier: 4
This guy has turned into one heck of a parting present from Ron Hextall. Signed just two months before Hexy was fired, Zamula has become arguably the best defenseman in the WHL, posting the 5th highest points per game among blueliners. Zamula has great offensive instincts and loves to jump up on the rush. The only bad news is that after an amazing World Juniors performance for Russia, Zamula underwent season-ending back surgery.
LW Noah Cates (University of Minnesota Duluth Bulldogs)
NCAA: 23 GP - 12 G, 10 A, 22 PTS
Acquired: 137th Pick in 2017 NHL Draft Previous Tier: 4
Cates has always been my favorite sleeper prospect, a popular opinion among coaches and scouts, and this year is making us all look smart. Cates has almost passed his point total from last year in just over half as many games, as he's become a great-goal scorer, a tool that blends well with his strong hockey IQ and puck skills. Now up to 6'2'', 190, Cates could easily turn pro next year, and he may even exceed his previous upside of an amazing bottom-sixer.
That's all for part 1. Tiers 4-6 will be coming shortly, but with my midterms this week, it may not be ready until the bye week is over. I'll do my best to get it out before that.
Also, Gritty is innocent. If you disagree, I'll get a running start and punch you in the back, too. And I won't even offer you free tickets to make up for it.