The Flyers (with the exception of Claude Giroux) aren't playing for the next five days, but several other players in the Flyers' pipeline will still be in action elsewhere in North American and across the globe over the rest of the week and upcoming weekend. So, to give everyone something to talk about while the orange and black are at rest, we'll be doing a compressed version of one of the community's favorite features: the Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25.
If you need a refresher, here's what a Top 25 Under 25 entails:
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept here, this is basically exactly what it sounds like: it's a ranking of the organization's 25 best players under the age of 25 years old. Why 25? Well, it's a somewhat round number (in the sense that multiples of fives are round numbers ... right?), it's an age by which you generally have a pretty good idea what kind of a hockey player you've got in a guy, and it brings together a good mix of young, high-risk/high-ceiling prospects and already-known commodities like current NHL players and higher-end AHL guys.
"But wait," you ask. "Didn't you do this over this past summer?"
We did! It was lots of fun then. But with some downtime, now is as good a time as any to take a quick look at the guys we ranked then and see how their seasons are going. As such, consider this your Midterm Update to the summer 2015 rankings. Who's living up to expectations? Who's exceeding them? Who's falling short? And how does that all change up our rankings -- in essence, whose stock has gone up and down this year?
We will answer those questions -- and more! -- over the next five days. We'll be doing five brief profiles per day, starting with the No. 25 through No. 21 players today and ending with the No. 5 through No. 1 selections on Monday.
Before we begin, some quick housekeeping notes:
- The panel consisted of eight of our writers/editors: Kurt R., Kelly Hinkle, Charlie O'Connor, Allison J., Andrew D., Travis Hughes, Ryan Gilbert, and Al K..
- The 25-year old cutoff date was February 1, 2016. However, no one from the summer's ballot moved above the cutoff line from this date! Hooray! As such -- and because none of those players were moved off of the team since then -- every player from last August's ballot was on the ballot that was sent out this time around.
- There were, however, two new entries onto the ballot: forward Jordan Weal, acquired in the Luke Schenn/Vincent Lecavalier trade earlier this month, and QMJHL defenseman Phil Myers, who signed an entry-level contract with the team in September after being brought in to training camp on an invite.
With that, here was your 40-person ballot, grouped by their primary league in the 2015-16 hockey season:
- NHL: Brayden Schenn (F), Jordan Weal (F), Scott Laughton (F), Sean Couturier (F), Shayne Gostisbehere (D)
- AHL: Anthony Stolarz (G), Christian Marti (D), Cole Bardreau (F), Danick Martel (F), Mark Alt (D), Nick Cousins (F), Petr Straka (F), Robert Hagg (D), Samuel Morin (D), Taylor Leier (F), Tyrell Goulbourne (F)
- ECHL: Brandon Alderson (F), Derek Mathers (F), Jesper Pettersson (D), Nick Luukko (D)
- OHL: Travis Konecny (F)
- QMJHL: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (F), Samuel Dove-McFalls (F), Phil Myers (D)
- WHL: Ivan Provorov (D), Radel Fazleev (F), Travis Sanheim (D)
- NCAA: Cooper Marody (F), David Drake (D), Mark Friedman (D), Matej Tomek (G), Merrick Madsen (G), Reece Willcox (D), Terrance Amorosa (D)
- KHL: Mikhail Vorobyov (F), Valeri Vasiliev (D)
- MHL: Ivan Fedotov (G)
- SHL: Oskar Lindblom (F), Felix Sandstrom (G)
- Czech Extraliga: David Kase (F)
There is your ballot. Who emerged from it? Let's find out! Starting with the first five that made the cut ... now.
25. Matej Tomek
As one of the Flyers' two third-round goalie selections from last June's draft, Tomek was a pretty intriguing goalie prospect, and one who was coming off of a strong enough year that he was actually the second-highest-ranked goalie in our entire ranking. His .928 save percentage in 33 NAHL games was an exciting sign of things to hopefully come in the future, as he committed to play at Dave Hakstol's old stomping ground at the University of North Dakota.
Sadly, Tomek hasn't actually gotten on the ice yet in a game for UND. With Bruins goalie prospect Zane McIntyre leaving after last season, our hope was that Tomek would be able to step in and get some playing time in a situation with two other goalies that had barely received any playing time between them. That unfortunately hasn't happened yet, as those two players -- junior Matt Hrinkiw and sophomore Cam Johnson -- have received all of the goalie work this year.
Essentially, this then becomes a "redshirt" year for Tomek, who will hopefully learn some things from those goalies above him and from new UND coach Brad Berry. It's tough to guarantee that he'll get more looks next year with the same two guys both on the roster for at least another year, but more familiarity with the team and its defense will hopefully allow that to be the case.
So this update is, unfortunately, more of a non-update than anything else. But the fact that Tomek has managed to stay on the ranking ladder despite not even playing this year does tell you that our panel is still fairly optimistic about what the athletic 6'2" netminder brings to the table as a prospect.
-- Kurt R.
24. Merrick Madsen
After missing out on the top-25 cut last summer, Madsen has made his way back onto the list, relying heavily on his numbers this year to boost him into the ranking. In his 14 games played at Harvard University, he's done pretty well for himself.
Madsen noted in an interview with Steve Coates at development camp this past summer that, as a freshman behind a solid senior goaltender, he wasn't able to play much and that it was his goal to take over that starting role coming into his sophomore season. Madsen's certainly accomplished that goal, taking 14 of the 18 starts for Harvard. Madsen also carried Harvard in the annual Shillelagh Tournament hosted by Notre Dame. In Harvard's first invite, Madsen saved 59-of-60, posting a shutout in the title game against RPI. Madsen was also named MVP of the tournament. Pretty cool! And a decent mustache too.
Madsen mirrors the new class of modern NHL goaltending: a tall frame with good movement and agility. Madsen also mentioned in the Coates interview that he's studied Ben Bishop's tape, noting that he wants to "imitate" some of Bishop's techniques. That's certainly a good thought.
While he's still quite raw, a number of questions that scouts had about him are getting answered in his first year getting significant minutes in the collegiate circle. Can he compete in the NCAA? Will more minutes mean weaker play? Yes and no, respectively. Madsen's numbers are good enough for a ranking of 8th amongst goaltenders, his performance stacking up well against other D1 goalies (like Thatcher Demko, who is ranked 6th according to USCHO's statistics). I mean, hey, the kid was among 66 nominees for the Hobey Baker . That's worth something. (You can vote for him here, if you have any inclination.)
It's hard to say exactly where Madsen will land in the coming years. Goaltenders are hard to predict even at the NHL level, let alone at lower levels. However, Madsen seems to be developing nicely, another goalie in the ranks whose progress is exciting to watch.
-- Allison J.
23. Cooper Marody
When the Flyers selected Marody in the sixth round of last June's NHL Draft, there was real reason for optimism surrounding the pick. The 18-year old was coming off an impressive season in the USHL, scoring 58 points in 52 games, and had committed to a top-tier collegiate program in the University of Michigan. But doubts remained regarding his size and relatively short track record of high-end production.
His performance thus far at Michigan has gone a long way towards easing those concerns. Marody roared out of the gate to start his freshman season, scoring 13 points in his first 12 games as a Wolverine. In fact, for the first month of the season, he was neck-and-neck with Kyle Connor (17th overall pick in 2015) for the team lead in points despite Marody receiving third-line minutes. His pace has recently slowed, however, with coach Red Berenson noting that the tougher competition of Big Ten conference play proved to be an adjustment period for Marody and his linemates.
Still, the legendary Berenson raved about Marody's skillset, stating, "In terms of his offensive game, he has good hands. He’s good with the puck and he has that mental ability to be patient with the puck, and then he has the skill to put the puck in the net." Marody's defensive game still appears to need some work, but it's hard to be disappointed with his freshman season so far. Despite limited minutes, Marody has produced offensively and is carving out a role for himself at a school that has produced numerous NHL players. For a player who has successfully used the slight of being cut from his high school varsity team to drive him to success in his hockey career, it's probably not the best idea to bet against him.
-- Charlie O'Connor
22. David Kase
Kase was a player that, going into last June's draft, many agreed had exciting skill and vision but lacked ideal size, with his 5'10" stature holding him back in the eyes of some. All the better for Ron Hextall and the Flyers, though, who snagged him in the fifth round of the draft despite having some belief that he could go as high as the second round.
The young Czech has spent his time in the 2015-16 season moving between a few different stages. He had spent some time at the start of the year with Chomutov at the Czech league's highest level, but was later loaned to SK Kadan in the league's second tier after a bit of a slow start. The brief move appears to have helped Kase get back on track -- he averaged nearly a point per game in 16 contests with Kadan. Recently, Kase was recalled back to Chomutov in the top tier, and reports are that he's been getting more ice time with them since his return, which can only be a good thing.
Kase also represented the Czech Republic in the U20 World Juniors in December and January, for the second time in his playing career. Though he only tallied one point -- a single assist -- in five games, it was easy to come away from the tournament intrigued by his play. Our own Charlie O'Connor mentioned in his WJC prospect review that Kase did a great job setting up his teammates for looks that they just couldn't cash in on, and Ron Hextall himself had a lot of nice things to say about Kase's play at the tournament, likening him to a "pitbull" but still speaking positively of his skill level.
While his age-18 season hasn't been a true breakout year, it's been progress, and there's still a lot to like in what Kase has brought and continues to bring to the table. Hopefully things continue trending upward for him in the Extraliga over the rest of the season.
-- Kurt R.
21. Felix Sandstrom
The knock against Felix Sandstrom when the Flyers drafted him last year was that he just hadn't played much -- only 14 games in 2014-15. But we have a lot more to judge Sandstrom on now, and while his ranking at No. 21 on this list remains the same as it was last summer, there's still a lot to be excited about with this kid.
For starters, he's played most of his hockey in Sweden's top league this year. His numbers aren't stellar, but to be in the SHL at age 18, especially for a team like Brynas that develops goalies well, is a very good thing. He's one of just a handful of players under 20 on that team, one of the others being fellow Flyers prospect Oskar Lindblom.
As for his performance at the 2016 WJC for Sweden, he didn't play a huge role due to the rise of Islanders prospect goalie Linus Soderstrom. When he did play, he was crushed by his defense in a rout against the Americans, and he pulled a shut out against Denmark. Still, in any event, to be on the WJC team at age 18 is impressive and he will have another chance next year.
That's the track Sandstrom is on. It's going to take a while for him to develop, as is the case with any goaltender. But he's very young and in a great situation to develop as a player.
-- Travis Hughes
How we voted spots 25 to 21:
|25||Phil Myers||Valeri Vasiliev||Phil Myers||Merrick Madsen||David Drake||Cooper Marody||Tyrell Goulbourne||Valeri Vasiliev|
|24||Mikhail Vorobyov||Matej Tomek||Mikhail Vorobyov||Ivan Fedotov||Mikhail Vorobyov||Mark Alt||Cooper Marody||Felix Sandstrom|
|23||David Kase||Mark Friedman||Cooper Marody||Felix Sandstrom||Cooper Marody||Tyrell Goulbourne||David Kase||Cooper Marody|
|22||Cooper Marody||Mark Alt||David Kase||Danick Martel||Mark Friedman||Mark Friedman||Matej Tomek||David Kase|
|21||Felix Sandstrom||David Kase||Felix Sandstrom||Radel Fazleev||Merrick Madsen||Felix Sandstrom||Danick Martel||Oskar Lindblom|