We reach the Top 10 in our Flyers Top 25 Under 25 Midterm Update today, as we really start to get to the most exciting young players in the Flyers' organization. If you missed any of our earlier segments, you can see them here:
And with that, the top 10 begins: now!
10. Anthony Stolarz
2014-15 was pretty rough for Anthony Stolarz. In his first pro season with the Phantoms, Stolarz had downright atrocious numbers -- a 3.28 goals against average and a .905 save percentage in just 31 games. It wasn't the way he wanted his pro career to begin. The result was the Flyers drafting three goaltenders in the 2015 draft, and that must have motivated Stolarz pretty well, because his reaction has been stellar.
On Sunday and Monday this week, Stolarz will be in Syracuse for the AHL All-Star Weekend, an indication of just how well his year has gone with Lehigh Valley this season. He's grabbed the starting job by the reins, and his numbers are much better: .916 save percentage and a 2.43 goals against in 28 games thus far.
We're guessing Ron Hextall won't feel the need to draft more goalies this coming summer.
-- Travis Hughes
9. Robert Hagg
Once touted as the Flyers' most NHL-ready defensive prospect, Robert Hagg has been surpassed on the depth chart by flashier prospects like Shayne Gostibehere and Ivan Provorov. His tenure with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms can be best described as up and down.
2014-15 was considered a successful first step for the young swede in acclimating to the North American game. With 20 points in 69 games in the AHL, Hagg showed flashes of offensive upside and was often relied on to log tough defensive minutes.
His early success seemed to carry over into a strong 2015 development camp, and with success came greater expectations. Unfortunately, an early season lower-body injury derailed Hagg's 2015-16 season before it could really get started. After missing a month of hockey, Hagg has struggled to regain his form and may be losing the confidence of the Phantoms coaching staff. Most recently, he has found himself watching multiple games as a healthy scratch.
Rumblings about Hagg's compete level and "laid-back" personality have dogged him since his draft year and those questions resurface at the first sign of trouble for the young defenseman. On the ice, he's often criticized for a lack of game to game consistency and an inability to be assertive in his decision making. Despite those concerns, it's worth noting that Hagg is still only 20 years old and barely halfway through his second season in North America. Player progression is rarely a linear track and a few bumps in the road are not surprising. The intriguing combination of two-way skills, strength, and size that made Hagg a steal in the 2nd round of the 2013 draft still remain.
-- Andrew D.
8. Samuel Morin
Prior to his first season of professional hockey, the consensus on Samuel Morin was that his freakish, Chara-esque physical attributes and shut down prowess already made him an impressive defensive stand out. However, the biggest concern for Morin moving forward bringing his offensive game up to snuff for the pro levels. At first blush, the 6'7", 225-pound defender has made some early strides on the offensive side. As our own Kurt R. recently noted, Morin has begun racking up points since early December, though it remains to be seen if Morin can sustain a respectable level of production from the back end moving forward.
On the defensive side, Morin has been given a lot of responsibility right from the jump. Anchoring the Phantoms' shut down pair along with Mark Alt, he regularly faces the AHL's best scorers. It's tough to get a bead on exactly how well Morin has handled that role based on the limited stats kept for the AHL level. At the very least, he's earned high marks from head coach Scott Gordon for his d-zone positioning, penalty killing, and willingness to learn.
His encouraging development aside, another aspect of Morin's game as been earning him headlines throughout the season. Namely, his ability to crush faces. The mean streak that earned him comparisons to Chris Pronger hasn't been tamed with the Phantoms. Leaving a trail of bloodied opponents behind him, Morin has racked up a team leading 73 penalty minutes. A willingness to drop the gloves will never go unappreciated by the Flyers' organization or the fan base.
-- Andrew D.
7. Scott Laughton
When Scott Laughton was drafted by the Flyers back in 2012, he was presented to the fanbase as a future two-way center, compared to players like former Philadelphia captain Mike Richards and 2001 Selke Trophy winner John Madden. Laughton has now played in 83 NHL games - a little over a full season - and it's been striking how little his on-ice performance has matched the scouting reports.
His defensive game, so touted in juniors, has been spotty at best. Laughton has led all Flyers forwards in 5v5 defensive zone turnover percentage, a particularly damaging weakness for a center charged with assisting his blueline on the breakout. His puck possession statistics (-6.04% Corsi Relative) have suffered as well. As a result, Laughton's ice time has remained limited, and his line has fell behind the unit centered by Pierre-Edouard Bellemare on the depth chart.
Surprisingly, it's been Laughton's offense that has been truly promising. His 1.61 5-on-5 points/60 ranks second on the team only to Sean Couturier, and his 51.03% controlled entry percentage hints that Laughton is not lacking for skill. Via the eye test, Laughton appears to have all of the necessary tools - plus skating, a good shot, aggressive forechecking ability - to be a useful secondary scorer in the NHL. To this point, however, his issues in the defensive zone have outweighed those strengths.
Still only 21 years old, Laughton has more than enough time to improve as a player. But it's fair to say that his relatively disappointing start to his NHL career should cause fans to temper their expectations. The Flyers seem willing to let their young forward work through his issues at the NHL level rather than returning him to Lehigh Valley, which is probably the right move. But they'll need to make some decisions regarding Laughton soon, specifically regarding his final position as a pro. He's played nearly all of his minutes this season at center, but if his defensive deficiencies show no signs of improvement, there's a decent chance that Laughton may have to switch over to wing. But such a decision would remove any hopes that Laughton will develop into the next Richards or Madden. As a result, the next few months will be very important in determining Laughton's future as a forward.
-- Charlie O'Connor
6. Travis Sanheim
I think that Travis Sanheim goes under a lot of Flyers fans' radars for some reason. And maybe it's hard to blame them. With so many other killer defensemen in the pipeline, who's got time to focus on everyone?
But Travis Sanheim deserves attention, because he may be the most well-rounded of all of the prospect defensemen, playing a near-perfect game.
Sanheim has been having a great year in Calgary, racking up points like it's no big deal. He's fourth on the Hitmen's roster in points and second in assists, despite missing almost 20 games during the year, and his 1.31 points per game are easily tops on the Hitmen roster. Sanheim also made Team Canada for the World Junior Championship for the first time, but he didn't have much of an offensive output. Then again, I heard rumblings about Team Canada's coaching being not great, so who knows.
It's hard to find things to dislike about Sanheim's game. He's very sound. Everywhere. Ever since his draft day, he's been rapidly developing into what Ron Hextall believed he'd be. He's smart, he's big, he's fast, he's good with the puck, he's good without it. What's not to like with him? He's not with the team yet.
Sanheim is just one of those hybrid defensemen that you search up and down for. He's got a lot of defensive awareness and is able to anticipate plays well, making him very reliable. He's also got an insane ability to open up play and find a scorer's stick, able to step up in plays without sacrificing an odd-man rush in the other direction. I've read a lot about Sanheim, and from what I can gather, he's about as complete a defensemen as the Flyers can hope to have at the junior level.
Sanheim will be turning 20 this March, so I would imagine this to be his final season in the WHL and he should be making the move to the AHL next season. It'll be fun to see what this kid can do on a more competitive rink.
-- Allison J.
How we voted spots 10 to 6:
|10||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Robert Hagg||Oskar Lindblom||Scott Laughton||Anthony Stolarz||Samuel Morin||Robert Hagg||Jordan Weal|
|9||Robert Hagg||Samuel Morin||Anthony Stolarz||Oskar Lindblom||Oskar Lindblom||Jordan Weal||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Robert Hagg|
|8||Samuel Morin||Scott Laughton||Samuel Morin||Robert Hagg||Samuel Morin||Travis Sanheim||Samuel Morin||Scott Laughton|
|7||Scott Laughton||Travis Sanheim||Scott Laughton||Samuel Morin||Travis Sanheim||Ivan Provorov||Scott Laughton||Anthony Stolarz|
|6||Travis Konecny||Jordan Weal||Travis Sanheim||Brayden Schenn||Scott Laughton||Anthony Stolarz||Travis Sanheim||Samuel Morin|