Our five-day review of the 25 top young players in the Flyers' organization comes to an end today, as we look at the last (and greatest) five names on the countdown. First, if you need to review any of the earlier sections, you can find them here:
And now, the moment you've all surely been waiting for: the final five names in our Flyers Top 25 Under 25 Midterm Update!
5. Travis Konecny
It's still a mystery how Konecny -- a guy who most saw as a lottery-level talent in last June's draft -- slipped far enough down in the first round where the Flyers could make a move to pick him up. But they're all the better off for it, and Konecny's jump from seventh to fifth in our rankings shows how this year has gone about as well for him as they could have hoped.
After a draft year (1.13 points per game) that didn't show much progress from his first year in the OHL (1.11), the pressure was on Konecny to show that that was just a bump in the road by taking a big step forward this year. Consider that step taken, and in thoroughly resounding fashion: Konecny, at an eye-popping 1.61 points per game, currently sits seventh in the entire OHL in scoring, behind only a number of other high-end prospects such as Dylan Strome, Mitch Marner, and Christian Dvorak.
And things have only been getting better for him lately. Konecny was the centerpiece of a stunning midseason OHL trade that saw him sent from Ottawa to Sarnia ... and all he's done since getting to Sarnia is scoring at nearly a goal-per-game pace, with 10 goals and 11 assists in 12 games since the deal. After a stint with Canada's World Junior team that frustratingly saw him struggle to get on the ice at times, everything's been coming up aces in recent weeks for the electrifying young forward, and there's no reason to think it won't continue over the rest of his season in juniors.
But what about after that? As we wrote shortly after that deal went down, it seems like Konecny's trade from Ottawa was in part motivated by their belief that he won't be in the OHL next year. With the state of the Flyers' bottom-6, and with the fact that he's probably got very little to still learn in facing OHL competition for another year, we've got every reason to believe that he'll get a long look at making the NHL roster next year, especially if he's able to either play center or wing and if he's able to add a few more pounds to his frame.
Around the time he was drafted, Konecny's ceiling appeared to be that of a very solid if not outstanding top-6 forward. Now, with the scoring flash he's shown? It's anyone's guess how good he can be.
-- Kurt R.
4. Brayden Schenn
From year to year, I waffle on where to put Schenn on my list. What do you do with a guy like him? A guy who has such a divide in what people think he'll develop into, even so far into his career?
For all of the drama of his past seasons, Schenn currently sits third in goals and fourth in total points on the team. He has been streaky in the past, but this year, he's been racking up the points relatively reliably, which is paramount for a team who's forward depth is seemingly always a question. Will they show up? Won't they? Where Schenn might have been a question in the past, I don't think he is now. Some of the most memorable goals this year have been his, and that's saying something when Shayne Gostisbehere, Claude Giroux, and Jakub Voracek are also on the roster, you know ... being themselves.
Perhaps the reason for Schenn's inability to string together good performance after good performance truly was chemistry, as since being paired with Couturier and Raffl, he's been playing well. Or perhaps this is just another streak (albeit, long streak) of pretty play in a longer, more precarious career. It's always hard to say. If Schenn manages to keep up with Couturier for the rest of the season, maybe this season will be the mark we all look back on as when Brayden Schenn stepped into that top six role for good!
Schenn has had and will always have vocal naysayers about his game, but that's what you get when you play hockey in this market, I suppose. The bottom line is that, whether you love him or you hate him, Schenn has been having a great year, stepping up and complementing the play of Sean Couturier. If nothing else, Schenn has been keeping his critics relatively quiet. It's awfully hard to argue when he's putting up points.
-- Allison J.
3. Ivan Provorov
I may have ranked Ivan Provorov lower than my other friends here at BSH in this top 25, and it might come off as harsh. It's not what I intended, though: it was more of a result of philosophy -- I tend to rank current pro players ahead of guys who are still in junior. I'm ranking current development and progress vs. career potential.
If I were to vote in terms of NHL ceiling, it would have been different. Provorov may have been No. 1 for me, in that case. In any event, Provorov has been nothing but impressive so far this season, both in the WHL and at the World Juniors.
He won a silver medal with Team Russia at the WJC and was named a top-3 player on his team in the tournament. Some called him the best defenseman in the entire WJC. And he also did this in the gold medal game. Damn. Remember, he's 18 and this was all in an under-20 tournament.
Ivan Provorov is going to be an NHL player -- likely a very good one. Next year? That'd be fun.
-- Travis Hughes
2. Shayne Gostisbehere
No player in the top ten made a bigger leap up our list than Shayne Gostisbehere, and how could he not? Just five months ago, Gostisbehere was coming off a season ruined by an ACL tear and facing doubters who questioned whether his defensive ability would be enough to stand up to NHL competition. After just 29 games with the Flyers this season, few of those doubters remain.
While his play without the puck in the defensive zone remains a work in progress, the rest of his game has more than made up for his one weakness. Gostisbehere has been the team's best defenseman in terms of generating controlled zone exits, and also the most effective blueliner in preventing opposing forwards from gaining the Flyers' zone with possession of the puck. As a result, Gostisbehere's on-ice shot attempt differential (Corsi) has been solidly positive, driving play with a +1.24% Corsi relative to his teammates.
And then there's the offense. Gostisbehere has been absolutely electric when on the attack, scoring 22 points in 29 NHL games in his rookie season. After adjusting for ice time, no defenseman in the entire league has scored at a more efficient rate than Gostisbehere and his 2.34 Points/60 across all situations. That's better than Erik Karlsson, P.K. Subban and Brent Burns. And with three game winning goals to his credit (all in overtime), he's even showcased a flair for the dramatic. Due to his standout play, Gostisbehere has forced his way into the Calder Trophy discussion, an unlikely achievement for a defenseman who didn't even begin the season in Philadelphia.
Calder talk and clutch goals are nice. But the truly important aspect of Gostisbehere's strong start is that he's established himself as a viable NHL defenseman for a team in desperate need of them. The 22-year old's ceiling remains unknown, but he certainly looks like he'll at least be a solid second-pairing defenseman at even strength, while providing plenty of scoring punch on the power play. That's quite a valuable commodity in the NHL, and it's probably closer to Gostisbehere's floor than his best-case scenario upside.
-- Charlie O'Connor
1. Sean Couturier
This is Sean Couturier's third straight time taking the top spot in our 25 Under 25 rankings, as he snagged that honor in our summer editions in both 2014 and 2015 and has again now. But it really does feel like there's a bit more oomph behind that ranking right now, in February 2016, as Couturier finds himself in the midst of the best season of his five-year NHL career.
There were never many questions about Couturier's ability as a defensive forward, but since his second year in the league he's been hounded by folks who were just never convinced that his offense was going to come around, or that he'd be able to generate consistent pressure the way he was in juniors. Up until this year, those were pretty valid concerns. But it's tough to argue with what we've seen this year. After opening the season by piling up the scoring chances but not being able to finish them, Couturier's been white-hot in the last two months, posting 17 points in 20 games since December 1.
His performance this year has gotten him recognition from observers local and national alike, and it should be placing him in the Selke Trophy conversation. And perhaps there's no better sign of his value than what the Flyers have done when he's been out of the lineup -- in the nine games the Flyers have played while Couturier has dealt with injury this year (which is ongoing as we speak), the Flyers are 2-6-1 and have often just not looked good at all.
Truthfully, it's hard to overstate how good Sean Couturier has been for the Flyers this season. In past seasons, he's shown flashes of being able to be this player on a night-in, night-out basis. Despite only sometimes showing those flashes, the team was happy enough with his play to give him a six-year contract extension last summer. Now that he's doing it almost every night? One has to think Ron Hextall is thrilled with that contract, as he sits back and imagines Claude Giroux and Couturier anchoring the top half of his lineup into the next decade.
And the best part? He just turned 23 two months ago. He probably still has a couple more runs on top of this countdown in him.
-- Kurt R.
How we voted spots 5 to 1:
|5||Brayden Schenn||Brayden Schenn||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Konecny||Travis Sanheim|
|4||Ivan Provorov||Ivan Provorov||Ivan Provorov||Travis Sanheim||Ivan Provorov||Scott Laughton||Ivan Provorov||Travis Konecny|
|3||Travis Sanheim||Shayne Gostisbehere||Brayden Schenn||Shayne Gostisbehere||Shayne Gostisbehere||Shayne Gostisbehere||Brayden Schenn||Ivan Provorov|
|2||Shayne Gostisbehere||Travis Konecny||Shayne Gostisbehere||Sean Couturier||Brayden Schenn||Brayden Schenn||Shayne Gostisbehere||Shayne Gostisbehere|
|1||Sean Couturier||Sean Couturier||Sean Couturier||Ivan Provorov||Sean Couturier||Sean Couturier||Sean Couturier||Sean Couturier|