Entering the 2015-16 season, there was a clear distinction between the Philadelphia Flyers' top-tier prospects on defense, and the rest of the pack. You had the "Big Five" of Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg -- all early round draft selections who were viewed as the future of the Philadelphia blueline -- and then more "lottery ticket" prospects like Mark Friedman.
Twelve months ago, Philippe Myers was added to the lottery bin. After earning an invite to Flyers' training camp, then-18-year old Myers was signed to an entry-level contract by GM Ron Hextall. At the time, the signing didn't make waves, as Myers was coming off two seasons in the QMJHL that saw him score just 12 points in 104 games.
Sure, he had the size factor going for him (6'5'' and 209 lbs), was a righthanded shot (an attribute lacking in the Philadelphia defense pipeline) and seemed to have solid mobility for a defenseman that big, but the on-ice performance up to that point had been nothing to write home about. The move appeared to be a bet on the possibility of a breakout offensive season in juniors prior to Myers hitting the 2016 NHL Draft as an overager.
Today, the Flyers look like expert card counters at a casino in the case of Philippe Myers.
No. 15 : Philippe Myers
Age: 19 (1/25/1997)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Rouyn-Noranda (QMJHL) - 17 G, 28 A in 63 GP
Nationality: Canadian (Moncton, NB)
Acquired Via: Signed as an undrafted free agent in September 2015
From the start of his 2015-16 season with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the QMHJL, Myers looked like a totally different player than the one who struggled to contribute offensively during his first two years in junior hockey. He roared out of the gate, matching his previous season-high in points (eight) by the 10th game of the season. And aside from the usual peaks and valleys, Myers never slowed up too much, finishing with 45 points in 63 games, good for a 0.714 PPG rate.
Myers also shined in the playoffs, scoring 18 points in 25 games as the Huskies made it all the way to the Memorial Cup final, where they fell in overtime to a powerhouse London Knights squad that included top prospects like Mitch Marner, Matthew Tkachuk and Olli Juolevi, all top-ten picks in their respective drafts. It was quite an achievement for Rouyn-Noranda to push a team that stacked to overtime, and Myers was a key contributor.
The result of Myers' breakout season has been a massive improvement in his stock in league circles. Even during the season, there was talk that had the Flyers not signed the defenseman to an entry-level deal back in September, he may have been a first or a second round pick in the 2016 draft, even as an overage player. After all, 6'5'' righthanded defensemen who can skate, move the puck, and score a solid rate don't grow on trees.
The praise has continued through the offseason. ESPN's Corey Pronman ranked Myers as the 84th best prospect in all of hockey last month, and 24th among all defensemen.
Flyers director of player personnel Chris Pryor commented midway through this past season that Myers surprised everyone in their organization from training camp through the campaign. Myers was one of the top defensemen in the QMJHL as an 18-year-old, and he presents a very impressive overall toolkit, including great skating and puckhandling ability for a 6-foot-5 defender. His skill level isn't elite, but he's coordinated and confident making offensive plays. He isn't a high-end shutdown defender, but he can absolutely make stops with his body or reads.
That's on the heels of TSN's Craig Button ranking Myers as the 38th best prospect in all of hockey back in February, even before the Huskies' Memorial Cup run. The elevation in his profile has made Myers a legitimate candidate for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships this upcoming December, which would give him the opportunity to play in what is essentially a prospect all-star tournament, validating his newfound status as a young defenseman to watch.
If anything, the 15th spot in our rankings is too conservative for Philippe Myers. But it's fair to note that Myers has just one great season to his credit, and some observers would rather see him repeat (or better) his 2015-16 production before they place him alongside Flyers prospects like Provorov, Sanheim and Morin.
But what makes Myers so exciting for the Flyers' future is that he brings a much-needed set of attributes to the organization. All of Philadelphia's top defensive prospects naturally play the left side; Myers is a righty. Players like Gostisbehere and Sanheim play an aggressive, offensively-oriented style and could benefit from skating with a more conservative partner -- Myers (his 45 points not withstanding) has proven capable of succeeding while playing an economical style.
The other prospects in this range of our Top 25 Under 25 need to take a substantial step forward in order to retain their position on the list. Myers is unique in that all he really needs to do is prove that last season was not a fluke, and he'll unquestionably shoot up into the territory of players like Sanheim and Morin -- if he isn't there already.
How we voted for Philippe Myers :
How we voted at No. 15 :
|Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Petr Straka||Robert Hagg||Radel Fazleev||Pascal Laberge||Alex Lyon||Jordan Weal||Alex Lyon||Anthony Stolarz||Robert Hagg|
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016: