Now that the Philadelphia Flyers’ season is over, general manager Ron Hextall has the ability to focus primarily upon getting his house in order and preparing for the upcoming offseason. One aspect of that process is evaluating which prospects in the organization who have yet to be inked to a contract are deserving of that status.
Last Friday, Hextall signed 2016 fourth round pick Connor Bunnaman to his entry-level contract. Today, it was the organization’s fourth rounder from the prior year, Mikhail Vorobyov, who received his first official deal from the Flyers, per Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports.
Mikahil Vorobyov signed his ELS contract with the Flyers. 4th round pick in 2015. #tvasports— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) April 26, 2017
Bunnaman’s contract negotiation was relatively simple, as he currently plies his trade in the OHL and therefore can be signed with ease. Vorobyov, on the other hand, spent this past season playing professionally in the KHL, and certainly had the option of re-upping with his club in Russia rather than coming west.
But Vorobyov had hinted in recent months that he was interested in coming over to North America, and today he confirmed those rumors by officially signing his ELC. In 44 games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Vorobyov finished with three goals and eight assists, statistics that may not jump off the page at first glance, but are more impressive when accounting for the fact that the KHL is the second-best league in the world, and Vorobyov just turned 20 years of age in January.
Even more impressive was his performance in the World Juniors back in December. Centering Russia’s top line alongside top prospect Kirill Kaprizov, Vorobyov finished the tournament with 10 points, tied for fourth among all players in scoring. His ten assists led all players as well.
Vorobyov slid in at #22 in our February Top 25 Under 25 rankings, but some contributors (hint: this one) ranked him far higher in the pecking order. Vorobyov is one of the few pure center prospects in the pipeline, and his success in carving out a meaningful role on a KHL squad before reaching his 20th birthday is undeniably impressive. He’s not an especially flashy player in terms of style, but his passing ability, vision, and strength all appear to be above-average for his age. He may not project as a future 1C, but a solid middle-six center is not a bad way to describe his ceiling.
Almost certainly, Vorobyov will spend next season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, familiarizing himself with the North American game. Assuming his rookie season in the AHL is a success, and accounting for his previous experience in a professional league against men, it’s not crazy to hope that Vorobyov might make a push for a roster spot with the Flyers as soon as training camp in 2018.