Today marks the beginning of a five-day hiatus for the Flyers, which gives us exactly five days to start back up with one of our favorite traditions here at Broad Street Hockey. Welcome to the Midterm Update to our Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25 series.
To borrow some words from our last edition of the 25 Under 25, which took place last August:
An exercise that has become progressively more fun every year since we started doing it in the winter of 2014, the 25 Under 25 is more or less what it sounds like: a ranking of the Flyers’ best players, across all levels, under the age of 25. 25 is sort of a landmark age in the NHL — it’s typically the age at which a player is seven or so years removed from being drafted, and one could argue it’s the age at which a player is really in the prime of his career. Whether the guy in question is a franchise cornerstone, a solid NHL depth guy, or an AHLer, by the time he’s 25 we’ll pretty much know what he is as a player. (Also, it’s a nice, round number that sounds catchy. We’re not doing, like, the Top 29 Under 29. None of that prime number crap.)
Our summer edition (one that most recently ended with Ivan Provorov picking up the top spot) is one in which we usually go a bit further in-depth on the guys that made the cut, talking about the seasons they just had and what is expected of them in the seasons to come. In the winter, we tend to take a week that the NHL team has off and use it to talk about the seasons that the young guns have had so far, in somewhat shorter form — we discuss players five at a time, across five days.
That’s what we’ll be doing again this time around, with some slight tweaks in format from how we did this last winter. Before we get to the rankings, though, we’ve got some quick housekeeping notes.
The panel and voting
Our results come from a panel of 12 ballots of votes. 11 of those belong to our various masthead members and podcast hosts: Bill, Brad, Craig, Jay, Joe, Kelly, Kurt (me), Kyle, Mike, Maddie, and Steph. The final ballot was the community ballot, which we’ll talk more about shortly.
All of our voters received a ballot consisting of 47 players under Flyers team control that are under the age of 25 as of February 1, 2018. The task given to them was to pick the 25 players with the most value to them right now — and how the voter determines “value” is entirely up to him or her — and rank them from 1 (best) to 25 (25th-best). Ballots are then scored by reverse points, meaning the player who is ranked No. 1 gets 25 points, the player ranked No. 2 gets 24 points, the guy at No. 25 gets 1 point, etc. The point totals from all ballots are then put together and scored, and the end result is our final 25 Under 25 ranking.
The twelfth and final ballot that factored into our scoring was an aggregate of ballot submissions from the community. We sent out a call last week asking for ballots from you, the people, and we received 316 responses, only a few of which had to be tossed due to errors. Big thanks to everyone who took part in submitting a ballot. We also asked for comments on certain players/ranking decisions in those submissions, and we’ll try to get some good ones from users in for certain players’ writeups.
Only two names dropped from the ballot that was sent out last summer, as two players that we’re all familiar with turned 25 this past December. Sean Couturier’s reign in the top-2 of the 25 Under 25 finally came to a close when he had his 25th birthday on December 7, while Alex Lyon (No. 19 last summer) turned 25 on December 9. Since those two both made the last countdown before aging out, we can guarantee at least two new names in the top 25 this time around.
With no new additions to the pipeline between this past offseason and now (pour one out for Ivan Kosorenkov), the 47-man ballot that was sent to our panel is as follows, with players grouped by their primary league so far in 2017-18:
NHL: Shayne Gostisbehere (D), Robert Hagg (D), Travis Konecny (F), Scott Laughton (F), Taylor Leier (F), Nolan Patrick (F), Ivan Provorov (D), Travis Sanheim (D)
AHL: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (F), Cole Bardreau (F), Radel Fazleev (F), Mark Friedman (D), Tyrell Goulbourne (F), Oskar Lindblom (F), Danick Martel (F), Samuel Morin (D), Philippe Myers (D), Anthony Stolarz (G), Mike Vecchione (F), Mikhail Vorobyev (F), Reece Willcox (D)
OHL: Connor Bunnaman (F), Morgan Frost (F), Isaac Ratcliffe (F), Anthony Salinitri (F), Matthew Strome (F), Maksim Sushko (F)
QMJHL: Pascal Laberge (F), German Rubtsov (F)
WHL: Carter Hart (G), Carsen Twarynski (F)
NCAA: Wade Allison (F), Terrance Amorosa (D), David Drake (D), Wyatt Kalynuk (D), Tanner Laczynski (F), Cooper Marody (F), Brendan Warren (F)
USHL: Noah Cates (F), Matej Tomek (G)
SHL (Sweden): David Bernhardt (D), Linus Hogberg (D), David Kase (F), Felix Sandstrom (G)
Superelit (Swedish Juniors): Olle Lycksell (F)
VHL (Russian Minors): Ivan Fedotov (G)
MHL (Russian Juniors): Kirill Ustimenko (G)
A programming note
In the past, we’ve done these breakdowns by having just one person write about each player, typically writing 2-4 paragraphs on how things have gone for them this season. In the spirit of getting everyone involved, we’ve decided to try and have a bit more of a dialog around our choices this time around. As such, for each player who makes the cut, we’ll all (well, almost all) have some commentary on why we ranked them the way we did, and we’ll try to talk back to one another here and there on various things we say in the process. Hopefully, this gives you all a better glimpse into the range of opinions within our masthead; if you have any feedback (on the format change or on our opinions), feel free to drop it in the comments.
Finally, before we get to the main event, we’ll list out the five players who just missed the cut:
30. Carsen Twarynski
29. Maksim Sushko
28. Connor Bunnaman
27. Linus Hogberg
26. Mark Friedman
With that, let’s begin.
25. Anthony Stolarz
Primary Team/League: Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL
2017-18 Stats: Has not played due to injury
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 14
KURT (ranked him #20): Man. I get how he dropped this low, but this seems excessive. Guy was, by most accounts, an upper-end goaltending prospect not that long ago. Is his dropping entirely due to the injury? I think he’s back with the Phantoms next year, to be honest.
KYLE (did not rank him): It was difficult leaving the once top Flyers goalie prospect off this list. However, he simply hasn’t played, and other goalies are starting to show more promise than him. I do, however, hope he gets back on this list in the summer.
MIKE (did not rank him): Look, he hasn’t played much hockey in the last year and a half, and while I know it’s due to injury it’s just hard to evaluate a guy who’s missed that much time. I didn’t rank him for that reason, though I always loved his upside and he showed well in his cup of coffee in the NHL late last year. Would not shock me to see him back in the top-20 when he’s healthy.
MADDIE (ranked him #18) This was a tough one for me. I’ll concede that my ranking might be a bit high, but 25 also feels too low. I think the injury and the general logjam of goaltending prospects present a lot of questions about his ultimate place in the organization, but I also don’t think he’s toast. But he’s probably back with the Phantoms next year, yeah.
JAY (ranked him #21): Hey, it sucks that he hasn’t been able to play this season. However, that isn’t going to convince me that he is incapable of coming back and succeeding at the level he was playing before the injury.
KURT: Maybe a hot take incoming, but I think there’s a decent argument to be made that he’s still the second-best goalie prospect in the organization. Only guy between him and Hart on our rankings (spoilers!) is Sandstrom, who has also been hurt for a lot of this season and has been kinda whatever when he’s been on the ice. Wouldn’t be surprised if Sandstrom doesn’t make the jump to the AHL next year, and it’s not like Lyon has made a super-convincing argument to hang around with the Phantoms next year.
STEPH (did not rank him): I had a really hard time with this one, but I couldn’t rank in the top 25 knowing that he had two knee surgeries during the offseason, hasn’t played yet this season, and may not play this season. He had a strong showing in the few NHL games he played, but we don’t know what type of player we’re going to see when he gets back on the ice. I do think the Flyers will extend him this summer, but I don’t know about his long term future in the organization.
CRAIG (ranked him #25): Nailed it. There were a few other professional players I almost put in this spot, but chose to leave them off the list because I felt as though Stolarz has the best chance to play for the Flyers past this season. I didn’t factor in Hakstol’s usage for every player/prospect, but the fact the head coach actually let him appear in a few games in 2016-17 (while Alex Lyon didn’t come close to seeing a game while with the club earlier this season) leads me to believe the organization will give him a chance to rebound from his unfortunate season with a chance for more appearances next season. The injuries he suffered this year may ultimately hinder his potential forever, but as of right now, he’s a prospect most of the fanbase believed in before this season and will probably be back next year.
KELLY (did not rank): This wasn’t really as hard for me as it seems to have been for others. Given how quickly some other names on this list have risen, Stolarz being pushed just out of my top 25 didn’t shock me much. I’ve never been terribly high on Stolie, I think he’s a backup at the very best, but the injuries and the time he’s missed are just too much for me to have any real confidence that he’ll make a serious impact here. If he’s Carter Hart’s backup, that’s cool. If he’s just a career AHL journeyman, I’m not going to be shocked.
24. Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Primary Team/League: Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL
2017-18 Stats: 11 G, 14 A in 43 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A
KYLE (ranked him #22): Mr. NAK gets bonus points for his name, so this helped his cause. In addition he’s been solid for the Phantoms this year, already passing last year’s 18 point total. He also posts the team’s second highest 5-on-5 CF% at 56.09% according to Brad’s phancystats.com.
MIKE (also ranked him #22): Player has certainly improved in his second full season in the AHL, already surpassing his points totals from 71 games a season ago through about 40-ish games. That said, he’s inconsistent, which is to be somewhat expected since he’s so young, but he’s got time still to figure things out and prove more.
BRAD (ranked him #16): I’m very high on Aube-Kubel. There was a period of time back in December where he led the AHL in 5-on-5 primary points! The entire AHL! He’s 21! He plays physically as well, so the Flyers should want his grit.
KURT (did not rank him): NA-K was one of my last ones out. Tough choice to make there, for sure.
Brad, you’re a smarter Phantoms person than I. How much of what he’s done this year has been a product of being with Martel and Vecchione, two guys who I did manage to sneak into my rankings?
BRAD: That’s a fair question, and without having with or without you stats it’s hard to give a distinctive yes or no to whether his play is a product of his linemates. What I can say is that while Vecchione was out injured for six games back in December, Aube-Kubel scored three goals, assisted on two others, and had a CF% of 62%. In the seven games that Martel has missed, NAK has scored two goals, picked up two assists, and posted a CF% of 53.59%. From both a points & play driving standpoint, he has actually performed better while one of them has been out of the lineup.
JAY (ranked him #18): I’m right there with Brad. What NAK is doing this season from a possession and point-production standpoint has been a high-point of the Phantom’s season. It’s always fun when a high draft pick prospect re-establishes himself when most have truly forgotten him.
STEPH (did not rank him): Well, now I feel like I should’ve ranked him, but I don’t know where. Where could you see him fitting on the Flyers? Bottom six?
BRAD: Yea, bottom six sounds about right to me. I see him as an ideal “4th” liner who could certainly force his way into a top-9 role. I think you could remake the Honey Bees with him, Laughton, and Leier.
MADDIE (ranked him #22): I’d love to see him as a Honey Bee.
STEPH: THE BEEEEEEEEEES
CRAIG (ranked him #19): Aube-Kubel doesn’t receive too much fanfare, but he’s a 21-year-old who is scoring at a decent rate in the AHL and is posting the best Corsi For percentage relative on the Phantoms (thanks Brad!). He seems like a top-9 forward in the NHL and doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon. I am now realizing I said the same thing as Jay, but I’m not changing anything.
KELLY (ranked him #22): Yeah, he snuck in for me based on the year he’s having with the Phantoms, which shows a marked improvement. Seems to me like a guy that would be a solid fourth line option should a team decide they want to have a fourth line that might actually, maybe, sometimes score goals. Ahem.
23. Matthew Strome
Primary Team/League: Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
2017-18 Stats: 28 G, 19 A in 43 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 24
KURT (ranked him #18): Hi, haters.
KYLE (ranked him #17): I have Strome ranked highest out of anyone (haters, hello, it me) and I have no regrets. He’s a goal scoring machine with Hamilton and even if he improves his skating to just passable, he’s an absolute steal by Ron Hextall.
MIKE (ranked him #18): He’s interesting, because he’s scoring well in a good league and has things you love but also some glaring flaws. He’s got to work hard on his skating and conditioning but he can also fill up a box score. In the end I’ve seen way more skilled guys get over poor skating than good skaters get over poor skill.
MADDIE (ranked him #24): This ranking feels about right. He might be a bit of a project, but 44 points isn’t too shabby for a guy who still can’t skate super well. I like his potential.
BRAD (did not rank him): Kurt, hello, hater here.
KURT: In all seriousness, I’m just intrigued by a guy that can go to the net and score goals. Very much seems like a guy who will need good linemates at the next level, guys who can get a cycle game going so he has time to make plays down low, but in that setting it’s not hard for me to see him thriving. (His absolute best-case at the NHL level seems kind of Hartnell-ish, which is fitting because he too had some trouble staying upright and all that.) He’s already shown he can score against junior players; really, all he should be focusing on in the next 1.5 seasons before he gets a bump in opponent difficulty is his skating.
BRAD: Considering that skating was the knock on Oskar Lindblom, I do think that the upside is there, I’m just not much of a believer ... yet.
JAY (ranked him #24): I’ll probably be last on the Strome bandwagon (hello, Kurt). Top 30 in scoring in the OHL is nothing to sniff at, though perhaps if we had some more in-depth assessment on some of his criticisms (ahem...skating), I could have ranked him a bit higher. Prove me wrong, Strome No. 3.
STEPH (ranked him #20): I have been one of the strongest Strome skeptics, and dear god the skating is atrocious. Like, worst I have ever seen, not just professionally, but ever. I could put my newborn niece on skates and she would ... well, she can’t stand, but it would still be more enjoyable to watch than Strome skating. However, he can score. How he scores and generates chances while he is wobbling like a newborn deer, I will never know, but there is obviously talent there. And skating is the easiest technical aspect to fix. He will work on his skating over the next few years, the scoring should also increase as he can move around on the ice better. I’m excited to see what he can do when he starts putting it together.
CRAIG (ranked him #22): He has scored at every level and has a lot of traits you want out of any forward (sans the skating, as perfectly illustrated by Steph above). Strome is also great at getting to the net (going into Thursday night’s games, his 15 high-danger goals lead OHL forwards) and uses his great hands/shot to capitalize when he gets there. I wasn’t positive on Strome’s outlook in the organization when the Flyers drafted him, but seeing how well Lindblom’s skating has improved in his time as a prospect probably helped Strome make it on to the list.
KELLY (ranked him #25): Yeah, what Steph and Craig have said perfectly illustrates why he made my list. He’s low because he skates like someone who has never been on a planet with gravity before. But he scores. And he makes plays. And if they fix the skating? We got something here. But he remains low on my list because if they don’t fix the skating the he’ll never make the jump to the NHL.
22. Cooper Marody
Primary Team/League: Michigan, NCAA
2017-18 Stats: 9 G, 22 A in 24 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A
MIKE (ranked him #14): Full disclosure, having seen him play in person against my Nittany Lions back in late October, I might have a skewed view of the player. He was a beast that night, with a goal and two assists, and he followed it up with three apples a night later. Good skater, good size and finish ability and he’s starting to turn a corner.
JAY (ranked him #22): Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski he is not, but he’s still doing much better than I would have guessed for a former 6th round pick in his 3rd college season. He’s looking like a future playmaker in the bottom 6.
MADDIE (did not rank him): Is this the guy who said he doesn’t “play school” or whatever? (I don’t have a real breakdown here, will probably delete this, but I’m genuinely wondering.) [Ed. note: I did not delete this. It’s important to keep the public informed on things.]
KURT (ranked him #24): No, not that exact guy (Pat Maroon, hello), but he was suspended for academic reasons for part of last year, so maybe that’s why you thought so. On the ice, though, this was the season we’ve kinda been waiting on from him. Flashes of this guy was around in previous seasons, but he finally is having a year that will get him back into the countdown. Wonder if he’s gonna get a contract this spring.
BRAD (ranked him #25): One of three Flyers to be nominated for the Hobey Baker Award, so that’s pretty cool! He’s also a really good singer; bonus points for that.
KYLE (ranked him 25): Point-per game player for the first time in his career at Michigan.
CRAIG (ranked him #24): Honestly, I’ve liked Marody for awhile and am kind of upset I didn’t feel right putting him any higher. After almost being a point-per-game player in his first two seasons at Michigan, Marody is now almost an assist-per-game player, let alone a point-per-game player. The potential always seemed to be there and now he has the points to match it. Since he is a junior and some of the other standout collegiate players on this list are sophomores, Marody came in at 24 for me.
Kelly (did not rank): Hmm ... you people are making me feel dumb for leaving him off of my list. I doubt this is the last time I’ll say this.
STEPH (ranked at 22): I saw some gifs on WIIM or maybe it was just from one of their writers and he looked good. I think he had a hatty during the game. This is my only contribution, I think he is good, thx.
21. Isaac Ratcliffe
Primary Team/League: Guelph Storm, OHL
2017-18 Stats: 22 G, 15 A in 43 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 20
KYLE (ranked him #16): I’m choosing to attribute most of his “struggles” this season to playing on a poor Guelph team. Also he scored a goal once on one knee, practically on the goal line, so I have a small bias here. If he reaches what I believe is his full potential, we have a bigger, better-hands version of Wayne Simmonds.
MIKE (ranked him #16): I’m with Kyle here, that’s a bad team he’s playing on and we’ve seen that have an effect on prospects in the past, no doubt. He’s a big forward that can skate and finish, they’re aren’t many guys that have that combination. He (still) needs to take another step, but if he does, the Flyers have something here worth time and development going forward.
JAY (did not rank him): I still like Ratcliffe as a prospect and I realize that he hasn’t regressed, but so many other prospects at the same level as him and in the NHL have taken bigger leaps this year. With a strong finish to the season, it’s possible he can squeeze in on my post-season rankings.
KURT (ranked him #22): I go back and forth on Ratcliffe a lot. He’s a big guy who doesn’t really play a big guy’s game at this point in his career — a guy with his size should be more dominant against a league full of small people. But the dude has obvious skill that he flashes on occasion, and you can see what the Flyers liked in him when they moved up to get him. The ceiling’s clearly there, but there’s still a lot I need to see here. He’d taken big steps forward in his previous seasons but has been pretty stagnant this year compared to last year, so I need to see another step forward before I can move him up much further than this.
CRAIG (ranked him #23): Really, really hated this pick when the Flyers originally made it (packaged picks to move up for a 6’5” project who posted well under a point per game in the OHL), but he’s kind of grown on me. I think he might have the speed to thrive in the NHL, and I don’t even think you need to throw in the ‘for his size’ disclaimer for that to be true. Just look at this goal from last season. Ratcliffe also has great maneuverability with the puck, something you wouldn’t expect from a towering forward. Like Strome, Ratcliffe also has no problem getting to the net and doing damage when he gets there.
KELLY (ranked him #19): Big time Lindros fan checking in here to tell you she’s got a weakness for the big boys who can skate and have silky hands. Clearly Isaac Ratcliffe is nothing close to an Eric Lindros approximation, but I’m willing to bet he turns into a pretty nice third liner.
STEPH (ranked him #21): I guessed right, hooray! Size and speed, baby, size and speed. I agree with Jay, there are a handful of guys in this same talent bracket, but I’ll always choose the guy with size. I will be accepting no @’s at this time.
Voting Results (By Player): 25 to 21
Voting Results (By Rank): 25 to 21
|25||Isaac Ratcliffe||Cooper Marody||Anthony Stolarz||Maksim Sushko||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Matthew Strome||Linus Hogberg||Cooper Marody||Taylor Leier||Mark Friedman||Noah Cates||Nicolas Aube-Kubel|
|24||Felix Sandstrom||Anthony Stolarz||Cooper Marody||Matthew Strome||Isaac Ratcliffe||Pascal Laberge||Cooper Marody||Linus Hogberg||Mark Friedman||Matthew Strome||Connor Bunnaman||Matthew Strome|
|23||Matthew Strome||Danick Martel||Isaac Ratcliffe||Felix Sandstrom||Mikhail Vorobyev||Linus Hogberg||Danick Martel||Danick Martel||Connor Bunnaman||Isaac Ratcliffe||Tanner Laczynski||Anthony Stolarz|
|22||Carsen Twarynski||Mike Vecchione||Matthew Strome||Cooper Marody||Linus Hogberg||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Isaac Ratcliffe||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Nicolas Aube-Kubel||Cooper Marody||Cooper Marody|
|21||Mikhail Vorobyev||Linus Hogberg||Linus Hogberg||Anthony Stolarz||Taylor Leier||Wade Allison||Felix Sandstrom||Mark Friedman||Samuel Morin||Tanner Laczynski||Isaac Ratcliffe||Isaac Ratcliffe|