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Philadelphia Flyers Winter 2018 Top 25 Under 25: Nos. 20 to 16

Part two of our ranking of the best young talent in the Flyers’ organization continues with two guys who have some NHL experience, one more who may be close, a college forward, and a Swedish goalie.

Kate Frese / SBNation

We continue with Part 2 of our Winter 25 Under 25, which kicked off yesterday with an introduction and the players ranked 25th to 21st. Today, we’ll look at players 20 to 16 on our rankings. Enjoy.

Kate Frese / SBNation

20. Danick Martel

Team: Lehigh Valley, AHL
2017-18 Stats: 17 G, 9 A in 36 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A

KURT (ranked him #23): For the record, last summer Martel was nowhere close to these rankings. Got two 25th-place votes. Remarkable climb up this season for him, even though I dunno just how good he actually is.

JAY (ranked him #13): It me, one of those folks that voted for him last year. I struggled with having him this high and will likely look silly for doing so, but guess what, I don’t care (please visual Tommy Lee Jones saying this). Martel was a play driver (7.16 CF% Rel) AND a goal-scorer in the AHL. I say was because he’ll likely be out a while recovering from a broken jaw. He only got a couple games with the Flyers in his brief call-up and he didn’t look out of place IMO.

MIKE (ranked him #17): Really not sure why I ranked him this high, but he has scored well in the AHL this year with 17 goals and showed some nice jump in his brief stint with the big club. Problem is he’s kind of the like Jordan Weal for me and you can really only have one of those guys in the lineup at once.

MADDIE (ranked him #20): A peek behind the curtain: I totally forgot to rank Martel and didn’t realize it until the last second and then had to redo my list. Cool. But anyway, yeah, like the guys said, Martel had been lighting it up in the AHL, and looked solid in his few games with the Flyers. I might have ranked him higher based on all that, but what’s given me pause is the small sample for NHL play, as well as the questions remaining on how sold the organization is on him. I think a longer look in the NHL would serve him well, I just don’t know if the Flyers are going to be willing to give it to him, especially given their forward prospect depth, on the whole.

CRAIG (did not rank): One of two players I left off the rankings for the same reason, but of the two this one stings for me more. I always complain how I want the Flyers to add more speed into the organization and Martel may have the best straight-line speed in the organization. He isn’t all speed though, as he put up monster numbers in the QMJHL and now has (as of Thursday afternoon) 26 points in 36 AHL games this season. The problem is how the head coach and organization view him. He’s a smaller player and was starting to get benched in the few games he played this season. I would assume he’s back next season, but I don’t know if he’ll ever get a true look at an NHL roster spot. If he does, I think he’d excel.

BRAD (ranked him #23): It seems like Martel was one of the hardest players for most of us to rank, and it was no different for me. Like others have said, I just don’t know if he’s going to get another NHL opportunity here with the amount of high-end prospects coming. I almost didn’t rank him, but I just couldn’t do it after watching him score 14 goals in his first 14 games with the Phantoms this season. Of course, if you bring that streak up you also have to look at the fact that he’s scored just 3 goals in the 22 games following the streak ending, which is, well, not great. Since December 9th (when I started tracking shot quality) he leads the Phantoms in 5-on-5 scoring chances by a pretty large margin. He leads them at both a per game rate and also on the whole, despite missing 5 games during that time span. I’m a believer that he will find his spot in the NHL, however I don’t think it will be with the Flyers.

KYLE (ranked him #23): Yeah, I’m kinda in the same boat as Brad here. Without his hot start this season, I don’t know if I bother ranking him, but he did get off to a fantastic start and is still driving play at a very high rate. I think he’ll eventually get passed over by other prospects, and he might already have been, but it’d be awesome to see this dude succeed here.

KELLY (ranked him #18): So like Craig, I struggled this year with whether or not I should add a “yeah but will this organization ever actually play this guy??” metric to my amorphous blob of proprietary ranking metrics, and Danick is one of the ones that really made me consider it. I like this kid, he’s SO FAST and he’s got a ton of skill but ... small. So small. And I don’t think he fits into one of the predetermined player role boxes that this team has developed.

STEPH (ranked him #17): I value NHL experience, and he has that. He has proven, in very few games, that he can hang. Size will always be a concern for me, but he’s quick, he can score, and he has a compete level that won’t quit.

Philadelphia Flyers Headshots Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

19. Tanner Laczynski

Team: Ohio State, NCAA
2017-18 Stats: 12 G, 23 A in 25 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A

BRAD (ranked him #19): I had Laczysnki as high as #15 on my ballot at one point, but ended up dropping him down a few ranks in favor of players like Aube-Kubel & Sandstrom. He’s had a tremendous sophomore season at OSU that has him tied for 3rd in points in the NCAA. Does anyone else think Michael Raffl is a fair comparison? Obviously it’d be overly optimistic to think he could drive play at the level Raffl does, but stylistically I see some similarities there.

JAY (ranked him #16): Laczynski is going to be in the thick of the Hobey Baker Award race as a 20 year old sophomore. He already has a WJC appearance under his belt and has eclipsed his season points total from last year in 10 less games. I’m surprised folks aren’t talking about him more.

MIKE (ranked him #13): Not gonna rehash a lot of what Jay just said, but yeah, he’s having a monster season already and is a big man who can skate and score. I think he’s a rising prospect that should only continue adding to his game.

KURT (ranked him #15): I feel vindicated for having him at #20 last summer. Even acknowledging that he’s “old” for a sophomore (this is his third season after his initial draft year; he went undrafted the first time around), this has been a great season for Laczynski. Skilled player who can play a big man’s game (not unlike Raffl, as Brad points out). Playing well down the stretch is crucial for him — he slowed down in the second half of OSU’s season last year, going scoreless in eight of his last 10 games — but if he can do that, I think there’s a good chance he gets a contract this spring.

CRAIG (ranked him #17): Similar to Marody in that he’s almost an assist-per-game player in the NCAA, except Laczynski has posted several seasons of over a point-per-game production across several leagues before he landed in the NCAA and is only a sophomore. On top of dishing the puck, Laczynski is only one of seven NCAA players with over 100 shots on goal and is averaging over four shots on goal per game. A lot is made about his size and strength on the puck (as it should be), but he also isn’t the slowest guy out there.

MADDIE (ranked him #21): Yes to everything the was said above. Laczynski admittedly isn’t a prospect that I’ve followed super closely, but the scoring pace in this quality of league is certainly notable, and this alone ensured a spot on my ranking.

KYLE (did not rank him): Well I feel like a dumb-dumb. Laczynski was close to making my list but just didn’t make the cut. He’s point per game in the NCAA and is only a sophomore. Please @ me for this bad decision, thx.

KELLY (did not rank him): Oh hello, Kyle. Welcome to the dumb-dumb club. For some reason I never rank NCAA guys as high as the kids in juniors. It’s a weird bias I can’t explain (you know, apart from the whole ‘loves Canada’ thing). This kid was right outside the list for me.

Kate Frese / SBNation

18. Felix Sandstrom

Team: Brynas, SHL
2017-18 Stats: .905 SV%, 2.87 GAA in 8 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 15

JAY (ranked him #23): I’m a bit surprised that everyone remains so high on Sandstrom and at the same time are so low on Anthony Stolarz. Both have been injured this season and have seen little or not playing time. Yet, one has proven himself more than capable at the AHL/NHL level (okay, yes I understand SSS but he look fine in his handful of games with the FLyers), but finds himself ranked much lower.

KURT (ranked him #21): Hey, that’s what I said yesterday! And I agree — I was relatively low on Sandstrom last summer, compared to everyone else on the panel at least, because I kind of just needed to see the performance from him, and we still haven’t seen it this year. I am not an expert on goalies OR on the Swedish league, so I’ll defer to the people who say he looks good over there and is still a quality goalie prospect, but at this point I can’t go much higher than this for him.

CRAIG (ranked him #13): I feel like an idiot. I thought everybody was still high on him, but I guess injuries turned people away this year. However, he’s the second-best goaltending prospect in the organization (although Ustimenko might be in the running for that title) and I think Sandstrom is written off just because he isn’t Carter Hart. This is the fourth straight season he’s seen at least some SHL action and has posted moderate numbers the entire time. Maybe I’m a Sandstrom apologist, but I still think he can become something.

KURT: Hey, Craig: don’t feel like an idiot because everyone disagrees with you. Feel like an idiot because your opinion is bad. (owned)

MIKE (did not rank him): Look, there’s a huge gap between Carter Hart and the other guys, but my issue is just with neither Anthony Stolarz or Sandstrom not playing or hardly playing. They can’t help injuries, but until then other players have passed them in terms of organizational standing in my opinion. Gun to my head, though, out of the two I’d take Stolarz.

BRAD (ranked him #17): Ranking Sandstrom was an interesting one for me, because on one hand, I agree with Craig that he’s kind of been written off unfairly because he’s not Carter Hart. On the other hand, he isn’t as good as Hart and he hasn’t played enough to see any progression from last season. Hopefully he can stay healthy and have a strong end to the season.

KYLE (ranked him #15): Craig, we can be idiots together.

KELLY (ranked him #15): Yeah, I’m still high on Sandstrom, fight me. I think between the injury and the bright shining Carter Hart light it’s easy to forget that Sandstrom is a pretty darn good goalie playing in a pretty good hockey league against men, not kids. Alex Appleyard from The Athletic regularly refers to him as “the most athletic goalie prospect in the world” and I trust that guy’s judgement on the Euro kids because he’s watching them a lot. I may have backed off of the “next Hank” thing a little bit but I am still thinking this guy is going to be something.

KYLE: I think he also gets bonus points because he just has the name that would go with some great Swedish goalie. This is completely unreasonable but also am I even wrong here?

MADDIE (ranked him #17): Though I technically ranked him ahead of Stolarz, but they’re more or less tied, in my mind. With the injuries, time spent playing in more or less comparable leagues, and the remaining question marks on where they’ll ultimately land in the organization, this ranking feels about right, for me.

STEPH (ranked him #18): I have concerns about his injuries, even though we don’t know a whole lot about them, but from what I hear it won’t be a lingering issue. He needed to take a step forward this year and he hasn’t. He needs to come over next year, he needs to be an AHL goalie. It’s time, bro.

KURT: As long as we’re all in agreement that Hart is a better prospect than him, because it’s easy to forget but somehow in some circles last summer this was actually a question.

Kate Frese / SBNation

17. Mikhail Vorobyev

Team: Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL
2017-18 Stats: 4 G, 8 A in 27 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 21

BRAD (ranked him #14): Vorobyev’s point totals don’t stand out, but he’s one of those players that does all the “little things” which leads to his line driving play. His +6.52 CF% Rel is third-best among Phantoms forwards. Smooth skater, fantastic passer, and was quickly getting better at the defensive side of things prior to his injury.

JAY (ranked him #17): Basically everything what Brad said above. It seems his game has easily translated to the North American game. It’s easy to understand why folks were so high on the kid after the 2016 WJC (10 assists in 7 games). Though, I’m not sure if his ceiling is anything other than a 3C occasionally filling in on the 2nd line.

MADDIE (ranked him #13): From what I’ve seen of the metrics Brad tracks, I’ve been impressed with what Vorobyev’s been doing in Allentown. He was also one of the prospects I was more excited about during preseason, for the reasons Brad noted above, but also particularly for how well he was able to generate plays from behind the net—something the Flyers could stand to be doing a lot more of. Also Misha is a great nickname.

BRAD: Misha really is a great nickname.

CRAIG (ranked him #16): Brad, Jay, and Maddie essentially covered it all for me. He’s killing it from a possession stand point in the AHL, he had a monster 2016 WJC, and is great at creating plays from below the goal line. He also has great vision and displayed his stellar passing in the rookies’ game back in September. As for the concern of not being anything more than a bottom-six center, I think that’s fine for both him and the Flyers. He seems to dictate the pace of the game when he is out there, and if he’s slotted in behind Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick in the near future, I don’t think he needs to be anything more than a possession-dominant third-line center.

MIKE (ranked him #20): I like him but don’t love him. He does lots of things good but nothing super great. Like Rubtsov but with a lower offensive ceiling.

KELLY (ranked him #20): He seems to be doing well for himself up in Allentown, so that’s something. Additionally, Charlie seems to like him. When Charlie is in on a prospect, I tend to think there might be something there. I’m thinking he’d make a very nice 3rd liner, should the day come that we are allowed to roll four scoring lines.

KYLE (ranked him #19): Already this season Vorobyev looks like a future dominant third line center. Drives play very well, as the highest ranked Phantom with at least 25 games played. If he pans out the way that I think he can, he’d be the ideal third liner on a cup contending team. If he can improve his offensive output, he’s a crazy good pick up by the front office.

KURT (ranked him #17): He’s been a little less productive scoring-wise than I was kind of hoping he’d be after a solid KHL showing last year, but the fact that his underlying performance has been strong is unsurprising and encouraging. Always seemed like a smart player. If there are a couple of openings in the forward lines for next year, which there should be, I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s on the roster to open the season.

STEPH (ranked him #19): I don’t like that he’s calling himself Misha.

Kate Frese / SBNation

16. Taylor Leier

Team: Philadelphia, NHL
2017-18 Stats: 1 G, 3 A in 31 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 17

JAY (ranked him #19): It’s funny when you can see anyone else’s ranking of Leier and think “yeah, I can see that.” Other than his brief stint as a decorated member of the “Honey Bees” line, he’s either been “just there” or out of the lineup completely (see: Dave Hakstol). I’m not sure his effectiveness will ever be that of a 30-point producer, but I still value that he’s looked like an NHL player when on the ice and with decent linemates.

KURT (ranked him #16): A classic question in surveys like this one: how do you grade a guy who’s shown he’s a solid NHL 4th-liner but probably isn’t more than that against guys who haven’t proven much yet but have the upside to be more than a 4th-liner? I was a little surprised that I ranked Leier this high, to be honest, but I think he can still make a jump from “good enough 4th liner” to “very good 4th liner”, and there’s value in that.

MADDIE (ranked him #11): Oh man, am I a Taylor Leier apologist? Am I privileging a bit of NHL experience too much? I don’t know, I guess I went optimistic on this one. Obviously he hasn’t been racking up the points like crazy, but I like his skillset, and how well he and Laughton play together, and I think with better or more consistent usage, he can take the next step up, like Kurt said. As cool and as much fun as I am, he doesn’t need to be spending any more time in the press box with me. Dave, please fix this.

MIKE (ranked him #25): He’s this low for me because I think we all know what his ceiling at the NHL level is, even with all the press box time this year. Good energy guy on the fourth line and a call-up guy but he’s not going to score and he’s not overly physical or anything. He’s kind of just a guy right now and he hasn’t done anything that says it’s gonna change going forward.

CRAIG (did not rank): This was the other player I left of the rankings, and is the player with the biggest disparity between my rankings and the final rankings. I like Taylor Leier: I like his speed, I like his style of game, and I think what The Honey Bees were earlier this season is what an ideal fourth line looks like in today’s NHL. However, Hakstol apparently didn’t view his play similarly. Leier is the player I factored in Hakstol’s usage the most. He is getting a look in the NHL this season, so the ‘what can he become?’ mystery isn’t entirely there like it is with a lot of the other prospects on this list. What he is currently is the 13th forward on a team that is choosing Tyrell Goulbourne over him. I don’t disagree with these choices, but if the person in charge behind the bench is going to be making these decisions for the foreseeable future, what can we realistically expect out of Leier over the next few seasons? I hope I’m wrong on Leier and is a top-9 forward next season so I can rank him in the top 25. Unfortunately, I don’t see that happening.

MIKE (ranked him #25): Craig, you’re not going to be wrong.

KELLY (ranked him #13): Looking back I’m surprised Leier made this much of a jump for me, but I think it’s because we really did see that he can be an effective fourth liner in the NHL. And not like, a stupid grit and compete-level fourth line but a real fourth line that can really pose a bit of a threat when on the ice. I’m not sure he’s ever going to work here, but I said that a lot about Scott Laughton a few years back, and folks: I was not correct. Which I know is shocking for all of you.

KYLE (ranked him #18): It’s sad because I’ve really liked what I’ve seen from Leier so far this season, but he’s in a numbers game and might end up being the odd man out. It seems as though Leier will never get above the fourth line and at this point he can’t even get back in the lineup over guys like Jori Lehtera or Tyrell Goulbourne. I can’t see his ceiling being anything more than an energy guy on the fourth line and well ... you can find those guys anywhere. He’d probably be lower had he not made the team out of camp and played much of the first three months.

STEPH (ranked him #9): OK, haters. This is an NHL player. He has proven he can cut it in the NHL. The rest of these people are question marks, they’re lottery tickets. You don’t know what is going to happen when they make the NHL. Taylor Leier has successfully made the leap. He hasn’t scored all of the points in a fourth line role on a mediocre team, but that doesn’t mean that he can’t. He has the speed, he has the tenacity, he has the skill. He can make an impact when given the chance.

KURT: So every player who’s played in the NHL should be ranked ahead of every one that hasn’t? Not sure I buy that, but hey, if you’re consistent with it it’s one way to approach this.

Voting Results (By Player): 20 to 16

Player Bill Brad Craig Jay Joe Kelly Kurt Kyle Mike Maddie Steph Community
Player Bill Brad Craig Jay Joe Kelly Kurt Kyle Mike Maddie Steph Community
Danick Martel 14 23 n/a 13 n/a 18 23 23 17 20 17 19
Tanner Laczynski 12 19 17 16 18 n/a 15 n/a 13 21 23 20
Felix Sandstrom 24 17 13 23 19 15 21 15 n/a 17 18 15
Mikhail Vorobyev 21 14 16 17 23 20 17 19 20 13 19 18
Taylor Leier 18 18 n/a 19 21 13 16 18 25 11 9 16

Voting Results (By Rank): 20 to 16

Rank Bill Brad Craig Jay Joe Kelly Kurt Kyle Mike Maddie Steph Community
Rank Bill Brad Craig Jay Joe Kelly Kurt Kyle Mike Maddie Steph Community
20 Maksim Sushko Isaac Ratcliffe Mark Friedman German Rubtsov Maksim Sushko Mikhail Vorobyev Anthony Stolarz Mike Vecchione Mikhail Vorobyev Danick Martel Matthew Strome Tanner Laczynski
19 Mike Vecchione Tanner Laczynski Nicolas Aube-Kubel Taylor Leier Felix Sandstrom Isaac Ratcliffe Mike Vecchione Mikhail Vorobyev Mike Vecchione Wade Allison Mikhail Vorobyev Danick Martel
18 Taylor Leier Taylor Leier Mike Vecchione Nicolas Aube-Kubel Tanner Laczynski Danick Martel Matthew Strome Taylor Leier Matthew Strome Anthony Stolarz Felix Sandstrom Mikhail Vorobyev
17 Philippe Myers Felix Sandstrom Tanner Laczynski Mikhail Vorobyev Connor Bunnaman Mark Friedman Mikhail Vorobyev Matthew Strome Danick Martel Felix Sandstrom Danick Martel Mike Vecchione
16 Cooper Marody Nicolas Aube-Kubel Mikhail Vorobyev Tanner Laczynski Cooper Marody Mike Vecchione Taylor Leier Isaac Ratcliffe Isaac Ratcliffe Mike Vecchione Mike Vecchione Taylor Leier