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End of year prospect update: Forwards

Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee aren’t the only prospects to be excited about

Canada v Denmark - 2019 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Rich Lam/Getty Images

We’ve come to the end of the year and a lot of hockey has been played. Let’s check in our *takes out calculator* bagillion forward prospects (those under the age of 24 only) to see how they are have done so far:

The Phantoms

Nicholas Aube-Kubel (RW): 24 GP, 9 goals, 7 assists, 16 points, 42 shots, 38 PIM
2014 Second Round Pick, 48th overall

The NAK love is real. After breaking out in his second full AHL season last year, he appears to be on the same exact pace that screams (to me at least) that last year wasn’t a fluke. NAK got a brief nine game-stint while under the tutelage of Dave Hakstol in which he was gifted a generous under six minutes of ice-time a game. NAK is a possession monster, who can contribute defensively, and also can play with a bit of an edge to his game. Hopefully in his next call-up he is able to earn more time and a solidified spot in the Flyers lineup.

German Rubtsov (C): 14 GP, six goals, 4 assists, 10 points, 22 shots, zero PIM
2016 First Round Pick, 22nd overall

As someone who came into the season skeptical of Rubtsov as a real prospect, I was happy to be challenged by my preconceived notions in the first half of the season. After struggling a little in his first year and a half of juniors, he has made the jump to professional hockey with relative ease. Unfortunately things didn’t go well for our Russian friend. He suffered a shoulder injury in November, which required season-ending surgery to fix. Now we play the waiting game until next season.

Mikhail Vorobyev (C): 20 GP, 3 goals, 9 assists, 12 points, 21 shots, 16 PIM
2015 Fourth Round Pick, 104th overall

Despite all odds, Vorobyev made the Flyers team out of camp and started the first game of the season. “Mike” has slick hands and a great hockey sense. He’ll never be an offensive dynamo, but he’s smart enough in both ends that he will be an effective bottom-six forward at the NHL level. He scored an assist and goal in his first two NHL games, but then things dropped off and apparently Dave Hakstol and Ron Hextall decided they’d had enough of this enigmatic youngster.

David Kaše (RW): 20 GP, 4 goals, 9 assists, 13 points, 29 shots, 6 PIM
2015 5th Round Pick, 128th overall

Kaše is another European player where I wasn’t sure how his game would translate to the North American-style. He was thrust in immediately and hasn’t shown that the transition is all that difficult. The 21 year old is currently out with an undisclosed injury and has been since his last game on December 7th.

Taylor Leier (LW): 28 GP, 7 goals, 5 assists, 12 points, 62 shots, 26 PIM
2012 4th Round Pick, 117th overall

I’m not exactly sure if Leier is a good NHL player. Would he provide better value than say Jori Lehtera, Dale Weise or a random Tyrell Goulbourne call-up? Probably. Leier had seemingly fallen out of favor with the previous administration, failing to even get a call-up when the Flyers had mounting injuries among their forwards. Leier is closing in on 25 and despite being a very good AHL player, might not have a spot in this organization following the season. He’s been a healthy scratch this season and has been a bit outspoken about the organization.

Carsen Twarynski (LW): 28 GP, 5 goals, 4 assists, 9 points, 30 shots, 29 PIM
2016 3rd Round Pick, 82nd overall

Twarynski ended his junior career with a 40 goal season and some higher expectations when he made the jump to the AHL this season. It was a very rough start in his first full season of professional hockey as he had just one assist in his first 12 games. His play has picked up recently with recent injuries among the Phantoms and has four goals in his last eight games. Still plenty of time for him to turn it around.

Connor Bunnaman (C): 23 GP, 7 goals, 4 assists, 11 points, 27 shots, 4 PIM
2016 4th Round Pick, 109th overall

Another first year professional forward with a bit of a rough start. Bunnaman has been a consistent healthy scratch, but has recently found his groove offensively. He has five goals and three assists in his last 10 games. The “Bun-man” does have some offensive upside, but he’ll need to find some consistency before he reaches that potential.

Tyrell Goulbourne (LW): 24 GP, 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points, 29 shots, 61 PIM
2013 3rd Round Pick, 72nd overall

Why are we even talking about Goulbourne? He’s still youngish (he turns 25 in January) and the organization has an affinity for these rough and tumble guys who bring the “heart and grit” as evidenced by his call-ups over the past two seasons. Goulbourne will be a career-AHL guy who gets those “energy” call-ups, but has no other discernible hockey skill to warrant anymore attention.

Junior Kidz

Morgan Frost (C), Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds (OHL)
2017 1st Round Pick, 27th overall
32 GP, 20 goals, 38 assists, 58 points, 123 shots, 28 PIM

I don’t care what you, your mother, or Cory Pornman has to say about Morgan Frost because HE IS an elite prospect. His 58 points may only be fifth most on the OHL right now, but that’s because Frost’s played three or four less than those above him and because *checks the internet* is tearing it up at the 2019 World Junior Championships for Team Canada. It’s a tournament where he both leads in both points (4 G, 3 A) and +/- (+7 if you are into that sort of thing). He picked up five points (three goals, two assists) alone against Denmark. There are still a bunch more games to play for Frost to pad those stats. Frost has the opportunity to come out of this tournament as one of the most talked about prospects in the league. If he continues on the track he is currently on, it will be interesting to see with the new regime in Philadelphia that he doesn’t get a longer look this time to make the team out of training camp in 2019.

Isaac Ratcliffe (LW), Guelph Storm (OHL)
2017 2nd Round Pick, 35th overall
32 GP, 20 goals, 14 assists, 34 points, 132 shots, 54 PIM

Isaac Ratcliffe scored 41 goals (and 68 points total) in 67 games for a bad Guelph team last season. This season he is on pace again to eclipse 40 goals and his point-total from last season as well. There is no doubt that Ratcliffe has the offensive acumen to dominate the junior-level and will surely get his shot to prove himself with the Phantoms as quickly as this April. It’s rare to see a big guy like Ratcliffe display the hands that he does, which makes it all the more exciting to see how he progresses. Ratcliffe received an invite from Team Canada, but unfortunately didn’t make it out of camp and was sent back home.

Matthew Strome (LW), Hamilton Bulldogs (OHL)
2017 4th Round Pick, 106th overall
36 GP, 13 goals, 26 assists, 39 points, 105 shots, 22 PIM

It’s been a weird season for Strome so far, who remains at a higher point-per-game pace than last season, but while scoring less goals. Strome had put up 30+ goals season last year (37) and the year before (34) and is on-pace to come in just below those numbers in his fourth OHL season. Strome’s biggest gripes have always been his ability to skate (a common Strome family trait) and what he is doing beyond putting pucks on the net. The uptick in assists this season (only five away from tying his career-high from last season with three more months to play) have been a pleasant surprise and positive development.

Maksim Sushko (RW), Owen Sound Attack (OHL)
2017 4th Round Pick, 107th overall
31 GP, 7 goals, 17 assists, 24 points, 78 shots, 20 PIM

I think a lot of people were surprised and excited (including myself) at what Sushko did in his second OHL season last year, putting up 60 points (31 G, 29 A) in 60 games. That isn’t easy to do as a 18/19 year old. He also excelled in the 2018 World Junior Championships for Team Belarus, warranting further attention. Sushko was invited back for the 2019 tournament, but Team Belarus ultimately didn’t qualify. Sushko got off to a slow start this season, but has recently played much better with 21 points in his last 22 games.

Across the Pond

Olle Lycksell (LW/RW), Linköping HC (SHL)
2017 6th Round Pick, 168th overall
29 GP, 2 goals, 6 assists, 8 points, 28 shots, 8 PIM, 12:09 TOI

Lycksell had a strong 2017-18 with the Linköping J20 team and big club. He’s played almost exclusively with the big club this season and has earned consistent ice-time despite playing as a 19 year old among adults. Lycksell’s calling card is his offense and that should continue to develop as both the season (and likely next couple years) go on.

Marcus Westfält (C), Brynäs IF (SHL)
2018 7th Round Pick, 205th overall
19 GP, 0 goals, 1 assist, 1 point, 5 shots, 2 PIM, 5:23 TOI

The 18 year old hasn’t found much consistency at the SHL-level, but that’s kind of hard to do with so little time on the ice to prove yourself. Westfält has done a bit better at the J20 level this season, picking up 4 goals and 6 assists in 12 games. Westfält can only hope his role grows beyond that 13th forward roll as the season closes down.

We’re Goin’ to College!

Wade Allison (RW), Western Michigan University
2016 2nd Round Pick, 52nd overall
6 GP, 2 goals, 2 assists, 4 points, 6 shots, 12 PIM

Wade Allison’s breakout season last year came to an abrupt end when he tore his ACL and required season-ending surgery. He didn’t start this season for WMU immediately, but has since debuted (and played sparingly and not on many back-to-backs). It will be interesting to see how his play is ramped up over the rest of the season and if he returns to his Hobey Baker Award-ish caliber play.

Noah Cates (LW), University of Minnesota-Duluth
2017 5th Round Pick, 137th overall
16 GP, 4 goals, 3 assists, 7 points, 36 shots, 6 PIM

Cates is a player with high-end offensive upside in his first NCAA season with U of Minn-Duluth. He was also invited and made Team USA at the 2019 World Junior Championship. He hasn’t put up any points through three games thus far. Team USA always fares well and should make a run through the tournament to give Cates some more opportunities.

Joel Farabee (LW), Boston University
2018 1st Round Pick, 14th overall
16 GP, 4 goals, 7 assists, 11 points, 55 shots, 16 PIM

Expectations are exceedingly high for Farabee as a first round pick and so far things are going quite well in his first collegiate season. His 11 points are third on the team and only two off from the team-lead. Farabee was also selected to Team USA and has participated in their first three games in the World Junior Championships. He’s notched three goals and one assist. Those three goals came in the 1st period of a game against Kazakhstan. Farabee is one of those few Flyers prospects that you can certainly consider both elite and/or high-upside.

Gavin Hain (C), University of North Dakota
2018 6th Round Pick, 174th overall
11 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 10 shots, 4 PIM

Not much to report on for the 18 year old in his first collegiate season. He had a battle with mono which had him sidelined for a couple weeks, but has since come back. Hain isn’t a high-impact prospect and at best has a bottom-six ceiling.

Tanner Laczynski (C/W), Ohio State University
2016 6th Round Pick, 169th overall
15 GP, 5 goals, 11 assists, 16 points, 51 shots, 10 PIM

Laczynski is often under-looked and I’m not sure why. He’s improved offensively in each of his subsequent seasons. Now in his junior year he is a point-per-game player (as he was in his first two years). Laczynski has a certain tenacity to him and can win the battles down low, which are definitely traits worth having in your system. He may not have the polish as Wade Allison or Joel Farabee, but do not sleep on Laczynski. It’s my hope that the Flyers are able to lure him away from college following the end of the season.

Jay O’Brien (C), Providence College
2018 1st Round Pick, 19th overall
10 GP, 1 goal, 1 assist, 2 points, 20 shots, 2 PIM

O’Brien was an interesting choice for that second first round pick in the 2018 draft. He was a dynamic offensive player in prep and U18 play, but may have been just a bit off the board for that pick (or he was at least on mine). O’Brien has missed time this season with a concussion, but has since come back healthy. He was invited to and made Team USA for the 2019 World Junior Championships, but does not have a point through three games.

Brendan Warren (LW), University of Michigan
2015 3rd Round Pick, 81st overall
17 GP, 1 goal, 2 assists, 3 points, 34 shots, 10 PIM

Not that he was much of a prospect to begin with, but this has been a lost year for Warren so far. The college senior really needed to have a great season if he had any hopes of getting a contract from the Flyers. As you can see above, that probably won’t happen. It’s hard to even imagine at this point if Warren reaches his point total from last season (15 points in 40 games).

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