Although the NHL postseason is a few weeks away, the postseason for the CHL (OHL, WHL, and QMJHL) and the NCAA are about to begin, while the SHL postseason is underway. Across those three leagues, 16 prospects of the Philadelphia Flyers are set to compete in their league’s postseason. Let’s take a little bit of a deeper look at how each prospect has progressed this season and how their team looks in the battle they are about to endure.
Matchup: #1 Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds vs. #8 Saginaw Spirit
Season Series: Sault Ste. Marie won 7-0-1
The Greyhounds are the best team in the CHL and Morgan Frost is a big part of that. It may have been a bit perplexing at the time when Philadelphia Flyers’ general manager Ron Hextall traded back into the first round of the 2017 NHL Entry Draft to not draft Eeli Tolvanen, but it looks as though taking Frost wasn’t the worst idea. With an expanded role compared to last season, Frost finished tied for third in the OHL with 42 goals, tied for first with 70 assists, and second in the league with 112 points. The player OHL coaches decided was the smartest player in the league also led the league with 75 5-on-5 points.
Amazing on-ice vision helped Frost find and set up his teammates for easy goals throughout the season and he even managed to produce one the of the best goals of the season.
The Western Conference’s top seed is expected to trounce the Saginaw Spirit. Not only do the Greyhounds have Frost, they also have other high-profile prospects like Boris Katchouk (Tampa Bay Lightning), Taylor Raddysh (Lightning again), Tim Gettinger (New York Rangers), and Conor Timmins (Colorado Avalanche). Mason Kohn had the most points among any player on the Spirit with 54 points, while the Greyhounds had eight players with 54 points or more.
Matchup: #1 Hamilton Bulldogs vs. #8 Ottawa 67’s
Season Series: Hamilton won 5-0-0
Having recently signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers, Matthew Strome will help the best team in the Eastern Conference attempt to take down the eighth-seeded Ottawa 67’s in the opening round. The Flyers’ fourth round pick in the 2017 draft led the Hamilton Bulldogs with 37 goals this season, one of which was this remarkable goal. With three more goals and six more points this season compared to last season despite playing in one fewer game this season, Strome has a lot of tools to one day be a successful NHL player with the exception of his skating. That sounds like it’d be a bit of a problem for a hockey player, but that was also a flaw some scouts pointed out during Oskar Lindblom in his draft season. If the Orange and Black’s ability to develop Lindblom’s skating abilities can be duplicated with Strome they may have one of the bigger steals in the 2017 draft.
The Bulldogs also have Robert Thomas (St. Louis Blues) and Will Bitten (Montreal Canadiens) to help Strome attempt to beat an Ottawa team they outscored 26-8 throughout the season.
ISAAC RATCLIFFE AND CONNOR BUNNAMAN
Matchup: #2 Kitchener Rangers vs. #7 Guelph Storm
Season Series: Kitchener won 5-2-1
The only postseason meeting in the CHL, NCAA, or SHL that features a pair of Flyers’ prospects squaring up against each other, Isaac Ratcliffe and the seventh-seeded Guelph Storm play Connor Bunnaman and the second-seeded Kitchener Rangers in a Western Conference showdown.
Hextall packaged three picks to the Arizona Coyotes to move up in last year’s draft to take Ratcliffe, and it looks like he made the right choice. The 6’6” towering forward only saw five OHL players finish with more goals than him this season, as he potted 41 goals and finished with 17 more than his closest teammate on the Guelph Storm. After he posted 28 goals and 26 assists in 67 games last year, Ratcliffe added on 13 goals and an assist as an alternate captain of the Storm.
Ratcliffe uses his size to his advantage, as he is tied for fifth in the OHL with 59 high-danger scoring chances and tied for 21st with 11 high-danger goals. The assumption would be for a player his size that Ratcliffe wouldn’t be that fast, but he has shown he is capable of separating himself from opponents due to his speed. To go along with his size and speed, Ratcliffe also has deft hands that he uses to beat goalies in close with regularity. It’s looking more and more like Hextall may have found a market inefficiency with a gigantic forward who doesn’t lack skill in the skating department.
As for Bunnaman, he’s another Flyers’ prospect who is willing to go to the front of the net and take some abuse for a goal even though he isn’t anywhere near Ratcliffe’s size. Out of 112 OHL forwards who appeared in at least the same number of games this season as Bunnaman (66), Philly’s prospect finished 22nd with 39 high-danger chances and tied for 13th with 10 high-danger goals. His 27 goals is ten less than he scored last season, but that’s mainly because he shot 22.6 percent (37 goals on 164 shots) in 2016-17. Bunnaman scored on a lower percentage of his shots, but he did finish tied for 42nd with 205 shots on goal and increased his shots-per-game average by over 0.5. His prowess at the faceoff dot didn’t go unnoticed this season either, as he was voted the third-best player in the OHL’s Western Conference at draws.
Matchup: #3 Sarnia Sting vs. #6 Windsor Spitfires
Season Series: Sarnia won 5-1-0
It doesn’t seem like Anthony Salinitri is going to be a part of the Flyers’ system for much longer, as he has yet to sign an entry-level contract and Philadelphia loses him to free agency if he isn’t signed by the beginning of June. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, but for a player who has yet to be a point-per-game player who just completed his draft-plus-two season that doesn’t bode well for success at the professional level.
There are elements to the Sarnia Sting’s alternate captain’s game to appreciate. Not only is Salinitri fast, he is a great penalty killer, as he was voted the third-best penalty killer in the OHL’s Western Conference by the league’s coaches. Does having one of the more important skill traits a hockey player needs to thrive in the NHL these days and thriving in a facet of the game that the Flyers have failed at for the last few seasons help Salinitri enough to earn him an ELC? We’ll find out.
Matchup: #4 Owen Sound Attack vs. #5 London Knights
Season Series: London won 4-1-1
Maxim Sushko joins Ratcliffe as the only Flyers’ prospects who are on teams who could not reach the second round of the OHL postseason, as the higher-seeded Attack struggled against the Knights this season.
The 2017 fourth-round pick posted 31 goals and 60 points in 60 games this season after he registered 17 goals and 32 points in 54 games last season. With a knack for strong forechecking and a speedy two-way game, Sushko was able to finish tied for 24th among OHL skaters who played in 60 games or more this season with 21 goals and tied for 29th with 34 primary points at 5-on-5.
At this year’s World Junior Championship we saw that Sushko is able to lead a team, as he captained his home nation of Belarus. Averaging 23:56 of ice time in six games at the tournament, Sushko had a pair of goals to go along with his team-leading six assists and eight points. He was also able to rack 18 shots on net.
Sushko will never be relied upon like that with either the Lehigh Valley Phantoms or the Flyers, but he has been producing in a more realistic role with Owen Sound. Although he saw his shooting percentage jump from 15.9 percent in 2016-17 to 21.5 percent this season, Sushko did improve his shots-per-game average and should post even better numbers in his draft-plus-two season.
Matchup: #1 Everett Silvertips vs. WC2 Seattle Thunderbirds
Season Series: Everett led 6-2-2
Carter Hart is hoping to carry his strong play from the regular season into the postseason, as he and the top-seeded Everett Silvertips look to handle business against the Seattle Thunderbirds in the opening round of the WHL postseason.
Hart finished the season with a .947 save percentage (.012 higher than any other goalie who played a game in the WHL this season), 1.60 goals against average (best in the league by 0.25), and seven shutouts (one more than Stuart Skinner, who finished in second). He played 41 of the 72 games for the Silvertips this season, a team who allowed 167 goals against to finish with the lowest goals against total in the WHL by a margin of 46 goals.
The only concern with Hart’s numbers is that some consider him a possible product of the defensive system used by Everett. Dustin Wolf, who appeared in net 20 times for Everett this season as Hart’s backup, didn’t help this worry, as he posted a .928 save percentage, 2.25 GAA, and four shutouts. Although he proved to be a pretty dominant player at the World Junior Championship as well (where he was Canada’s best player in their shootout loss against U.S.A. and kept them in it early against Sweden in the gold medal game), playing behind the powerhouse that is Canada probably isn’t going to quell this argument against Hart.
One can see that Hart is more than a product of the system with his composure and positioning. Part of this can be chalked up to working with John Stevenson, a former goalie coach who helped Braden Holtby’s approach to the game. When you watch both Holtby and Hart play, one can see the similarities in staying level-headed and not being overly aggressive when addressing opponents’ shots.
Hart will play professionally next season, most likely with the Phantoms. If he has a monster camp, or one of the veterans suffers an injury, Hart could very well see NHL action next season.
Matchup: #3 Kelowna Rockets vs. WC1 Tri-City Americans
Season Series: Kelowna led 2-1-1
One of the few prospects Hextall recently gave an entry-level contract, Twarynski and his Kelowna teammates look to take on a Tri-City team led by Carolina Hurricanes’ prospect Morgan Geekie and undrafted 20-year-old left winger Jordan Topping.
After a strong showing in the Flyers’ Rookie Game back in September, Twarynski went on to finish ninth in the WHL with 45 goals. He also finished tied for seventh in the WHL with 15 5-on-4 goals this season. He uses his 6’2” 198-pound frame to outwork players down low for scoring opportunities, but Twarynski also possesses great on-ice intelligence and plays a strong two-way game. His 72 points in 68 games as a draft-plus-two player in the CHL won’t catch a lot of attention, but going pro next season after a 40-goal season might make him an important player to watch in the AHL.
Matchup: #2 Acadie-Bathurst Titan vs. #15 Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Season Series: Acadie-Bathurst led 2-0-0
German Rubtsov might have a little motivation for the opening round of the QMJHL postseason, as he and the Titan take on the Chicoutimi Sagueneens, his former team.
The intelligent two-way player was able to finally settle down after spending the last two seasons transitioning from life in Russia to Canada, suffering multiple injuries, and being traded earlier in the season to accrue 32 points in 38 games for Acadie-Bathurst. Along with his point totals for the Titan this season, Rubtsov had a huge World Junior Championship for Russia with one goal, three assists, and nine shots on goal in five games.
In terms of succeeding at the next level, being under a point-per-game player in his draft-plus-two season isn’t the best sign for Rubtsov. Also, the fact that some consider him ‘a bit lazy’ and often plays high in the offensive zone doesn’t sound promising for success at the next level. He’ll get his shot in the AHL next season.
Matchup: #8 Quebec Remparts vs. #9 Charlottetown Islanders
Season Series: Each team finished 1-0-1
Pascal Laberge has fought through a lot of adversity in his life and this season was no different. Recovering from concussions over the last few seasons and being traded earlier in the campaign, Laberge finished with 11 goals and 16 helpers in 33 games for the Remparts.
A pass-first two-way forward, Laberge signed an entry-level contract in the 2016 offseason and is slated to play professionally next season. Perhaps moving further away from his unfortunate personal situation and concussion issues further will help Laberge thrive in the AHL or ECHL after averaging 0.73 points per game in the QMJHL.
Matchup: #1 Ohio State vs. #4 Princeton
Season Series: First meeting
Tanner Laczynski and the Ohio State Buckeyes take on the Princeton Tigers Saturday at 3pm. The Flyers’ sixth-round pick in the 2016 draft led his team with 28 assists (tied for 15th in the NCAA), 43 points (tied for 15th), and 155 shots on goal (seventh). The sophomore’s 15 goals on the season put him second on Ohio State, as undrafted 24-year-old center Mason Jobst led the team with 19 goals.
Laczynski is an intelligent two-way forward who is considered a legitimate prospect for a player that was passed over in his draft year and nearly passed over in his second. The trio of Laczynski, Cooper Marody, and Wade Allison were nice surprises for Flyers’ fans this season as they made three of the top ten scorers in the NCAA at one point this season. Unfortunately Wade Allison suffered a season-ending injury back in January and Marody was just traded to the Edmonton Oilers yesterday.
Matchup: #2 Michigan vs. #3 Northeastern
Season Series: First meeting
Brendan Warren and the Michigan Wolverines will have their hands full in their game on Saturday against Northeastern, as the Huskies boast a pair of Hobey Baker finalists in Adam Gaudette (Vancouver Canucks’ prospect) and Dylan Sikura (Chicago Blackhawks’ prospect), who are two of the nation’s top scorers.
Warren is a junior who posted eight goals and six assists in 37 games this season. Taken in the third round of the 2015 draft, Warren is a great skater who has never really been that great of a finisher, which is why he only has 16 goals and 25 assists in 110 NCAA games.
He joined the Flyers’ organization in June of 2017, when Hextall shipped Nick Cousins and Merrick Madsen off to the Arizona Coyotes. With the Flyers’ system stocked with capable goaltending prospects, Hextall evidently wanted to move one of the goalies for a prospect at another position. Needing to sign an entry-level contract by the middle of August in 2019, there is still time for Warren to extend his stay in the Orange and Black’s organization.
Matchup: #2 Providence University vs. #3 Clarkson University
Season Series: Clarkson led 2-0-0
Left-handed defenseman Terrance Amorosa and the Clarkson Golden Knights take on the Providence Friars Friday at 6:30pm.
It’ll probably be one of the last few games for Amorosa as a Flyers’ prospect, since Philadelphia will lose his rights if he isn’t signed to an entry-level contract by the middle of August. He’s mobile and has some offensive upside, but considering how young the Flyers’ defense is at the moment and the number of prospects the team has on the blue line who have yet to reach the NHL it doesn’t seem likely Amorosa will earn a contract. It probably doesn’t help his case that he is a Paul Holmgren pick and not Hextall’s.
Matchup: Linkoping HC swept HV71 2-0
Following 3-1 and 3-2 losses to Linkoping HC in the Eighth Finals, Felix Sandstrom and HV71 are out of the running for the Le Mat Trophy. Sandstrom posted an .885 save percentage in his lone playoff performance.
Regarded by some as the best goaltender in the 2015 draft, Sandstrom struggled with injury this season. The netminder played a total of 18 games between the SHL and Allsvenskan this season. Some of the hype around Sandstrom has seemed to dissipate due to the attention given to Hart and the addition of Kirill Ustimenko, but he is still a prospect worth being excited about. Hopefully next season we finally get to see Sandstrom handle the workload of a starting goalie in the SHL and start to see the potential of a possible starting goalie in the NHL one day.
Matchup: Djurgardens IF and Linkoping HC are tied 1-1 in the series
After Linkoping HC defeated Sandstrom and HV71, it’s David Bernhardt’s chance to stop them as they now face Djurgardens IF in the second round. The 2016 seventh-round pick has three assists in the series to follow up his 11-point campaign in 51 appearances during the regular season, where he averaged 12:47 of ice time a night.
The mobile two-way defenseman with high hockey IQ looks pretty promising for being nearly the 200th pick in his draft class. He now has two seasons under his belt playing against men and represented Sweden last year in the World Junior Championship. He hasn’t signed an entry-level contract yet, but he has until early June of 2020 to sign one and stay a part of the organization.
Matchup: Vaxjo Lakers HC and Brynas IF are tied 1-1
Linus Hogberg is part of a Vaxjo Lakers HC that led the SHL with 116 points, which was 21 more points than Djurgardens IF’s total, who finished second in the SHL. Viktor Fasth, Andy Miele, Elias Pettersson (Vancouver Canucks’ prospect), and Dominik Bokk (expected to go in the first two rounds of this year’s draft) are also on the Vaxjo Lakers HC.
The Flyers’ fifth-round pick from 2016 only had six points in 42 games this season, but he already has an assist in just two postseason games so far. Averaging 14:36 of ice time per night, Hogberg plays a simple game that brings puck movement and defensive stability to his SHL club. He also represented Sweden at the World Junior Championship, where he was only given 4:50 of ice time per game but still managed to go plus-3 in the tournament overall.
Without a contract for the Vaxjo Lakers HC next season, it’s possible Linus Hogberg makes the leap to North America next season.
*All stats are collected from Elite Prospects and Prospect-Stats