Hey, everybody. It’s me, (apparently) BSH’s biggest Mikhail Vorobyev fan, back after telling you all a few weeks back about the very good and solid season he had last year with the Phantoms, to build on a point that I sort of alluded to in that 25 Under 25 post, to tell you why he should be the Flyers’ third line center next season.
Another one of the internal options given the nod by Hextall this offseason, Vorobyev has a strong foundation to build off of, and has shown us more than a fair amount of potential, but unlike someone like Scott Laughton, Jori Lehtera, or Jordan Weal, who we’ve talked about already this week, he doesn’t have the built in experience of having played in the NHL, so it becomes a bit more of a projection game here, and he has another jump to make. But the potential remains. Let’s get into it.
2017-18 Regular Season Stats
A quick note: we’re doing numbers time now, because we have been at about this point in each of the previous articles and it’s helpful context, but we should note that they’re AHL numbers, and not quite the same types as we’ve looked at already. But Brad’s done a great job of making sure we have some advanced stats to look at, and makes our evaluation process just a little bit easier. So numbers, but not directly comparable numbers. You get it. Cool? Cool. Back to the action.
In his rookie season with the Phantoms, Vorobyev put up nine goals (11th among his teammates), and 29 points (also 11th among his teammates, that’s funny), that is, posting respectable enough scoring figures, but not exactly asserting dominance in this area. However, it’s really his all-around play that’s really begging attention. His CF% is second among all regular Phantoms, behind only Travis Sanheim, who was very clearly too good to be in the AHL in the first place.
Curiously, though, his iCF is low (18th among his teammates), but it makes sense, given that he said in camp that one of his priorities this season was feeding his linemates. He shot as, not quite a full-on last resort, not to say he avoided it, but he does figure as a pass first guy. Which, in a way, also explains the disproportionately high assist rate. But he’s still got a good shot, a very good one timer, and he hasn’t exactly ruled out the possibility of him using it more, if given the proper space and instruction from the coaches to do so. But all the same, the defense is sound, and he’s still contributing to a positive CF balance while he’s on the ice, even if he isn’t the one taking the shots. The chances are being created, and we’ll take that. There’s a lot of promise there.
But let’s shift gears, move into the hypothetical, and start talking about style, because this is where things start to get really exciting. We’ve talked some about chemistry on the third line, and this may figure in with this potential configuration, with Vorobyev and Oskar Lindblom having spent about three weeks together as linemates in late January into February with the Phantoms last season. So there’s a bit of familiarity for these two, and that’s neat and important to note, but this is only just scratching the surface.
What we’ve liked most about Vorobyev’s play in game situations is his play behind the net—it’s an area he seems to gravitate towards, getting set up below the red line and feeding his linemates out front. It’s a play we see Vorobyev (and the Phantoms, in general), running relatively frequently, and it seems like it would jive with the styles of both Lindblom and Wayne Simmonds.
Let me explain. We know Simmonds is The Netfront Guy. That’s his role both on the power play and at even strength and he is very good at it. And so too is Lindblom carving out a role for himself in this area—last season on the line with Nolan Patrick and Jake Voracek, he was more often the one going to the front of the net, getting set up in the crease, and working on setting up these types of high danger chances. And this is where Vorobyev comes in—if this line is able to bring the puck into the offensive zone and get set up, with one of Lindblom or Simmonds parked in front of the net and Vorobyev just feeding them pucks from below the red line, that’s going to be dangerous to a lot of goalies, it’s a structure difficult to defend against. We can reasonably expect them to rack up some serious points this way, as well as help out a post-surgery Simmonds—you don’t have to worry about being super mobile if you’re parking in front of the net and working on making tip-ins.
And, of course, there’s no way of knowing if this will actually be the scheme the team would end up running, if this line were put into place. Sure. But it would be pretty neat, right? All the pieces would fit together. A girl can dream.
So, to collect all of our loose ends and wrap them up with a bow, we would just note that this line, with Vorobyev filling in as the 3C, shows a lot of potential, and it looks like we may be getting an extended taste of it, this preseason—through the first two days of rookie camp, and in yesterday’s game we saw Vorobyev centering a line and Lindblom on his wing, and the early results looked pretty good (to the tune of three goals on the night). We may see it tweaked, if the coaching staff wants to try out some other looks, but if it keeps working, we may well see this configuration roll right on into the season.