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Philadelphia Flyers Winter 2019 Top 25 Under 25: Nos. 25 to 21

It’s back.

Philadelphia Flyers v New York Rangers
Can Egor Zamula be the Flyers’ next undrafted success story on defense?
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

With the bye week fully in swing, it’s time we fill this space with one of our favorite pastimes: arguing about hockey players that can’t even rent cars by themselves. That’s right, folks, the BSH 25 Under 25 is back.

Nearly five years removed from our first full-fledged version of these rankings, we’re back with the latest version of our twice-yearly evaluation of the best young talent in the Flyers’ system. For a refresher on what exactly this is, in case the name wasn’t self-explanatory:

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.)

In the summer, we typically do longer-length pieces on each of these guys, breaking down the seasons they just had and what the expectations are for the one ahead. In the winter, with basically everyone in the second half of their season already, we bring our whole staff together and roundtable it up, talking a bit about the players on the ballot, what we’ve liked and disliked in their season so far, and why we ranked them where we did.

We’re excited to bring that to you here, with the Flyers’ current set of exciting young players. Before we do that, some quick notes on how this whole thing is assembled:

The panel and voting

Our results come from a panel of 16 ballots of votes. 15 of those belong to our various masthead members and podcast hosts: Bill, Brad, Craig, Drew, Jake, Jason, Joe, John, Kelly, Kurt (me), Kyle, Maddie, Mike, Paul, 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 45 players under Flyers team control that are on the team’s reserve list (not including players currently on AHL-only deals) under the age of 25 as of February 1, 2019. 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 sixteenth 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 all, and we received 420 responses, only a few of which had to be tossed due to errors. Big thanks to everyone who took part in submitting a ballot. All of those were combined into one ballot that is stacked up alongside each of ours in the final rankings.

The ballot

Seven players that were on last summer’s ballot were not on this one, for various reasons:

  • Only one player that was on last summer’s rankings is no longer here, as Danick Martel — who came in 23rd in the summer edition — was waived by the Flyers in September and was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning. (A mistake that will haunt the Flyers for decades to come.)
  • Radel Fazleev is also no longer here, as he was bought out by the team earlier this season after being clearly unhappy with his role on the Phantoms.
  • Two others officially went unsigned, as Terrance Amorosa and David Drake both went without signing an NHL deal. Both signed AHL contracts — Amorosa with Edmonton (he’s now with their ECHL team) and Drake with the Flyers (he’s down in Reading).
  • Two players aged off of the ballot, though not by much: Tyrell Goulbourne and Anthony Stolarz both turn 25 this month, meaning they just missed our February 1 cutoff.
  • Finally, long-time prospect and part-time Flyer Taylor Leier was traded just this past week to the Buffalo Sabres for Justin Bailey. (Our community ballot actually opened up before this trade, so he is on a few community ballots, but he did not receive any votes in the final tally.)

Meanwhile, our only addition to the rankings is that of Egor Zamula, an undrafted defenseman who earned himself an entry-level deal after a good performance in rookie and training camp.

(NOTE: The aforementioned Justin Bailey was not on the ballot that was originally sent out, as his acquisition took place after we opened up community voting. Since amending the ballot to include him would have forced us to erase all of the ballots we had already received, we decided not to include him in this edition of the rankings. He will be on the ballot this coming summer.)

(ADDITIONAL NOTE: I did not notice until after the ballots were sent out that recent trade acquisition Jacob Graves was also not on the ballot, but my guess is that an ECHL defenseman would not have cracked the top 25.)

With that, the 45-man ballot that was sent to our panel is as follows, with players grouped by their primary league so far in 2018-19:

NHL: Robert Hagg (D), Carter Hart (G), Travis Konecny (F), Scott Laughton (F), Oskar Lindblom (F), Samuel Morin (D), Nolan Patrick (F), Ivan Provorov (D), Travis Sanheim (D)
AHL: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (F), Connor Bunnaman (F), Mark Friedman (D), David Kase (F), Pascal Laberge (F), Philippe Myers (D), German Rubtsov (F), Carsen Twarynski (F), Mikhail Vorobyev (F), Reece Willcox (D)
OHL: Morgan Frost (F), Isaac Ratcliffe (F), Matthew Strome (F), Maksim Sushko (F)
WHL:E Wyatte Wylie (D), Egor Zamula (D)
NCAA: Wade Allison (F), Noah Cates (F), Joel Farabee (F), Gavin Hain (F), Wyatt Kalynuk (D), Tanner Laczynski (F), Jay O’Brien (F), John St. Ivany (D), Matej Tomek (G), Brendan Warren (F)
SHL (Sweden): David Bernhardt (D), Adam Ginning (D), Linus Hogberg (D), Olly Lycksell (F), Felix Sandstrom (G), Marcus Westfalt (F)
Superelit (Swedish Juniors): Samuel Ersson (G)
VHL (Russian Minors): Ivan Fedotov (G)
MHL (Russian Juniors): Kirill Ustimenko (G)

Honorable mentions

Finally, before we get to the rankings, here are the five players who just missed the cut:

30. Olle Lycksell
T-28. David Kase
28. Connor Bunnaman
27. Wyatte Wylie
26. Noah Cates

With that, we begin.

25. Felix Sandstrom

Primary Team/League: HV71, SHL
2018-19 Stats: .909 SV%, 2.17 GAA in 12 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 19

Drew (ranked him #15): I didn’t expect Sandstrom to end up this low on the list. I personally rate him highly. He may not be Carter Hart levels of exciting for a goalie, but despite his stats (he’s actually improved from last 25 under 25) I think his style of goaltending is very solid and the fact that he’s holding his own in a men’s league is very promising.

Kelly (did not rank him): This was tough for me, because I’ve always been quite high on Sandstrom as a goalie prospect, but this year for me he dropped just outside of my top 25; I had him at 26. As Drew said, he’s holding his own in a men’s league, sure. But there doesn’t seem to be any marked improvement from this kid. I’m afraid that what we’re seeing from him now is truly what he is, and that’s just an average goalie. Not a bad thing to have in the org, sure. But at this point, I don’t see Felix ever actually playing for the Flyers, so it was time to take him off my list.

Kyle (ranked him #25): I considered not ranking Sandstrom at all, especially given the play of Samuel Ersson over the course of this season and especially at the World Juniors. But, his numbers are improving over last season and he seems to be finally healthy again. It’s hard for me to be truly high on any goalie prospect given Carter Hart appears to be the real deal, but I’m still holding out hope that Sandstrom can be at the very least a capable backup at the NHL level.

Kurt (ranked him #25): I struggled with this one. I’ve always been something of a Sandstrom skeptic, if only because we’ve yet to see him really dominate any league he’s been in for an extended period of time. And in what was supposed to be something of a make-or-break year, he’s breaking: his pedestrian performance this year, plus his injury problems, have made it easy to forget that he was thought by some to be the best goalie prospect in that draft. Still, folks who have watched him for a long time swear by his talent, so I tossed him a bone and gave him the last spot on my ballot, so all in all I’m pretty OK with this placement for him. It was as recently as two summers ago where a lot of folks thought he was a better prospect than Hart, which obviously seems preposterous in hindsight (and in my defense, I thought it was also pretty silly at the time), but he just turned 22 and is up in the third-best pro league in the world. Plus, we already know he’ll be around here for at least two years following this one because the Flyers gave him a contract, so he’s almost certainly going to get an extended shot with the Phantoms. May as well see what he can do with it.

Maddie (ranked him #21): I’m with Kurt on this. His career numbers have been fine enough, but not stellar, and that seems a good reason to give you some pause. But he’s still only 22 and, who knows, maybe it all comes together for him when he makes it to North America. Goalies are weird and I still think he stands a chance to right the ship. So I’m not totally out on him yet.

Jason (did not rank him): Another Sandstrom skeptic over here. He’s been a scouts-darling for years and always seem to elicit praise, but at some point you need to actually show it? He’s had numerous opportunities at both Brynas and HV71 to win a starters job and hasn’t done it. Yes, he’s dealt with injuries last season but that really shouldn’t excuse why he hasn’t broken out this year. Goalies are generally volatile and hard to rank, but I can’t really justify ranking him in the Top 25 based growing years of disappointment.

Steph (did not rank him): This one wasn’t as difficult for me as it was for other people - he’s only played 11 games this season, which is under half of the total games for HV71, and it appears he’s taken a step backwards within that organization which doesn’t bode well. There were prospects that I thought deserved a spot above Sandstrom, in fact there were other goalies that I thought deserved a spot. Could it all turn around? Absolutely. He always looks strong in training camp, so maybe a move to Pennsylvania would help with his game and his ranking.

Brad (did not rank him): Echoing a bit of both Steph’s and Jason’s sentiments here, I just felt that other players have taken steps forward while he hasn’t. Goalies are weird, he could still turn out to be great, but he hasn’t shown me enough.

Jake (ranked him #24): Sandstrom has been a pretty average goalie in the SHL over his professional career and despite a promising start to that career, he hasn’t shown much growth in terms of statistics. He’s a fun goalie to watch due to his ability to make highlight reel saves, but he still seems to rely too much on his athleticism and that gets him in trouble. We’ll see if a move to the AHL makes a difference as he’s still young, but at this point I have my concerns.

Paul (ranked him #25): I almost didn’t rank him, but I figure this team is going to need another goalie outside of Carter Hart, and an in-house backup is going to be cheap, which creates more cap space for the roster to be filled out. To me, that holds value, so I do believe Sandstrom holds value in this crop of players in regards to the organization’s future, so I do believe development and potential is important. He’s young, he’s playing in a tough league, and he’s shown he has talent. I echo much of what Jake already stated above and I’m very interested to see him transition to the North American game next season.

Mike (did not rank him): He hasn’t played a ton this season, and while the numbers aren’t awful, there hasn’t been much growth for him the past few seasons. Other goalies in the system have passed him as of now, though perhaps he can regain his status in the AHL in the near future.

Craig (ranked him #21): I think Sandstrom has fallen out of favor with a lot of fans because of Hart and now the rise of Samuel Ersson. Even though I had him ranked higher than most people, I really am not the biggest Sandstrom fan. He is falling a little from my previous ranking of 19. There are some concerns about whether or not he is what we thought he was when he was drafted in 2015, but I want to see him play some games over here before I write him off.

24. Linus Hogberg

Primary Team/League: Vaxjo Lakers HC, SHL
2018-19 Stats: 2 G, 3 A in 34 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A

Drew (did not rank him): With the amount of defensemen in the Flyers’ pipeline, I just don’t see a place for Hogberg unfortunately.

Kelly (did not rank him): His not making my list is less about Hogberg and more about the fact that we have quite a lot of defensive talent in the pipeline right now and I just ranked a bunch of guys ahead of him. There are only 25 spots, folks!

Kyle (ranked him #20): This was another one that I struggled with, but after looking at his metrics in the SHL and combining those strong numbers with his improving point totals, he had to make my ballot. According to the SHL’s website, Hogberg looks to be second among qualified defensemen in Corsi-for percentage. Hogberg may get lost in the shuffle of Flyers defense prospects, but for him at 20 years old to be performing that well in a professional league is extremely impressive.

Kurt (did not rank him): The Hogwas one of the last few out on my ballot. Tough call, for sure, and there’s almost certainly an implicit bias against guys like him compared to folks in North America that we hear a lot more about. Still, a lot of bodies in the defensive pipeline and he’s got some work to do to jump ahead of them.

Jay (ranked him #18): Hogberg made one of the biggest jumps for me on this list (I had him unranked in the summer). Despite the low scoring rates, there’s something to be said about a 20 year old leading the SHL in possession metrics. For all the praise guys like Myers, Friedman, Zamula and Co. get...we could be getting closer to talking about The Hog in the same light.

Steph (did not rank him): Hogberg just missed my list. In fact, he was on the original ballot I sent in, then I made an adjustment. He’s a 20 year old defensemen playing against grown men and actually holding his own. He’s going to be really interesting to watch in the next couple of years.

Maddie (ranked him #25): I definitely wanted to make sure Hogberg got a place on my list. The fancies are good and I like his skillset, and he seems to be taking some steps forward on the offensive front. But, like the others have said, there are a lot of defenseman prospects in front of him, so he’s going to have his work cut out for him in trying to leap over some of them. But there’s still a lot to like about him.

Brad (ranked him #23): Yes, the fancies! Admittedly have had very minimal viewings of him lately, but I’ve always walked away liking what I’ve seen from him. In case you didn’t already gather it from almost everyone above me, he’s 20 years old and doing relatively well in the SHL! That’s huge. If I actually watched a good amount of his games I probably would’ve ranked him higher.

Jake (ranked him #18): I’m not going to repeat what others above me have said with regards to his play-driving metrics, but they’re pretty impressive, fam. For him to be ranked so highly in a pro league at 20 years old is very impressive and something I take into strong consideration. In my opinion, at this moment in time he is everything the Flyers organization wanted (and still want) Robert Hagg to be: a steady, “defensive” defenseman who can contribute offensively through his ability to move the puck up ice efficiently. I am very intrigued by Hogberg and can’t wait to see what he can do in North America.

Paul (did not rank him): Well, I’ll be honest, I screwed this one up. Outside of the top-5 of my rankings I really struggled and overlooked some players, one of which was Linus Hogberg. He’s 20 years old and is putting up very good numbers in a professional league (he plays against men!), so hopefully his transition to the North American game will be seamless. I like his game from the little I’ve actually been able to see, so hopefully it translates well. If I had to go back and re-do my rankings, I would probably have swapped him out with Robert Hagg who (spoiler alert) I have ranked in the high teens. Just like Jake said, I believe Hogberg is what we all wanted Hagg to be.

Mike (did not rank him): Some of the smarter people tell me that his metics are very good in a strong league, so that’s pretty neat. Unfortunately, the Flyers’ prospect pool is super deep on defense and that forced him out of the top-25 for me though The Hog is certainly one to keep at eye out for.

Craig (did not rank him): He was 26th on my list. A lot can be said for a 20-year-old that has played an SHL game for four straight seasons and he’s got great possession numbers, I just liked some other prospects more than him.

23. Matthew Strome

Primary Team/League: Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL
2018-19 Stats: 21 G, 31 A in 46 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 23

Drew (ranked him #20): There’s no doubt that Strome has significant offensive ability. I’m still hesitant at this point to rank him higher because he hasn’t yet played against AHL competition, and I’m curious whether or not his skating will allow him to keep up with them.

Kelly (did not rank him): Like Sandstrom, Strome was juuuust outside the ranking for me. Which is weird, because I’m oddly excited about Strome. Mostly because he seems to have extremely silky mitts and if they can fix that skating, oh baby. We might have a fun one on our hands.

Kyle (ranked him #22): We all know the big issue with Strome is his skating, but man he sure does have a lot of pure offensive ability. He’s been more of a goal scorer in his junior career, but this year he’s picking up more assists. I’d like to see him dominate a bit more at the OHL level since this is his fourth full season with the Hamilton Bulldogs, but he’s still improving year by year, and that counts for something. It’s also fair to say he’s playing on a mediocre team, which is going to bring his point totals down.

Jay (did not rank him): Strome falls off my list this go-around. His scoring rates are identical in his fourth year as they were in his third. There have been also no reports letting us know whether his skating have improved enough to know if will be able to take that next step as a pro. If he’s ever to fix this deficiency, he couldn’t be an offensive force.

Maddie (did not rank him): What Jay said. I’ve been kind of a Strome skeptic for a while, and, as everyone’s said, he does have undeniable offensive instincts, but the worries for me are starting to pile up. His skating when he came into development camp was only slightly better to my eyes (and maybe it has gotten even better since then), and his production seems to be stagnating. Granted, Hamilton’s been struggling some this year, but as an overager, you still expect more from him.

Steph (ranked him #20): Real talk, dude can’t skate his way out of a paper bag, but he is still scoring at an impressive rate. So, to recap, he can’t skate, but he can score. It doesn’t make sense, I want someone to follow him and tell him to get his ass down, but it works for him. So far it works for him. Skating is allegedly the only fixable hockey fundamental, so hopefully he is taking that seriously and makes some ... strides ... in the next season or two. (I DO NOT APOLOGIZE)

Jake (did not rank him): Strome is a heady player who knows how to put the puck in the net. Unfortunately he doesn’t have NHL skating ability and although he’s actually improved slightly in this area, he hasn’t improved enough for me to think he has actual NHL potential. Production is important and he knows how to produce, but I have my concerns that he won’t be able to skate well enough to use his offensive skills at the highest level.

Paul (ranked him #19): No, I did not rank him inside the top-20 just to earn brownie points with Kurt. I know he’s not a great skater. In fact, he’s an actively bad skater from the eye test. However, he seems to get around that with ease and doesn’t have any trouble getting into tough, high-danger scoring areas. There’s something to be said about that. His form is awful, but he still manages to get around the ice, albeit in ugly fashion, and rack up points. There are some athletes who are able to overcome not having great form because their talent level and IQ are just that good. If you don’t know who Jim Furyk is, please do a search on YouTube and look at his golf swing. It’s terrible. Despite that, he is still one of the greats out on the PGA tour and competes with the best of ‘em. I believe in Strome and think he’s just so great at everything else that he can overcome not looking like a great skater.

Mike (ranked him #21): I’m willing to admit that his scoring rates plateauing here in his last junior go-around is surprising, but he’s still scoring at a high rate and has (hopefully) been told to focus on other areas of his game as he prepares for his professional future. The Flyers don’t have a ridiculously long list of offensive firepower in the system, so Strome keeps hanging around this list for me, but seeing what he can (or can’t) do against better skaters and bigger bodies in the AHL will be telling.

Craig (ranked him #22): He’s racking up goals and points for the Hamilton Bulldogs and was recently named their captain. I want to see him play at a level above the OHL to see how much his skating actually holds him back.

Kurt (ranked him #19): Even as someone who kind of became the Matthew Strome defender by default, the fact that his scoring numbers have leveled off a bit this season isn’t shocking to me. We kind of know what he can do in the OHL without a significant increase in his skating ability. Next year is going to be the big test for him as he jumps up to the AHL; we’re kind of just here twiddling our thumbs until then.

22. Samuel Ersson

Primary Team/League: Västerås IK, Allsvenskan
2018-19 Stats: .938 SV%, 1.81 GAA in 22 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A

Kelly (ranked him #23): I mean, a .938 sv%? Along with kicking a lot of ass at the WJC this year (yes yes I know that evaluating these kids based on one tournament is stupid but shut up, he looked really good)? Ersson wasn’t really on my radar before, but it’s looking like we should keep an eye on him. It’ll be fun to see how he looks once he makes it to NA.

Drew (ranked him #23): His stats in the Allsvenskan are very good, and if Ersson can replicate that in the SHL, he’ll definitely be in Lehigh Valley before long.

Jay (ranked him #24): The breakout prospect of 2018-19. I don’t think anyone could have predicted last year’s 5th round pick to be tearing up Allsvenskan in his first season as a 19 year old. He’s technically sound in net and doesn’t ever look flustered (if you watched any of his WJC play). I can’t wait to see what he can do in the SHL next season.

Kyle (did not rank him): I seem to be in the minority here, but I still need to see a bit more from Ersson before he cracks my list. He has great numbers no doubt, and I’m excited to see what he can do in the SHL, but I need to see him carry his play over before I rank him. The SHL will be a huge test for Ersson, and I think he’ll be able to pick it up given how dominant he’s been this season, but he still has to do it. Felix Sandstrom has some competition from his fellow countryman.

Maddie (ranked him #16): Um, hello, big Samuel Ersson fan here. I think there’s a lot to like about Ersson—the Word Juniors performance was great, as was the fact that he came in and all but stole the starter job. The .938 save percentage is great, and it kind of gets better? Kid kind of is his team.

So all that’s good, and his technique seems to be pretty together, particularly for a just-recently-turned 19 year old. He’s probably going to be with Brynas next season, so that’ll be the big of test of whether he can carry this level of play to the next level. But I think there’s a lot to like, so far.

Steph (did not rank): I was surprised to see Ersson ranked so I did some extra research, and it would appear that I screwed up. Up until today I didn’t have a great grasp on the different Swedish leagues, I simply knew what they were, and that led to me doing a disservice to Ersson. I don’t have another excuse, he is killing it against grown men. If I were to re-rank, he would be somewhere between 15-20.

Brad (ranked him #20): Swedish goaltender has a strong showing in the WJC and starts to maybe get a tad overrated by a fan base, where have we heard this story before? I’m a part of that group though, and maybe there’s really something there. As Maddie put it, next season will be a huge test for him and should give us a bit more clarity since he’ll probably move up a league. For now we can only judge him on the games he’s played in the league he’s been assigned to, and he’s been nothing short of phenomenal in the Allsvenskan.

Jake (ranked him #22): He had a strong showing for Sweden in the WJC but more importantly, he is dominating Allsvenskan this season. He seems to be the opposite of his fellow Swede Sandstrom in that he relies much more on his technique to make saves, a technique that seems rather polished for his age. I admittedly didn’t know much about him coming into this season, but I’m impressed with what I’ve seen/read/heard. The jump to the SHL next season will be interesting to watch.

Paul (did not rank him): Let me be honest with you, I haven’t researched Ersson enough to do this justice. I would just have a hard time ranking him ahead of Sandstrom, who is currently playing in the SHL and putting up slightly better numbers than he did in 2016-17 (the season prior to his injury/sickness-riddled 2017-18 season). Granted, he’s tied for first in the Allsvenskan with a stellar .938 save percentage and he’s only 18 years old, so I have to give him credit there.

Mike (ranked him #24): Goalies tend to be head cases and projecting them is a dangerous game, so I’ve got the Flyers’ second-best goaltending prospect down at No. 24. That said, there’s a lot to like about Ersson, who excelled at World Juniors and has had a great season in a lower league as other have pointed out. We need to see more from him, and seeing him in (perhaps) the SHL could give us that look as to what exactly the Flyers could have in this guy.

Craig (ranked him #23): After the draft earlier this season, I never would have guessed Ersson would be in this version of the Top 25 Under 25. He’s had a monster season and his stellar play for Sweden at the WJC definitely helped him jump up the rankings. This summer could see Ersson possibly in the top 20 and Sandstrom off the list, which would be wild.

Kurt (ranked him #24): This ranking for me (in that it’s lower than the consensus) is mostly due to the fact that, in a prospect pool as deep as the Flyers’ currently is, I have a hard time putting a 19-year old goalie particularly high unless he’s just doing absolute otherworldly stuff. There’s so much projection that goes into these guys at this early of a stage. Having said that, Ersson was awesome last year in juniors, has been awesome this year in Allsvenskan, and was awesome at the WJC. He’s passed every real test that’s been thrown at him so far, and it’s not unreasonable to suggest he’s the best non-Hart lotto ticket that we currently have in net. Hopefully he’ll get some time in the SHL sooner rather than later and we can see how he handles that step.

21. Egor Zamula

Primary Team/League: Calgary Hitmen, WHL
2018-19 Stats: 9 G, 30 A in 44 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: N/A

Drew (did not rank him): Credit to the Flyers for signing him, given his massive improvement. But. he’s only 18 and I’d like to see more before ranking higher.

Kelly (did not rank him): It would appear that I am way in the minority here, but I think I need to see a bit more from a kid this young before I get excited about him. 39 points in 44 games is nothing to sneer at, but I think I want to see more than one year before I accept that he’s actually this good.

Jay (ranked him #25): Sometimes things just click as you get acclimated to the league and grow into your body. Zamula has a ways to go on the latter, but his breakout this season has been a pleasant surprise. The Phil Myers comps aren’t exactly fair, but plucking another undrafted free agent defenseman who all the sudden puts up monster offensive numbers the year after should have your immediate attention. Credit to the previous regime to find this kid and give him a chance.

Kyle (ranked him #21): Well, this was unexpected. Zamula has been the shock of the season among the prospect pool, and it’s been incredible to see how he’s taken the WHL by storm with the Calgary Hitmen. While I do believe some need to pump the brakes on the 18 year old defenseman, he certainly has had an extremely impressive season so far and it looks like a fantastic find by former general manager Ron Hextall. The important thing to watch for now is if he can finish strong, and if he can take the next step next season.

Maddie (did not rank him): I think where I’m at with Zamula is “cautiously optimistic.” He didn’t make my list because there were just more guys that I’ve seen more of and feel more comfortable making a judgement on. That said, you can’t not like his scoring numbers, and getting anything out of an undrafted free agent is a win, in my book. I’m excited to see what he can do through the end of this season, and going forward.

Steph (ranked him #21): I’m super pumped they made this signing out of training camp. He’s a defenseman that has 39 points in 44 games at 18 years old - pretty, pretty good. I’m looking at Zamula as the next Phil Myers, which I understand is a lofty comparison for someone we know so little about, but I am sticking by it. He’s 6’3” and needs to put on some muscle, but I’m really excited about what the future holds for this guy.

Brad (ranked him #16): I’d be lying to you if I said that I didn’t feel a bit self-conscious about this ranking after seeing everyone else’s, but hey, Zamula’s D+1 season has been nothing short of outstanding. The points are there, his play in all three zones has steadily improved, and he looks to have all the tools necessary to become a NHL defenseman — and a good one at that. Plus, he plays for the same junior team that Travis Sanheim did, and wears the same number Ivan Provorov does. It’s a sign, folks.

Jake (ranked him #25): Zamula has had my attention since camp. Tall and lanky but a smooth skater and held his own in preseason outside of one rough game against NYR. His production has exploded this year in the WHL and he’s now on everyone’s radar. Myers is the obvious comparison to draw here in terms of being an undrafted player who started in Calgary’s camp and ended up signing a deal in Philadelphia. That said, let’s pump the breaks. Myers was an outlier, so to think the Flyers could find two diamonds in the rough just a few seasons apart is a bit of a stretch. I’m impressed with what I’ve seen but I’d like to see more than one productive year out of him before I move him higher up these rankings.

Paul (ranked him #20): I attended some of camp this year and each day I made note of what players stuck out to me. Each and every day I watched, Zamula was on my list. That carried into preseason action and I was just incredibly impressed with this kid and how poised he is with the puck, as well as how positional-y sound he was in his own zone. I think there’s a lot potential here for a defenseman that the Flyers organization can groom, develop, and coach at a great pace with the depth of defenseman already in the system, so they have time to work with him and refine his game at the pace he needs to work.

Mike (ranked him #22): He’s the highest riser basically coming out of nowhere with a strong camp and a really good season in the WHL so far. Only 18, there’s a lot to like in terms of size, skill, and what we’ve seen so far and enough to justify a leap into these rankings with an outstanding year. Zamula is going to be exciting to continue to watch develop, and deserves some definite hype right now.

Craig (ranked him #24): I was interested in the Flyers drafting him at this year’s draft, but after he went undrafted despite being ranked 64th in Central Scouting’s North American skaters I was happy to see him at camp. He feels like another possible Phil Myers: signed shortly after going undrafted, displays skill that show he should have been drafted, and is a bigger blue liner with good mobility.

Kurt (ranked him #22): I thought about going higher here. The sample size here for Zamula is not huge. But then again, didn’t the Flyers under Hextall target guys like that fairly often? Even putting aside the obvious and not totally fair Phil Myers comparison as an undrafted player, Travis Sanheim (another former Calgary Hitmen defenseman, by the way) was a guy who had the measurables and the flashes of skill that hadn’t quite put up the performance on a consistent basis, only for that consistency to appear after the Flyers picked him up. Now, that’s also an unfair bar to set for Zamula, but the point is the Flyers have nailed it with guys like this before, and the early returns on this particular one are positive — Zamula is sixth in the Dub among defensemen in points this season, even outpacing fellow Flyers defensive prospect Wyatte Wylie (who I had just behind him in my rankings). Tough to say if he was worth the hefty cost of [/checks notes] zero draft picks, but I’m thinking he is.

(Quick side note: until about two days ago I 100 percent thought his name was “Zemula”. Are we sure he didn’t change his name mid-season? Did he pull a Berenstein Bears on us? I demand an investigation into this.)

How We Voted For Players 25-21

Player Bill M Brad Craig Drew Jake Jason Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Paul Steph Community Total Points Rank
Player Bill M Brad Craig Drew Jake Jason Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Paul Steph Community Total Points Rank
Felix Sandstrom n/a n/a 21 15 24 n/a 21 n/a n/a 25 25 21 n/a 25 n/a 21 36 25
Linus Hogberg n/a 23 n/a n/a 18 18 22 16 n/a n/a 20 25 n/a n/a n/a n/a 40 24
Matthew Strome 24 n/a 22 20 n/a n/a 23 n/a n/a 19 22 n/a 21 19 20 24 46 23
Samuel Ersson 20 20 23 23 22 24 n/a 20 22 24 n/a 16 24 n/a n/a 20 54 22
Egor Zemula 9 16 24 n/a 25 25 n/a 22 n/a 22 21 n/a 22 20 21 n/a 59 21

How We Voted At 25-21

Rank Bill M Brad Craig Drew Jake Jason Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Paul Steph Community
Rank Bill M Brad Craig Drew Jake Jason Joe John Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Paul Steph Community
25 Ivan Fedotov Samuel Morin Noah Cates Connor Bunnaman Egor Zemula Egor Zemula Noah Cates Samuel Morin Maksim Sushko Felix Sandstrom Felix Sandstrom Linus Hogberg Adam Ginning Felix Sandstrom Kirill Ustimenko Carsen Twarynski
24 Matthew Strome David Kase Egor Zemula John St. Ivany Felix Sandstrom Samuel Ersson Mark Friedman Kirill Ustimenko Carsen Twarynski Samuel Ersson Noah Cates Isaac Ratcliffe Samuel Ersson Wyatte Wylie Noah Cates Matthew Strome
23 Tanner Laczynski Linus Hogberg Samuel Ersson Samuel Ersson Olle Lycksell Jay O'Brien Matthew Strome Carsen Twarynski Samuel Morin Wyatte Wylie David Kase David Kase Noah Cates Carsen Twarynski Wyatte Wylie Tanner Laczynski
22 Wade Allison Connor Bunnaman Matthew Strome Noah Cates Samuel Ersson Tanner Laczynski Linus Hogberg Egor Zemula Samuel Ersson Egor Zemula Matthew Strome Samuel Morin Egor Zemula David Kase Maksim Sushko Noah Cates
21 Kirill Ustimenko Jay O'Brien Felix Sandstrom Nicolas Aube-Kubel Robert Hagg Mark Friedman Felix Sandstrom Jay O'Brien Connor Bunnaman Mark Friedman Egor Zemula Felix Sandstrom Matthew Strome Samuel Morin Egor Zemula Felix Sandstrom