The other day we got to check in on the 2016 draft class (insert link to Johan’s second article), but its crazy to think we are now two years removed from the 2017 NHL Entry Draft (you know, when the Flyers moved from 13th to 2nd in the draft lottery). The Flyers drafted some kid by the name of Nolan J. Patrick with that pick and started him in the NHL immediately. Reviews have been mixed, but there is still hope that he turns into a legitimate second-line center threat. Alas, not all our hopes need to be pinned to a 20 year old because the Flyers had eight other picks that draft. When will we be seeing these players on a TV screen near you? Some sooner than later...
Morgan Frost (27th overall)
The Flyers sent shock-waves through the fanbase on Draft Day when they announced a trade between the Flyers and the St. Louis Blues, who owned the 27th overall pick in the draft. The Blues agreed to send their 1st overall pick, a conditional 1st round pick in the 2018 Entry Draft and Jori (Jorald) Lehtera in exchange for Brayden Schenn. The Flyers used the pick to select Morgan Frost to the shock of some who thought it was their chance to get the Finnish sniper, Eeli Tolvanen. While we can continue to debate if the pick was used correctly, Morgan Frost has developed as a prospect better than we would have all expected.
Frost has dominated the OHL in the two seasons since being drafted, putting up 221 points (79 goals, 142 assists) in 125 games. He’s played on the big stage with Team Canada in the World Junior Championships. Given the Flyers current hole on their third line right winger spot, Frost is going to get a legitimate look and could possibly break with the Flyers for the 2019-20 season. He’s already had a spectacular Development Camp, as reported by our own Madeline Campbell. Of the other hopefuls such as Joel Farabee (only one year removed from being drafted) and German Rubstov (coming off shoulder surgery), I’m expecting Frost to be the one who makes it.
Isaac Ratcliffe (35th overall)
Ratcliffe certainly has that classic Flyers build at 6’6 200 lbs. The hulking winger skates surprisingly well for someone that tall and has a scoring touch to boot. He put up 50 goals this past regular season, the first Flyers prospect to do that in junior hockey since David Laliberte did it in 2006-07. His success last season didn’t stop in the regular season as he put up another 30 points (15 goals) in 24 playoff games in route to his team (Guelph Storm) becoming the OHL Finals Champions. Ratcliffe’s late postseason run didn’t allow him to get any action with the Phantoms late in the season, but he will surely start there in 2019-20. I suppose he could be considered a dark-horse for the third line winger with the Flyers, but I’d be surprised if he could outshine guys like Morgan Frost in preseason. With a strong first full AHL season, he could certainly work his way up the depth chart in the case there are injuries with big club.
Kirill Ustimenko (80th overall)
This pick came courtesy of (holds back laughter) obtaining a 3rd round pick for Zac Rinaldo. If you draft enough goalies, one is bound to be good enough to stick. Thankfully, the Flyers seem to have a pretty good one in Carter Hart. With that, they’ll need a steady backup sooner than later. Why not Ustimenko? Well for one, he is still fairly young and hasn’t advanced past the MHL (Russian juniors) outside of one VHL game last season. Likely because of limited options in advancing any further in Russia, the Belarusian signed an ELC and will be in the organization for the 2019-20 season. Currently, the Phantoms have four goalies signed: Ustimenko, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom and Jean-Francois Berube. With the general cumbersomeness of balancing three goalies last season, I’d imagine the Flyers will send two of these goalies to the ECHL for regular playing time. Look for Ustimenko to be one of them and don’t even look at a Flyers ETA for quite sometime.
Matthew Strome (106th overall)
Kind of crazy to think someone with the offensive talent that Strome has slips into the 4th round, but then you see him skate and you kind of get why. The Strome family certainly don’t have many great skaters, but Strome seems to be a step behind both brothers Ryan and Dylan in that respect. Strome reminds me of Oskar Lindblom in a way that he was also a poor skater (with high offensive upside) that was considered a project when drafted. Obviously, Lindblom was able to work on his skating and is now looking like a capable middle-six winger in the NHL. Can Strome do the same? Reports say that he has come a long way since being drafted and has looked better. I’m sure one of the biggest tasks Scott Gordon will have this season with the Phantoms is to see if the technique can be completely overhauled. I’d expect at least two full AHL seasons before we hear any whispers of a “Strome has a legitimate chance to make the Flyers”.
Maksim Sushko (107th overall)
Another Belarusian drafted by Ron Hextall and Co. in 2017. Sushko broke out in his first post-draft year with a 60 point season (31 goals, 29 A) in 60 games and also put on display his skills on the national stage at the World Junior Championships, compiling 8 points (2 G, 6 A) in 8 games. He did this all as a 19 year old in his second junior season and it seemed as though things were only looking up. Unfortunately, Sushko then had some offensive setbacks last season and put up only 51 points (18 G, 33 A) in 62 games. After three seasons of Canadian junior hockey, it was announced that Sushko would officially be joining the Flyers organization. While he’s listed on the Phantoms roster currently, with the glut of AHL free agents signed recently, Sushko could be pushed to the ECHL to start the season.
Noah Cates (137th overall)
Cates was drafted out of the USA Hockey program, where he saw his first post-draft season action in the USHL. Cates put up an impressive 55 points (21 G, 34 A) in 60 games. From there he entered the NCAA and enrolled in University of Minnesota-Duluth to join their hockey program. In his freshman season Cates netted 9 goals and 14 assists in 40 games. Cates’ modest season has most optimistic about this future as a viable NHL player and will continue to do so as he plays in his sophomore year this season.
Olle Lycksell (168th overall)
It’s clear when watching Lycksell that he is pretty talented with the puck, but he will certainly need to keep working on all aspects of his games as he gains more experience. His two post-draft seasons has proved he is above the SHL junior level competition (29 points in 31 games), but perhaps not quite ready for a full-time SHL role. In 51 games last season (with varying levels of ice-time throughout, mind you) he scored 5 goals and 7 assists. With full year under his belt, perhaps he garners more ice-time and confidence in the coaching staff to expand his role for the upcoming season.
Wyatt Kalynuk (196th overall)
After the previous few years of absolutely loading up on defensive prospects, the Flyers waited until the 7th round to take their first blue-liner in 2017. Drafted out of the USHL, Kalynuk began his first post-draft season as a 20 year old freshman with the University of Wisconsin. He quickly became their go-to power play quarterback over his first two seasons. Kalynuk will be going back for his junior season, though I’d expect this one might be his last. Given the lack of young defensive depth (and who knows when Linus Hogberg and David Bernhardt will come over to the US), his path to the Phantoms and consistent playing time are very open.