We started talking a few weeks back about the Flyers’ prospects, and when we might expect them to be ready to make the jump to the NHL. We broke down the 2016 draft class (parts one and two), and the 2017 class, and now it’s time to move on to 2018. This is where this exercise gets a little more difficult—with only one season of play between now and their draft year, it’s not a huge body of work to study. But, it still leaves us with some pieces, so we’ll work with what we have.
Joel Farabee (14th overall)
Of all of the players we’re going to be talking about here, Farabee presents as the closest to NHL ready. He’s coming off a very solid freshman season with Boston University, which saw him register 17 goals and 36 points in 37 games played. He also picked up awards for being the NCAA Hockey East’s Rookie of the Year, and the NCAA’s Top Collegiate Rookie, and then, oh yeah, the silver medal with the United States team at the World Junior Championship. So, not a bad season for Farabee.
When will we see him crack the NHL? It could be soon, but maybe not as soon as we think. The Flyers have a spot open on their roster for a winger, and Farabee figures to be in the mix to earn it out of camp, but it seems more likely, considering as he’s still just one year removed from being drafted and has only just gotten his weight up to 175 pounds, he’ll be sent to join the Phantoms and work on adjusting to the professional game in the AHL. It’s also easy to see a scenario where he’s working out with a professional team, getting stronger, and tearing it up in the American league, and earns himself a call-up sometime around December. He’s close to NHL ready, there’s no way around that, but it’s also not like they need to rush him into the NHL immediately.
Jay O’Brien (19th overall)
If Farabee seems to have a pretty clear road ahead of him to the NHL, the same can’t really be said for the Flyers’ second 2018 first round pick. O’Brien had a decidedly pretty rough season—hampered by injury, he was limited to playing just 25 games with Providence College, and in that time registered just two goals and three assists, albeit in limited usage. O’Brien is set to join the Penticton Vees of the BCHL, and from there has committed to Boston University for the following season. It’s an open question when we see him with the Flyers—if he tears up the BCHL and the Hockey East as well, he could do the same as Farabee, and come into training camp and hope to earn an NHL job. Or he could join the Phantoms. Or he could spend another season in college. We’re looking a little too far ahead at this point, and there are a lot of moving pieces here, a lot of contingencies. But we can feel pretty confident saying that O’Brien has the skill where he could be an impactful NHL player, if he’s able to put it all together. He’s going to have time to work it out, and all we’re asking for is incremental improvement. We’re trying to keep from playing mental 3D chess with his development arc—let’s just see what he can do in the BCHL first.
Adam Ginning (50th overall)
Ginning made his professional debut last season, playing his first full season with Linkoping of the SHL, and it was something of a mixed bag. He seemed to hold up alright with the increased intensity of playing full-time in a professional league, but at the same time the numbers aren’t stellar. He put up one goal and five points in 48 games, along with a 43.65 CF%. We’re willing to give him a bit of leeway, as it was only just his first full season with the team, after all. He has at least one more year left on his contract with Linkoping, so it’ll be a bit before we see him crossing over to North America, and even then we can reasonably expect that he’ll spend at least a season in the AHL to get acclimated to playing over here.
But concerns with his move to the NHL aren’t just limited to the when. Ginning is a stay at home defenseman, we’ve known this since he was drafted. While this may not be a bad thing to be, if a player can learn to play that role well, Ginning still has to iron that out. The real question is if his skillset will be useful in the version of the NHL that he’s looking to join when the time comes. There may well be a case to be made that the purely stay at home defenseman is becoming obsolete in a league that’s just getting faster and more mobile. So then the question becomes not just if Ginning’s skillset can translate to the NHL, but if he can tailor his game to fit a changing league.
John St. Ivany (112th overall)
St. Ivany made the jump to college at Yale this season, and it kind of wound up being a weird season for him. All told, he scored six goals and eight assists for a total of 14 points in 30 games, which isn’t too bad, in and of itself. The curious bit comes in when you consider that he got off to a really strong start to the season, then joined the American team for the World Juniors, didn’t do a whole lot there, and came back to Yale and struggled to maintain that same clip and intensity that he found in the first half of the season.
In terms of his skills, the offensive upside is still there, and he’s made significant improvements in his skating (his biggest weakness) in the past year. Now it’s just a question of putting it all together and being able to bring that on a consistent basis. We don’t expect to see St. Ivany in the NHL for a bit—he’ll be going back to college for at least one more season. Then it’ll be up to the team to decide if he needs further developmental time in the AHL—but there’s certainly some potential there. A mobile right shot defenseman with some offensive upside is a valuable piece to have in the organization, and if he’s able to polish his skillset some, it’s not a stretch to think that St. Ivany can factor into the future of this team.
Wyatte Wylie (127th overall)
And the defenseman talks roll on! Wylie is another one of the more under the radar prospects from this draft class, but he quietly had a very solid draft+1 season with the Everett Silvertips, where he picked up 11 goals and 47 points in 67 games, which ranked him third among all skaters in points. He’ll have another season before he’s AHL eligible, but he’s doing well to work towards that marker of “dominated his junior league” that we see as an important step in prospect development.
But Wylie is an interesting case. His route to an NHL isn’t an easy one because, while he very obviously has a good skillset and has been performing well in the WHL, the Flyers are working towards getting their pool of defensemen stocked back up, and while a RHD is a valuable comodity, as we said, it isn’t clear at this point what he does better than the prospects in front of him on the depth chart. So it becomes more difficult for him to do any leapfrogging. Does that mean it’s impossible? Certainly not. But he does have something of an uphill battle in front of him.
Samuel Ersson (143rd overall)
It isn’t often that we look at a fifth round pick’s draft+1 season and get very, very excited about it, but here we are, doing that for Samuel Ersson. He made the jump to the Allsvenskan after spending his draft year in the SuperElit, and joined Vasetras IK, where he put up a .933 save percentage over 36 games. He was also invited to join the Swedes for the World Junior Championship, and he came in and stole the starting job away from their returning goaltender, and put up a .922 save percentage over his four games played, and was named one of the top three players of his team in the tournament. And, in further award receiving, he also was awarded the title of the Allsvenskan’s Best Junior at the end of the season. So, not too shabby.
And then what’s next? There isn’t really room for him to come over to North America just yet, so he’ll be joining Brynas in the SHL next season. We’ll see if he can take the next step and, at the very least, hold his own in the country’s top league. From there, we’re not sure what his contract situation is with Brynas and when he’ll be able to come over, but the next logical step for him would be to take a crack at the AHL, whenever that happens. But the fact remains that it looks like the Flyers may well have found something here with Ersson.
Gavin Hain (174th overall)
It was something of a meh freshman season for Hain, where he totaled just six goals and nine points in 31 games with the University of North Dakota. If we were looking at a prospect that was picked much, much earlier in the draft, these are season numbers that might have us worried. But with these later round picks like Hain, teams are taking chances on players who might be more raw, and seeing if they can turn them into a useful player. It might take them longer to figure it out, so we’ll just be looking for Hain to take some kind of step forward next season with North Dakota, and then we’ll see where we go from there.
Marcus Westfalt (205th overall)
That same sentiment we can carry over to talking about Marcus Westfalt. He bounced around a bit last season, playing 12 games with Brynas’s J20 team in the SuperElit, 19 games with Karlskrona HK in the Allsvenskan, and 19 games with Brynas in the SHL. He registered 10 points (4G, 6A) in the SuperElit, two points (2A) in the Allsvenskan, and one (1A) in the SHL (got all that). It’s also interesting to note that in his 19 games with Brynas, he posted a very solid 51.59 CF%, so even of the points weren’t there, he seemed to be able to pull the underlying numbers together, albeit in a limited sample.
He’s listed as being on loan to Vasterviks of the Allsvenskan for next season, and hopefully he can find a bit of stability there. It seems he wasn’t quite ready to make the jump to the SHL full time, and that’s okay! He’s allowed to be more of a project and take some more time to try and pull everything together. We’ll see what he can do with (hopefully) a full season in the Allsvenskan.
All stats via Elite Prospects and SHL.se