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Philadelphia Flyers 25 Under 25: Tanner Laczynski holds steady entering final college season

What’s in stock for Laczynski entering his senior season? And should the Flyers have any concerns about him signing?

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COLLEGE HOCKEY: FEB 22 Ohio State at Michigan Photo by Steven King/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

There’s something to be said about consistency.

After just barely missing out on our Top 25 Under 25 two summers ago, forward and current Ohio State senior Tanner Laczynski burst onto the scene with a great sophomore season and found his way to No. 19 in our mid-season rankings in the winter of 2018. The following summer, he came in at No. 18. And this past winter, he held steady at No. 18. And here, entering what will be his final season in college, he clocks in at a tie for 17th, the smallest step up possible from where he was the last time around.

In some ways, the consistency isn’t too surprising. Laczynski has basically been the same player over the past two seasons. But for him to even slightly raise his stock coming into the summer following a good-if-maybe-not-incredible season, with the Flyers’ newest draft class coming into the prospect pool and competing for spots in the ranking, is an impressive feat.

Whatever our panel thinks of him, there’s zero doubt that Laczynski will be in the news some time within the next year. The Flyers’ draft rights to Laczynski expire exactly one year from tomorrow, as he’ll begin his final year of college in the coming weeks. The Flyers will have their eye on him, hoping to bring him into the organization when the year is done.

So what do they have in him?

No. T-17: Tanner Laczynski

Position: F
Age: 22 (6/1/1997)
Size: 6’1”, 205
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft — Round 6, Pick 169
2018-19 League/Team/Statistics: Ohio State (NCAA) - 10 G, 20 A in 27 GP
Nationality: American
Ranking in BSH Winter 2019 25 Under 25: 18

Laczynski, who wasn’t drafted in his first eligible season, turned a strong post-draft season in the USHL into a sixth-round selection in 2016, and from there turned in a solid freshman year before really stepping forward in his sophomore season. Laczynski was probably the best player on an Ohio State team that had national title aspirations, coming up short in the Frozen Four.

Coming into his junior year, the goals were lofty. On an individual level, there was a case to be made coming into the season that with a step forward in his play, Laczynski could be a contender for the Hobey Baker Memorial Award, given yearly to the best player in college hockey. And his Buckeyes team seemed like it could be one of the favorites to win the national title, a year after knocking on the doorstep of one.

So the bar was very high. That’s undeniable. Still, it’s fair to say that bar wasn’t quite reached. Laczynski was very, very good, once again, but it felt like the year was more of a continuation of his outstanding sophomore year rather than a true step into the ultimate upper-end of the college hockey spectrum. His scoring rates were similar to those of his previous year, as were his nation-wide ranks in most statistics. (For instance, he was 16th in points-per-game nationwide, one year after finishing 17th.) He also missed some time mid-season due to injury.

And while the Buckeyes were, similarly, very good once again — they topped the regular-season Big 10 standings for the first time in their history — they were upset early in the Big 10 Tournament, before then bowing out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

So while it was a good season on balance for Laczynski and his team, not everything went quite according to plan. And the feeling of “unfinished business” that seemed to linger after his sophomore year may have still been in place as his junior year ended, because it was announced in April that Laczynski would be returning to Ohio State as a team captain.

Which prompts a few questions. For one, what are the expectaions for him this coming year? With Ohio State co-star and Hobey Baker finalist Mason Jobst off to the pros, Laczynski figures to be far and away the best player on his team. Could next year be the year that he was hoping this year would be? It’s feasible that with one final year to prove himself, he truly goes off, gets in the Hobey conversation for real this time, and enters next summer with his stock through the roof.

Surely, that’s what Laczynski — a forward with some size and positional versatility, who is fairly well-rounded and can fit well in a lot of different kinds of systems and playing styles — is hoping for. For the Flyers, then, the question is this: will they be able to retain him if that does happen? Or even if it doesn’t?

As with all college prospects, Laczynski will become an unrestricted free agent on August 15 after his graduation if he isn’t signed to an entry-level contract by then. The Flyers have intimated that they’d have liked him to sign this past spring, with assistant general manager Brett Flahr telling BSH Radio’s Charlie O’Connor over at The Athletic (subscription required) back in July that the team was hoping he’d sign and he essentially told them he wanted another year:

We’ve talked to his agent, we’ve talked to him throughout the seasons. Obviously, we would have signed him at the end of this year, we think he’s more than ready physically and mentally to handle the pro game, and he could have challenged for a spot. But he wanted to go back for his senior year, graduate, which is an honorable thing to do. We’ll deal with the contract at season’s end.

As Flahr says, perhaps Laczynski just wanted to graduate college and plans to see things through with the Flyers once that’s done. That quote isn’t dripping with concern about losing the player, and if the Flyers truly thought that Laczynski had a foot out the door, we’d have probably heard about them looking to move his rights, the way they did in 2018 with Cooper Marody.

And to their credit, the Flyers seem to have been on top of the ball with Laczynski, and have left a good impression with the folks around him. Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik told NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Jordan Hall in May that the team, and in particular player development coach John Riley, have done a good job staying in communication with him and providing feedback on what they’ve liked in his game. If Laczynski does end up having to make a big decision, the Flyers seem to have set themselves up well with him.

Still, the choice will be out there for Laczynski, who enters his final year of college hockey with some things left to prove. The young forward has ascended quickly from the guy who didn’t get drafted his first time around to the potential best player in college hockey this year. After a junior year that didn’t quite go according to plan — one that most college hockey players would surely take nonetheless — Laczynski will try to make one last big impression before hopefully joining the Flyers next year.

Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 Top 25 Under 25:

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