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Philadelphia Flyers Winter/Spring 25 Under 25: Nos. 25 to 23

Our bi-annual ranking of the top young talent in the Flyers’ system begins once again.

Columbus Blue Jackets v Philadelphia Flyers Photo by Len Redkoles/NHLI via Getty Images

With the sports world at a standstill, it’s about time that we revived a recurring series here at Broad Street Hockey: the Flyers 25 Under 25. If you need a refresher on what’s going on here, or you’re new around here and wondering what this is? Glad you asked:

The BSH 25 Under 25 is an exercise we take part in twice a year here at Broad Street Hockey, wherein we rank and take a long look at the best young (under the age of 25, to be precise) talent in the Flyers’ organization, whether they’re on the team now, in another professional league, or in some amateur setting. Why 25? Well, 25 is an unofficial sort of defining age for hockey players. By the time a player is 25, he’s 7 years out from his first draft-eligible season, so chances are you’ve had the chance to see him advance through the ranks (or fail to do so). Some would argue 25 is the age at which a player hits his playing prime.

In any case, it tends to be the point at which you kind of know what a player is and what he’s going to mean to your franchise in the long run. Not always! (Naturally, Sean Couturier’s career year came right after his last-ever 25 Under 25 two years ago.) But typically you’ve got a pretty good idea by then.

So until a player hits that age, we’re gonna speculate and guess and project the crap out of ‘em, folks. And with that, welcome to the 25 Under 25.

So, over the next two weeks, we’ll be talking through our thoughts on the top young talent in the Flyers’ organization. We’ll let everyone chime in, roundtable-style, and our current plan is to feature three players per day in these posts.

A quick introduction, then ...

Who decides the Top 25?

There are 12 ballots that make up our final ranking. 11 of them are courtesy of our masthead; the twelfth was decided by you, the BSH community, over the course of the past couple of weeks.

Who exactly is in the running?

Any member of the Flyers’ reserve list that was under the age of 25 as of March 1, 2020. That gives us the following 46 players to rank, broken out below by position and listed alphabetically from there:

Forwards (25): Wade Allison, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Bobby Brink, Bryce Brodzinski, Connor Bunnaman, Noah Cates, Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Gavin Hain, David Kase, Travis Konecny, Pascal Laberge, Tanner Laczynski, Oskar Lindblom, Olle Lycksell, Jay O’Brien, Nolan Patrick, Isaac Ratcliffe, German Rubtsov, Egor Serdyuk, Matthew Strome, Maksim Sushko, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, Marcus Westfalt
Defensemen (15): Ronnie Attard, David Bernhardt, Mark Friedman, Adam Ginning, Linus Hogberg, Wyatt Kalynuk, Mason Millman, Samuel Morin, Philippe Myers, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Jack St. Ivany, Wyatte Wylie, Cam York, Egor Zamula
Goaltenders (6): Samuel Ersson, Ivan Fedotov, Carter Hart, Roddy Ross, Felix Sandstrom, Kirill Ustimenko

Who are our honorable mentions?

Sure! Here’s who just missed the cut:

T-29. Linus Hogberg
T-29. Kirill Ustimenko
28. Wyatt Kalynuk
T-26. Wyatte Wylie
T-26. Samuel Morin

Anything else we should know?

Yes. We mentioned this in our post for the community ballot, but rather than attempt to ask our voters how to attempt to answer the unknowable question of “what does Oskar Lindblom’s future with the Flyers hold from an on-ice perspective?” we decided before we started here that Oskar Lindblom will be our honorary No. 1 in this go-round of the 25 Under 25. He was taken off the ballot, but will be the final player we discuss here. Carter Hart, Travis Konecny, etc.? They are all fighting for No. 2 and below.

With that, let’s begin.

25. Carsen Twarynski

Primary Team/League: Lehigh Valley, AHL
2019-20 Stats: 7 G, 5 A in 31 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: Unranked

Craig (did not rank): I didn’t rank Twarynski because of his ceiling and his uncertain future with the club. He’s one of the few options the organization has when it comes to a physical power forward option in the bottom six, but if what he showed in his 15 NHL games this season is what he is at the highest level he isn’t much more than a fourth-line forward. He may get another shot with one more year left on his deal, but I don’t see him moving past anybody on the depth chart to stay in the NHL.

Maddie (did not rank): Like Craig, I didn’t rank Twarynski because I’m not really sure about his ceiling. To be completely honest, I’m not even sure that he has an NHL ceiling at all. I wasn’t really wowed during his stint in the NHL this season, and I’ve gotten to watch a lot more of him in the AHL, and the feeling has been kind of the same. I keep waiting for him to show me something that makes me think that he could have a distinct impact at the NHL level (and which I’ve seen from all of the other members of that fourth line carousel from this season), and I just haven’t. He’s obviously still young and that could change, but right now he’s still a player who’s spent the better part of two seasons trying to figure out how the be effective consistently in the AHL. He has a ways to go before I’d feel confident tagging him as an NHL player (or one with that definite upside).

Drew (Ranked him #14): Truthfully, I ranked Twarynski as highly as I did since he has actually played in the NHL, but looking back at my rankings with foresight, I probably would have him far lower. I still think he is worthy of being ranked since we know he can be a fourth line player (which is more than we can say about other players in the AHL right now), but he probably isn’t anything more than that.

Maddie: Respectfully, do we know that? The organization obviously liked his camp, but do we feel confident saying that he was effective in his time with the Flyers? I don’t know that I would.

Ryan G. (did not rank): In past years, Twarynski likely would’ve snuck into the rankings. However, as both Craig and Maddie said, his ceiling was the main reason that I left him off my rankings. He impressed in training camp and won a roster spot to start the season, but that fourth-line role that he played might just be his ceiling – and that’s fine. He’s a nice depth forward to have if the Flyers need to call someone up, but I can’t see him surprising and potentially moving up the lineup like a few other options they have.

Kurt (ranked him #18): I’m not entirely sure why I ranked him this high? Truth be told, I liked him as a fourth-liner out of the gate when he made the team. The game never really seemed like it was too fast or too much for him, the way it did at first for, in my opinion, Connor Bunnaman. He probably can be an effective fourth-liner, since that’s what he is in general. Still, I have a hard time seeing him be a whole lot more than that, and with this team’s forward ranks he shoudn’t be in the NHL unless there are injuries. I dunno, he had some moments that flashed? I should probably not have ranked him this high

Brad (did not rank): While I didn’t rank Twarynski, I’d be remiss if I didn’t make note of how he was one of the few Phantoms with a Corsi-for percent north of 50 this season. Like a few above me have said, it’s really the ceiling that I perceive him to have that has him off of my list.

Kyle (did not rank): To echo this sentiment, the ceiling is what kept Twarynski off my list. I thought he showed flashes of being a solid bottom-six player in the early going, but he was never consistent enough to hold down that spot. We’ve seen guys like NAK come up and do much better in what was Twarynski’s role to start the season, so it’s hard to see him ever getting back up to the big club unless major injuries happen. Which, to be fair, with the way this season has gone maybe that isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.

Kelly (did not rank): I appreciate the folks above taking time to spell out their reasoning for not ranking this guy, but it’s very simple: Carsen Twarynski is just completely unremarkable. He showed me nothing of note during his time with the big club and he could be replaced by any one of the countless “oh yeah, I forgot that dude existed” mid-level AHL players.

Mike (did not rank): To echo my good pal Kelly up there, Carsen is on the Mount Rushmore of Just A Guy’s (JAG) for me in the Flyers organization. Like if he plays a handful of NHL games a year due to a slew of injuries sure, but he’s not moving the needle and can’t be in the lineup consistently for a Stanley Cup contender.

24. Jay O’Brien

Primary Team/League: Penticton, BCHL
2019-20 Stats: 25 G, 41 A in 46 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 24

Craig (ranked him #23): I didn’t rank him in the top 25 over the summer because I felt like a first-round pick having a terrible season in the NCAA and transferring to the BCHL doesn’t scream ‘moving up the ranks.’ I wanted to see him go to the BCHL and clean up before I put him back into the top 25, and he’s done just that. I liked JO’B in the 2018 draft, but I don’t know if I would have taken him that high. His style of play makes it believable he can one day be an effective NHLer and following a season of disappointment it looks like he rebounded this year.

Maddie (ranked him #21): I think, historically, I’ve been a bit more hesitant in rating O’Brien highly simply because I didn’t see much of him before he was drafted, and projecting kids coming straight out of high school is tough. But, that said, despite his season last year with Providence being a tough one, I’ve been pleased with his season in Penticton (even though I’ve seen some folks disappointed with his production, relative to the expectation for a 20 year old former first round pick).

But the thing with O’Brien that I do want to say, is he probably shouldn’t have gone in the first round (based on previous production and where scouts had him ranked leading up to the draft). Him being taken in the first was a reach, pretty objectively, but that’s not his fault. That said, I think if we’re judging his BCHL production and overall development relative to what we would expect from a first rounder, well, I think we’re going about it wrong, because he probably shouldn’t have been taken in there in the first place. So I think my thoughts on him come down to this—O’Brien is still a player with a pretty complete skill set (good speed, tenacious, nice scoring touch), and it isn’t hard to imagine that he makes the NHL one day. But I think we might do well to adjust our expectations a bit with him. He’s a prospect with good NHL upside and a bit more work to do, that’s all.

Drew (did not rank): I was hesitant about O’Brien since he was very hyped and then went and switched to the BCHL. If he was going to be on my board, it would be at 25, and I wouldn’t go higher than that.

Ryan G. (ranked him #23): O’Brien hasn’t had the smoothest two seasons since being drafted in the first round, but he’s showing his talents in the BCHL this year. After a disappointing year in the NCAA (and at the World Juniors with zero points in seven games), he took a bit of a step back to go to the Penticton Vees in the BCHL. O’Brien was among the league leaders in points during the regular season and had 10 points in just five playoff games. We’ll see if he can keep that up as he moves up the ranks, but he’s still a solid player with plenty of promise.

Kurt (ranked him #25): JO’B (going to make this a thing, thx) was one of the top players in the BCHL this year when healthy, which is nice, but that also seems close to the bare minimum for a 20-year old with a late birthday in a smaller junior league in Canada. Still, after a year in which basically nothing went right for him in 2018-19, “beating up on smaller players” is a step in the right direction here, and it’s totally possible a big year is in store for him next year at BU.

Still ... there’s skill here, and you see at times what Ron Hextall liked when he made this pick back in 2018, but there’s just so much projection involved at this point with O’Brien that it’s tough to put him higher than guys who have shown something in more competitive leagues. To Maddie’s point, even if we do think of JO’B as, say, a second-round talent rather than a first-rounder (which seems fair; he was 34th in Bob McKenzie’s final draft rankings that year and 32nd in Central Scouting’s final North American skater rankings), the past few second-round forwards that the Flyers have taken (Bobby Brink, Isaac Ratcliffe, Wade Allison) that managed to stay healthy (poor Pascal Laberge) all made their presences felt quicker than he did, at higher levels of play. And if we’re going down that road, Morgan Frost was also a late-first-rounder that many neutral observers thought at the time was “overdrafted”, and he quickly showed that that was incorrect in a way that O’Brien hasn’t. We can re-evaluate expectations here, but O’Brien has clearly fallen behind in the pecking order.

Kyle (ranked him #25): Truthfully, I really didn’t want to rank O’Brien at all, but that’s because I’ve never been high on him. He absolutely has had a much better season this year after going down to the BCHL, and we could see a breakout campaign next season, but for me he has to prove he can excel against better competition. This has been my biggest issue with him since the Flyers drafted him, and until he does perform against a higher skilled competition, I’m keeping my expectations low.

Kelly (ranked him #24): It’s been clear almost from the jump that if JO’B was going to be anything resembling a successful NHLer, it was going to be a project. And as Kurt said, it’s hard to not knock him for taking a step back when so many of the team’s later picks are already jumping forward. But the raw talent is there with this kid, the potential exists, which is why I think he figures in at the bottom of this ranking.

Mike (ranked him #18): I’ll go last here since it appears as though I have a radically different view of JOB than my BSH colleagues. So the reasoning here is that O’Brien’s potential is still all there and very real. You can rank the Connor Bunnaman’s and Carsen Twarynski’s of the world all you want, but this guy has the skill level to be one of those lottery-type tickets that teams run into outside of the top-five in the draft. The college gaffe set him back at least a year or two, but he did what he was supposed to do in lighting up a lesser league and is healthy again. I’d rather bet on him than some of these other dudes that are a dime a dozen.

23. Connor Bunnaman

Primary Team/League: Lehigh Valley, AHL
2019-20 Stats: 6 G, 3 A in 29 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: Unranked

Craig (did not rank): I like Connor Bunnaman and want him to play over Nate Thompson, but I think the only reason he is ranked is because he saw NHL action this season and I think he only saw NHL action because the Flyers had a pretty big hole at fourth-line center. He plays a quiet, low-event game and isn’t a defensive liability out there, but he doesn’t provide much offensively. I feel like what we saw this season was more his ceiling when given an opportunity to play rather than him making a mark in the lineup setting up hope for the future (like NAK). I think Bunnaman being 23rd on this ranking makes sense, but I don’t how many more times he’ll be ranked going forward.

Drew (Ranked him #19): This is another situation where I ranked players who had AHL or NHL experience higher since they’ve proven they can actually play at that level, for the most part. I agree with Craig that he likely sign anything more than simply an okay addition to the fourth line, but more recently before the stoppage, he had played a lot better and proved to me that he clearly can hang in the NHL. This is why he is at #19 for me.

Maddie (ranked him #25): I think my ranking here might be a little misleading, because I am a big fan of Bunnaman. I wrote about this during rookie camp, that he’d done some really great power skating and conditioning work over the summer, and that had him looking much closer to NHL ready, and I think we’re seeing that really paying dividends here.

Like Craig said, fourth liner might be his ceiling, but I think there’s room for him to be better in that role than we’ve seen so far. I think he’ll improve as he continues to improve his speed and skating, and there’s a bit more offense to add there. As was the case in the AHL, he’s still working on learning how to be effective in limited minutes, something he hasn’t had to do for a long time. But, that said, I do believe that he has the potential to do that.

Ryan G. (did not rank): Similar to Twarynski, Bunnaman was a pleasant surprise this year with his play on the fourth line. He stepped into the fourth-line center role and eventually came into his own. After being unranked in the summer, moving into the rankings at #23 shows the progress he has made. However, his ceiling is likely still a bottom-six center and, like Twarynski, that is why I left him off my rankings given the rest of the deep prospect pool with higher ceilings.

Kurt (ranked him #19): In recent years I’ve sort of come to believe that if a guy is going to be an NHLer, you can often see it right away when he makes his debut. This probably holds more true for guys who have some pro experience (i.e. more so for a 22-year old than an 18-year old), but there’s something to be said for not looking like the game is too much for you when you make it to its highest level. Connor Bunnaman has not forced me to reconsider that stance, but he has served as a reminder that it’s not a one-size-fits-all theory. Because man, he stunk when the season began. Just did not look like a National Hockey League player at all. Like, I wrote on October 17 that I would like to see him replaced in the lineup ... with Chris Stewart. I actually wrote that. On this website. And I honestly do not regret it, because that season-opening stint did not portend well for his future.

But in the scattered NHL time he’s received since his call-up back in January? He’s looked downright respectable. Not good enough for the team to not trade for some guys to replace him, I guess, but the Bunnaman we’ve seen since the new year looked like the guy the Flyers saw in the preseason and thought they were getting when he made the opening-night roster. He’s still probably not more than a pedestrian third liner or a good fourth liner in the NHL, and with this team’s forward depth it’ll be tough to prove he’s even that long-term. But whenever training camp for next year comes around and the Flyers presumably don’t have the likes of Derek Grant and Nate Thompson any more, he’ll deserve to be in the running for a roster spot again.

Brad (ranked him #20): Bunnaman is an interesting player to me. I, like Kurt, really did not enjoy his play with the Flyers at the start of the season. And truthfully, his time with the Phantoms left me wanting more. Role had something to do with his lack of production, but I don’t necessarily mind a player’s points being down. I just thought that he was flat out a more dangerous player offensively during his rookie season, and that player didn’t show up this year. However, and I’ll probably be mentioning this multiple times during this exercise, the Phantoms as a team struggled this year, and how much of his step back was his own doing and how much of it was an overall team effect isn’t totally clear to me. In the end, I do feel that team playing poorly combined with a lesser role (remember, he had finished last season as the Phantoms first line center) were more to blame than the player himself, but it still sticks in the back of my mind.

The reason I ranked him at 20, a bit higher than his eventual ranking, is because I feel that his play style will translate well, and really, it had. His second recall went much smoother than his first few games with the Flyers, and that fourth line that consisted of him, Michael Raffl, and Nic Aube-Kubel was pretty effective. I think that, had the season continued as originally planned, he probably plays his way ahead of Nate Thompson on the depth chart.

Kyle (did not rank): If his first recall was more like his second, I think Bunnaman absolutely has a spot on this list. As Brad mentioned, that fourth line with him, Raffl, and NAK was clicking before Nate Thompson was acquired. He, along with seemingly every other fringe kid the Flyers called up in the early going to test out in the bottom six struggled at first, but I think out of all of them who got a second chance, the Bunn Mann ran with it the most. If the season does continue, I’m looking forward to seeing if he does get another shot manning the fourth line center role.

Kelly (ranked him #15): Wow I’ve reached the “hmm why did I rank him there again?” portion of my ranking so soon this time. Wild. Anyway, I think my thought process here was that I think Bunnaman has proven he’s an effective fourth line NHL player, and in fact most of us would rather he play than Nate Thompson, so... that’s something. I don’t know; unlike Twarynski, for me Bunnaman is a first-tier call-up, the kind of call-up that doesn’t make you instantly worry or fill you with dread. Having that kind of player in your org is pretty valuable.

Mike (did not rank him): Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher went out and added not only Derek Grant but also Nate Thompson at the deadline. One of those moves was specifically to ensure that Bunnaman wouldn’t be counted on to be a regular in the lineup for a playoff-bound team. He’s a JAG, that’s it.

How We Voted: 25 to 23

Ranking Brad Craig Drew Jason Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Ryan G. Steph Community
Ranking Brad Craig Drew Jason Kelly Kurt Kyle Maddie Mike Ryan G. Steph Community
25 Noah Cates Kirill Ustimenko Noah Cates Wyatt Kalynuk Tanner Laczynski Jay O'Brien Jay O'Brien Connor Bunnaman Ronnie Attard Mark Friedman Olle Lycksell Carsen Twarynski
24 Jay O'Brien David Kase Maksim Sushko Linus Hogberg Jay O'Brien Samuel Ersson Ivan Fedotov Tanner Laczynski Ivan Fedotov David Bernhardt Jay O'Brien Mikhail Vorobyev
23 Mikhail Vorobyev Jay O'Brien Felix Sandstrom Jay O'Brien Felix Sandstrom Tanner Laczynski Samuel Ersson Noah Cates Linus Hogberg Jay O'Brien Samuel Ersson Samuel Morin