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Philadelphia Flyers Winter/Spring 25 Under 25: Nos. 13 to 11

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To the top half we go, as we look at the two top defensive prospects in the organization and a first-round pick who is still looking to break through.

Saskatoon Blades v Calgary Hitmen Photo by Derek Leung/Getty Images

After a brief pause on Friday to do some introspection, we’re back into the countdown in our Top 25 Under 25 today and will wrap the series up this week. We cross the halfway mark today.

Enjoy!


13. Egor Zamula

Primary Team/League: Calgary, WHL
2019-20 Stats: 7 G, 21 A in 28 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 23
Age: 20 (it’s his birthday today!!!!!!!!!!!!!!)

Drew (ranked him #12): Before his unfortunate injury, Zamula was killing it in juniors, as well as at the World Junior championships. He is signed on an entry level deal, so he could theoretically play with the Phantoms next season. I’m very excited to see Zamula in the AHL as well, as he seems like an electric force at the blue line. He’s got a ton of swagger.

Kurt (ranked him #13): A tough break for Zamula back in January puts a damper on what was another solid step forward of a season for him. I did this at this time last year while acknowledging at the time it wasn’t totally fair, and it still isn’t now a year later ... but his progression is pretty similar to noted former Calgary Hitmen defenseman Travis Sanheim’s. Big dude who seems like he has all the tools and didn’t quite put it together yet, then does in his draft +1 year. Zamula’s year this season wasn’t quite as wow-worthy as Sanheim’s D+2 year was — he was maybe the best defenseman in the Dub that year — but he had a strong year nonetheless, and he immediately becomes the most exciting defenseman on the Phantoms next year. Say what you will about Ron Hextall, but the guy sure knew where to look for young defensemen.

Mike (ranked him #16): To echo Kurt’s thoughts up there it was a bummer that Zamula’s season ended early as he was really playing at a high level. This is a guy who is seemingly getting better and better each year, which is pretty exciting. He’s going to be a good one.

Maddie (ranked him #18): I think, on the whole, I’ve been cautiously optimistic on Zamula, but a lot of that caution has come from it being something of a wait and see game, for it to become evident if a player is a true late bloomer or if he’s just bringing some flash in the pan. That said, it would be pretty hard to dismiss what he’s been able to do in the WHL and at the World Juniors this year. I like his skill set and I think he brings some exciting potential, but the pieces holding me back from ranking him much higher are first and foremost, how he’s able to recover from his back situation, and then how he’s able to translate him game to the pro level. But, that said, I am really excited to see him with the Phantoms next season. There’s a whole lot of potential here.

Ryan G. (ranked him #14): I’ll double down on what Kurt said about him emulating Sanheim’s progression with another young defenseman that he could follow in the footsteps of: Philippe Myers. Both Myers and Zamula were undrafted defenseman that turned it on after their draft year. Myers put up 45 points in 63 games in the season he was signed (2015-16), while Zamula put up 56 points in 61 games after being signed last season. Myers and Zamula both suffered injuries during World Juniors in their D+2 year after being a point-per-game player (Myers 35 in 34, Zamula 28 in 28) up to that point. And mind you, the QMJHL, where Myers played, is a higher-scoring league than Zamula’s WHL. The injury was discouraging, but there’s plenty to be optimistic about with Zamula and his potential NHL role.

Kelly (ranked him #14): I know that as a whole hockey people get annoyed when folks hang their entire opinion about a prospect on one performance at the WJC, but holy crap, Zamula was so good in this last one. Taking that performance combined with the production Ryan details above me, it’s hard not to be just a little excited abut what we’ve got in this kid. I was pumped about Phil Myers from the jump and so far, Egor seems to be Phil Myers But Just A Little Bit Better, so I can’t wait to see what he does in the AHL.

Kyle (ranked him #16): I think I fall with Maddie on the cautiously optimistic side with Zamula, but man is it hard to not be excited about his production already. If he starts strong with the Phantoms next season, things could get really interesting on the Flyers’ blue line very quickly.


12. German Rubtsov

Primary Team/League: Lehigh Valley, AHL
2019-20 Stats: 2 G, 11 A in 42 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 11
Age: 21

Drew (ranked him #15): I’ve heard that according to AHL coaches, Rubtsov does all of the right things. However, I’m just not convinced he’s an NHL player. You’d like to see guys that are going to be contributors put up points in the AHL, but he hasn’t yet, hence my skepticism, but hey he’s only had a four game NHL stint so there’s time for a guy like Rubtsov who plays a two-way game.

Mike (ranked him #11): Just missed on this one as I had Ruby one spot higher, but I feel as though this is a fair spot for him just outside the top-10 after a 13-point season. As Drew said we seem the tools in Ruby’s game, but the production just hasn’t been there. I’d venture to say that those concerns about his offensive ceiling are starting to come to fruition. We’ve also got to see him stay healthy, which has really hindered his development as well.

Kurt (ranked him #16): It would appear I was lower than the consensus on our pal German. Rubtsov played well in his abbreviated 2018-19 campaign, but ... it’s a little concerning that that run of 14 games was probably the best hockey season he’s had in his four years since being drafted, right? It seems like he’s done well with the Phantoms, but he just showed nothing in his brief NHL time this year. Like, absolutely nothing. Significantly less than any of the fourth-line types we talked about last week. Now, is it unfair to hold four NHL games against a guy long-term? Probably, which is why he’s still solidly ahead of that group. But as I’ve said in this space, I’m of the belief that guys who belong usually show it to some extent, even just a small extent, when they arrive. The skill set still intrigues me with Rubtsov, and he doesn’t turn 22 until June so the book is obviously not written here, but we gotta see it soon.

Brad (ranked him #17): To be blunt, out of all of the prospects ranked in this exercise, Rubtsov was the one that disappointed me the most this season. I was expecting him to have a big year with the Phantoms, and he certainly did not do that. Again, the Phantoms as a team were bad and that contributed to his season, but his lack of steps taken also contributed to the Phantoms being bad. Individual production, on-ice numbers, whatever you look want to look at it, they don’t paint a pretty picture. The eye test tells you he’s good at the defensive details of the game, and that he’s been a really good penalty killer for the Phantoms, so it’s not all bad. But I had high expectations for his sophomore season and it was a letdown. It’s still early, as Kurt said, but we’re going to need to see something more next season.

Maddie (ranked him #11): I’m gonna disagree with Kurt and Brad a little bit here. They’re absolutely right that we didn’t see Rubtsov take a big step forward this season, and you could call that a disappointment. But the point I do want to make is that, with the amount of time he missed in his first season, he came into this one, effectively, still a first year pro. There were certainly some pieces working against him—the team’s overall struggles, as well as the fact that, with all of the injuries and call ups depleting the Phantoms’ roster, he was asked to play a little over his head for a bit—it’s fair to feel left wanting a bit more from him. But that said, I’m not nearly as down on him as some others might be. I think we saw some positive flashes from him this season on the offensive side, and the defensive side of his game remains solid. I still think he has the potential to be an impactful player at the NHL level—even if it is in more of a depth role. I’m not too fussed about his play at the NHL level, because it was such a small sample and, frankly, he wasn’t really ready to be playing at this level in the first place. Certainly, I think we need to see him take a bigger step forward next season, but I think there’s still a lot of space for optimism.

Ryan G. (ranked him #12): Ah, spot on with this one. I’ve had this thought about Rubtsov for a while and never got around to writing about it (yet), but he has yet to have one full, smooth year of hockey since being drafted. Whether it be playing minimal minutes in the KHL after dominating in the MHL, finally coming overseas to play in North America, a trade after finding a bit of a groove, or a variety of injuries over the years, Rubtsov has not played a full season of hockey in a while. Meanwhile, we’re seeing first-round picks before him (Provorov and Konecny) and since him (Patrick, Frost, Farabee) making an impact while he’s seemingly at the same level. It’s fair to be down on Rubtsov, but his skillset gives me reason for optimism. At worst I could see him become a guy like Laughton: a “failed” prospect that turns into a solid bottom-six forward.

Kelly (ranked him #12): Oh hell yeah Ryan, we nailed it. High five. Everything above me makes a lot of sense. It’s clear that The Germ is the kind of prospect that, if he makes it out of the AHL, will take some time to do so. I worry sometimes about where exactly he’d fit on the Flyers, but I think the raw skill is such that it’s fair to be optimistic that he’ll contribute at some point. Would it be nice if he did it as quickly as Farabee or Frost has? Well, yeah. But if he does end up as another Scott Laughton that’s not bad news. At all.

Kyle (ranked him #19): Ah, well this is awkward. I’ve never been the highest on The Germ but after his strong but short campaign last season, I expected big things from him this year. Obviously, that didn’t happen and it’s not entirely his fault. Injuries are something players can’t control but at the same time one of the best abilities players can have is availability, which we haven’t seen from Rubtsov. I still think he could be a solid bottom six player, but at this point I think I might rather see him as a trading chip for a proven NHL talent.


11. Cam York

Primary Team/League: Michigan, NCAA
2019-20 Stats: 5 G, 11 A in 30 GP
Rank in Summer 25 Under 25: 12
Age: 19

Drew (ranked him #11): Cam York, as the potential two-way defenseman of the future, has a lot of stock put into him. If his improvement curve pans out the way we all hope, the Flyers’ blue line will be absolutely dominant in the future. From what I’ve seen of York, he’ll never be a power play quarterback like a Torey Krug, but he’s got all the other skills to be a Krug-type player.

Mike (ranked him #10): York is heading back to Michigan for his sophomore season and that’s quite alright as he still needs some time to build his game at the college level. Skilled player with offensive flair, but needs to get stronger on the puck to match up with the bigger NHL bodies he’ll soon face.

Maddie (ranked him #15): I know it looks like I’m pretty low on York, but for what it’s worth, my rankings in the 15-12 ish range were so tight, it was as close to a tie as you could possibly get for me in that range. But anyway, I think my big point here is I came away feeling good but not great about York’s freshman season with Michigan. Making the adjustment to playing in college obviously isn’t a small task, and I certainly don’t think he looked out of place, but I did find myself just a little bit disappointed in what we got. Kind of the hallmark of York’s game has been his assertiveness and his playmaking ability, and we didn’t really see that jumping off the page for him this season. I certainly think that we can see him get more confident in those areas next season, and as such looking more like his “old self,” if you will. He’s still growing and adjusting, and it probably wouldn’t have been fair to expect him to be lights out and flat out dominant in his first season in college. He still has some things to work on, but there’s still a lot to be excited about.

Kurt (ranked him #11): I thought about going a tiny bit lower here, but not much. From every account given, York has had a respectable first year at Michigan. He’s a well-rounded player, and while he’s probably not going to be a franchise-savior-type, the Flyers hopefully do not need that on defense any more. I was hoping we’d see a little more offense from him this year, but his Michigan team was not overly impressive on the whole offensively, and the folks at Team USA liked him enough to get him onto their team this year (and figure to next year as well). There’s a lot to like here, and while I don’t think we’re seeing him in the NHL until probably 2022 (assuming that we get past, y’know, /gestures at smoldering husk of earth that sits before us), we should expect to see consistent steps forward between now and then. Also, the Flyers perpetually get the benefit of the doubt with redheads until proven otherwise.

Ryan G. (ranked him #10): I am all aboard the York Peppermint Pattie train. He had some hiccups as he transitioned to the NCAA game, but everything about him looks like a two-way defenseman in the NHL. Another year or two at Michigan will be good for him to take his game to the next level.

Kelly (ranked him #11): Oh hell yeah I nailed this one too! It’s going to be a while before Cam’s even close to making the Flyers’ roster, so in my mind there’s no worry that the kid had a bumpy freshman year at college. Who among us, am I right? What we’ve seen from him with USA Hockey makes the level of skill pretty apparent, so it’ll be fun to see what he turns into in three or four years. And if he ends up as good as we’re hoping, our defense is going to be outstanding in five or so years — and then for the next five after that too.

Kyle (ranked him #11): Good ol’ Yam Cork. There was plenty of backlash when the Flyers picked York instead of the flashy goal scorer Cole Caufield, but York had a solid freshman year at the University of Michigan and he’s only going to get better. The Flyers already have done a solid job of rebuilding the defense prospects after having so many of them make the jump to the NHL level, and York is leading that charge.


How We Voted: 13 to 11

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
13 Egor Zamula Nicolas Aube-Kubel Mikhail Vorobyev Bobby Brink Isaac Ratcliffe Egor Zamula Bobby Brink Samuel Ersson Nicolas Aube-Kubel Isaac Ratcliffe Mark Friedman Egor Zamula
12 Nicolas Aube-Kubel Egor Zamula Egor Zamula Egor Zamula German Rubtsov Bobby Brink Wade Allison Wade Allison Bobby Brink German Rubtsov German Rubtsov Bobby Brink
11 Bobby Brink Bobby Brink Cam York Cam York Cam York Cam York Cam York German Rubtsov German Rubtsov Nicolas Aube-Kubel Cam York Cam York

Previously in Flyers Winter/Spring 2020 25 Under 25: