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2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers prospect review: Maksim Sushko

The kids are alright!

Heather Barry / SB Nation

We’re closing out our prospect season review series this week, and we’re got a couple more rookies on deck. First up, Maksim Sushko!

The Phantoms certainly had an influx of new young forwards joining the team this season, and while a couple came in with quite a bit of buzz around them, Sushko was one that flew a bit more under the radar. But the good news is that it isn’t all about flash and buzz, and under the radar was just fine for Sushko, as he had himself a quietly very solid rookie season. Despite all of the flux happening around him, as the season went on, more and more Sushko proved to be something of a stabilizing presence. It was a season still with its ups and downs, but it’s something to build on, and it’s one that also gave us a lot to be excited about. And maybe, just maybe, it’s worthy of a bit more buzz as well.

By the numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM SOG SH%
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM SOG SH%
53 11 10 21 32 70 15.7

We’ll dip first into these scoring numbers, and there’s a lot to like here. Sushko’s 21 points in 53 games was good for seventh in scoring among all of his teammates, and second among rookies, behind just Morgan Frost, which seems no small feat. The shooting percentage feels a bit high, and we might reasonably expect that to regress a bit next season, but overall the work to get to that goals total was good.

It’s a respectable scoring total, but what really stands out is the consistency he found this season. Sushko had one scoring drought where he went eight games without a point, and then one more where he went five, but outside of those, he was really consistent in his scoring, and proved to be one of the brighter spots among the forward corps in that regard.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi For% Corsi For% Relative Scoring Chances For% Goals For Goals Against Goals For%
Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi For% Corsi For% Relative Scoring Chances For% Goals For Goals Against Goals For%
435 522 45.45 -3.98 46.78 25 23 52.08

These shot impacts, though, are an area that could use a bit of work. We do know that the Phantoms as a whole struggled to drive play this season, but in each of the Corsi-For, Scoring Chances-For, and High Danger Chances-For differentials, he’s below the team average. That said, he is a bit stronger, relatively speaking, in the shot quality differentials (SCF% and HDCF%) than the shot quantity (CF%). Is that a positive we can take away from this? That while the Phantoms are bleeding a lot more shot attempts than they create while Sushko is on the ice, they’re only giving up a few more dangerous scoring chances? I’m not really sure if we want to go that far. But it is something.

I know we say this with all of the rookies when they’re not driving play well consistently, but it bears repeating—this isn’t something that we’re super fussed about right now. Are these shot impacts great? No, not really. But making the jump from the OHL to the AHL is a big thing, and it wouldn’t be fair to expect that everything is going to click right away, it rarely does. So we’re going to keep an eye on these numbers going forward, and if they continue to be poor then we can be concerned, but we aren’t quite there yet.

5v5 Neutral Zone Stats

Entry Attempts Entries Controlled Entry% Possession Entry% Exit Attempts Exits Controlled Exit%
Entry Attempts Entries Controlled Entry% Possession Entry% Exit Attempts Exits Controlled Exit%
121 106 52.83 63.21 118 101 68.32

But as we move over to look at these transition numbers, we can come away feeling good about this part of his statistical profile. Looking at his 28 games tracked, in both Controlled Entry% and Possession Entry% he’s well above the team average, and for Controlled Entries he’s still above the average for forwards, but just a hair below it for Possession Entries. He’s also generating a good number of entries on his own (just under four per game), and all of that works out to point to the fact that, generally, when he’s tasked with moving the puck into the offensive zone for his line, there’s a good chance that they’re going to be in a good position to come up with possession.

He’s solid on the Controlled Exit% as well— he’s pretty well above the averages for both the team and forwards in this department—and while this isn’t as big of a piece for a forward, it is still nice to see that this is working as well, and to have it round out his statistical profile.

Three burning questions

1. Did Sushko live up to our expectations this season?

I think it’s safe to say that Sushko pretty well exceeded expectations for his rookie season. To be completely honest, given the fact that he was coming in with something of a more modest pedigree and with some uncertainty about where he stood on the new management group’s depth chart, I wouldn’t have been surprised if he had been one of the players in the mix to bounce back and forth between Reading and Lehigh Valley. But instead, he turned up for training camp and looked really solid, and while it wasn’t enough to get him a look with the Flyers, he still continued to assert himself and didn’t really lose any steam as he continued into his rookie season with the Phantoms. He wasn’t lights out from the get go, and he still had to work through some growing pains, but he did still establish a role for himself pretty quickly and was able to find some consistency therein. There’s room for improvement, as we’ll go into in a bit, but it’s a really solid foundation to build on.

2. What do we expect from Sushko next season?

Next season’s going to be a weird one! I mean, it was going to be a weird one for everyone no matter what, but it’s especially true for Sushko. The Flyers announced last week that he has been loaned to Dynamo-Minsk of the KHL, and it seems that the plan is for him to get some playing time over there (as they anticipate being able to start their season more or less as usual in the fall), and then to have him come back over when the AHL season starts. So the good news for him is that he’ll figure to get lots of playing time to keep himself in shape and keep developing, even if we’ll only be able to watch some of it closely.

But keeping just to expectations for his next season with the Phantoms—which is what we’ll be giving more weight—we can just expect to see him continue to get a pretty significant role with the team, and hopefully even more space to excel therein. He did well to seemingly earn the trust of the coaching staff as the season went on, and that will go a long way as he vies for more minutes next season. They’ve lost two of their top penalty killers from much of last season in Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Mikhail Vorobyev, so there are some spots to be filled there, and that would be a great place for Sushko to slide in and further prove and develop his defensive game.

3. What would we like to see Sushko to improve on?

We’d like to see him continue to find that same level of scoring consistency that he found through much of this season, that was a real plus. But the big thing is that we’d like to see him improve his shot impacts and work towards being a stronger play driver. He’s a player that’s often been trusted to play a bit more of a defensive role, so it would be nice to see those on-ice shot metrics start to reflect him having a more positive impact in this role. We don’t need to see him dominating right off the bat, that isn’t really a realistic expectation for just a second year pro, but we’d like to at least him take a step forward.