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Evaluating the Flyers’ prospects at the World Juniors

Checking in with the kids.

Canada v United States: Gold Medal Game - 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship Photo by Codie McLachlan/Getty Images

The World Juniors wrapped up last week, and by now we probably all know the outcome—after tearing through the preliminary round and not even so much as allowing a goal at 5-on-5, Canada was shut out by the United States on their way to collect the gold medal. It was a weird tournament, to be sure, but fun and interesting as ever, and the Flyers were well represented, to boot. So now that we’ve had a bit of time to let all of our impressions simmer, let’s dig right in and talk about how the Flyers’ prospects did this year.

Now, of course, is where we leave the massive disclaimer that we’re working with a small sample size in a tournament even more complicated this year by the fact that, well, it happened in the middle of a pandemic and some players were coming in having already been playing for months, and some not having played a proper game since March. So we’re going to pump the brakes a bit on making any massive, runaway assumptions on these players, because we know that isn’t really fair or helpful. But that said, they’re still matching up against some of the best players in their age group, and we can still find some takeaways to run with. Okay good talk.

Basic stats via the IIHF, entry and exit stats via Mikael Nahabedian. Controlled exits and entry percentages are of completed exits and entries.

Emil Andae. Defense. Sweden.

What the eye says

The Flyers’ 2020 second round pick made his World Junior debut this year, and it was something of a limited look that we got of him, but there was still a lot to like about his tournament. Andrae started the tournament as, effectively, the seventh defenseman, but he got a chance to move up in the lineup for the second game when Philip Broberg was out with an injury, and did well enough in that time to earn himself more minutes in the final three games of the tournament. He was still limited (averaging a hair under 13 minutes a game), but seeing how he increased his own stock and impressed the coaching staff was certainly nice to see.

Overall, we can say it was a pretty strong tournament for Andrae. He didn’t bring a ton of flash to his game, but he was pretty solid in just about all areas. He was able to bring a bit in the way of offense, setting up a couple of chances, and his defensive game and instincts were sound. He wasn’t without a few mistakes made along the way (nor should he be expected to be), but he was good, overall.

Really where he stood out was in areas related to skating, which shouldn’t be too much of a surprise. He was a force in transition (more on that later), strong moving the puck, bringing smooth skating and good quickness. And, what’s more, as the youngest defenseman in Sweden’s corps, it was nice to see that the speed of playing at this level wasn’t an issue for him. He fit in pretty seamlessly with an older group

By the numbers

Basic Stats

5 64:04:00 0 1 1 0

Not a whole lot going on with the basic stats for Andrae. He picked up one assist in his five games played (a secondary assist on Alexander Holtz’s goal against Russia).

The stats (well, the ones we have public access to) don’t really capture this, but he was generating a bit in the way of offense (as we can see in the clip above) but getting shots all the way through to the net was something of an issue.

5v5 Entries and Exits

Game Entry Attempts Controlled Entries Dump-Ins Failed Entries Controlled Entry% Exit Attempts Controlled Exits Dump-Outs Failed Exits Controlled Exit%
Game Entry Attempts Controlled Entries Dump-Ins Failed Entries Controlled Entry% Exit Attempts Controlled Exits Dump-Outs Failed Exits Controlled Exit%
SWE vs. CZE 1 0 1 1 0% 2 1 0 1 100%
SWE vs. AUT 6 4 1 1 80% 4 4 0 0 100%
SWE vs. RUS 0 0 0 0 0% 9 3 4 2 43%
SWE vs. USA 2 2 0 0 100% 13 3 5 5 38%
SWE vs. FIN 0 0 0 0 0% 8 1 5 2 17%
total 9 6 2 2 75% 36 12 14 10 46%

But as we noted above, we can come away from this one feeling pretty good about Andrae’s impacts in transition, particularly in the exit department. We didn’t see him attempting too many entries, but when he did, generally he was pretty solid at it. More often, though, as expected we saw him facilitating breakouts, and we got some positive results therein. The results did vary from game to game, but as the tournament went on, we saw him getting some more touches in. There’s certainly room for improvement, but if nothing else, it was nice to see him not intimidated by the stage and still coming in and trying to play his game. He’s eligible to return for next year’s team (and will be the only defenseman eligible), so there’s a lot of reason for optimism.

Bobby Brink. Forward. USA.

What the eye says

What most immediately comes to mind as an impression of him is just how often Brink seemed to be in the mix. He spent the bulk of the tournament on the USA’s third line, and they pretty quickly established themselves as a strong forechecking line, and Brink was a force on it. As much as Trevor Zegras was on fire through this tournament, that didn’t always translate to consistent offense for the top two lines, the other players on them had periods where they struggled to generate many chances, and when that happened, Brink’s line always seemed to find a way to rise to the occasion and chip in to keep the US afloat. Brink didn’t play a terribly flashy game, but it was a solid one, and he always seemed to find a way to get himself to the front of the net, looking for dangerous chances.

He even brought a bit of a physical presence, blocking shots and not being afraid to mix it up a bit after the whistle, which his teammates certainly seemed to appreciate.

And finally the elephant in the room: the good news, gang, is that the skating keeps looking better every time we see Brink. Even just a year and a half out from his draft, he looks stronger, his straight line speed looks better, and he hasn’t lost anything with his in-zone, shorter distance quickness. It’s still a work in progress, but the progress we’ve already seen is certainly encouraging.

Basic Stats

7 99:06:00 2 4 6 11

Overall, this is a pretty solid stat line for Brink. As we noted, he was playing in a depth role, and just under a point per game is not too shabby at all. Brink’s line, while they were able to chip in some offense when some of the other lines were struggling to really get going, didn’t emerge as a heavy hitter. And that’s just fine! They generated a good number of looks, and looked pretty effective and threatening just about whenever they were on the ice, and Brink was obviously a key part of that. He didn’t establish himself as a full-on volume shooter, but he did still create a fair amount.

5v5 Entries and Exits

Game Entry Attempts Controlled Entries Dump-Ins Failed Entries Controlled Entry% Exit Attempts Controlled Exits Dump-Outs Failed Exits Controlled Exit%
Game Entry Attempts Controlled Entries Dump-Ins Failed Entries Controlled Entry% Exit Attempts Controlled Exits Dump-Outs Failed Exits Controlled Exit%
USA vs. FIN (pre-tourn) 6 1 5 0 17% 2 1 1 0 50%
USA vs RUS 5 3 1 1 75% 7 2 2 3 50%
USA vs. AUT 1 1 0 0 100% 1 1 0 0 100%
USA vs. CZE 4 2 2 0 50% 1 0 1 1 0%
USA vs. SWE 5 1 3 1 25% 5 1 2 2 33%
USA vs. SVK 5 2 3 0 40% 5 4 0 1 100%
USA vs. FIN 2 1 1 0 50% 2 1 1 0 50%
USA vs. CAN 9 1 7 1 13% 7 4 2 1 67%
total 37 12 22 3 35% 30 14 9 8 61%

The numbers for Brink in transition, though, were something of a mixed bag. The exit numbers were generally solid—he wasn’t generating a ton (which could be expected), but more often than not, those he was generating were with control. On the entries, though, there were games that were poor, some middling, and some stellar, and it was kind of an even split between the three. That too can be more or less expected in a small sample like this, before things can stabilize, there’s going to be some variance. We do also see that Brink was often on the higher end for entry attempts , and given this, it’s fair to say that we might have liked to see him making those entries with possession more often (though we don’t have numbers on how often his dump ins were recovered, for what it’s worth). It’s an area for improvement, nothing wrong with that.

Cam York. Defense. USA.

That’s our captain! Cam York was voted the best defenseman on the US team and one of the best in the tournament, and these accolades certainly feel deserved. It wasn’t a perfect tournament for York, we did see some hiccups along the way, but the US asked a lot of him, and he came up big for them.

We liked a lot of what we saw from him on special teams, particularly on the power play. York was tasked with quarterbacking a very talented first power play unit, and he looked solid in that role. His smooth skating and good quickness allowed him to hold the line well, his big shot was an asset from the point, his passing was crisp, and his strong offensive instincts made him an extra threat if he decided to rove around a bit. Overall, just a whole lot of good stuff.

And on the flip side, while we saw him make some good defensive plays while playing a man down, York did also get burned a couple of times on the penalty kill. And while that doesn’t mean that we’re coming away from this saying “absolutely never let him kill penalties ever again,” maybe we’re starting to learn that defending the net front is not the optimal position for him. So it goes.

The big piece that really stood out (to me at least) was how much more confident he looked with the puck this time around. Something we saw from him in last year’s tournament (and even in his freshman season with Michigan) was that he seemed a little hesitant in his puck moving, a little too deferential to his partner, but the good news is that this seems to be a thing of the past. This time around, he just seemed to be cleaner with his passing, more decisive in his reads, and less afraid to jump in and wholly lead a rush when the space was there for him to work with. And this all amounted to him looking more effective, more like he was comfortable bringing in his own game.

Basic Stats

7 146:03:00 1 5 6 8

York was leaned on heavily in this tournament—he played the most minutes of any American skater and he played across all situations—and overall the results were good. He didn’t generate a ton of chances for himself alone, but he did set up a fair few, and those six points across the tournament made him the top scoring defenseman in the tournament (one point ahead of Canada’s Bowen Byram). We know well by now about York’s strong offensive instincts, and he was flexing them well in this tournament setting up his teammates, and it sure was a treat to see.

5v5 Entries and Exits

Game Entry Attempts Controlled Entries Dump-Ins Failed Entries Controlled Entry% Exit Attempts Controlled Exits Dump-Outs Failed Exits Controlled Exit%
Game Entry Attempts Controlled Entries Dump-Ins Failed Entries Controlled Entry% Exit Attempts Controlled Exits Dump-Outs Failed Exits Controlled Exit%
USA vs. FIN (pre-tourn) 5 0 3 2 0% 7 3 0 4 100%
USA vs. RUS 7 2 3 2 40% 13 9 2 2 82%
USA vs. AUT 4 3 1 0 75% 7 4 1 1 80%
USA vs. CZE 5 0 3 2 0% 4 3 0 1 100%
USA vs. SWE 0 0 0 0 0% 11 5 3 3 63%
USA vs. SVK 2 0 2 0 0% 9 4 3 2 57%
USA vs. FIN 1 1 0 0 100% 8 2 2 4 50%
USA vs. CAN 5 0 5 0 0% 7 1 2 4 33%
total 29 6 17 6 26% 66 31 13 21 70%

We noted above that the eye suggested that York looked stronger as a puck mover this season, and that’s something that we saw reflected in the numbers, as well. The controlled entry numbers aren’t stellar, but we aren’t too terribly fussed about seeing that from a defenseman. With the exception of the final game against Canada, York was stellar on his zone exits, with 70 percent of his successful exits being either carry outs or successful breakout passes, making him one of the Americans’ most reliable breakout with possession generators, which was a huge key to making their transition game as strong as it was.

The relatively high number of failed exits piques our interest a bit, but in a small sample like this one, it’s not something we’re completely ready to get very fussed about. But it’ll be something to keep an eye on.

And that’s all folks! Another World Juniors in the books! As we said, it was a weird one, but still overall a good one for the Flyers’ prospects. If there’s anything we can come away from this one with, to put a bow on things, is that the pipeline remains well stocked, and the future seems bright.