After scoring just eight goals in 52 games during his rookie season, Joel Farabee exploded with a 20-goal, 38-point campaign in 2020-21 — which begs the question of which Flyer is poised to backup Farabee’s breakout with one of their own in 2021-22.
Given that Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher was aggressive in moving out younger players that traditionally fall into the breakout mold ala Farabee in favor of better veterans to improve the team in the short-term, there are significantly less options to choose from during this exercise.
That said, the Flyers still have some intriguing young talent in the pipeline that are certainly skilled and capable enough to burst onto the scene and replicate at least some of the breakout success that Farabee enjoyed last year.
Without further ado: three Flyers poised to breakout in 2021-22, and a breakdown of how and why it’s going to happen…starting with a player proving to be worth the wait so far.
We’ve waiting quite some time for Allison’s arrival through the Flyers’ prospect pipeline — and was he sure worth the wait during his cup of coffee in 2021.
Allison scored four goals in 14 games, adding three assists along the way as he earned time up and down the lineup for head coach Alain Vigneault in April and to close the season. The 23-year-old doubled up high-danger chances (28-14) at 5-on-5 in his 14 games, showing a willingness to go to the dirty areas on the ice in addition to a penchant for getting puck towards the net.
The result was production from Allison in the box score and a small sample size of metrics showing that the former Western Michigan standout could potentially sustain puck possession success even if his 16% shooting rate were to prove unsustainable. That last piece is key because Allison ensured a seven-game stretch with no points in mid-April through the beginning of May. If you’re not going to produce on the score sheet, at least be one of the guys driving play — which is saying something as the Flyers scored just 16 goals in that seven game stretch.
Even with that stretch, Allison produced an expected goals-for rate of 59% at even strength per NaturalStatTrick — which easily paced Flyers regulars despite the small sample. And while you’d rather that number be turned into actual goals, it’s an indication of good things generally happening when Allison was on the ice.
The question with Allison in 2021-22 really comes down to where he plays as the Flyers are yet again deep at forward with ample veteran options on the wings. The club also brought in Derick Brassard, who can play wing or center, and had already inked veteran Nate Thompson earlier in the offseason. But neither is good enough to warrant keeping Allison on the bench, and then there’s Nicolas Aube-Kubel penciled into the lineup after being protected in the Seattle expansion draft despite a largely terrible 2020-21 campaign.
If Allison earns — or is given — steady playing time, he’s a good bet for a breakout season based a successful small sample size a year ago that’s backed up by indicators of sustainment.
The 20-year-old was all over the map in 2020-21, finishing out his sophomore season at the University of Michigan, playing in World Juniors, logging time in the American Hockey League with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and finally with three games at the NHL level late in the season.That’s a heck of a year for the Flyers’ 14th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft — but a valuable one in which York played a ton of hockey and set himself up to challenge for a regular role with the club in 2021-22.
As with the note about Allison earlier, Fletcher went out and added veterans to the mix so that the Flyers wouldn’t simply be relying on youngsters like York to come in and play big roles — but rather set the team up so that they’d have options in the event that the younger plays were ready, and for if they weren’t ready. One of those additions was Keith Yandle, veteran of more than 1,000 NHL games. While currently penciled in on the left side of the Flyers’ third pain, Yandle is far from the player he used to be and is in no way blocking York should the former first-round pick prove to be too good not to play.
York flashed in his three games last season, logging around 20 minutes a night as the Flyers coaching staff and brain trust got a good look at him during those few games. One of the issues, though, was they got a good look at him saddled next to Justin Braun, who did not have a great season. The pair skated about 30 minutes together at 5-on-5: losing the shot battle, scoring chance battle, and the goal differential battle along the way. Away from Braun — and albeit in very limited time — York posted slightly better metrics, especially in terms of the scoring chance battle, an area where Braun is essentially a double negative.
He wasn’t able to find the scoresheet in any of his three games, but wasn’t shy about putting up points in college (36 in 54 games) or with the Phantoms (five in eight games). We’re guessing that those would come with time, and that he’d have found his first NHL points given a larger sample size.
York is a smooth skater with strong puck skills, so while he hasn’t put anything together at the NHL level yet — and doesn’t yet have a clear path to regular playing time — he’s simply too good not to earn playing time in 2021-22 and has the pedigree to make an instant impact with results to follow.
A good start? York’s been impressive during development camp — easily showing out as the class among the Flyers prospects participating.
Cam York is very effective with his stick in breaking up plays. He’s been known for that. pic.twitter.com/qf31tPX6WU— Jordan Hall (@JHallNBCS) August 29, 2021
If we were waiting for Wade Allison for years, we’ve been waiting for Morgan Frost for decades it would seem.
The Flyers’ first-round pick all the way back in 2017, Frost has played in just 22 NHL games since the team made him the 27th overall pick that summer. Not only has Frost only logged 22 NHL games, but he’s only played in 41 AHL games on top of that since being drafted.
Frost spent the 2019-20 season mostly in the AHL with the Phantoms, producing 29 points (13 goals, 16 assists) in 41 games, but earned a 20-game stint with the Flyers along the way. That stint saw the dynamic offensive product out of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds put up two goals and five assists — including goals in his first two NHL games. The problem was that Frost went the next 18 games without a goal, adding just four more points in that span after bursting onto the scene with three points in his first two contests.
Frost injured his shoulder in his second game of the 2020-21 season with the Flyers and was lost for the season after logging just around 20 minutes total. That was a big blow as the Flyers’ brass hoped to get a good look at the dynamic pivot, and for Frost as he tried to finally nail down a spot at the NHL table. Instead his season was lost and he watched from the sidelines as the likes of Wade Allison, Connor Bunnaman, and Tanner Laczynski made their cases.
Nice work with the puck here by Frost. pic.twitter.com/oYaRzYKCPs— Charlie O'Connor (@charlieo_conn) August 29, 2021
But while other prospects made their cases, none provide the level of skill or creativity that Frost can bring to the table — with a little preview up above from development camp. If Frost is able to stay healthy and find a role, he has the offensive instincts and playmaking ability to put up numbers and solidify a role at the NHL level.