Back in February, when the Olympics were happening and not much was going on in the wide world of Flyers, we did our first-ever full ranking of the best young players within the Flyers' organization in our Flyers Midterm Top 25 Under 25. It gave us a chance to profile some of the organization's young talent and get a good grasp on what there was to look forward to in the pipeline.
We considered doing another full version again this summer, but ultimately not a whole lot has changed since we did our ranking in February, so we're going to consolidate things a bit. As such, welcome to our Flyers Top 25 Under 25 Summer Update.
If you need a refresher, here's what a Top 25 Under 25 basically entails:
For those of you unfamiliar with the concept here, this is basically exactly what it sounds like: it's a ranking of the organization's 25 best players under the age of 25 years old. Why 25? Well, it's a somewhat round number (in the sense that multiples of fives are round numbers ... right?), it's an age by which you generally have a pretty good idea what kind of a hockey player you've got in a guy, and it brings together a good mix of young, high-risk/high-ceiling prospects and already-known commodities like current NHL players and higher-end AHL guys.
Since we did the rankings in February, we've seen guys finish their seasons and playoff runs, sign NHL contracts, and even get drafted into the Flyers' organization. While we've already profiled everyone on the list in the recent past (either last February during 25 Under 25, or in July following the draft), now seems like a good time to at least re-size up the order of the Flyers' prospect ranks.
So we'll go through five very brief profiles per day for each day this week. We'll do players 25 through 21 today, 20 through 16 on Tuesday, etc., through Friday, where we'll reveal our rankings for the top five players under 25 in the organization. Sounds fun, yeah?
A few more notes:
- The panel consisted of our eight writers/editors: Travis Hughes, Kurt R., Kelly Hinkle, Allison J., Albert Kleine, Charlie O'Connor, Kevin Christmann, and Collin Mehalick.
- The 25-year old cutoff date was October 1, 2014. This only cost us two members of last February's rankings: Jakub Voracek, who was of course ranked No. 1 overall, and Oliver Lauridsen, who was No. 19.
- Three other members of our last ranking are no longer with the organization. Tye McGinn (ranked No. 10) was traded to the San Jose Sharks for a third-round pick in the 2015 draft. Marc-Andre Bourdon (No. 18) and Eric Wellwood (No. 21) were both not retained by the Flyers this year, in large part due to the significant injuries that each of them have suffered.
- There were six new entries to the ballot, the team's six draftees in the 2014 NHL Draft. And all six of those players found their way into the Top 25.
The 36 players on the ballot, in full, are as follows:
- NHL: Brayden Schenn (F), Luke Schenn (D), Sean Couturier (F), Scott Laughton (F), Zac Rinaldo (F)
- AHL: Andrew Johnston (F), Anthony Stolarz (G), Brandon Alderson (F), Brandon Manning (D), Derek Mathers (F), Jason Akeson (F), Jesper Pettersson (D), Marcel Noebels (F), Mark Alt (D), Matt Konan (D), Nick Cousins (F), Petr Straka (F), Robert Hagg (D), Shayne Gostisbehere (D), Taylor Leier (F)
- ECHL: Maxim Lamarche (D)
- NCAA: David Drake (D - UConn), Mark Friedman (D - Bowling Green), Merrick Madsen (G - Harvard), Michael Parks (F - North Dakota), Nick Luukko (F - Vermont), Petr Placek (F - Harvard), Reece Willcox (D - Cornell), Terrance Amorosa (D - Clarkson)
- CHL: Nicolas Aube-Kubel (F - Val-d'Or), Radel Fazleev (F - Calgary), Samuel Morin (D - Rimouski), Travis Sanheim (D - Calgary), Tyrell Goulbourne (F - Kelowna)
- KHL: Valeri Vasiliev (D - Spartak)
- SHL: Oskar Lindblom (F - Brynas)
(Note #1: Michael Del Zotto was acquired after we conducted the voting; therefore, he was not on the ballot.)
(Note #2: In a few cases, the leagues that players were placed in are educated guesses -- for instance, we don't KNOW that Scott Laughton will be an NHL player next year, but we'll go ahead and group him with the NHL guys for the time being.)
Cool? Cool. Players 25 through 21 are below. Enjoy.
25. Radel Fazleev
We open our top 25 with the Flyers' sixth-round pick from their most recent draft. A Russian center who just completed his first season in North America, Radel Fazleev is an intriguing forward prospect who very much still has some question marks.
Fazleev's season with Calgary was derailed a bit due to a hand injury that kept him out for a couple of months, but his best play of the year came during the Hitmen's playoff run, where he put up seven points in their six-game series. He was also selected for Russia's U18 World Junior Championship team.
There's no guarantee that Fazleev ever even makes the leap to the Flyers or their minor league system -- he was a first-round pick in the 2013 KHL draft, and he'll likely have a choice to make on that front in a couple of years. But even just this year, the Flyers will be watching closely, hoping that the Fazleev that came around during the playoffs for Calgary is the one they see moving forward. If it is, the Flyers may just have another exciting young forward prospect on their hands.
-- Kurt R.
24. Merrick Madsen
Compared to our mid-season rankings, Madsen has stayed almost completely flat, bumping up one spot from the final spot on this list. He just finished up his first season with the Minot Minotaurs of the NAHL, postin a .904 save percentage. Not exactly lights out play, but nothing to scoff at either.
It's kind of tough to find a good amount of information on Madsen, but that's most likely because he's so early off in his career. While a good number of players make the NHL at his age (18), goalies tend to take a little more time to develop -- something that Madsen will be doing at Harvard for the 2014-2015 season.
Back in February, Kurt pointed out that while he's shown some signs of solid play, he's got a long way to go before he even gets a sniff of NHL (or AHL, even) action. By all indications, that hasn't changed.
-- Al K.
23. Marcel Noebels
Noebels, a late round draft pick for the Flyers, took a pretty marked step back in his play by the end of the year. The winger spent the entire season playing for the Adirondack Phantoms, where he ended the year with only 11 points in 52 games. Last season, he had more than double that in about ten fewer games.
In the mid-season rankings, Kurt acknowledged that Noebels was showing signs of regressing, noting that he had been a healthy scratch multiple times and had fallen victim to injury.
Despite the fact that he's coming off a disappointing season, there's still hope for Noebels. He's a physical forward that could find himself chipping in on a third or fourth line if he gets back on track. It's just a matter of whether that will actually happen.
-- Al K.
22. Jesper Pettersson
Jesper Pettersson was taken by the Flyers in the seventh round of this year's draft and it was a bit of a departure from Flyers' drafting norms. Pettersson had already gone undrafted twice heading into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, and he turned 20 years old a mere two and a half weeks after he was drafted. Not only was he an older prospect but he's quite small for an NHL player, let alone a defenseman, at 5'9" and 187 pounds.
Pettersson already has plenty of experience having played 62 games in the Swedish Hockey League (the top league in Sweden). The Flyers certainly appear to be fans of Pettersson as he was signed to an entry-level contract in the middle of Flyers' Development camp. He will be playing in North American this upcoming season, likely for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
With good skating ability, a stocky build, and an aggressiveness with respect to physical play, Pettersson was nicknamed "Pitbull" by fans of his SHL team, according to Bill Meltzer. Pettersson does not appear to possess much in the way of offensive ability having garnered only a single point in 48 games last season.
-- Kevin Christmann
21. Mark Friedman
The selection of Mark Friedman in the third round of this year's NHL entry draft is not unlike their drafting of Shayne Gostisbehere in the third round of the 2012 draft. Both are small defenseman who possess dynamic offensive ability. Perhaps the growth of Gostisbehere over the past two years is cause for optimism with respect to Friedman.
While being only 5'10" and 185 pounds, Friedman lit up the USHL last season, his second in the league. He delivered 10 goals and 30 assists for 40 points in only 51 games; good for fourth among defenseman while ranking second in points per game.
A paperwork mixup at Bowling Green State University resulted in Friedman having to spend a second season in the USHL, but it appears it may have been a boon for his development. He will be attending Bowling Green next season.
-- Kevin Christmann