Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2019 25 Under 25: Introduction and honorable mentions

Our summer ranking of the top young talent in the Flyers’ organization is underway.

In August, we talk about prospects.

The BSH 25 Under 25 is an exercise we take part in twice a year here at Broad Street Hockey, wherein we rank and take a long look at the best young (under the age of 25, to be precise) talent in the Flyers’ organization, whether they’re on the team now, in another professional league, or in some amateur setting. Why 25? Well, 25 is an unofficial sort of defining age for hockey players. By the time a player is 25, he’s 7 years out from his first draft-eligible season, so chances are you’ve had the chance to see him advance through the ranks (or fail to do so). Some would argue 25 is the age at which a player hits his playing prime.

In any case, it tends to be the point at which you kind of know what a player is and what he’s going to mean to your franchise in the long run. Not always! (Naturally, Sean Couturier’s career year came right after his last-ever 25 Under 25 two years ago.) But typically you’ve got a pretty good idea by then.

So until a player hits that age, we’re gonna speculate and guess and project the crap out of ‘em, folks. And with that, welcome to the 25 Under 25. And in this version — our summer version, to be specific — we really take our time, spending a full article on each member of the top 25 and really going through their past year, their development, and what we can come to expect from them going forward.

We’ve been taking part in this exercise since the winter of 2014, and as the prospect ranks have grown more and more stocked, coming up with our rankings has become tougher and tougher. This year was no exception, and we’re excited to bring you all what we’ve come up with.

With that, as always, we begin with some table-setting notes.

The panel and voting

The rankings are formulated by a series of ballots that are filled out by the members of our panel. Every voter received a list of all 47 players under Flyers control that are under the age of 25 as of September 15, 2019. Their job from there was to rank their top 25 players, from best to second-best all the way down to 25th-best. From there, the player ranked first on a given ballot would get 25 points, the player ranked second 24 points, and so on down to the 25th-ranked player who would get one point. From there, the points received for each player across all 16 of our panel’s voters were compiled, and the player with the most points was named No. 1, second-most No. 2, and so on.

Of the 16 votes, 15 of them came from various members of our masthead. Those members are: Bill, Brad, Craig, Drew, Jason, Joe, Johan, Kelly, Kurt (me), Kyle, Maddie, Mike, Paul, Steph, and Steve. The final vote came from you, the people; back in late July we put out a call for our readers to cast ballots of their own, and each of those ballots was tallied up and scored into one final community ballot that counts as one vote alongside each of ours. We received over 600 ballots, and after tossing a few due mostly to incompleteness, we ended up with 573 submissions that factored into our final community ballot.

The ballot

Departing from the winter version of our ballot are four players, only one of whom actually made the cut on that version of the 25 Under 25. Scott Laughton, who finished at No. 10 back in the winter, turned 25 this past May, and therefore is no longer in consideration. The same can be said of fellow 2012 draftee and current Phantoms defenseman Reece Willcox, though he never cracked our rankings during his time here. Forward Brendan Warren, brought in from the Nick Cousins/Merrick Madsen trade two summers ago, was not included on the ballot; while technically the Flyers have until August 15th to sign him to an entry-level contract, they have given no indications that they plan to do so and frankly it would be surprising if they did. Finally, Matej Tomek was not included on the ballot due to a misunderstanding from yours truly (me) believing he was no longer in the system following his transfer back to Slovakia; however, given his generally poor performances over the past few years it seems unlikely he would have factored much until the final rankings, so hopefully that won’t be much of an issue.

As some leave, others arrive, and of course the Flyers’ seven newest draftees — Cam York, Bobby Brink, Ronnie Attard, Mason Millman, Egor Serdyuk, Roddy Ross, and Bryce Brodzinski — were all options for the first time.

That gave us the following 47 players, listed below by position group:

Forwards (25): Wade Allison, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Bobby Brink, Bryce Brodzinski, Connor Bunnaman, Noah Cates, Joel Farabee, Morgan Frost, Gavin Hain, David Kase, Travis Konecny, Pascal Laberge, Tanner Laczynski, Oskar Lindblom, Olle Lycksell, Jay O’Brien, Nolan Patrick, Isaac Ratcliffe, German Rubtsov, Egor Serdyuk, Matthew Strome, Maksim Sushko, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, Marcus Westfalt
Defensemen (16): Ronnie Attard, David Bernhardt, Mark Friedman, Adam Ginning, Robert Hagg, Linus Hogberg, Wyatt Kalynuk, Mason Millman, Samuel Morin, Philippe Myers, Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Jack St. Ivany, Wyatte Wylie, Cam York, Yegor Zamula
Goalies (6): Samuel Ersson, Ivan Fedotov, Carter Hart, Roddy Ross, Felix Sandstrom, Kirill Ustimentko

Finally, we open things up with a very brief look at those who just missed the top-25 cut.

Honorable mentions

T-30. Connor Bunnaman - F, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
2018-19 Statistics: 19 G, 13 A in 62 GP
Votes: two 23rd-place votes, one 24th-place vote

Bunnaman’s had an up-and-down go of things since coming into the system three years ago. It looked in 2016-17 like the Flyers had found a gem in the fourth round with him, as Bunnaman busted out a 37-goal performance for Kitchener, but a stagnant draft + 2 season the year following had his stock on the low coming into the AHL. His first professional season was a mixed bag, hovering around a half-point per game in a middle-of-the-lineup role for the Phantoms, but as the forward ranks continue to get crowded in Lehigh Valley, he’s going to need to be better than that this year if he really wants to remain on the radar with the team long-term.

29. Kirill Ustimenko - G, St. Petersburg (MHL)
2018-19 Statistics: .927 SV%, 1.78 GAA in 46 GP
Votes: one @ 17th place

Ustimenko was another shot at finding a solution in net by the Flyers, who have made at least one trip to the goalie well in each of the past five drafts. Ustimenko was (and, to many, still is) a relative unknown on this side of the world, as he’s played just about exclusively at the Russian junior level in his young career to date. This past year didn’t quite go the way he had planned, as he missed out on a job in the next level up in Russia as well as a spot on the Russian world junior team, and while he ended up posting good numbers in the MHL for the third year in a row, clearly he (and the Flyers) felt a change of scenery was in order, as he signed an entry-level contract with the team this past spring. It is very likely that, barring injury, Ustimenko will spend most of this coming season in the ECHL — but it seems that he found that option preferable to another year in Russia. If he wants to stay in the thick of things given the number of intriguing prospects the Flyers have in net, it’s important for him to have a very good year in Reading.

28. Noah Cates - F, Minnesota-Duluth (NCAA)
2018-19 Statistics: 9 G, 14 A in 40 GP
Votes: one @ 16th place, two @ 21st, one @ 23rd, one @ 24th, one @ 25th

Cates was the original high school draftee of the Flyers before Jay O’Brien and Bryce Brodzinski came around in the past two years. After a solid first season post-draft, Cates had to have enjoyed his first season in college this past year — he was not only a member of the USA World Juniors team this past year, but he was one of the better players on a Minnesota-Duluth team that won the national championship. Cates has grown a bit since the Flyers took him two years ago, and he’s always seemed like someone who had the skills to succeed as a pro. It’ll be tough for him to top last season from an achievement standpoint, but the Flyers will surely be looking for him to improve this coming year upon what he did last — and if he does, he may be looking to turn pro as soon as next year.

27. David Kase - F, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
2018-19 Statistics: 8 G, 15 A in 40 GP
Votes: one @ 18th place, one @ 20th, one @ 21st, two @ 22nd, one @ 24th

What a strange journey it’s been for Kase, the diminutive forward that the Flyers drafted four summers ago out of the Czech league in a pick that some saw at the time as a steal. Those prognostications looked unlikely to come true in Kase’s first two years post-draft, as he was overall unimpressive while in the Czech league. But a move to Sweden prior to the 2017-18 season seemed to push him in the right direction, and he posted a comparable performance this past year in Lehigh Valley in his first AHL season (though injuries kept him out of nearly half of the Phantoms’ games). Still, Kase will need to do more to show he deserves a spot in the NHL in the future.

26. Matthew Strome - F, Hamilton (OHL)
2018-19 Statistics: 28 G, 51 A in 68 GP
Votes: one @ 15th place, one @ 18th, three @ 19th, one @ 24th, two @ 25th

The story on the youngest Strome brother is fairly established at this point. Most of the skills seem to be there, and his scoring numbers across his now-ended OHL career are more than respectable and suggest some upside. But his skating is a serious problem, one that is by far the biggest impediment towards him possibly becoming an NHLer some day, and he hasn’t made enough progress there for observers to feel really optimistic about him someday getting to the level he needs to. This coming year, his first in the AHL, will be a lot for him to take in, as he not only has to continue to try and improve his stride and speed but also account for the vastly increased speed (not to mention, talent) around him at the professional level. There may be something there, but the Flyers have to find it.

With that, our series begins at No. 25 tomorrow. Enjoy!