Prospects have been a fan favorite talking point for Flyers fans for almost a decade now. When Ron Hextall, now famous snake oil salesman, showed up and convinced the fans to believe in his “process” prospect became the talk of the town. Though with the benefit of hindsight, most were tragically underwhelming. Now that current GM Chuck Fletcher has had a prolonged stay at the helm, the fruits of his drafting labor are starting to be seen. He’s had three drafts as head honcho and, while still early, most players seem to have a general higher upside than the crop Hextall left behind.
If they had to craft an entire roster of prospects under 25 years of age, here is a position-by-position breakdown.
Noah Cates 23
The 2017 fifth round pick has finally made the jump to the NHL after his college career at Minnesota Duluth came to an end. He’s been one of the under-the-radar Flyers prospects fans have been talking about, and when he made the jump to the NHL to finish out the 2021-22 season, it was easy to tell why. He’s got three goals and five points through his first 11 NHL games and seems to be a fairly well rounded player overall.
Joel Farabee 22
It’s hard to consider Farabee a prospect anymore, but he is still just 22 years of age, so chances are we haven’t seen the best he’s got to offer yet. A series of injuries stalled any real momentum he had during the 2021-22 season, but he still managed to flirt with 20 goals, though only produced 34 points. All the tools seem to be there for Farabee, he just needs a few more dynamic offensive players to suit up with and it’ll bring the best out of him. There’s no reason to think he won’t be a 30-goal scorer one day if all the chips fall in place.
Elliot Desnoyers 20
Desnoyers was a pleasant surprise after he was drafted in the fifth round in 2020. He posed 52 goals and 116 points in 88 games in his last two seasons in the QMJHL. How he handles the transition to the AHL next season will help determine what his ceiling may be, but finding a true diamond in the rough would be a nice little surprise for an organization who has struggled to hit on players outside the first round.
Isaac Ratcliffe 23
Ratcliffe finally got his first taste of NHL action during the 2021-22 season and made the most of his opportunity. He played in 10 games and recorded a goal and four points, playing some of the best hockey of his professional career after toiling in Lehigh Valley for the past few seasons. His ceiling still seems rather low, but given a brief stint of hope, maybe Ratcliffe could have a future in the NHL as a depth forward after all.
Morgan Frost 22
The development, or lack thereof, of Morgan Frost has been one of the biggest stories over the last few seasons. After playing at a two-point-per-game pace during his last season in juniors in 2018-19, he has struggled to transition that success to the professional level. An underwhelming season in Lehigh Valley in 2019-20, a destroyed shoulder that kept him out of the entire 2020-21 campaign, and a frustratingly stagnant 2021-22 season has soured the once hyped prospect. It may be too early to write him off, but true stardom seems like it’s off the table.
Tanner Laczynski 24
Now that Laczynksi has two good hips, he has looked like a brand new man in his return to the Phantoms. He’s recorded four goals and nine points in 15 games after his return from injury. Even though his ceiling may be a bit low when it comes to the NHL, the Flyers could use a speedy, two-way depth center with a bit of a scoring upside.
Jay O’Brien 22
2018 first round pick has not had an easy road since being drafted 19th overall. He struggled heavily during his first college season in 2018-19, leading him to join a Junior A team in the British Columbia Hockey League for the 2019-20 season. He has spent the last two years at Boston College, falling short of point-per-game status either season. He’s still unsigned by the Flyers, but as an organization who is short on center prospects, he may still be on their radar come the conclusion of his college career.
Jackson Cates 24
Noah’s older brother made the jump to the professional level at the end of last season and has spent a bulk of his first season in the AHL. He has one goal in 11 games with the Flyers and just 10 points in 37 games with the Phantoms. He doesn’t seem to have the ceiling his brother does, but he could eventually become a depth forward on the main roster.
Owen Tippett 23
The former 10th overall pick in 2017 struggled to find a role within the Florida Panthers organization. He was acquired by Philadelphia in the Claude Giroux trade and has made the most of his opportunity. He has three goals and four points in 16 games, but the numbers don’t tell how many offensive chances he’s had. Tippett does have 36 SOG and about a dozen pucks rang off the post as well, so it’s not for a lack of trying. He just turned 23 in February so there’s still time to hone his skills, and if can polish that scoring touch, the Flyers may have a solid middle-six winger on their hands.
Bobby Brink 20
Just days after winning a national championship, 2019 second round pick Bobby Brink made his NHL debut with the Flyers, racking up an assist in his first game. He scored 43 points in 41 games at the University of Denver and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. He’s known as a guy who will play the right way even when the points aren’t flowing in, which is a good quality to have. He’s also just 20 years old with a birthday in July. So unlike most college kids who are in their mid-20’s, he’s got a few years to develop at the professional level without having to be make-or-break immediately in the NHL.
Wade Allison 24
Allison’s two professional seasons have been plagued by injuries, but when the 24-year-old is healthy, he looks to have all the makings of a star. He’s got four goals and seven points in 15 NHL games and 14 goals and 26 points in 33 AHL games since the start of the 2020-21 campaign. He has seemingly put the injury bug behind him after he returned in early March, and if that’s the case, he will make a serious push for an NHL spot next season and finally have a chance to show what he’s got longterm.
Tyson Foerster 20
Even though a shoulder injury and subsequent surgery ended his professional season early, he was sent back to his junior team the Barrie Colts. He had 10 goals and 17 points during the 2020 season with the Phantoms, and two goals and three points in 10 games in Lehigh Valley before his injury. He posted six goals and 11 points in 13 games before the Colts’ season came to an end in mid-April. He’ll be back with the Phantoms next season and as a 6’2, 195lb winger with a great shot, the ceiling for the 20-year-old is still high.
Zayde Wisdom 19
After opening eyes with his play at the AHL level in 2020 with 18 points in 28 games, he was sent back to juniors where his numbers declined from where they were before he left. He had just nine goals and 38 points in 2021-22 compared to 29 goals and 59 points during the 2019-20 season in Kingston. To be fiar he was working his way back from offseason shoulder surgery, so he could’ve just been shaking off the cobwebs. His work ethic is still off the charts and there’s still enough potential to get excited, but he may be more of a long bake at the AHL level before getting his feet wet in the NHL.
Samu Tuomaala 19
It’s been an underwhelming year since the Flyers took Samu Tuomaala 46th overall in 2021. He failed to stick with the Phantoms, playing in only two games with zero points, then was returned on loan back to his native Finland rather than being reassigned to the CHL. He only played in 21 games with two separate teams in the Finnish Liiga with one goal and three points. Tuomaala won’t turn 20 until January, so he’s got plenty of time to figure his game out, and with an upside as a speedy goal scorer, he could very well be worth the wait if he can put their pieces together.
Cam York 21
The 14th overall pick in 2019 has made the jump to the NHL during the dying days of the 2021-22 campaign. While there are still some kinks to iron out, he seems to be fully capable of handling himself at the professional level. He’s already got 10 points in 33 NHL games, and his ability to produce offensively will be a big factor in his ability to succeed at the NHL level.
Linus Hogberg 23
Hogberg was once a highly touted prospect by the gurus out there, but hasn’t been able to carry that same swagger to North American ice.
Egor Zamula 22
Egor Zamula has been a beacon of hope as a defense prospect for years now, and as he gets closer to a full-time jump to the NHL, it’s easy to see why. He’s not going to be the flashiest player on the ice, but he’s going to be a defenseman who stays cool, calm and collected and does all the little things right. He had 29 points in 57 AHL games in 2021-22, the first sign of offensive life since his junior career, and if can add more of that two-way game, he could be an invaluable player moving forward.
Mason Millman 20
Millman was the Flyers’ fourth round pick in 2019 and hasn’t had the smoothest transition to the professional level. He spent a bulk of the 2021-22 season in the ECHL where he managed 25 points in 36 games, but still has just two points in 25 AHL contests since the start of the 2020-21 season. He is just 20 years old, so all hope is not lost yet. If York and Zamula both make the NHL roster to start the 2022-23 season, he may finally secure an AHL spot, and that will help determine what kind of ceiling Millman has.
Ronnie Attard 23
The Western Michigan product was the Flyers’ 72nd overall pick in 2019 and has made the jump to the professional level after his junior season. While it hasn’t been the smoothest transition of all time, he does seem to have flashes of potential, especially on the offensive side. Chances are he starts the 2022-23 season with Lehigh to hone his defensive ability and if he can figure it out, he could be a decent option of the right side of the defense down the road.
Wyatte Wylie 22
Wylie’s second season in the AHL has proven to be a positive one. He’s 4 goals and 17 points in 57 games and his overall game has improved tremendously as the year went on. He may not be NHL ready just yet, but he seems to be trending in the right direction and, as a RHD, could be worth his weight in gold if he can get himself to a fringe-NHL caliber player.
Ethan Samson 18
Samson completed his third season with the Prince George Cougars where he wore an “A” and had the best season of his career so far by posting 15 goals and 43 points in 68 games. Samson is still unsigned by the Flyers organization, but if that production continues he may be on their radar in the future. He is currently the only other right-handed defenseman in the prospect pool, and at just 18 years old, could highlight the next crop of prospects to come through the pipeline.
Carter Hart 23
Even though Carter Hart has 146 professional games over parts of four seasons under his belt, he’s still just 23 years old. While there are still some question marks surrounding his game, most can be chalked up to playing on an atrocious hockey team. When he’s at his best, Hart can play lights out hockey. Hopefully one day he’ll have a competitive team in front of him.
Samuel Ersson 22
Sam Ersson’s first season in North America didn’t quite go as planned, only suiting up for five games, three in October, one in December and one in February as a lower body injury ultimately put him on the shelf for the remainder of the season. Although his numbers weren’t impressive on a lackluster Phantoms squad (2.96 goals against average and .893 save percentage) his play was visually astounding and didn’t look out of place on North American ice. Provided his injury situation clears up and he’s good to go next year, expect him to challenge for the starting job in Lehigh Valley before setting sights on an NHL gig.
Joel Farabee – Morgan Frost – Tyson Foerster
Elliot Desnoyers – Tanner Laczynski – Bobby Brink
Noah Cates – Jackson Cates – Wade Allison
Isaac Ratcliffe – Jay O’Brien – Owen Tippett
Cam York – Ronnie Attard
Egor Zamula – Wyatte Wylie
Linus Hogberg – Ethan Samson
extras- Zayde Wisdom, Samu Tuomaala, Mason Millman
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: theahl.com / eliteprospects.com / umbulldogs.com