Let’s Dream on Some Flyers Prospects

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms have been a very fun team during the 2022-23 season thanks in major part to the fact they’ve highlighted the abundance of youth on the roster. For an organization that’s now pushing the idea of a “rebuild,” the fact that so many of their prospects in the AHL have played very well this season is a sign that there may be a bright future on the horizon for the Flyers.

While it’s still way too early to make official calls, one thing Chuck Fletcher has seemingly done better than Ron Hextall is the ability to draft better prospects. Hextall was always looking to be the smartest guy in the room by cashing in on random players like German Rubtsov or Jay O’Brien, or he played it safe with guys like Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman. Meanwhile Fletcher and assistant GM Brent Flahr have drafted for talent through every round, not taking many risks but not falling back to random low ceiling two-way player either.

So let’s highlight the youngsters that will bring in the next generation of the Philadelphia Flyers.

Cam York

As the Flyers struggle with both of their current top left-handed defenseman in Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim, Cam York’s emergence has given some hope that the future can still be bright on the blueline. In an ideal world, York is the perfect mix of both players, possessing the minute-munching that Provorov is known for and the puck moving ability that Sanheim has flaunted in the past.

Chances are Cam York is the Flyers’ de facto top guy for the foreseeable future as a new pillar of the defense. It’ll be about building a proper unit around him to help him succeed. When looking back on Ivan Provorov’s career in Philly, he could’ve been more than he was, but was strapped to Andrew MacDonald for years and to this day never had a consistent top partner to play with. They can’t make that same mistake with York.

Chuck Fletcher and the Flyers have tried and failed for the last few years to bring in right handed defenseman, though have opted for risks than sure things, something that keeps blowing up in their faces. For not just York to succeed but for the rest of the blueline to follow suit, they need to hunt down a young, top right-handed player to pair with York for the next decade.

Bobby Brink

The scouting reports on Brink through his college career at the University of Denver were always positive. Even though his scoring was a bit inconsistent, he was always praised for playing the game the right way. Now, while that seems like a generic hockey phrase, anybody who has caught his play with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms this season has learned first hand just what that means. Despite standing at just 5’8, he’s a fast, physical player who isn’t afraid to crash the net and get into board battles with players twice his size. It’s a work ethic that is easy to appreciate and typically unseen from players of his stature.

It also helps that he’s chipped in 17 points in 25 games since his return from hip surgery.

Even if his offense ends up being rather inconsistent at the NHL level, that kind of determination to play hard will go a long way, especially in the eyes of John Tortorella, who will undoubtedly appreciate his style of play. He could carve out a spot in the middle six wing, probably on the third line with a promotion based on his production.

Tyson Foerster

Tyson Foerster was the Flyers’ first round pick back in 2020 and has left fan’s mouths watering ever since. After a shoulder injury ended his 2021-22 campaign after just nine games, he’s spent the 2022-23 season getting back to full strength.

He currently has 18 goals and 38 points in 56 games with the Phantoms. His offense has been rather streaky throughout the season, tending to score in bunches then go quiet for a few games, but his energy has been palpable practically every night. It could just be a case of a guy trying to do too much rather than just relaxing and playing his game, which seems like a probable excuse for a former first round pick returning from injury.

While his play has been fine overall, there’s still another level he can hit and truly become a game-changing force on a night-to-night basis. Time will tell if Foerster can hang in the NHL, but considering he just turned 21 in January, the organization seems in no rush to test that. They’ve got a lot of stock invested in his development, so a bit of extra time in the AHL isn’t a bad thing for the former first rounder.

Elliot Desnoyers

There’s a good chance that drafting Desnoyers may go down as one of Chuck Fletcher’s best moves as GM. The Flyers traded a pair of seventh round picks to Nashville for the 135th overall (fifth round) selection in 2020 to take Desnoyers, whose stock has been rising ever since.

During his rookie season at the professional level he has registered 20 goals and 38 points in 52 games with the Phantoms, both of which led the team, and has since been recalled by the Flyers, where even after just a few games, has seemingly earned the respect of head coach John Tortorella.

For a team that’s starved of center depth like the Flyers, Desnoyers developing into an NHL caliber forward is big. What kind of player he tops out at is the more interesting question right now. His two-way game has been solid in Lehigh Valley and his offensive production has come in rather under-the-radar in an effective but not very flashy way. He’s gotta prove he has a high ceiling in the NHL, but in the meantime, he seems like an ideal third line center with second line possibilities.

Sam Ersson

Sam Ersson’s first full season in North America probably couldn’t have gone much better if he planned it. He has dominated in the AHL and has a 6-1-0 record during his brief time in the NHL. He made his debut last season, though only played in five games and completing three before a lower body injury and subsequent surgery forced him to miss the majority of the campaign. He’ll be tasked with leading the Phantoms to the playoffs this year as the backbone of their club, so unless an injury strikes, he probably won’t return to the NHL this season. Though if he enters training camp as hot as he’s ending this season, he could very well be the backup on opening night.

Ronnie Attard

Coming across offensive defensemen who are capable two-way players is few and far between in the NHL. The Flyers have tried and failed with a couple over the last handful of years, and 24-year-old Ronnie Attard is the next man up to attempt to fill that role.

Attard possess an incredible shot from the point, a big reason why he’s currently sixth in scoring in Lehigh with 25 points, though his defense is still kind of hit or miss despite taking massive steps forward in the AHL. His confidence has continued to grow throughout the season and it has led to a tangible uptick in his play.

Considering the Flyers currently employ Tony DeAngelo (who is posting plenty of points but is absolute garbage in his own end) if the Flyers front office was smart, they’d flip DeAngelo this summer and call up Attard, who at bare minimum will be the same exact player for $4 million less price tag. There’s also a good chance Attard’s value at the NHL far supersedes DeAngelo’s with the icing on the cake being the massive cap savings.

Olle Lysksell

The 2017 sixth round pick didn’t exactly have high expectations when he made his jump to North America this season, but he has taken the entire organization by storm with his play. He’s been a point-per-game player in the AHL, which has earned multiple recalls to the NHL, despite only playing eight games with the big club. Considering the organization is fairly weak on natural left wing depth, Lyksell’s emergence could be big for his own career with plenty of roster spots available out of camp next season.

Does he keep the same level of offensive production up in the big league? Probably not. He seems to be more of an Oskar Lindblom or Michael Raffl type of winger; someone who can play anywhere up and down the lineup with a solid enough two-way game that his niche is probably the third line wing. If he got any real playing time during his recalls, maybe we’d have a better idea what kind of player he could be from that sample size, but he seemingly didn’t earn enough trust from Tortorella to be let loose just yet.

By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)

photo credit: phantomshockey.com


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