A LOOK AT THE FUTURE
Catching up with Flyers prospects just before the NHL season resumes
With the resumption of the Flyers season still two days away and with the team not holding an on-ice practice today, I felt it was as good a day as any to check in on the players in the Flyers system.
Below I have a brief capsule on each of 35 players that are currently Flyers property playing in the AHL, ECHL, major Canadian Junior, NCAA, KHL, Swedish Hockey League, the USHL or the NAHL.
There are 15 forwards, 15 defensemen and three goalies.
Each player is listed with their age, where they are playing and how they got into the Flyers system. Their statistics and other notes are also listed in the capsule itself.
So, without further ado…
Jason Akeson (23, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2011): Akeson is again leading the way offensively for the Phantoms, serving as their leading scorer for a third consecutive season. Through 52 games with the Phantoms, Akeson scored 18 goals and added 30 assists for 48 points. Akeson made his NHL debut last April playing the final game of the season for the Flyers and scoring a goal against Ottawa. Akeson is a restricted free agent after this season.
Brandon Alderson (22, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2012): The Flyers added Alderson to their stable after seeing him play successfully alongside fellow prospect Nick Cousins at Sault Ste. Marie in the OHL. Alderson has been a decent depth forward for the Phantoms with seven goals and five assists for 12 points. Alderson is signed through the 2015-16 season.
Tyler Brown (24, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2011): One of the elder statesmen on the Phantoms, Brown has been a solid professional and a useful energy player for the Phantoms for the past few seasons. Brown has missed some time this season with injuries and has also been a healthy scratch at times. He’s played in 32 games for the Phantoms and has one goal and five assists for six points. Brown is a restricted free agent after this season.
Nick Cousins (20, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – drafted 3rd round [No. 68 overall] in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft): Still considered a solid prospect for the Flyers considering he’s just 20-years-old, Cousins hasn’t had the same success with the Phantoms that he did in Sault Ste. Marie. One of the top scorers in junior hockey with the Greyhounds, Cousins has only amassed 14 points (five goals, nine assists) in 50 games in Adirondack. Cousins is signed through the 2015-16 season.
Kyle Flanagan (25, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2013) signed a one-year deal to provide speed and depth to the Phantoms and has done that in the time he’s played. Usually a defensively responsible forward, Flanagan has chipped in with 10 points (four goals, six assists) in 39 games with the Phantoms so far this season. Flanagan is a restricted free agent after this season.
Tyrell Goulbourne (20, Kelowna Rockets – WHL – drafted 3rd round [No. 72 overall] in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft): Compared to Zac Rinaldo when he was drafted because of his size skating ability and fearless, physical play, Goulbourne has ramped his game up to a new level with the rockets this season, setting a career-high in points (30) through just 57 games. Goulbourne has found the net 12 times and is still racking up the feisty penalty minutes with 96. He’s also a plus-19 this season, a testament to how good his Kelowna team is, but also to his improved play as well. Goulbourne has until June, 2015 to sign his entry level contract with the Flyers.
Ben Holmstrom (26, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2009): The longest tenured Phantom, Holmstrom is the captain of the Flyers minor league affiliate and has posted a decent season thus far. With 10 goals and 14 assists for 24 points, Holmstrom ranks fourth on the Phantoms in scoring while also providing some much-needed leadership on a young team. Holmstrom is an unrestricted free agent after this season.
Andrew Johnston (22, Orlando Solar Bears – ECHL – free agent signee in 2012): The Flyers took a long-range gamble on Johnston, a bright kid who was toiling in the Saskatchewan Junior League. His development has been slower, spending more time in the ECHL than the AHL. This season, in 44 games for Orlando, Johnston has three goals and 15 assists for 18 points. Johnston is signed through the 2014-15 season.
Scott Laughton (19, Oshawa Generals – OHL – drafted 1st round [No. 20 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): There is no doubt that Laughton is the Flyers top prospect. Still just a teenager, Laughton is having a monster year with the Generals with 37 goals and 43 assists for 80 points in just 48 games. Laughton had his first cup of coffee with the Flyers in 2012-13, making the team out of camp and playing five games before being sent back down to juniors. Laughton has signed his entry-level deal with the Flyers for three years, but because of the slide rule, it doesn’t begin until he makes the team or is eligible for the AHL at the end of the junior season in which he turns 20.
Taylor Leier (20, Portland Winterhawks – WHL – drafted 4th round [No. 117 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): Leier has been one of the most surprising Flyers prospects and has darted up the organization depth chart with another solid season so far. Through 53 games with Portland, Leier has 32 goals and 35 assists for 67 points. He’s also a plus-35, which is second-best on a stacked Winterhawks team behind only Nick Petan (Winnipeg Jets prospect), the second-leading scorer in the entire WHL. Like Laughton, Leier also signed his entry-level contract and will have it continue to slide until he is on a pro hockey roster.
Matt Mangene (24, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – fee agent signee in 2011): Once a defenseman at the University of Maine, Mangene has made the transition to playing forward at the professional level. He’s a smooth skater, which was his strength on the blue line, but he hasn’t found a scoring touch with the Phantoms, collecting just three goals and three assists in 48 games with Adirondack. Mangene is a restricted free agent after this season.
Derek Mathers (20, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – drafted 7th round [No. 206 overall] in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft): Mathers was drafted for one reason and one reason only – to bring some thump to the lineup. In 26 games for the Phantoms, Mathers has yet to register a point, but he does have 77 minutes in penalties, which is evidence that he is finding his role after being a bit of a bruiser as a junior player at Peterborough. Mathers is signed through the 2015-16 season.
Tye McGinn (23, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – drafted 4th round [No. 119 overall] in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft): Everyone’s favorite Phantom-who-should-be-a-Flyer. Or, maybe that’s because he’s been relatively productive in his brief stints with the big club. Certainly a bit of a tweener at this point that is inching closer to being a full-time NHLer, McGinn has had a solid season so far for the Phantoms with 14 goals and 11 assists for 25 points. It’ll be interesting to see what the Flyers do with McGinn who is a restricted free agent after this season.
Marcel Noebels (21, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – drafted 4th round [No. 118 overall] in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft): The Flyers had higher hopes for Noebels, but he has struggled a bit with the Phantoms this season. Battling injury and inconsistency, Noebels has just two goals and five assists for seven points in 34 games played. There has been a bright spot though in his game. Even though he’s not been producing like he should, he’s been effective as a defensive forward for the Phantoms. Noebels is signed through the 2014-15 season.
Michael Parks (22, University of North Dakota – NCAA – drafted 5th round [No. 149 overall] in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft): Still only a junior, Parks has been one of the most consistent performers for the fighting Sioux in his three years at the school. Parks maintained nearly a point-per-game pace for North Dakota with 10 goals and 16 assists for 26 points in 30 games as the postseason tournaments are set to commence. Assuming Parks stays in college for his senior season, the Flyers will maintain his rights through the end of the 2014-15 season when they would have to make a decision whether to sign him to a contract or not.
Petr Straka (21, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2013): Straka still remains an interesting character for the Flyers. After being a second-round pick of the Columbus Blue Jackets and then going unsigned, the Flyers swooped in and got him into their stable. Straka has proven to be a solid player at the AHL level and is still young enough to continue to develop into a possible NHL forward. In 46 games with the Phantoms this season, he has seven goals and 15 assists for 22 points. The Czech native who played for both Rimouski and Baie-Comeau in the QMJHL, is under contract with the Flyers through the 2015-16 season.
Mark Alt (22, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – acquired along with Brian Boucher from Carolina in exchange for Luke Pither, Jan. 2013): A former second round pick of the Hurricanes, the Flyers were able to acquire Alt via trade by taking Boucher’s unwanted salary off Carolina’s hands. Alt has had a decent season in his first, full, professional campaign. Through 51 games, Alt has two goals and 12 assists for 14 points from the blue line. He’s got good size (6-3) and is a right hand shot, something many teams covet. Alt projects to being an NHL defenseman in the future and is under contract through the 2015-16 season.
Terrance Amorosa (19, Sioux City Musketeers – USHL – drafted 5th round [No. 132 overall] in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft): A very young, raw, project defenseman, Amorosa has already showed signs of why he was drafted so high despite not much of a book on him as a high schooler at Holderness Prep. In 36 games, Amorosa has a respectable two goals and seven assists for nine points in 36 games for the Musketeers. Amorosa has committed to play collegiately at Providence College beginning in 2014-15, which means the Flyers retain his rights until Amorosa completes his college eligibility.
David Drake (19, Des Moines Buccaneers – USHL – drafted 7th round [No. 192 overall] in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft): The last pick by the Flyers in last summer’s draft was yet another defenseman, an area of organizational need for the Flyers that they restocked in recent seasons. Drake has just four assists in 37 games for Des Moines this season and, like Amorosa, will need some time to develop, which is why it's likely he'll spend another year in the USHL before heading to college.
Cullen Eddy (25, Adirondack Phantoms –AHL - free agent signee in 2010): Eddy has been one of the well-respected citizens in the Phantoms locker room for his professional approach to the game. Despite injuries keeping him out of the lineup for half the season, Eddy has been looked at as a leader on the Phantoms squad. He has one goal and three assists for four points in just 27 games for the Phantoms this season. Eddy will be a restricted free agent at the conclusion of this season.
Shayne Gostisbehere (20, Union College – NCAA – drafted 3rd round [No. 78 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): A future power play quarterback and skilled puck mover in the NHL, Gostisbehere has been a pleasant surprise in his development for a third round pick. He followed up a gold-medal win in 2013 as a member of Team USA in the World Junior Championships with an excellent season at Union. Gostisbehere has eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points in 32 games on the Union blue line. The big question at the conclusion of the NCAA season will be whether Gostisbehere returns to Union for his senior season, or he decides to turn pro. Either way, I’d expect him to be in the NHL in the not-too-distant future.
Robert Hagg (19, Modo – Swedish Hockey League – drafted 2nd round [No. 41 overall] in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft):
|The futurre of the Flyers blue line (from L to R) Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg, meet for the first time at last summer's development camp.|
The defensive depth is quickly becoming a strong point in the Flyers organization as Hagg slots in not too far behind Samuel Morin and Gostisbehere. Hagg won a silver medal at the 2014 World Junior Championships as a member of Team Sweden. He hasn’t posted bug numbers for Modo this season, but just to be a teenager playing on such a storied Swedish franchise is enough of a recognition of his ability. Hagg has one goal and five assists for six points in 46 games for Modo. He has yet to sign an entry-level contract with the Flyers.
Matt Konan (22, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2012): Konan had his first NHL experience playing a game for the Flyers last season. He was expected to mature a bit quicker this season with the Phantoms, but has had his bouts with the injury bug. Konan has played sporadically in 26 games and has just two assists. Konan will likely have a chance to rebound next season though, as he is signed by the Flyers through the 2014-15 season.
Maxim Lamarche (21, Elmira Jackals – ECHL – free agent signee in 2013): Another young defenseman getting his first taste of pro hockey, Lamarche has appeared to be comfortable in the ECHL with three goals and five assists for eight points in 43 games after playing just three games for the Phantoms. Lamarche was a late add to the Flyers organization, but has proven to be another future option after some more seasoning. Lamarche is signed through the 2015-16 season.
Fredric Larsson (19, Tri-City Storm – USHL – drafted 4th round [No. 111 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): A deep find by Flyers scouts in the Swedish junior league, Larsson decided his best chance to adapt to North American hockey was to come play in North America. Larsson has spent the season in the USHL, first with the Youngstown Phantoms and now with the Storm. Combined, he has one goal and five assists for six points in 39 games this season. Larsson has not committed to a college for next season, but it definitely a direction he is considering for his next step.
Oliver Lauridsen (24, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – drafted 7th round [No. 196 overall] in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft): Big Ollie did a nice job filling in on the depleted Flyers blue line last season and has had a consistent season as a follow up with the Phantoms. In 52 games, Lauridsen has just one goal and seven assists for eight points, but he is a plus-3 on a team without many plus-players, indicating his defense has been sound, Lauridsen is signed through the 2014-15 season.
Nick Luukko (22, University of Vermont – NCAA – drafted 6th round [No. 179 overall] in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft): Luukko had a very similar season with the Catamounts as he did in each of his first two seasons and will likely return to UVM for his senior campaign. Luukko has three goals and three assists for six points in 30 games for Vermont as they prep for the Hockey East playoffs.
Brandon Manning (23, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2011): Manning has once again served as one of the leaders on the Phantoms team and has had a decent season with five goals and 15 assists for 20 points in 52 games. Manning is also starting to pile up penalty minutes as well, showing that he’s got a bit of a mean streak these days with 193 PIMS this season. Like McGinn, Manning, who also has been called up to the Flyers on a couple occasions, is a restricted free agent after the season, so it will be curious to see which direction the Flyers go with him.
Samuel Morin (18, Rimouski Oceanic – QMJHL – drafted 1st round [No. 11 overall] in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft): Morin is widely considered the Flyers top defensive prospect among a crop of good ones, even if he’s not the closest to being NHL-ready. Still, you can’t teach size, and he has that at 6-foot-6. He’s had several comparisons made to an 18-year-old Chris Pronger. If he can just be 75 percent of Pronger, the Flyers have a winner. In 46 games this season with the Oceanic, Morin has seven goals and 20 assists for 27 points and 100 penalty minutes. He’s also a plus-9. He has already signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers and like Laughton and Leier, he is slide rule eligible, meaning it doesn’t kick in until his first professional season.
Valeri Vasiliev (19, Moscow Sportak – KHL – drafted 7th round [No. 201 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): Vasiliev is an interesting flier for the… Flyers. In a low risk move, they signed him on the recommendation of Russian scout Vaclav Slansky. Vasiliev hasn’t played much in the KHL, but the fact that he’s playing as a teenager has to stand for something. He has three assists this season for Moscow and also played on the Russian World Junior team earlier this season. The Flyers will certainly keep a close eye on him as he develops in Russia.
Reece Willcox (19, Cornell University – NCAA – drafted 5th round [No. 141 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): Willcox was another one of those outlier finds by Flyers scouts, drafted out of Merritt of the British Columbia Hockey League. Willcox moved on to college hockey where he’s finishing up his second season with the Big Red. Willcox has two goals and four assists for six points in 26 games for Cornell.
|Cal Heeter has developed faster than many expected and he should push for an NHL backup job as soon as next season.|
Cal Heeter (25, Adirondack Phantoms – AHL – free agent signee in 2012): When Heeter was signed out of Ohio State as a free agent, he was considered a project. Now, two professional seasons later, Heeter is on the verge of becoming an NHL goaltender. Despite inconsistent play in front of him, Heeter has been the Phantoms MVP this season. In 35 games, Heeter has posted 15 wins with a 2.48 goals against average and a .916 save percentage with four shutouts. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s an NHL backup in 2014-15. He is a restricted free agent following this season.
Merrick Madsen (18, Minot Minotauros – NAHL – drafted 6th round [No. 162 overall] in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft): Former Flyers and Phantoms goalie, now goalie scout Neil Little was giddy about this draft pick. There was a lot he liked in Madsen’s game as a high school student and felt there was a lot he could learn. Madsen is spending the season in the North American Hockey League playing for Minot (where he has a 2.64 goals against average and a .908 save percentage) before he heads off to Harvard, where he has committed for the 2014-15 season. Flyers goalie coach Jeff Reese thinks Madsen is a lot like fellow goalie prospect Anthony Stolarz – comparing their size, athleticism and competitive drive.
Anthony Stolarz (20, London Knights – OHL – drafted 2nd round [No. 45 overall] in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft): Stolarz had his season – and almost his career - derailed when he was cut badly on the back of his leg by a skate during a game two months ago. However, Stolarz has worked his way back and is practicing with the Knights and should be good to go within a week or so. He was having a nice season for the Knights prior to the injury, with the impressive number being his save percentage, which was at an impressive .925 to go along with his 2.58 GAA and his stellar 21-4-2 record. Stolarz will have a lot of hockey left in front of him this season with the remainder of the OHL season and league playoffs, and the CHL Memorial Cup which is being hosted this season by his London team. Stolarz is almost a surefire bet to be one of the goalies for the Phantoms when they move to Lehigh Valley next season.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @InsideTheFlyers