Philadelphia Flyers prospect preview: Laughton first grad in rebuild

By Jashvina Shah
Photo: Shayne Gostisbehere was a pleasant surprise in Flyers camp, scoring three goals in three games. (Courtesy of Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Shayne Gostisbehere was a pleasant surprise in Flyers camp, scoring three goals in three games. (Courtesy of Gavin Baker/Icon Sportswire)

 

 

The Philadelphia Flyers are still in rebuilding mode, and they’ve been creating the team of the future. Many of Philadelphia’s prospects are already climbing to the next level and have graduated to the professional ranks, including Scott Laughton, Shayne Gostisbehere and Samuel Morin.

Morin might get a shot playing in the NHL this season, while first-round draft pick Ivan Provorov is Philadelphia’s top prospect to watch at the major junior level. Mark Friedman leads the NCAA watch along with goaltender Matej Tomek, who’ll be a freshman at North Dakota. On the European side, prospects David Kase, Ivan Fedotov and Felix Sandstrom are a trio to keep an eye on.

Pro

Top Prospect
Scott Laughton, C, Lehigh Valley Phantoms (AHL)

While Scott Laughton may not be the best prospect the Flyers have in their system, he’s the best prospect they have at the professional level. He’s also the team’s top forward prospect, and has already seen NHL playing time. Laughton has been lauded as the team’s top center prospect, bringing a defensive edge to his game. The biggest question for Laughton is his consistency and his offensive upside, which needs work.

Laughton entered his first professional season last year, appearing in 39 games and recording 27 points (14 goals, 13 assists) with the Phantoms. He earned a call-up to the Flyers, appearing in 31 NHL games last year. Laughton made Philadelphia’s opening night roster, and he is the most promising NHL-ready athlete they have.

Bounceback Prospect
Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Gostisbehere joined the Flyers as a high-end prospect after his junior year of college and winning a national championship. Bringing speed and offensive ability, Gostisbehere was a prospect to watch. When he started playing professional hockey, it didn’t take long for him to earn a call up to the NHL. The defenseman played in five games for the Phantoms, averaging an assist per game. He played in two NHL games, recording zero points.

But his stint with the Flyers was short, as a knee injury kept Gostisbehere out for the rest of the season. Now fully healed, Gostisbehere should have a breakout season, where he’ll most likely play for the Phantoms. If Gostisbehere can stay healthy, he’ll have a chance to show off his offensive ability and improve his defensive play.

NHL-bound Prospect
Samuel Morin, D, Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Samuel Morin was one of Philadelphia’s top defensive prospects along with Gostisbehere, until the Flyers drafted Provorov and Travis Sanheim. Unlike Gostisbehere, Morin is a defensive defenseman without much offensive upside. Morin has also been viewed as Philadelphia’s most NHL-ready defenseman. This is his first year in professional hockey, and thanks to his steady defensive play he could be ready for a stint in the NHL if needed.

Morin missed a portion of last season after fracturing his jaw during a game last year. He ended up playing in 38 games and finished with a career-high 32 points with Rimouski. Morin also appeared in seven games for Team Canada during the World Junior Championships.

Junior

Top Prospect
Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

Once drafted, Ivan Provorov became Philadelphia’s top prospect. He was regarded as one of the top defensemen in the NHL draft, and is projected to be a top-pairing defenseman with Travis Sanheim. Provorov averaged just over a point per game with the Brandon Wheat Kings, his first season in the WHL. While recording 61 points over 60 games. Provorov also played in the World Junior Championships for Russia.

After the draft, the Flyers signed Provorov to a three-year, entry-level deal. The defenseman, who views himself as an NHL-ready player, has impressed the Flyers in rookie camp. Provorov is a physical player and plays a 200-foot game, but also brings offensive prowess, skill, good skating ability and hockey IQ.

Offensive Breakout
Samuel Dove-McFalls, LW, Saint John Sea Dogs (QMJHL)

The Flyers drafted Dove-McFalls in the fourth round, and he was expected to fill a checking role. Despite his checking projection without much offensive upside, Dove-McFalls is high on Philadelphia’s left wing depth chart. Dove-McFalls is a two-way player, and brings good defense to his game.

He’s a penalty killer, but his offense exploded with the Saint John Sea Dogs last year, where he recorded 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists). The total was more than three times his production from the season before, and Dove-McFalls’ offense should improve even more this season. The forward was also named an alternate captain last season and will lead the team this year as well.

Amateur

Top Amateur Prospect
Mark Friedman, D, Bowling Green State University (WCHA)

Mark Friedman is one of many defensemen the Flyers have in their depth chart, and he’s not high on the list. But Friedman, a sophomore, is Philadelphia’s best amateur prospect. This season, Friedman is one of several underclassmen on a very young Bowling Green defense. While Friedman’s offense should improve this year, so should his defense.

Transitioning to the college level can be difficult for defensemen who are playing against older, stronger and faster players, but Friedman adjusted well. As a rookie, Friedman earned major minutes each night. He also showed his offensive talent, recording 19 points. Friedman was named Bowling Green’s co-Rookie of the Year and earned a spot on the WCHA All-Rookie Team.

Freshman to Watch
Matej Tomek, G, University of North Dakota (NCHC)

Tomek was recruited to play at North Dakota by Dave Hakstol, who now coaches the Flyers. Philadelphia took Tomek in this year’s NHL draft, one of three goaltenders chosen. North Dakota had one of the best netminders in the league in Zane MacIntyre, but MacIntyre chose professional hockey after last year. That leaves North Dakota with a goaltending spot three players can fill. While Tomek is the youngest, he still has a chance to win the starting job.

It will be a tough transition for Tomek, who played in the NAHL last season. He finished with a .928 save-percentage and 1.83 goals-against average while being named the NAHL Goaltender of the year. He also represented Slovakia at the U18 World Junior Championship.

Unsigned for 2016-17
Reece Willcox, D, Cornell University (ECAC)`

Wilcox is entering his senior season at Cornell. He’s shown steady improvement while playing for the Big Red, and has taken one of the top spots on the defense. With no Joakim Ryan on the blueline this year, Wilcox’s role will increase. The senior is known more for his steady defensive game then for offensive help, and he’s totaled 16 points through 87 games for Cornell.

He also missed playing time last season, only appearing in 21 games. This is Wilcox’s last year with Cornell, and his play will determine if he signs with the Flyers. The past year was also difficult for Cornell and this season might be as well, but Willcox’s solid presence on defense should help.

Europe

Top European Prospect
David Kase, C, Pirati Chomutov (Czech)

David Kase was another player selected in the 2015 NHL Draft. He was picked in the fifth round, but has the tools to be better than expected. Kase’s 5-foot-9 frame is the biggest question mark and the reason Kase dropped so far. But the Czech forward can create space for his teammates and has played in penalty kill situations.

Kase spent much of last season in the Czech2 league playing for Pirati Chomutov. Over 30 games, the forward finished with 14 points. He also captained the Czech team at the U18 World Junior tournament, finishing with five points in four games. In the World Junior Championships, Kase recorded one point over four games. This season, Kase has been bumped up to the Pirati Chomutov of the Czech league.

First-year Pro to Watch
Ivan Fedotov, G, Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk (KHL)

Fedotov was the last goaltender the Flyers chose in the 2015 NHL Draft. His biggest asset is a 6-foot-6 frame, and GM Ron Hextall called Fedotov a sleeper in the draft. He was impressive in the MHL last season, posting a 1.95 goals-against average and .911 save percentage over 41 games. While his numbers were not as good in his KHL debut, the goaltender will join Neftekhimik Nizhnekamsk in the league this season.

Fedotov is last on Philadelphia’s goaltending depth chart, but mostly because he did not get much national attention. Playing in the KHL will be a challenge for Fedotov, who has to fight for playing time, but the jump in level of competition will reveal a lot about Fedotov’s play.

Bounceback Prospect
Felix Sandstrom, G, Brynas (SHL)

Sandstrom was a top prospect for the draft, but his stock fell due to a series of injuries and illnesses that forced him to miss playing time. Overall, Sandstrom played in 20 games last season over various levels with Brynas. Much of his time was spent with Brynas IF J20, where he recorded a .901 save percentage over 14 games. Sandstrom also represented Sweden at the U18 World Junior Championships, where he put together a .909 save percentage and 3.31 goals-against average over four games.

While Sandstrom didn’t play much in the SHL last year, he was impressive in his debut. The goaltender brings a 6-foot-2 frame and a quick style of play. But there is still much playing time at a higher level to see what kind of goaltender he can be and if he can handle the pressure. If he can stay away from the injuries, Sandstrom should be able to prove that he was a steal in the draft.