A few highly-touted Philadelphia Flyers prospects have left the junior ranks to join the professional levels, joining the Phantoms in their first season at Lehigh Valley. Both Scott Laughton and Anthony Stolarz made the jump from major junior to the AHL in the offseason. Laughton is regarded as Philadelphia’s top prospect, while Stolarz is the team’s top goalkeeper prospect.
But the Flyers still have five prospects in major junior this season, including several recent 2014 NHL Draft picks. Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, three of the team’s top-10 prospects, headline the group. Fellow 2014 draftee Radel Fazleev is also in major junior, playing his second season in the WHL. Tyrell Goulbourne, a 2013 draft pick, is also in the WHL.
Travis Sanheim, D, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 1st round (17th overall), 2014
The Flyers added to their defensive depth when they drafted Sanheim in the first round. Sanheim was not ranked too highly in the beginning of last season, but the Flyers organization thinks he has a very high upside and potential. Last season, he struggled in the WHL. He recorded 29 points in 67 games and wasn’t having a memorable season. But just before the draft, Sanheim played well for Canada at the World Under-18 championship, where he netted six points in seven games.
With limited playing appearances at the time he was drafted, there was no question Sanheim needed more experience. He is in his second year with Calgary now and is on pace to surpass his rookie season totals – he already has 19 points through 24 games. His eight goals are more than his rookie season total.
Sanheim’s high development curve could bode well for the defenseman, who is projected to have an offensive upside. He is tall at 6’3, but needs more weight on his frame – and some more experience, which he should receive this season. The first-round draft pick, who sees the ice well, is a good puck-moving defenseman. Amongst other aspects, Sanheim needs to work on the defensive side of the game as he
Tyrell Goulbourne, LW, Kelowna Rockets
Acquired 3rd round (72nd overall), 2013
Goulbourne is one of Philadelphia’s CHL prospects who is not known for offensive production. He fits the gritty forward role, and his point total – and penalty minutes – reflect that. He has spent three full seasons with Kelowna in the WHL and has surpassed the 100 penalty minute mark in each of those seasons. His point totals have increased each year, and last season he finished with 37 points through 68 games.
He is known as an enforcer who likes to fight, and if he finds a role in Philadelphia’s system later on, it would be as a fourth-liner. Goulbourne enters his fourth full season with the Rockets, and so far is on pace to surpass his career point totals. He is averaging almost a point per game with 16 points through 18 games.
Radel Fazleev, LW, Calgary Hitmen
Acquired: 6th round (168th overall), 2014
The Flyers drafted a relatively unknown Radel Fazleev with their sixth-round pick. The Russian import was coming off a mediocre season in the WHL, where he recorded 25 points (five goals, 20 assists) through 38 games. But it was Fazleev’s first taste of the North American game, and he missed a portion of the season with an injury.
After returning from his injury, Fazleev used the WHL playoffs to show what kind of player he can be. He netted seven points in six playoff games, and showed his potential, provided he develops properly. If his end-of-season performance last year is any indication, Fazleev could be a sixth-round steal. So far this season supports that theory, and he is on pace to surpass last year’s totals. Fazleev has 20 points through 24 games.
Fazleev fits the mold of two-way player, and he is a versatile forward who can play well without a puck. The 6’0 forward is also known for making smart plays. There is much left to see of Fazleev, and this season with Calgary should give more hints of the type of player he could be. But early play indicates he can easily become one of Philadelphia’s top left wing prospects.
Samuel Morin, D, Rimouski Oceanic
Acquired: 1st round (11th overall), 2013
Morin was projected to be Philadelphia’s top junior prospect, but this season has not gotten off to a good start. He started the season with Rimouski because he is not eligible to play in the AHL yet, but after appearing in five games with Rimouski, Morin was hit by a slap shot and fractured his jaw. The incident took place on October 12th and he only recently returned to action, on November 22nd.
Injury aside, Morin has been developing well over the past few years. Last season, the defenseman recorded a career-high in points after netting 31 (seven goals and 24 assists) through 54 games. His seven goals were also a career high.
So far, Morin has shown he is a smart player. He is projected as a defensive defenseman and excels in a physical, shutdown role. With a little more development, especially on the offensive side, he should become a solid, shutdown defender in his own zone.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, Val-d’Or Foreurs
Acquired: 2nd round (48th overall), 2014
The season started well for Aube-Kubel, who signed an entry-level deal with Philadelphia in early October. He also played in a preseason game for the Flyers before he was returned to his junior club, the Val d’Or Foreurs. He was the first right wing drafted by the Flyers since 2011, and he is one of the team’s better forward prospects. Although there are several types of players the right wing can become, he will most likely find a role with the Flyers in the future.
So far this season, Aube-Kubel is averaging just below a point per game. He has 16 (nine goals, eight assists) through 20 games this season. It is his third year in the QMJHL, and should be a telling one. After only recording 27 points (10 goals, 17 assists) through 64 games in his rookie season with Val-d’Or, Aube-Kubel bounced back the next season for a career-high 53 points (22 goals, 31 assists) in 65 games.
Like Sanheim, Aube-Kubel is one of Philadelphia’s recent draft picks who already ranks within the top 10 of the team’s prospect pool. He is a two-way forward that plays with a lot of energy. His offensive game still needs improvement, but Aube-Kubel already brings a lot of skill and versatility and could develop into a scorer.
Philadelphia Flyers Top Performing Non-Junior Prospects: October
Philadelphia’s top prospect, Laughton, is in his first professional season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Laughton, a hard-working, two-way center, was not expected to produce offensively at a professional level, but so far he has. In 13 games this season, Laughton has 11 points. Taylor Leier is also with the Phantoms this season. In his first professional campaign, he has appeared in 16 games. Robert Hagg, also an AHL rookie, has 10 points in 16 games.
Shayne Gostisbehere also joined the Phantoms for his first professional season. He averaged a point per game with five assists in five contests and appeared in two games with the Flyers. Gostisbehere tore his ACL a few weeks ago and will miss several months, though the Flyers said he could return before the season’s end.
Mark Friedman has four points in his freshman season at Bowling Green, and has played in all 14 games. He has also started several games for the Falcons and has played on the first defensive pair.
Philadelphia Flyers Prospect of the Month: October
Scott Laughton has already made an impact in Philadelphia’s system. He is one of the AHL’s top scoring rookies with 11 points in 13 games, and his offensive production to date is more than expected of the two-way center. Originally, Laughton was expected to fit the gritty forward role the Flyers organization loves, but so far he is showing some skill that was not emphasized during his time with the Oshawa Generals. In addition to spending time on Lehigh Valley’s special teams, Laughton has also been the team’s top-line center this season. He was recently recalled to the NHL and has played in four games with the Flyers this season.