For an organization that has been recently ranked in the top five in terms of caliber of players and depth, there is much anticipation surrounding tonight's rookie game against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center.
This will serve as another test for many of the Flyers' prospects, who dominated at the junior level, to showcase their potential in a game in which their talent and skill level are comparable with their opponents. If you’re general manager Ron Hextall, you want to see players stand out and excel, because if they can’t elevate their game during a rookie game, they’ll obviously have a much tougher time when the veterans report Friday.
So, here are five guys to keep your eyes on for tonight’s rookie game, which can be streamed on the Flyers' official website:
German Rubtsov, No. 63, C
Go back to the 2016 NHL draft and the Flyers had some big, skilled wingers to choose from: Kieffer Bellows, Julien Gauthier, Max Jones and Riley Tufte. Instead, Hextall elected to trade down and select Rubtsov, a natural center who was moved to left wing last season with the Saguenéens of the QMJHL after coming over from Russia midseason. He seemed to adjust without much of a problem. While his quickest route to the NHL may be on the wing, Rubtsov will be centering Oskar Lindblom and Pascal Laberge, two very talented wingers, tonight. This trio could very well be the Flyers' most productive line and I expect they’ll have a number of quality scoring chances.
Oskar Lindblom, No. 54, LW
Hextall's quote following Day 1 of his very first draft as the Flyers' GM was, “We need to hit some home runs with our later picks.” It's one that has been branded into my brain, and Lindblom may be the Flyers' equivalent to the Phillies' Rhys Hoskins. A 2014 fifth-round pick (138th overall), Lindblom could be that home run hitter. Dave Hakstol commented on Lindblom's high hockey IQ, lightning quick release and a player ready to compete with the big boys. Lindblom needs to show he can be dominant at times during this rookie game.
Carter Hart, No. 79, G
Unless you watched the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships, you probably haven't seen an entire game from Hart, who has been one of the most consistent and steady goaltenders in the CHL playing for the Everett Silvertips of the Western Hockey League. Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon commented on how fundamentally sound Hart is with positioning and structure inside the crease. The first netminder selected in the 2016 draft, Hart also possesses a maturity and deep knowledge of the goaltending position as he’s spent time studying former Vezina Trophy winners Carey Price and Braden Holtby over the years. You can expect Hart to split time tonight with Alex Lyon, and I’m intrigued to see how composed he’ll be in a game like this.
Phil Myers, No. 61, D
What separates Myers from Shayne Gostisbehere, Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Ivan Provorov? He’s right-handed, and having a right-handed shot has been a real need for the Flyers on their blueline. That doesn’t mean you rush Myers to the NHL level, but it will eventually create some much-needed balance. Myers said he has brought a tremendous amount of confidence into camp, and physically, he has developed as he has filled out over the past year. The emphasis for Myers has been to simplify his game and not think as much, and I think we’ll see that paired with Sanheim tonight.
Morgan Frost, No. 68, C
With three drafts under his belt, it appears Hextall and his scouting staff prefer 18-year-olds who are maybe more developed mentally than they are physically. Frost would fit that description, as the front office raves about his hockey sense, overall intelligence and his ability to incorporate his teammates. While he doesn’t have an explosive offensive game, he’s responsible defensively and reads plays well in the defensive zone. He has the frame of a typical 18-year-old but that will come over time as he continues to develop, adding size and muscle. Plus, don’t you want to get a glimpse of who the Flyers selected in the Brayden Schenn deal?
Oskar Lindblom-German Rubtsov-Pascal Laberge
Connor Bunnaman-Nolan Patrick-Maksim Sushko
Carsen Twarynski-Mikhail Vorobyev-Ivan Kosorenkov
Isaac Ratcliffe-Morgan Frost-Matthew Strome
Travis Sanheim-Phil Myers
Sam Morin-Mark Friedman
Frank Hora-James de Haas