Cooper Marody

2 Flyers prospects have grown by 'leaps and bounds'

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2 Flyers prospects have grown by 'leaps and bounds'

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Mikhail Vorobyev, C, 21, 6-2/207, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Vorobyev returned to action last week after missing more than a month with an undisclosed injury. Vorobyev recorded an assist in his first game back Friday night in Lehigh Valley’s 5-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It was the Russian’s first game since Dec. 12. He was pointless in the Phantoms’ 3-2 OT loss Saturday to Utica.

“He’s another guy that is leaps and bounds from where he was at the start of the year,” Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon told NBC Sports Philadelphia last week. “It was disappointing that he got hurt when he did because he was starting to come into his own, starting to get more confidence in how he needed to play over here in a smaller rink and the spacing of it and not playing a perimeter game and getting more to the net.”

Samuel Morin, D, 22, 6-7/202, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Morin’s latest injury forced the hulking defenseman to miss the Phantoms’ final three games before the AHL All-Star break. He's appeared in just 15 games this season because of injuries, and his most recent injury came at a time he was “playing more like the Sam that we’ve seen — that was encouraging,” Gordon said.

“It’s going to get taken care of and Sam is going to get himself back into playing shape and play the type of hockey we know that he can play,” Gordon said, “and the type of hockey that’s going to give him success in the NHL.

"The kid's game is about intimidation as far as that presence of 6-foot-7. He's got a mean edge to him when he plays. That part of the game is easy for him. What I was happy about was, his playmaking decisions with the puck in the last three games. That was something you're constantly, as a defenseman, want to get better at."

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Lindblom tallied his 13th goal of the season in the Phantoms’ final game before the break Saturday night. Gordon spoke highly of the Swedish winger’s growth throughout his first full season in North America. Gordon noted that Lindblom’s six-game pointless streak to begin the year was mostly bad luck. Lindblom has 29 points in 45 games.

"The thing that's been really impressive is,' Gordon said, "the puck started going in, but how much stuff he started creating on his own. Being in a battle with two guys and coming out with the puck. A puck that looks like it's going to get poked off his stick, he somehow manages to keep it on his stick and then makes the next play from there.

"I knew Oskar from when he was over here two years ago," Gordon said, "but I didn't know how strong he was in his battle, compete level on loose pucks in one-on-one battles. That to me, out of all of our forwards, he's head and shoulders over everybody and as a result, a lot of his offense comes from stuff like that. He makes plays to his linemates that other players might not get the opportunity because they don't even get to start with the puck because they can't compete and battle the way he does."

Quick hits
Felix Sandstrom remains on loan to IK Oskarshamn of the Allsvenskan. He has a .914 save percentage and 2.65 goals-against average in four games with Oskarshamn.

• Phantoms center Mike Vecchione has a three-game goal streak and a four-game point streak. Here is Vecchione’s goal Saturday night that extended his goal streak.

• After his 20-game point streak ended, Sault Ste. Marie’s Morgan Frost has ignited another. He had a seven-point week in three games and has points in his last four games. He leads the OHL plus/minus (51) and is second in points (79) assists (51).

Isaac Ratcliffe (Guelph) had a monster game Friday against Flint, registering his first career OHL hat trick and picking up an assist. He’s up to 26 goals in 46 games.

Carter Hart’s 13-game winning streak ended in Everett’s 3-2 shootout loss Saturday night to Seattle. Hart leads the WHL in GAA (1.51) and save percentage (.953).

• Acadie-Bathurst forward German Rubtsov missed two games last week but returned Friday with a goal and an assist. Rubtsov has 23 points in 23 games with the Titan and 34 points in 34 games overall this season.

Pascal Laberge stayed hot last week for Quebec, picking up two assists Saturday and extending his point streak to five games. That streak ended Sunday. He has 10 points in his past 11 games.

• Michigan’s Cooper Marody, who was among the initial Hobey Baker nominees, is pointless in his past four games.

Tanner Laczynski extended his point streak to 10 games last week. He has 15 points during his current streak and is tied for third in the country with 36 points this season.

Carter Hart elevates game on biggest stage

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Carter Hart elevates game on biggest stage

As the Flyers’ bye weeks gets underway today, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Carter Hart, 19, G, 6-1/177, Canada
Canada is back on top of the junior world, and Hart is one reason why. Hart starred during the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, and when you thought the hype machine couldn’t get louder, he elevated his game to another level on the biggest stage.

It’s hard to remember a Flyers goaltending prospect creating this much buzz, both locally and nationally, but Hart is genuinely one of the most intriguing junior goalies of the last decade. What he’s doing for Everett in the WHL is remarkable, and he redeemed himself in the world juniors after a heartbreaking loss in the 2017 games.

Hart saved his best for last, turning aside 35 shots in Canada’s 3-1 win Friday over Sweden to capture gold and was named the player of the game. He allowed just 11 goals on 156 shots in seven games, lost once, posted a .930 save percentage and had a shutout. He said he needed to be better before the gold medal game and he was.

Over the next few weeks, months and years, the excitement will continue to grow until Hart suits up as a Flyer. It’s hard to put a concrete timeline on when we could be seeing Hart occupying the pipes at the Wells Fargo Center, but as he turns pro next season at 20 years old, it’s a safe bet that he’ll reach the NHL level in 2019-20 when he’s 21 (see story).

Maksim Sushko, RW, 18, 6-0/179, Belarus
Perhaps one of the under-the-radar prospects at the world juniors, Sushko proved himself the cream of Belarus’ junior crop. Sushko, the Flyers' 2017 fourth-round pick, led Belarus with six assists and eight points in six games. He accounted for nearly 22 percent of Belarus' scoring, and he caught Flyers GM Ron Hextall's attention.

"He's a big player on that team. They don't have a ton of ability," Hextall said, "so he plays a big role, probably a bigger role than he would play with another country. He was playing 24 to 26 minutes. Too much for a forward but he's a big guy, a thick guy that can skate. He's got good sense. He's not going to be that type of player at the pro level."

Hextall said Sushko projects to be "more of a two-way guy that's not expected to score" in the pros. Still, Sushko made an impact and that's all the Flyers could have asked for.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 6-0/180, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
The Greyhounds’ 23-game winning streak came to an end last Thursday, but Frost’s point streak stayed alive. Frost extended his streak two games. The 18-year-old accumulated 24 assists and 37 points over his 17-game point streak. He leads the OHL in points (65), assists (41) and plus/minus (plus-46).

College update
Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski had a four-point weekend against Michigan State and now leads the Buckeyes with 10 goals, 19 assists and 29 points.

Cooper Marody stayed hot for Michigan. The junior registered an assist in the Wolverines’ 2-1 loss to No. 2 Notre Dame on Friday. He was pointless Sunday but now has 29 points. Both Marody and Laczynski are two points shy of the NCAA point lead.

Quick hits
• Good news for Felix Sandstrom. Sandstrom is healthy after missing two months injured. He’s been loaned from Brynäs IF to IK Oskarshamn to ease him back in.

• Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon was strong again last week in his one start. Lyon stopped 35 of 37 shots Friday night in Lehigh Valley’s 3-2 overtime loss to Toronto. He has a .944 save percentage in three games since returning to the Phantoms on Dec. 26.

Oskar Lindblom scored his 12th goal of the year Friday, which brought his goal streak to three games. That ended Saturday, however. He has 12 points in his last 12 games.

Pascal Laberge tallied his first two goals as a Rempart on Friday. He picked up an assist Sunday. He has two goals and three points in six games since his trade to Quebec.

• Hamilton’s Matthew Strome saw his nine-game point streak end Friday night. Strome recorded nine goals and 13 points during his point streak. Strome added a goal Sunday.

Carsen Twarynski had a three-point game Wednesday and a goal Friday. He now has 27 goals and 43 points in 37 games for the Kelowna Rockets.

Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

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Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

With the Christmas break upon us and the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships getting underway Tuesday, welcome to a special edition of our Future Flyers Report.

Similar to what we did in this space last season, we’ll look at the biggest surprise and disappointment on the prospect front, as well provide a primer for the WJCs.

Biggest surprise: Cooper Marody
This title could go to any one of the Flyers’ three collegiate prospects who are in the top-12 of the nation in scoring, but we’re handing it to Marody, a junior at Michigan.

Marody, after missing parts of his freshman season with mono and then sitting out the first semester of his sophomore campaign because of academic ineligibility, has been the epitome of consistency, as he’s among the best playmakers in college hockey.

The centerman leads Michigan with 20 assists and 24 points in 16 games. Marody’s 20 helpers are second to only Notre Dame senior Jake Evans’ 21 assists, and his 1.5 points per game average are second to only Canisius junior Dylan McLaughlin’s 1.67.

He has nine multi-point games — five two-point contests and four three-point matches. In conference play, Marody has dominated too. His 18 points, 10 assists, and 1.8 points per game average leads the Big Ten. He should be in the Hobey Baker conversation.

As smooth as this season has gone for Marody, it hasn’t exactly been without bumps. According to The Michigan Daily, Marody’s early-season practice habits did not meet the standard of Michigan head coach Mel Pearson. So Pearson and Marody met. That meeting helped spark Marody, who had just one point in the first four games. After Pearson sat him down, Marody has exploded for 23 points in 12 games.

With Marody breaking out, the Flyers have excitement brewing at the collegiate ranks. Marody joins Western Michigan sophomore Wade Allison (14 goals, 25 points) and Ohio State sophomore Tanner Laczynski (15 assists, 23 points) as college prospects worth watching going forward. If there is anything the Penguins have proven over the past two seasons, it’s that college players can be integral pieces to a Cup team.

Biggest disappointment: Alex Lyon
With Anthony Stolarz out with a torn left meniscus and no return in sight, Lyon had a prime opportunity to separate himself from Stolarz on the Flyers’ depth chart this year.

So far, not so good for Lyon, who is actually with the Flyers backing up Brian Elliott while Michal Neuvirth recovers from a lower-body injury. All signs point to Neuvirth returning after the holiday break, which means Lyon should return to the Phantoms this week.

Lyon has struggled mightily in his second professional season, despite having a solid showing with the Flyers during the preseason. In 16 games, Lyon has a .894 save percentage and a 3.31 goals-against average with no shutouts. He does have an 8-6-1 record, but judging goaltenders on wins and losses doesn't do justice for evaluation purposes.

The numbers are an eyesore. He's allowed fewer than three goals just six times. With injuries ravaging the Phantoms' blue line, it might be unfair to pinpoint all of this on Lyon. There have been games in which he's stood on his head or made the saves when it counted most. But for a goalie with a ton to play for, we can write this up as a missed opportunity.

With both Lyon and Stolarz on one-year contracts and at least one of the Flyers' younger goalie prospects turning pro or coming overseas next season, Lyon must establish himself again post-Christmas.

2018 IIHF World Junior Championships 

Flyers prospects: Carter Hart, Team Canada; German Rubtsov, Team Russia; Linus Högberg, Team Sweden; and Maksim Sushko, Team Belarus.

Player to watch: Carter Hart, Team Canada
The Flyers have just four prospects competing in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, which begin Tuesday in Buffalo, New York. Compared to last year’s tournament when the Flyers had nine prospects competing, the tourney might not be as exciting to Flyers fans. But there is still plenty reason to tune in and here’s why.

Hart very well may be the best junior goaltender of this decade, and when it’s all said and done, the 19-year-old could finish his WHL career as one of the best junior goalies ever. While no goalie has ever won the CHL Goaltender of the Year award twice, if Hart misses out on the honor again this season, it would be highway robbery. He should have won it for the second time last season, but the award went elsewhere.

Now, Hart goaltends for Team Canada for the second straight year. This time around, the net appears Hart's to lose. Sure, we might see Colton Point in a game or two, but when it matters most, expect Hart to be the goalie of record. It's a great opportunity to watch Hart, who may be the Flyers' best goalie prospect ever.

Where and how to watch
We'll provide the preliminary round schedule and how to watch. If you're in Canada, you can stream the games on TSN GO, but TSN's streaming service only works in Canada.

Team Canada
Dec. 26: vs. Finland, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Slovakia, 7 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. United States, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Denmark, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Russia
Dec. 26: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 29 at 6 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Belarus, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Sweden, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Sweden
Dec. 26: vs. Belarus, airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Czech Republic, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 31 at 7 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Russia, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Belarus
Dec. 26: vs. Sweden; airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Russia, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network