Future Flyers Report: Nolan Patrick and the World Junior Championships

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AP Images

Future Flyers Report: Nolan Patrick and the World Junior Championships

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.

Nolan Patrick, C, 19, 6-2/198, Flyers (NHL)
You might be asking yourself why you’re seeing Patrick’s name in a report about future Flyers. Patrick made the team out of camp and certainly will not be going back to junior, but with the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship approaching, one has to ask if Patrick should be permitted to participate. At 19 years old, Patrick remains eligible for the tournament.

Last Wednesday, Hockey Canada invited 32 players, including Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart, to its selection camp, which takes place Dec. 12-15. Patrick, along with five other NHLers eligible for Canada, were not invited, but NHL teams have until Dec. 19, which is also the NHL’s holiday break roster freeze, to loan players to Team Canada.

Now back to Patrick. On Sunday afternoon, general manager Ron Hextall said the Flyers will not loan Patrick to Team Canada. Since we know the final decision, let's evaluate what the Flyers had to weigh.

1) Patrick’s role with the Flyers
The Flyers have four games during the WJCs, which begin Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 5, 2018. Canada has two pre-tournament games on Dec. 20 and Dec. 22, and if Patrick were permitted to participate, the Flyers would have been without him for seven games. While the Flyers are in a bigger rebuild than expected, they’re not tanking by any means.

Patrick is centering the Flyers’ fourth line with Travis Konecny and Dale Weise. Both Patrick and Konecny’s ice times have dropped during the Flyers’ successful three-game Western Canada trip. We saw Dave Hakstol shorten his bench as he attempted to protect leads and stop the Flyers’ bleeding. In the now, it was the right decision.

The Flyers snapped a 10-game losing streak last Monday in Calgary and then went on to beat Edmonton and Vancouver. Patrick had just two shifts in the third period in Calgary and three Wednesday night in Edmonton. Thursday, in Vancouver, was an improvement in both ice time and play. Still, he played fourth-line minutes.

“Patrick’s 19 years old. He’s a kid,” Hextall said last week. “I know people want more out of him. We want more out of him, but he’s a 19-year-old. People think because a kid’s got a big name, he’s drafted high, he’s going to come into the league and bang, he’s going to make an instant impact."

2) Would Patrick benefit from participating in the tournament?
It’s an interesting question and it's one many wishes would have an easy answer. But it’s not as easy as anyone would have liked it to be. Patrick hasn’t had the impact many hoped he would, and could benefit from a brief period against his peers.

Before Patrick suffered a suspected concussion, he was flashing his playmaking ability that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, even though he played in just 33 games in his draft year because of two different core muscle injuries. Since returning from his suspected concussion Nov. 16, Patrick still hasn’t had the influence many want to see from him. There have been good games — Nov. 24 against the Islanders was his best thus far in the NHL. But there have been bad games too — Dec. 2 against Boston and last Monday in Calgary stand out the most.

We can argue Patrick is being misused because of his recent ice time, that playing him an average of 8:55 the past three games doesn’t help his development. But that would ignore Patrick has received ample opportunity. Patrick averaged 12:23 in the eight games prior — all losses — and his play didn’t warrant more minutes. There is a fine line between winning and developing, and when the Flyers were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, Dave Hakstol had to do something. Shortening his bench during the three games in Western Canada wasn’t bad coaching; in fact, it was the opposite.

Patrick doesn’t look like a confident player right now. His advanced metrics are a mess. He has just two goals and six points in 20 games. The truth is, he hasn’t played much competitive hockey over the past year because of his injuries. The World Junior Championships are as competitive as junior hockey gets. Patrick missed last year’s tournament because of injury.

While sending Patrick back to Brandon is still an option — the Flyers have already burned one year of his entry-level contract — it’s not a realistic one. The Flyers felt Patrick proved himself NHL ready in the preseason, and what Patrick needs is to be challenged. Dominating teenagers in the WHL will not help his development.

But the WJCs is a different animal. It’s a collection of the best under-20 players in the world playing for their countries. The competition is as high as it gets in that age group. In that environment, Patrick could have proved to be a man among boys, but he would face a far more competitive atmosphere than he would in the WHL. It would have offered him a chance to regain some confidence and come back to the Flyers with a morale boost.

Conclusion
We know the Flyers are not sending Patrick to the WJCs. It's another sign the Flyers are committed to being as competitive as they can be while they rebuild. Patrick, even in his struggles, is better than the alternative. It's also an indication the Flyers want Patrick in the NHL and learn from what he's going through right now. Patrick needs to be challenged, and since he's not eligible for the AHL, this is what's best for him.

Quick hits
• Another week, another shutout for Hart. Hart picked up his fifth shutout of the year and his 24th career shutout Friday with a 39-save effort in Everett’s 3-0 win over Spokane.

Hart has won his past nine games, including four last week. He allowed two goals in three games last week. Hart is simply unbeatable right now in the WHL.

• With his hat trick Saturday night, Western Michigan winger Wade Allison is now second in the nation with 14 goals and third in the country with 25 points. Allison also had an assist against Miami Saturday night, and another helper Friday night.

Cooper Marody had three assists Thursday night in Michigan’s 4-0 win over Michigan State. Marody has 20 assists, second in the nation. He’s averaging 1.5 points per game.

Morgan Frost had two more multi-point games last week. His seven-game multi-point streak ended Sunday, but his point streak hit eight games with an assist. During his seven-game multi-point streak, Frost gathered 14 points. He has 43 points in his last 23 games, 33 points in his last 17 games, leads the OHL as a plus-33, second in the OHL with 32 assists and third with 47 points.

Tanner Laczynski helped No. 15 Ohio State sweep No. 7 Minnesota. Laczynski had a goal Friday, and a goal and an assist Saturday. He has 23 points in 18 games this year.

• Acadie-Bathurst center German Rubtsov had a goal and an assist in two games last week. Rubtsov is riding a four-game point streak with the Titan.

Oskar Lindblom had a two-goal week last week. He has six goals and 15 points in 26 games with the Phantoms.

• It was a pretty productive week for Phantoms center Mikhail Vorobyev, who scored Wednesday and had a goal and an assist Saturday night.

Olle Lycksell, while loaned to IK Oskarshamn for two games, had a must-see shootout dangle last Tuesday. Lycksell had an assist and scored twice in the shootout.

• Guelph’s Isaac Ratcliffe had four assists in three games last week.

Linus Högberg has made Team Sweden’s preliminary roster for the WJCs.

Future Flyers Report: Honors, shutouts and more for Carter Hart

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Honors, shutouts and more for Carter Hart

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.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
While nothing is going right for the Flyers at the NHL level, there’s plenty to be optimistic about down on the farm, which many fans don’t want to hear. The hard truth is, the Flyers’ rebuild is bigger than we originally believed and the team can't hide it anymore.

One of the bright spots is Hart, who picked up three honors last week. Hart was named the WHL Goaltender of the Month for November, the WHL Goaltender of the Week and also the CHL Goaltender of the Week. His phenomenal play didn’t go unnoticed.

And Hart continued to be strong in net for the Silvertips last week. Hart stopped 32 of 33 shots Friday in Everett’s 3-1 win over Kamloops, and then pitched his fourth shutout of the season with a 30-save effort in a 3-0 win Saturday over Saskatoon. He’s been so good that even the Saskatoon Twitter account had some fun Saturday night.

All jokes aside, Hart’s numbers are ridiculous. The 19-year-old is tearing up the WHL and words are getting hard to describe it. Hart has won his last five starts and eight of his last nine starts. In his lone loss in his last nine games, he allowed two goals on 50 shots. Hart, in November, had a 1.29 goals-against average and a .960 save percentage. He allowed just 13 goals on the 326 shots he faced in the month.

This season, Hart leads the WHL with a 1.46 GAA, .956 save percentage and four shutouts, and he missed 12 games this season because of mono. Hart already has a CHL Goaltender of the Year award under his belt and probably should have won it again last season. If he keeps this up, it’ll be hard to not give him the award again. If he does get it, he’ll become the first goalie to win the award twice.

Asked about his goaltender prospects last Wednesday, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall told NBC Sports Philadelphia that the Flyers have “a couple kids out in junior and in Europe that we’re very high on but that’s in the distant future.”

You can bet Hart is one of those kids. Hart will be turning 20 in August and he’ll turn pro next season. The safe money is he’ll spend at least one year with the Phantoms, but we could be seeing him in the Flyers’ orange and black in 2019-20, though that is a very early prediction.

College prospects
The Flyers have a trio of collegiate prospects making noise — two in their sophomore campaigns and one in their junior season — and last week was another big week.

Let’s begin with Cooper Marody, who shined with three assists Saturday night for Michigan in an exhibition against the USNTDP U-18 team. The Wolverines won, 7-3.

Tanner Laczynski had a goal and two assists Friday night in No. 11 Ohio State’s 5-5 tie with Penn State. Laczynski was pointless in a 4-0 loss Saturday to the Nittany Lions.

And Wade Allison picked up his 11th goal of the season Friday night in No. 10 Western Michigan’s 4-3 loss to No. 6 North Dakota. Allison has 20 points in 17 games this year.

The three prospects are having huge seasons and rank among the best in the nation. Marody has 21 points, tied with four players for fourth in the country. Marody’s 17 assists are second in the nation. Allison and Laczynski each have 20 points, which are tied with two others for fifth in the country. Allison’s 11 goals are tied for third.

Marody is averaging 1.5 points per game, which is fifth in the country. Laczynski is at 1.25 points per game, while Allison is at 1.18 points per game. All three are in the top 20 in the country in that category. It’s been quite the season for these three players.

Quick hits
• Nothing to see from Sault Ste. Marie’s Morgan Frost last week except for another four-point game. Frost missed Friday because of breaking a team rule, but returned Sunday and recorded a two-point game.

Frost has 14 points in his last six games. He has 29 assists and 42 points in 28 games. He leads the OHL with a plus-29 rating and is sixth in points per game at 1.56.

Danick Martel had one assist in three games last week in Lehigh Valley after the Flyers returned him to the AHL.

• Dynamo St. Petersburg goalie Kirill Ustimenko has started 14 straight games and 23 of the team’s last 24 games. Ustimenko stopped 56 of 60 shots last week.

Ustimenko leads the MHL with five shutouts. In 28 games, Ustimenko has a 1.79 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.

• After a four-game pointless skid, Mike Vecchione has assists in back-to-back games. He’s third among AHL rookies with 14 assists and fifth in points with 20.

German Rubtsov picked up his third goal with Acadie-Bathurst on Friday night against Val-d'Or and had a two-assist game Sunday against Moncton. Rubtsov now has 11 points in 10 games since the Titan acquired him from Chicoutimi.

• Phantoms goalie Alex Lyon had one of his steadiest weeks this season, though it did include a blooper goal last Wednesday in a 3-0 loss to Binghamton.

Lyon then backstopped the Phantoms to a 7-2 win Friday over Hershey in the first game he’s allowed fewer than three goals since Nov. 8. (The Flyers last won a game Nov. 9.)

Oskar Lindblom had an assist in the Phantoms’ win Friday over Hershey. He has 13 points in 23 games but appears to be inching closer and closer to breaking out.

• Both Samuel Morin and Philippe Myers are out with injuries as the Phantoms’ blue line is quite banged up. It could be a while for both Morin and Myers to return.

Connor Bunnaman’s seven-game point streak ended Saturday. Bunnaman had an assist Wednesday. During the streak, he had seven assists and 10 points.

Matthew Strome had another solid week for Hamilton. Strome had a pair of helpers in the Bulldogs’ 4-3 win Thursday over Saginaw and then a goal and two assists Sunday in a 4-3 win over Mississauga. He has eight points in his last four games.

• Kelowna’s Carsen Twarynski had another big week but saw a five-game point streak end Saturday night. Twarynski had a hat trick last Wednesday and then a goal and assist Friday night. He had 10 points during his five-game point streak.

• Owen Sound winger Maksim Sushko had a three-goal, four-point week. He has 14 goals and 23 points in 25 games this season.

Wyatt Kalynuk had two assists Friday in No. 14 Wisconsin’s 5-4 loss to No. 7 Minnesota. Kalynuk, a freshman, leads the Badgers with 12 assists.

Future Flyers Report: Morgan Frost affirming it's too soon to judge Schenn trade

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USA Today Images/Aaron Bell

Future Flyers Report: Morgan Frost affirming it's too soon to judge Schenn trade

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.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
As the Flyers continue their spiral below mediocrity and toward just plain bad, it's easy to point to the Brayden Schenn trade as one of the downfalls of this regime.

It's even easier to look at Schenn's explosive start in St. Louis and the Flyers' glaring secondary scoring issues and say it was a mistake to trade Schenn. It's too soon for that. To understand the Schenn trade, we first have to ask ourselves if Schenn would be producing at the same rate here in Philly. I don't know if he would. Schenn was given ample opportunity here, and while he was a 25-goal scorer, he never took the next step.

The Flyers yanked him around the lineup, from center to wing, and they never found a spot for him. He was a power-play specialist last season and didn't look to be much more. Now he's in St. Louis, and he's finally showcasing the player many pegged him to be when he was drafted fifth overall in 2009 by the Kings. The breakup did Schenn well.

Schenn would certainly help the Flyers' secondary scoring woes. In a perfect world, he would have shown this type of production more consistently in a Flyers sweater. He didn't, and general manager Ron Hextall didn't think he had another level so he traded him for two first-round picks and Jori Lehtera on draft night in June.

One of those picks is Frost; the other first-round pick comes next June in what's considered a deep draft class. Lehtera was a salary dump by the Blues. It’s too soon to truly judge the Schenn trade, and Frost again reaffirmed this notion last week.

Frost had a monster week for Sault Ste. Marie, registering eight points in three games. He had a four-point game — one goal, three assists — in an 8-2 win Friday night over Kitchener. Then, on Saturday, he had two more assists in an 8-3 win over Peterborough.

He has 22 points in his last 12 games and 31 in his last 18. He’s averaging 1.44 points per game, leads the OHL in plus/minus with a plus-26 rating, is fifth in the league with 36 points and third with 24 assists.

The Schenn trade was more of a long-term play, another move by Hextall that suggests this is still a rebuilding process. Frost has proven to be a legitimate prospect worthy of a first-round selection. There is still another first-rounder to come of it, too.

It’s far from the right time to even consider judging this trade. Even when it is, all things considered, it still may make sense.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
It’s almost as if Hart never missed any time this season with mononucleosis.

Hart has been spectacular since returning Nov. 3, and last Wednesday, he broke Everett’s franchise record with his 22nd career shutout — a 43-save effort vs. Tri-City.

In his two other starts last week, Hart stopped 34 of 35 shots and 22 of 24 shots, as he’s won his last three games. In fact, he’s won six of his last seven starts. Since Nov. 3, Hart has three shutouts, a .960 save percentage and 1.30 goals-against average.

Despite missing time because of mono, Hart leads the WHL in GAA (1.63), save percentage (.951) and shutouts (three). And with the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships approaching, it’s a safe bet Hart will be back in net for Team Canada.

Matthew Strome, LW, 18, 6-3/201, Hamilton (OHL)
We haven’t talked much about Strome this season, but it’s not because of a lack of production. The 6-foot-3 winger is producing slightly above a point-per-game clip, and this past weekend, Strome produced one of the best goals we’ll see this season in all of hockey.

It was Hamilton’s fifth goal of a 6-2 win over the Ottawa 67’s and Strome’s second tally of the game. Strome also had an assist for a three-point game Saturday night. Strome has points in nine of his last 10 games, including three two-goal games and three three-point games. The 2017 fourth-round pick has 24 points in 23 games.

If Strome's skating improves, the Flyers very well have found a nice piece in the fourth round. Strome has good hockey sense and knows how to find the back of the net. He just needs to greatly improve his skating. He knows it. The Flyers know it too.

Quick Hits
• The numbers for Alex Lyon still are not pretty. Lyon started two of the Phantoms’ three games, and he continued to put up discouraging numbers. Lyon, in his second pro season, won a game and lost a game last week but gave up seven goals on 76 shots.

In his past seven games, Lyon has allowed 27 goals and has a .872 save percentage. He now has a 3.44 goals-against average and .894 save percentage in 14 starts.

• After a four-game pointless stretch, Oskar Lindblom broke out with points in his past two games. He had a goal and an assist Friday and then an assist Saturday night.

Philippe Myers had an assist last Wednesday, but was again injured Saturday. Myers did not play the third period or overtime against Bridgeport. Myers has missed six games this season with injuries. In 14 games, he has two goals and nine points.

• Western Michigan winger Wade Allison had a two-goal game Friday in the No. 11 Broncos’ 5-3 win over No. 18 Colgate. He now has 10 goals in 15 games this season.

Cooper Marody’s string of multi-point games ended Friday when he was held pointless (I double checked) in the first game of a home-and-home with No. 15 Ohio State.

It didn’t take long for Marody to get back on the scoresheet, however. Marody picked up an assist in No. 17 Michigan’s 5-1 loss to OSU on Saturday night.

Tanner Laczynski, after a slow start to his sophomore season, has produced at a consistent rate for No. 15 Ohio State. Laczynski had an assist in the Buckeyes’ win Friday, and then a goal and two assists in OSU’s 5-1 win over Michigan Saturday.

Laczynski leads OSU with 12 assists and 17 points. He’s riding a five-game point streak, recording eight points during that stretch. He has points in nine of his past 10 games after going pointless in his first four games of the season.

Isaac Ratcliffe is starting to heat up for the Guelph Storm. Ratcliffe saw his four-game goal streak end Sunday but has seven goals and 13 points in his last eight games. 

Pascal Laberge had a goal and an assist in four games last week for Victoriaville, but is suspended one game after receiving a game misconduct Saturday night.

• Kelowna’s Carsen Twarynski had a big week. Twarynski had five points in three games and is riding a three-game goal streak. He had a goal and two assists in the Rockets’ 4-0 win over Medicine Hat on Saturday with this shorthanded beauty:

Connor Bunnaman’s point streak reached six games Sunday. Bunnaman has nine points in his last six games, with three multi-point contests. 

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom remains out with a stomach issue. Sandstrom hasn’t played since Oct. 26.

Olle Lycksell tallied his second career SHL goal last Tuesday in Linköping’s 4-3 overtime win over Brynäs. Lycksell has two goals in eight games with Linköping.