Isaac Ratcliffe

Future Flyers Report: Trying to make sense of the Oskar Lindblom cut

Future Flyers Report: Trying to make sense of the Oskar Lindblom cut

The Flyers’ season opens Wednesday night in San Jose, and while a few members of this report have graduated to the NHL, one did not.

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects. The Phantoms’ season kicks off Friday night, but we’ll touch on the one player who somewhat surprisingly is headed to Lehigh Valley.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Many expected Lindblom to make the Flyers in his first season in North America, and despite flashing positives in training camp and preseason, the Swede failed to do so.

Let’s try to make sense as to why Lindblom didn’t make it. Throughout the preseason, Lindblom showed his defensive play was most certainly NHL ready. The advanced metrics tilted in his favor too. He was consistently one of the best Flyers in possession.

What may have cost Lindblom was the offense didn’t blossom right away. Lindblom scored his first goal in his last game last Tuesday on a deflection against the Rangers. Overall against New York, I thought he was excellent but it proved to be too late.

"Oskar did a good job in camp and it's the one thing you try to punctuate with young players," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Sunday. "You didn't fail. You had a good camp, but right now, the best thing for you and the team is for you to go up there and play well.

"Oskar is a good player and American League time hasn't hurt one player in the history of professional hockey. When you say high expectations, you are also talking about the kid who came from the big rink, played extremely well, but came from a big rink and all of a sudden, you get into a smaller rink with big guys, fast guys. Oskar played well."

Another potential reason why Lindblom is headed to Lehigh Valley could be his skating, a theory laid out by hockey guru Bill Meltzer, who tweeted Saturday afternoon “word on Lindblom is [he] still needs to work on his feet: quicker Point A to point B at NHL pace.”

This theory makes sense. Lindblom’s biggest knock in his draft year was his skating, an area he’s improved greatly in Sweden since 2014. There is an adjustment to the North American game, and it appears the Flyers want him to work on it with the Phantoms.

"He did a lot of good things," Hextall said of Lindblom. "He didn't produce the way he is capable of — maybe even getting in the proper spots and stuff, and again, he didn't play poorly. … There are a lot of things involved, but usually, young players, when you have to get down to the roster of 23, they have to push you and he pushed us, just not far enough."

Anyway, Lindblom will be a Phantom to start the season. It’s important to note Claude Giroux, in his first pro season in 2008-09, didn’t make the Flyers out of camp but forced his way back by dominating the AHL. Giroux was in the NHL after the Christmas break.

Lindblom had a strong enough camp to survive until the final cuts. How long he stays in Allentown will be dictated by injuries on the big club and how much he asserts himself in the AHL. I do believe we’ll see Lindblom back with the Flyers at some point this season.

"When you are the last player sent down," Hextall said, "that should tell you something right there. Go up there and play well. Call-ups, there is always a fit, but if the fit is you make sure it is you that we are looking at … I am sure Oskar will do that."

Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, 18, 6-6/205, Guelph (OHL)
After a quiet opening weekend for the Storm, Ratcliffe had a productive two games this past weekend. Ratcliffe picked up three points and 10 shots on goal in two games. On Friday night, the 2017 second-round pick had his first two-point game of the season.

In the Storm’s 5-4 win over the Oshawa Generals, Ratcliffe picked up a secondary assist on the Garrett McFadden’s first-period power-play goal. About 10 minutes later, the winger found the back of the net for his first marker of the campaign. Ratcliffe glided into the high slot off the rush before beating Logan Gauthier’s glove with a quick shot.

On Saturday night, Ratcliffe picked up his second goal of the season midway through the second period of Guelph’s 6-3 win over the Saginaw Spirit on a wraparound. Ratcliffe also had a double-minor in the third period for interference and roughing.

Ratcliffe was a minus-4 after his first two games but had a plus-1 weekend. Through four games, he’s a minus-3 with 19 shots on goal and three points. He’s a bit of project with raw skills that 10 years ago would have seen him go in the first round. Still, the Flyers liked Ratcliffe enough to trade up to draft him with the 35th overall pick in June.

Quick hits
• It was a pretty busy weekend for Victoriaville’s Pascal Laberge, who scored in back-to-back games, both power-play goals, and picking up six penalty minutes.

Matthew Strome had goals in back-to-back games Friday and Saturday for Hamilton. He had an assist Sunday. Strome’s goal Friday night was an easy tap-in.

Morgan Frost had a two-assist game Sunday for Sault Ste. Marie after going pointless his previous two games. Known for his hockey smarts, Frost had six penalty minutes in the Greyhounds' 2-1 win over North Bay on Friday.

Anthony Salinitri had a two-assist game in Sarnia’s 6-2 win over the Kingston Frontenacs on Saturday night and then a three-assist effort Sunday against Ottawa.

• Owen Sound’s Maksim Sushko had a two-point weekend. Sushko had an assist in a 4-3 win over Kitchener on Friday and his first goal Saturday in a 6-4 win over Mississauga.

German Rubtsov has yet to play for Chicoutimi this season because of paperwork. Per Jonathan Hudon, those issues should be cleared up this week.

Carter Hart made his first start of the season Friday night, stopping 35 of 38 shots in a 4-3 Everett win over Kelowna. He came in relief Saturday night, turning away 22 of 25 shots in the Silvertips’ 5-4 loss to the Tri-City Americans.

Olle Lycksell scored his first goal Sunday for the Linköping HC J20 team.

• In two games last week, Felix Sandstrom stopped 59 of 63 shots for Brynäs IF.

David Kase had another two-point game for Mora IK last week, picking up a goal and an assist in a 5-2 loss to Färjestad BK on Saturday.

Future Flyers Report: Still questioning the Morgan Frost draft pick?

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Aaron Bell/NBCSP/USA Today Images

Future Flyers Report: Still questioning the Morgan Frost draft pick?

Welcome back to the return of the Future Flyers Report, a weekly column tracking the development of the Flyers’ prospects. This year, we’ll try some new tricks along the way.

We’re nine days out from the Flyers’ season opener, and when preseason ends, it’s expected that a few mainstays of this report from years past will graduate to the NHL. That’s OK. As the Flyers enter their youth movement, we’ll continue evaluating their first-year players with weekly reports on their progress throughout their rookie seasons.

The CHL opened its regular season last week, and international leagues have been underway since earlier this month. As hockey season returns, let’s dig into the future.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Think back to draft night in June, when the Flyers traded Brayden Schenn to the Blues and then used the 27th overall pick on Frost. Not many knew who Frost was, and the projections had the centerman as a second-round pick. Fans reacted as such on social media, without ever seeing Frost play. I didn’t know too much about the player when the Flyers drafted him, but all the reports were positive and I immediately thought of the Travis Sanheim draft. It’s too early to say Frost will rise to that level of prospect, but he showed in development camp the hockey smarts and playmaking ability that drew the Flyers to him.

Frost had an explosive start to the season this weekend, especially Saturday night in the Greyhounds' season opener against Oshawa, a 7-4 loss. He picked up two assists in Sault Ste. Marie's loss, but his first helper was a dandy. Frost found Tim Gettinger open in the faceoff circle across the ice, through multiple defenders with a slap-pass and Gettinger finished with the goal. On Sunday night, Frost followed up with a shorthanded penalty shot for his first tally of the season.

It was exactly the type of start you'd want to see from Frost, who was sort of a riser in his draft class. It's his third season in the OHL, and you want to see a leap offensively from him. He got off to a strong start this weekend.

Felix Sandstrom, G, 20, 6-2/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
One of the Flyers’ top goalie prospects, Sandstrom was expected to miss the start of the season because of a simple laparoscopic procedure, but the procedure was postponed. Sandstrom made his first start Thursday, stopping 29 of 32 shots in Brynäs’ 4-2 loss to HV71. With Oskar Lindblom, German Rubtsov and Mikhail Vorobyev in North America, Sandstrom is the most intriguing international prospect in the Flyers’ system. It’s a safe bet he’ll be the top-selling international flavor of this report this year.

Connor Bunnaman, C, 19, 6-1/207, Kitchener (OHL)
Before the Rangers’ first game Friday against Flint, Bunnaman was named the 53rd captain in Kitchener history, replacing Frank Hora, who is with the Phantoms on an AHL contract. Bunnaman joins Mike Richards (2003-05) and Bill Barber (1971-72) as Flyers draft picks who wore the ‘C’ with the Rangers. Paul Evans, who was drafted by the Kings but later played for the Flyers, was the Rangers’ captain in 1973-74. Bunnaman also played in his 200th career OHL game Friday night, recording three shots and no points in a 5-3 Rangers loss. He was highly effective in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over Sarnia on Saturday night with five shots on goal, his first assist and a plus-three rating.

Anthony Salinitri, C, 19, 5-11/170, Sarnia (OHL)
This is an important season for Salinitri if he wants to earn an entry-level contract with the Flyers. This will be the Flyers’ final season of holding Salinitri’s rights before having to decide to either sign him or let him go. They elected not to sign Sam Dove-McFalls this summer, and Salinitri, a 2016 sixth-round pick, is in a similar situation. There’s no guarantee the Flyers sign him, and he was cut early during training camp. With a 50-contract limit, the pressure is on Salinitri to make a major impact this year in Sarnia.

Salinitri’s 2017-18 campaign didn’t get off to a bad start, though. In his first game Friday night, the centerman scored his first goal of the season and also potted a shootout goal in the Sting’s 4-3 win over the Guelph Storm. He did lose 10 of his 13 faceoffs, however. On Saturday night, against Kitchener, Salinitri was a minus-two with two penalty minutes, two shots on goal and no points. He won two of his five faceoffs in the 3-1 loss.

Pascal Laberge, C/RW, 19, 6-1/162, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Laberge is another prospect with an important season ahead of him. After dealing with more adversity in 2016-17, this time with concussion issues, Laberge has to put himself back in good standing within the Flyers’ organization. General manager Ron Hextall, while understanding of the situation, made it clear this summer he didn’t like the way Laberge competed at times last season. In training camp, Laberge showed he still has a lot of work to do. Still, the 2016 second-round pick still has plenty time to develop.

I would expect Laberge to have a bounce-back season. In Victoriaville’s season opener Friday night, Laberge was the top-line center. He was held pointless in the Tigres’ 2-1 win over Gatineau, registering three shots and winning 50 percent of his draws. Laberge picked up his first point of the season Sunday night, setting up Maxime Comtois' game-winning goal in the Tigres' 4-3 overtime win over Shawinigan.

Quick hits
• Rubtsov was unavailable for Chicoutimi during the Saguenéens’ opening weekend because of paperwork, according to La Presse. He should play this week.

Isaac Ratcliffe, a hulking 6-6 winger, netted a shootout goal in Guelph’s 4-3 loss to Sarnia on Friday but didn’t register any points in either of the Storm’s first two games.

David Kase, a 20-year-old European prospect who’s playing in the SHL this season, had a goal and assist with three shots in Mora IK’s 5-1 win over Rogle on Thursday.

Olle Lycksell, a 2017 sixth-round pick, has four assists in four games with the Linköping HC J20 team.

Linus Högberg, a 2016 fifth-round pick, has an assist in three games with Växjö (SHL).

Valeri Vasiliev has three assists in four games and is averaging over 17 minutes with Severstal (KHL). Vasiliev, 23, was a seventh-round pick in 2012.

• The Russian goalies: Ivan Fedotov has a 1.92 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in four games with Toros Neftekamsk (VHL). Kirill Ustimenko has a 2.00 GAA and .904 save percentage in six games with Dynamo St. Petersburg (MHL).

Flyers sign Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe to entry-level contracts

Flyers sign Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe to entry-level contracts

It turns out, the Flyers' offseason isn't exactly over just yet.

The Flyers on Thursday afternoon signed 2017 draft picks Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe to their entry-level contracts.

Frost and Ratcliffe join Nolan Patrick as the second- and-third draftees from June's draft to sign. Patrick was the No. 2 overall pick, while Frost was the 27th overall and Ratcliffe the 35th.

Hextall ended up trading up to draft both Frost and Ratcliffe, as he selected three forwards in the first 35 picks and two in the first round.

It was the second draft in three years the Flyers had two first-round picks. The other was in 2015 when the Flyers drafted Ivan Provorov seventh overall and traded up to pick Travis Konecny.

Frost was drafted with the first of two first-round picks acquired from the St. Louis Blues in the Brayden Schenn trade. The Flyers will get another first-round pick from St. Louis in either 2018 or 2019.

Some considered Frost to be a reach at No. 27, but the Flyers became enamored with the 18-year-old's hockey sense. During development camp, Frost described himself as a playmaker more than a scorer.

"I think you're always going to see more with more assists than goals," Frost said then.

The Flyers traded three draft picks — the 44th, 75th and 108th overall picks — to the Arizona Coyotes on Day 2 of the NHL draft in order to select the 6-foot-6 Ratcliffe.

Ratcliffe was considered by many to be a late first-round pick. Hextall and his scouting staff liked the winger enough to trade three picks, which the organization values greatly under the current regime, to get Ratcliffe.

The London, Ontario, native scored 28 goals and 54 points in 67 games last season with the OHL's Guelph Storm. He scored twice in five games for Team Canada in the 2017 IIHF Under-18 World Junior Championship.

"I'm a big guy, I think I can play both offensively and defensively," Ratcliffe said June 24. "Really, that full-ice game and playing all areas in the zone. Adding that to their lineup, and being able to maneuver my way into their lineup, being with a lot of those guys … I think I can bring a lot to the table."

With Frost and Ratcliffe signed, the Flyers now have 48 contracts on the books. The limit is 50.