Maksim Sushko

Hextall's take on Flyers prospects at World Junior Championships

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Zack Hill, Flyers/AP Images

Hextall's take on Flyers prospects at World Junior Championships

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall returned earlier this week from the World Junior Championships in Buffalo, New York, where he watched 14 games over a four-day period.

Here was his assessment Thursday of the four Flyers prospects at the tournament:

Carter Hart, goalie, Team Canada (2016, second round, 48th overall)
"I saw Carter once. He was good. It was the game after the USA game (an 8-0 win over Denmark). He didn’t have a lot of work, but he was good. He had some work in the third period.”

Stats: Four games, 3-0-1, 1.96 GAA, .920 save percentage

Maksim Sushko, winger, Team Belarus (2017, fourth round, 107th overall)
"Sushko was good. He’s big player on that team. They don’t have a ton of ability, so he plays a big role, probably a bigger role than he would play with another country, but 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 was on their power play, their penalty kill. He did a lot of good things and played well. He’s not going to be that type of player at the pro level. He could be more of a two-way guy that’s not expected to score, but you hope he can chip in. He did a good job, made a name for himself. Obviously we knew him taking him in the fourth round, but he made a good impression."

Stats: Six games, two goals, six assists, eight points, minus-1

German Rubtsov, center, Team Russia (2016, first round, 22nd overall)
"Saw him twice. Ruby was good. His game is very simple most nights. Plays a good two-way game. He seems to always be the third man high, which is a coaching thing. It’s not something that we’re going to correct or it’s up to us to correct. He’s got good skill, plays a lot on the power play. He was good. I think he had two points the one game I saw."

Stats: Five games, one goal, three assists, four points, plus-4

Linus Hogberg, defenseman, Team Sweden (2016, fifth round, 139th overall)
"Hogberg didn’t play very much, five to seven minutes, but he’s got great feet. He’s got a really good stick, really understands the game. The negative would be that he played five to seven minutes. The positive would be that he’s a fifth-round pick and he’s on the Swedish world junior team and that’s a pretty good team. So, we’re happy with him. I’d love to see him play a little bit more. He had one unfortunate play where he went in front of the net and it ended up in his net, but other than that, he played well. His skill set, his skating is very good."

Stats: Six games, no goals, no assists, plus-3

Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

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USA Today Images/Michigan Athletics

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

Future Flyers Report: Monster weekend for intriguing Maksim Sushko

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Aaron Bell, OHL Images/USA Today Images

Future Flyers Report: Monster weekend for intriguing Maksim Sushko

Boy, last week sure was something. The Flyers suffered a devastating loss in Nashville, where they showed many positives but a questionable coach’s challenge did them in, and then blew out Alex Ovechkin and the Capitals to the tune of 8-2 Saturday (see Weekly Observations).

This week sees the Flyers continue their five-game homestand as the Panthers, Predators, and Connor McDavid’s Oilers come to the Wells Fargo Center.

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.

In this edition, we’ll check in on a 2017 fourth-round pick’s career night, a player who many thought would crack the Flyers’ roster and plenty more from a busy week.

Maksim Sushko, RW, 18, 6-0/179, Owen Sound (OHL)
With a 12-6 final, Saturday night’s game between Owen Sound and Oshawa had plenty to write about. Seventy-one shots on goal. Eight combined goals in the second period. Fifty-eight penalty minutes. And a career night for Sushko, who recorded his first career OHL hat trick with a four-goal game, also a first. Two of his four markers came shorthanded. He’s the fifth player in Attack history to score two shorties in a game.

Sushko picked up where he left off Sunday. The winger scored his fifth goal in two games and added an assist in Owen Sound’s 4-3 overtime win over London. A 2017 fourth-round pick, Sushko has an intriguing skill set the Flyers hope will come together.

Mike Vecchione, C, 24, 5-10/194, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
The Phantoms had a rough weekend with three games in three nights — away at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, home against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton and then at Hershey. But we saw a few firsts for Lehigh Valley. Let's start with Vecchione.

Vecchione recorded his first professional goal in the Phantoms' 3-2 win Saturday night over the Penguins. The Union College product unleashed a snipe job from the faceoff circle to beat Wilkes-Barre/Scranton goalie Tristan Jarry. In five games with Lehigh Valley, he now has a goal and three assists.

For some, Vecchione was a surprise cut by the Flyers, but once the orange and black landed the No. 2 overall pick, it was a long shot for the Hobey Baker finalist to crack the roster. With the Phantoms, Vecchione will continue to develop and get acclimated to the professional game. He attempted to make the Flyers as a right winger in training camp but failed to do so. He's a call-up candidate should injuries hit the Flyers' forward group.

Philippe Myers, D, 20, 6-5/202, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Sunday night, it was Myers' turn to pick up his first professional goal, when he started the Phantoms' third-period comeback in their 4-3 shootout win over Hershey.

Myers' status for Sunday was questionable after the defenseman blocked a shot late in the third period and needed help getting off the ice Saturday. Myers was able to suit up Sunday in Hershey and sparked three straight goals for the Phantoms.

Pascal Laberge, C, 19, 6-1/162, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
This is an important season for Laberge, as explained in our first Future Flyers Report, and so far, so good for the 19-year-old. Laberge, who plays both center and right wing, had another productive week for the Tigres. Last Thursday, Laberge registered a goal and two assists in Victoriaville’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Quebec Remparts. Friday night, he picked up a five-minute penalty and misconduct and then was suspended Saturday against Shawinigan. All in all, it’s been a strong start for Laberge, who has eight points in seven games. He has two multipoint games and points in five games.

Quick hits
• After going pointless in his first two games last week, German Rubtsov exploded for a three-assist night in Chicoutimi’s 5-2 win over the Baie-Comeau Drakkar Saturday night. He has yet to pot a goal but has six assists in five games with the Saguenéens.

Carsen Twarynski continued his strong start for the Kelowna Rockets (WHL). Twarynski had a two-goal game Friday in a 5-4 overtime loss to Portland. Twarynski, a 2016 third-round draft pick, has five goals and eight points in six games this season.

• Kitchener captain Connor Bunnaman snapped a seven-game goal drought dating back to last season Friday with his first of the season in a two-point game. Bunnaman then scored twice Saturday and added two goals and an assist Sunday. He has nine points in nine games.

• After failing to make the Flyers, Oskar Lindblom is pointless in five games with the Phantoms.

• Sarnia’s Anthony Salinitri stayed hot last week. Salinitri had a goal and an assist Friday, a goal Saturday and a goal and an assist Sunday. He now has seven points during his five-game point streak.

• A rough week for Guelph’s Isaac Ratcliffe, at least in the plus/minus department. Ratcliffe was pointless in three games and was a minus-8.

Matthew Strome had a goal and an assist in three games last week for Hamilton.

• It was a solid, productive week for Sault Ste. Marie’s Morgan Frost, who had a three-point game last Wednesday, a goal Saturday and an assist Sunday.

• Alex Lyon started all three Phantoms games this weekend. Lyon allowed four goals Friday night but battled back with solid efforts Saturday and Sunday. He stopped 72 of 81 shots.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom turned away 32 of 33 shots Saturday in a 2-1 win over Skelleftea. This came after allowing three goals on nine shots last Thursday.

• It’s been a quiet start for Tanner Laczynski in his sophomore season at Ohio State. Another pointless weekend for Laczynski, and he now has no points in four games.

• Another weekend, more points for Western Michigan’s Wade Allison. Allison had an assist Friday and then two assists Saturday against No. 15 Clarkson, both losses. Allison has seven points in five games for the Broncos, which is second on the team.

• Clarkson defenseman Terrance Amorosa played a hand in the Golden Knights’ pair of weekend wins over WMU. Amorosa had an assist Friday night and then a goal Saturday night. The senior now has points — six total — in all four games this season.