Mikhail Vorobyev

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: Rubtsov, Vecchione, Martel and more

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USA Today Images/AP Images

Future Flyers Report: Rubtsov, Vecchione, Martel and more

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 take a look at a trade at the junior level with Flyers ties, a former Hobey Baker finalist and plenty more. Let’s get this thing going.

German Rubtsov, C, 19, 6-0/187, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
We had a trade involving one of the Flyers’ top prospects and a team with direct ties to the Flyers. Rubtsov was acquired by Acadie-Bathurst last week from Chicoutimi. Rubtsov joins Antoine Morand as the only two NHL-owned players on the Titan roster. Sean Couturier, the Flyers’ top-line center, is part of an investor group that bought Acadie-Bathurst in 2013, while Couturier’s dad, Sylvain, is the team’s general manager.

It may be obvious, but Rubtsov’s trade has no impact on the Flyers. They still own his rights. It’s strictly a QMJHL transaction. It happens often in junior. In January 2016, Ottawa traded Travis Konecny to Sarnia because it felt Konecny would be in the NHL.

Rubtsov will turn 20 in June and will either be in the AHL or NHL next season, which may have factored into Chicoutimi’s openness to moving him. Another factor could be the Saguenéens’ start, as Chicoutimi is near the bottom of the Q. Either way, Rubtsov has a new home in the Quebec League. Rubtsov adjusted quickly with the Titan.

On Friday, Rubtsov picked up an assist in his first game with Acadie-Bathurst, a primary helper on Morand’s game-winning goal in the Titan’s 6-3 win over Cape Breton. Then, in another 6-3 win Saturday over Cape Breton, Rubtsov recorded a goal and an assist. It took Rubtsov no time to mesh with his new teammates, a testament to his skill set.

Mike Vecchione, C, 24, 5-10/194, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Vecchione’s seven-game point streak ended last week but he still had a productive weekend. He had a two-assist game Saturday after his point streak snapped and then was pointless Sunday. The 24-year-old was honored last week for his performance in October. Vecchione last Wednesday was named the AHL Rookie of the Month and second star after posting 10 points in 10 games in October. It’s been quite the start for Vecchione.

“I’ve been taught to never put a ceiling on anything,” Vecchione said in September. “The sky’s the limit and I’ve broken a lot of ceilings that people put on me before. … I’ll do whatever it takes to move up and be an impact player for whatever team I play for.”

He’s proving to be just that for the Phantoms thus far: an impact player.

Danick Martel, LW, 22, 5-8/161, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Get used to seeing Martel in this report. He may not be a high-end prospect, but what he's doing is ridiculous. Martel had a goal Friday, a goal and an assist Saturday, and then a goal Sunday. He has six goals during his five-game goal streak. He leads the AHL in goals (13) and points (17). He's averaging a goal per game. Bonkers.

Wade Allison, RW, 20, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison had himself a weekend for the Broncos, who swept No. 1 Denver with wins Friday and Saturday. Allison played a big part of the victories with a four-point weekend. He scored WMU's first goal and picked up a secondary helper on the game-winning goal Friday in the Broncos' 6-5 win. Then Saturday, he recorded a hat trick in a 7-4 win.

With Denver up 3-0 in the second period, Allison scored two goals in 1 minute and 13 seconds to get the Broncos within one. Denver went up 4-2, but then WMU sprung off five unanswered goals. Allison scored the team's sixth goal, a power-play tally.

A huge night for Allison gave him the first hat trick of his collegiate career. He's second on WMU in goals (six), points (14) and points per game (1.56), and tied for the lead in assists with eight. He has just two pointless games and five multi-point games.

Cooper Marody, C, 20, 6-1/185, Michigan (NCAA)
He was featured last week, and after another big weekend, he's back. Marody continued to stay hot for the Wolverines this past weekend as Michigan split with Ferris State. Marody racked up a goal and two assists in UM's 7-2 win Friday. It was his third straight three-point game. In Michigan's 3-2 overtime loss Saturday, Marody had a goal and an assist. The junior leads Michigan with nine assists and 12 points.

Quick hits
Carter Hart returned to action last week for Everett after sitting out with mono. It was a pretty busy weekend for Hart, too. He stopped 23 of 24 shots in a 3-1 win Friday over Prince George and 39 of 41 shots Saturday in a 3-1 loss to Portland.

Philippe Myers’ groin injury forced him to leave the Phantoms’ 6-5 shootout loss Friday night to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. He missed games on Saturday and Sunday.

Morgan Frost had a three-assist game in Sault Ste. Marie's 5-4 win over Sudbury last Wednesday. He then had an assist Sunday. Frost has 15 assists and 22 points in 18 games.

Oskar Lindblom added two more assists Friday night against Wilkes-Barre/Scranton. It was his third consecutive two-point game.

• It’s been a rough stretch for Lehigh Valley goalie Alex Lyon, who’s allowed nine goals in his last two games. Lyon allowed four goals Saturday before being pulled. He’s allowed three or more goals in five of his nine games this season.

Tanner Laczynski earned the NCAA's First Star of the Week for the week of Oct. 23 after a breakout performance. This past weekend, he had one assist in two games.

Mikhail Vorobyev scored his first AHL goal in the Phantoms' 6-5 shootout loss Friday night to Wilkes-Barre/Scranton.

• Kitchener captain Connor Bunnaman has had a big two weeks. Bunnaman had his third two-goal game of the season Friday against Erie and then another goal Saturday against Guelph. Bunnaman has nine goals and 13 points in 15 games this season.

• Clarkson's Terrance Amorosa had a two-assist game Friday against Rensselaer. Amorosa, a senior, now has seven assists and nine points in 10 games.

Felix Sandstrom remains out for Brynäs IF because of an injury.

Noah Cates snapped a seven-game pointless streak with his second goal of the season Saturday night in Omaha's 3-2 overtime loss to Madison.

With Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev cut, Flyers' opening night roster near

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Zack Hill/Flyers

With Mike Vecchione, Mikhail Vorobyev cut, Flyers' opening night roster near

The Flyers on Wednesday afternoon sent forwards Mike Vecchione and Mikhail Vorobyev to AHL Lehigh Valley as their opening night roster begins to take shape.

With Vecchione and Vorobyev cut, the Flyers' roster now stands at 28 players. Forwards Cole Bardreau and Colin McDonald and goalie Anthony Stolarz are injured. They're expected to begin the season on injured reserve.

What Vecchione and Vorobyev's demotions mean is that the Flyers now have to trim two more players to get down to their 23-man roster by Oct. 3. Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said Tuesday he expects the final roster decisions to come down to the wire.

It appears Nolan Patrick and Oskar Lindblom have shown enough in training camp and preseason to secure spots. The Flyers' current roster has 15 healthy forwards, eight defensemen and two goalies.

Patrick has two assists in five preseason games, while Lindblom has a goal and an assist. Lindblom scored Tuesday against the Rangers. Both have shown a commitment to a 200-foot game, which the Flyers preach.

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is not expected to carry eight defensemen, so it's safe to say the final cuts will be one defenseman and one forward. Taylor Leier, Matt Read and Jori Lehtera are all competing for spots as a fourth-liner and an extra forward. Leier had another solid showing Tuesday against the Rangers.

There are two open spots on the blue line. Defensive prospects Robert Hagg, Sam Morin and Travis Sanheim are competing for those two spots, and it remains possible all three could break camp with the team.

Hagg, Morin and Sanheim are still here after the latest round of cuts. Hagg has been steady all camp, Morin had a big game Tuesday with a goal one night after Sanheim sent a statement Monday with a two-goal game.

While it remains a long shot all three will be here, it's still a possibility. Brandon Manning and Andrew MacDonald haven't been great, and Hextall has repeatedly said he'd make room for prospects if they prove they're ready.

Some may be surprised that Vecchione didn't make the roster, or even argue that he wasn't given a fair shake in preseason. The former Hobey Baker finalist played in just two preseason games, and he was the 13th forward Tuesday.

That was another sign Vecchione wasn't going to make the team. To be fair, Vecchione was trying to make the team as a right winger, not at center, which the Flyers signed him as in March.

"Obviously when they draft Nolan, it's going to be a little tougher, but it's nothing I haven't seen before," Vecchione said recently. "They're going to take whoever is the best fit for the team. Right now, I'm on the wing, so it's a little different perspective. But, yeah, that doesn't change my mindset, what I'm going to do. I knew coming in it wasn't going to be easy, they didn't guarantee me anything and I knew I had to work for it, so, like I said, nothing new for me. I'm just looking forward to the challenge."

Vorobyev was recalled from the Phantoms for Tuesday's game after previously being sent to Lehigh Valley. He'll begin his first season in North America in the AHL, but he could be in the conversation for a roster spot next year.

On Tuesday, Vorobyev centered Lindblom and Travis Konecny. The trio clicked, and Vorobyev again showed the playmaking ability he flashed at the 2017 IIHF World Junior Championships with Team Russia.

"I thought he played a heck of a hockey game," Hakstol said of Vorobyev. "I thought every situation that we put him into, I thought he went out and did a good job. He went out and made a couple of high-end plays offensively, and then up and down the rink."