pascal laberge

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.

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).

End to End: Which Flyers prospect has most to gain in 2017-18?

End to End: Which Flyers prospect has most to gain in 2017-18?

Throughout the offseason, we’ll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: Which Flyers prospect has the most to gain in 2017-18?

Boruk
When I think about the prospect within the organization who has the most to gain, I take it from a bell curve approach where the line was skimming the bottom when he first arrived and has only been trending upward during that time. The one player that instantly comes to mind is goaltender Alex Lyon.

If you had to compose the perfect goaltender, you might take the athleticism of Jonathan Quick, the glove hand of Pekka Rinne with the puck-handling skills of an old Martin Brodeur. However, the Yale-educated Lyon may be the most cerebral-thinking goaltender on any team at any level. Spending 15 minutes with him back in April, Lyon provided more insight into his first season with the Phantoms than most goalies can provide in a season’s worth of quotes.

Combine that strong mental presence along with steady positional play and sound technique on the ice, and Lyon has the opportunity to swing that curve even higher. He exceeded expectations finishing with a 2.74 GAA and a .912 save percentage in 47 games while adjusting to the workload, conditioning and level of competition coming straight out of college.    

Helping Lyon’s cause is the team’s two-year transitional period at the goaltending position with Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth serving as the stopgap tandem until the front office feels one of the prospects is ready to assume the No. 1 role. There will also be competition for the Phantoms' starting role with Lyon (undisclosed leg injury) and Anthony Stolarz (tore MCL in his right knee) working their way back from injuries.

Just in the past five years we’ve seen Cal Heeter, Rob Zepp and Eric Semborski (well, almost) make their NHL debuts, so it’s not outside the realm to think Lyon could get his shot if the Flyers are hampered with injuries and inconsistency. While few people may have the 24-year-old on the Flyers' radar, it was general manager Ron Hextall who recently reminded us, “Don’t forget about Alex Lyon.” 

Dougherty
It’s hard to look at Pascal Laberge and not want to root for the 19-year-old. Stories like Laberge's are one of my favorite things about sports. It reminds us athletes are people too. Laberge endured another season mired with adversity in 2016-17 but this time on the ice.

Laberge was the victim of a vicious, dirty hit to the head last October and suffered a pretty serious concussion that he said this summer forced him to sleep all day for the first month. The concussion forced him out of the lineup for over a month before returning for two games. Then the symptoms returned and he had to miss three more games.

During development camp in July, Laberge admitted he had confidence issues when he did return. He said he was shy to go to the boards and caught himself looking over his shoulder too much. Laberge finished the 2016-17 season in Victoriaville with 32 points in 46 games. Hextall said he didn’t like what Laberge went through last season, either, but he also didn’t like, at times, the level the Flyers’ 2016 second-round pick was playing to.

I view Laberge as a prospect that has been lost in the shuffle after his underwhelming campaign last year and I expect him to have a bounce-back season this season in Victoriaville. With added motivation, Laberge has an opportunity to prove himself again to the Flyers. That said, he is also a candidate to have the most to lose in 2017-18 too. If he has another down season, the Flyers could sour on him. But I don’t think that will be the case.

Laberge was a fringe first-round prospect in his draft year and fell to the second round. He has the playmaking and skills to be a pretty solid NHL prospect, but he’s dealt with some adversity. I believe we’ll see the Laberge who scored 68 points in 56 games during his draft year than the one we saw last season. He has both a lot to gain and lose this season.

But his story is one that you want to root for and you want to pay attention to. I certainly will be.

Hall
Some may see Morgan Frost and think baby-faced teenager, 5-foot-11, 172 pounds.

Frost might be a lot closer to the NHL than it looks.

First-round picks can rise quickly, while this man's league is becoming more and more predicated on speed, skill and smarts. Just look at Travis Konecny. He was 18 years old and 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, when drafted 24th overall in 2015. In his draft year, he put up 68 points over 60 OHL games. One prolific junior season later, Konecny was in a Flyers sweater on 2016-17 opening night.

Frost was drafted 27th overall this summer after turning 18 years old in May. The center is coming off a 62-point OHL campaign in 67 games. Every player's development is different, but there are similarities here to forecast the potential climb for Frost.

Playing with Bruins 2015 first-round pick Zach Senyshyn, Frost racked up 42 assists in 2016-17 to take a big leap in his second junior season. In 2017-18, Senyshyn will be in the AHL or NHL. It'll be interesting to see how Frost's role changes in Year 3 with Soo, but more growth and another sizeable jump in production could have him in the Flyers' picture come 2018-19.

Paone
Let's face it — I'm not breaking any news here when I say the Flyers need scoring, and specifically from the wing, where only Wayne Simmonds has produced and shoveled pucks into the net consistently and been a true known commodity who hasn't lost goal-scoring touch for games or weeks at a time for the last several seasons. 

Don't stop the presses now with that info.  

Nicolas Aube-Kubel has proven in the past in junior that he can score from the wing. In four seasons with Val-d'Or of the QMJHL, Aube-Kubel put frozen rubber to twine 108 times all while becoming the Flyers' second-round pick in 2014. 

Last season was his first full pro campaign, and, well, let's just say things didn't necessarily go as he planned, as he tallied just nine times in 71 contests with the Phantoms. There were clearly adjustments that needed to be made to the size and skill of the AHL level, and, in many ways, expectations were tempered. 

Now, there's no real push or expectation for Aube-Kubel, a natural right winger, to make the Flyers out of camp. The eyes of Flyers fans will be on the Oskar Lindbloms and the Nolan Patricks of the world when it comes to the club's forwards. 

And that could be a good thing for Aube-Kubel. He can come into camp without any pressure, just play his game and leave an impression that will stick on Hextall, Dave Hakstol and crew. 

He's playing with house money. What exactly does he have to lose? Not much. What exactly does he have to gain with the orange and black poker chips he'll be playing with? A whole heck of a lot.

For Aube-Kubel, it isn't just about the here and right now at this very moment. His chances of making the club out of camp are quite slim. But it's about leaving that impression and keeping his name and skills fresh in the minds of those who matter.

Despite what happened last season, the kid can still score. That skill doesn't just evaporate in a talented 21-year-old. It was a year of development and learning the pro game. Now it's up to him to show what he learned.

If he leaves a mark by blistering pucks into the net during camp and the preseason along the same lines he did in his days with Val-d'Or, and then continues that production during the early part of the season with Lehigh Valley, Aube-Kubel could very well be among the first call-ups on Hextall's checklist.

That's a big skate blade stride he'll have the chance to take starting in September.