Philippe Myers

Flyers prospects heating up as new year rings in

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Photo: Aaron Bell | OHL Images

Flyers prospects heating up as new year rings in

With the playoff round of the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships beginning Tuesday, we’re going to hold off on touching on the U-20 tournament until it’s over.

Four Flyers prospects are participating, with three — Carter Hart (Canada), German Rubtsov (Russia) and Linus Högberg (Sweden) — still in play to medal.

Maksim Sushko starred for Belarus but will be part of the relegation round. Belarus failed to win a game in the preliminary round.

Here is the playoff round TV schedule.

Let’s kick off the new year with 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)
It was another week of pure dominance for Frost and his Greyhounds, who won three more games and extended their winning streak to 23 games. Frost had another monster week, collecting two multi-point games and lengthening his point streak to 14 games, during which he has 10 goals and 22 assists. He now leads the OHL with 60 points, is tied for the league lead in assists with 39 and leads the league with a plus-46 rating.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1/192, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Lindblom added two more goals to his résumé last week, and the 21-year-old winger now is creeping into the AHL leaders in points. Lindblom had an effective game during the Phantoms’ 3-1 win Friday over Charlotte, potting his third power-play goal of the year. Then in Saturday’s 4-2 loss to the Checkers, Lindblom added a late tally. With 25 points, Lindblom is now tied for sixth in the AHL in rookie scoring.

Alex Lyon, G, 25, 6-1/200, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
While Lyon may have been the most disappointing prospect before the Christmas break, the second-year goaltender had a solid rebound last week after returning to the AHL. Lyon served as the Flyers’ backup for three weeks on an emergency basis as Michal Neuvirth healed from a lower-body injury.

Lyon made his first start Friday night since Dec. 1 and lost his shutout bid with 9:07 left in Lehigh Valley’s 3-1 win over Charlotte. The 25-year-old turned away 28 shots in the first game of a back-to-back set with the Checkers. Then on Saturday, Lyon was solid again for the Phantoms, stopping 39 shots in a 4-2 loss.

Still, an encouraging sign for Lyon. Perhaps the time spent with the Flyers served Lyon well. Let’s see if he can carry the momentum forward.

Philippe Myers, D, 20, 6-5/209, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
One concern surrounding Myers coming into this season was his health. He battled a concussion and a whiplash in his final season of junior, but when he was healthy, his stock skyrocketed. In his first pro season, Myers has dealt with a lower-body injury, believed to be a groin, and has missed 17 games. He returned on Dec. 23 and picked up two assists in three games last week. In four games back, he has two assists with a minus-1 rating. Myers remains a high-end prospect, but injuries have slowed the hype.

Quick hits
Wade Allison picked up his 15th goal of the season Thursday in No. 12 Western Michigan’s 5-2 win over Bowling Green. Allison leads the NCAA with 28 points.

• Ohio State’s Tanner Laczynski extended his point streak to four games, with a goal Friday and an assist Saturday. Laczynski leads OSU with 16 assists and 25 points.

• Phantoms injury hits: Samuel Morin and Mikhail Vorobyev remain out. Both haven’t played since Dec. 12.

Matthew Strome stayed hot for Hamilton, extending his point streak to eight games. Strome now has 21 goals and 40 points in 35 games this season.

Mike Vecchione picked up a goal and an assist in three games last week after sitting out since Dec. 9. He has eight goals and 23 points in 29 games with the Phantoms.

Pascal Laberge made his Quebec debut Saturday in a 4-1 loss to Baie-Comeau, finishing as a minus-2. In his second game Sunday, he was also pointless.

Isaac Ratcliffe, of the Guelph Storm, had back-to-back two-goal games over the weekend. He was pointless Sunday but now has 18 goals in 35 games this season.

• Kitchener’s Connor Bunnaman extended his point streak to seven games with a two-point game Thursday and a goal Friday. He has 10 points during this point streak.

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.

Michael Raffl, Matt Read healthy and in shape, looking for rebound seasons

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USA Today Images

Michael Raffl, Matt Read healthy and in shape, looking for rebound seasons

VOORHEES, N.J. — Their 20-goal seasons seem like an eternity ago, and now Matt Read and Michael Raffl are spending this year’s training camp trying to prove themselves all over again.

“A little bit, yeah,” Read said recently. “I try and tell myself every day to be the hardest-working guy out there, and move your feet as much as you can, win puck battles and the other things will come as we go. Just try and be in a lot better shape than I was, not that I was in bad shape, but just try and play a full game and every shift at a high pace. Just keep working hard and hopefully, things can turn around, opportunities will come, and you just got to bear down on them.

“You've got to have something inside you that drives you through the summer,” Raffl said. “You've got to have a goal in mind. I want to come to camp and be the fittest guy in here. That’s all I can do in terms of how I prepare, especially with last season and all the injuries. I don’t want another year like that.”

From the day Read arrived in 2011, he seized his opportunities by utilizing his speed and relying on his hardest-working-guy attitude. His 24 goals led all rookies and he finished fourth in Calder Trophy voting behind Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog, Edmonton’s Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and New Jersey’s Adam Henrique as the league’s top rookie. Read was considered one of the Flyers' most productive even-strength forwards. You may be surprised to know, but during that stretch (2011-14), only Claude Giroux’s 49 and Jakub Voracek’s 47 even-strength goals topped Read’s three-year total of 46. 

Read was rewarded with a four-year, $14.5 million contract and he hasn’t been the same since suffering a high ankle sprain just a month into that new deal. Once the injury became publicized, every time Read went through a scoring drought, questions regarding the ankle would resurface, and yet, he never missed any significant time playing through pain.    

Two years after Read burst onto the scene, Raffl followed suit, earning a roster spot with the Flyers straight out of camp as another undrafted rookie. Raffl’s transition to the NHL was not nearly as impactful as Read’s, as he scored nine goals to go along with 22 points in his rookie season. However, Raffl found his niche during his sophomore season, scoring a career-high 21 goals playing on a line with Giroux and Voracek. The big-bodied Raffl quickly understood that to keep up with highly-skilled players, the best thing to do was crash the net and good things would happen. Like Read, Raffl also benefitted financially by inking a three-year, $7 million extension.

However, last season was Raffl’s worst in orange and black. He never felt right battling through an upper-body injury during the first month of the season and then missing the final six weeks after suffering an MCL sprain.

“I was banged up all the way through,” Raffl said. ”I had a long summer and a lot of time to work on some stuff. I feel fantastic out there right now.”

Both guys felt better when their cellphones went silent back in June as Vegas was composing its expansion roster. And even though Read and Raffl were left exposed, the Golden Knights selected Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Raffl clearly had no ambitions of continuing his career in Nevada.

"I like it here, I like where I’m at. I love Philadelphia,” Raffl said. “This is where I’ve signed for three years. I want to be here.” 

Read, on the other hand, had a more realistic and philosophical approach to the situation.

“It’s completely out of your hands,” Read said. “If it happened, it happened. If it doesn’t, you just come back to camp here and get ready for the season. If it’s out of your control, why worry about it, why fret about it? You just prepare yourself and it doesn’t matter if you’re there or you come back here. You just have to show up and be able to have a good season again. It’s out of your hands and I didn’t worry about it too much.”

Now Read and Raffl are back in the same dressing room and, for the first week of camp even, on the same line along with Scott Laughton. Together that trio proved to be a hard-checking line against Islanders superstar John Tavares, Jordan Eberle and Anders Lee in the preseason opener.

“Laughts brings a lot of speed to the middle and Raffy is obviously someone on the forecheck who separates a guy from the puck, and when he has the puck he usually does the right thing with it,” Read said. “It’s easy to play with those guys and we had fun. We had a lot of ice time. It’s a good way to start the preseason."

They may be together now, but one of those final roster spots could essentially come down to Read or Raffl.

Roster cuts
The Flyers reduced their roster by 18 players Thursday morning. Connor Bunnaman (Kitchener — OHL), Pascal Laberge (Victoriaville — QMJHL), Ivan Kosorenkov (Victoriaville — QMJHL), German Rubtsov (Chicoutimi — QMJHL) and Carter Hart (Everett — WHL) were returned to their junior teams.

Rubtsov, the Flyers' 2016 first-round pick, was returned to his junior team, rather than sent to the AHL for which he was eligible.

Forwards Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Radel Fazleev, Tyrell Goulbourne, Danick Martel, Carsen Twarynski, Mikhail Vorobyev, defensemen James de Haas, Mark Friedman, Maxim Lamarche, Phil Myers, Reece Wilcox, and goaltenders Leland Irving and John Muse were assigned to the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms. The Flyers' training camp roster now stands at 36.

“Obviously, today there’s separation in terms of where we go from here in camp,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “We still have a good number of players in camp. Today is the day when the competition starts to rise in terms of some of the tougher decisions that are coming down the road here.”

Tonight in the preseason game against the Bruins, Hakstol will be forced to dress nine players who suited up in the split-squad games against the Islanders, including Taylor Leier, who continues to make a strong push to make the opening night roster (see story).

“Taylor Leier will be back in the lineup tonight,” Hakstol said. “He’s coming off a really good performance last night. Those are the kind of performances and that’s the type of impact you want to see out of the young players who are working to make our hockey team.”

Here is tonight's roster: