Each day leading up to Sept. 14, the official start of Flyers training camp, we'll dissect the biggest storylines facing the team ahead of the 2018-19 season.
A year ago, five rookies (Nolan Patrick, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, Sam Morin, Taylor Leier) made the Flyers' opening night roster.
While rookies will be given a chance to play their way onto the team, there are fewer opportunities in 2018 for first-year players to contribute right away.
First-round selections Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien are promising prospects, but neither player will be part of this year’s rookie camp.
So what can be expected when rookies and prospects take the ice Monday? Here’s a look at 10 key players and their projected timelines.
Carter Hart (Age 20, 2016 2nd-round pick)
The most intriguing rookie at camp this year, Hart just turned 20 last month, but he has the tools and, more importantly, the maturity to play in the NHL at an early age. Montreal’s Carey Price made his debut at 20 and Pittsburgh’s Matt Murray was 21, but their circumstances were slightly different. Unless the Flyers are snakebitten with injuries to Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth again, don’t expect to see Hart with the Flyers this season — at least on a full-time basis. Hart may get a late-season call-up if the Flyers find themselves out of the playoffs.
When will we likely see Hart?
In the 2019-20 season.
Philippe Myers (Age 21, Undrafted in 2015)
GM Ron Hextall has stated repeatedly he doesn’t want a young defenseman to make the Flyers only to watch from the bench. With seven defensemen under contract, that’s the current reality. Development coach (and former NHL defenseman) Kjell Samuelsson provided some organizational insight earlier this summer into Myers when he said, “He was hurt a lot so I think he needs more time in the minors.” Sanheim had 70 games with the Phantoms before making the Flyers and was still sent down at midseason. Myers has just 50 regular-season games of AHL experience, so there’s still room for him to clean up some areas of his game, but he’s close.
When will we likely see Myers?
In the 2019-20 season.
Morgan Frost (Age 19, 2017 1st-round pick)
There’s a ton of smoke here. With the Flyers in need of someone to step up as a third-line center, there’s a feeling that Frost has an outside chance with an excellent camp. Even with a phenomenal showing, I just don’t see it. He underperformed at the Summer Showcase in Canada against players his age. If you think Frost has a chance to make the team because Sean Couturier made the jump as an 18-year-old in 2012, Couturier had an NHL-level defensive game and was perfectly suited as a fourth-line center at the time. Despite putting up a ton of points last season, Frost needs to develop physically and continue to work on his game in his final year of junior hockey.
When will we likely see Frost?
In the 2020-21 season.
Mike Vecchione (Age 25, 2017 free-agent signing)
If you had to place a bet on the one rookie who could legitimately make the Flyers' roster straight out of camp, then I’d probably take a hard look at Vecchione, who needed a solid year with the Phantoms after a four-year career at Union College. Vecchione played well in Lehigh Valley and stepped up his game in the AHL playoffs before he was sidelined with an injury. He could be that fourth-line spark plug, but needs to bring constant energy and consistency throughout camp while also outplaying Taylor Leier to win a roster spot on opening night.
When will we likely see Vecchione?
At some point this season.
Mikhail Vorobyev (Age 21, 2015 4th-round pick)
Vorobyev turned heads at last year’s rookie camp, showing some real chemistry with native Russian Ivan Kosorenkov. Tremendous vision and very good hockey sense are Vorobyev’s most impressive attributes. While he had spurts of really good play with the Phantoms last season, the Flyers would like to see some high-level consistency and a better all-around two-way game. Vorobyev is a play-making center and he would need to have an outstanding preseason proving he’s a viable option as a third-line center to have a chance to make the team.
When will we likely see Vorobyev?
He may get a call-up this season, but in all likelihood in 2019-20.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel (Age 22, 2014 2nd-round pick)
Here’s the player that can turn heads this preseason, and if Aube-Kubel plays up to his potential, then he’ll certainly be noticeable on the ice. He has the toolbox to play in the NHL with speed down the wing and a physical presence, while he’s very good at protecting the puck and managing the puck responsibly. He was one of the Phantoms' leading scorers last season despite contributing very little on the power play. Ideally, you’d like to see Aube-Kubel play right wing on the Flyers' fourth line, but there can’t be any let up in his game where consistency has been the issue.
When will we likely see Aube-Kubel?
He has an outside shot of making the squad and should expect to play with the Flyers sometime this season.
German Rubtsov (Age 20, 2016 1st-round pick)
Rubtsov is the one prospect that hasn’t received much attention within the Flyers' system, and it appears he could be eventually squeezed out when you take inventory of the farm system. That being said Hextall will give Rubtsov plenty of time to develop his game that appears to be better suited for a bottom-six role. He has good hockey IQ, making smart, low-risk plays while also playing a defensively-disciplined game. Having played 69 regular-season games in the QJMHL over the past three years, Rubtsov will see extensive time with the Phantoms beginning this season.
When will we likely see Rubtsov?
Probably not until 2021 at the earliest.
Mark Friedman (Age 22, 2014 3rd-round pick)
Taken in the same draft class as Sanheim, Friedman seems to be the one prospect that outsiders completely disregard and he's probably not even ranked within the organization’s top-20 prospects. However, Friedman is still just 22 with one season of AHL hockey and he’s that rare right-handed defenseman that is highly coveted around the league. When you watch him in rookie camp you’ll notice a real confidence in his game, but that doesn’t always transfer over to playing with more highly-talented players in training camp.
When will we likely see Friedman?
Maybe in 2019-20.
Pascal Laberge (Age 20, 2016 2nd-round pick)
The 2016 draft class is one that either doesn’t have that much talent or will take a little longer in player development. Laberge appears to be part of the latter as his junior career was plagued with injuries and concussion symptoms. When Laberge was healthy, he displayed some high-end playmaking ability that proved why the Flyers made him a high second-round pick. Laberge uses his 6-1 frame to his advantage, so it will be interesting to see if he’s able to utilize that leverage against more experienced players in rookie camp, but he needs several years with the Phantoms to grow his game.
When will we likely see Laberge?
Sometime during the 2021-22 season.
Danick Martel (Age 23, Undrafted in 2015)
Hopefully Martel recovered from injuries that derailed his excellent start with the Phantoms last season. There was a four-game cup of coffee last season with the Flyers playing on a line with Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds, but Martel wasn’t able to fill the scoresheet. Now with the addition of JVR, the 23-year-old left winger will have a tougher time cracking the Flyers' roster. But the offensive upside is there, having strung together three straight 20-goal seasons in Lehigh Valley. The window of opportunity is now as prospects like Frost, O’Brien and Farabee are still in the development stage.
When will we likely see Martel?
It's 50/50 that he gets another call-up this season.