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2018 NHL draft profile: Grigori Denisenko, a winger with sky-high potential

2018 NHL draft profile: Grigori Denisenko, a winger with sky-high potential

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how those players would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Grigori Denisenko

Position: Left winger
Height: 5-foot-10
Weight: 171
Shoots: Right
Team: Loko Yaroslavl

Scouting report
Denisenko is ultra talented and dangerous with the puck on his stick, a true threat to make a highlight-reel play whenever he touches it. The Russian product, who turns 18 a day after the draft, is an elusive puck-handler and dazzles with skill.

However, he's been regarded as an inconsistent player lacking an all-around game, so some maturation is needed, both cerebrally and physically.

Playing Russian junior hockey in 2017-18, Denisenko had 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 31 regular-season games for the MHL's Loko Yaroslavl. He added seven points (five goals, two assists) over 12 playoff games en route to a championship title.

Fit with Flyers
Given the organization's willingness to be patient with prospects and the need for more wingers in the farm system, Denisenko would be a nice selection by the Flyers.

The ability is certainly there and the Flyers believe greatly in their development staff, so drafting a winger with potential but work to be done makes sense.

Denisenko projects to be a mid-to-late first-round pick. His high ceiling should be enticing and it will be a matter of which team takes a chance on the upside. With two first-round slots, the Flyers should have their shot at Denisenko and his talent would be exciting in the system.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Profile: Serron Noel

Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtso

It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

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USA Today Images

It looks like the Flyers are headed to Vegas to open 2018-19 season

In typical NHL fashion, the 2018-19 schedule release is a two-day event.

That means we won't know the entire schedule until Thursday, but we know enough today to put together some of the pieces.

It looks like the Flyers will open up their season out West for the third straight season.

The Flyers will play the Golden Knights in Vegas' home opener Oct. 4 at T-Mobile Arena. The Flyers' home opener is Oct. 9 against the San Jose Sharks.

After looking at other teams' home openers, it appears the season will start Wednesday, Oct. 3, with the Washington Capitals hosting the Boston Bruins. The Toronto Maple Leafs and Montreal Canadiens also play Oct. 3.

It’s the fourth straight year the Flyers will begin their campaign on the road.

The last time they opened at home was 2013-14, a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs.

They’ve won their last two season openers. They’re 5-4-1 in their last 10 season openers.

Ty Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers in NHL draft

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Larry Brunt/Spokane Chiefs

Ty Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers in NHL draft

Ty Smith will dash across the ice as if he's saying catch me if you can.

Flyers fans know that game well.

You know, when a defenseman doesn't look like one because they're undersized, striking fear into nobody … until they take the puck up ice and skate you in circles.

Sound familiar?

"I am very well aware of Shayne Gostisbehere's game and what he brings," Spokane Chiefs head coach Dan Lambert said two weeks ago in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

Although Lambert coaches at the junior level in the Western Hockey League, he's tuned in with the NHL game. He knows of Gostisbehere because he follows hockey.

Lambert also knows him likely because he watches a player awfully similar to the Flyers' slender offensive blueliner. Meet Ty Smith, an 18-year-old prospect that will hear his name called Friday night in the first round of the 2018 NHL draft. Projected to be taken in the ballpark of 10th-to-20th overall, Smith could find himself going to the Flyers, who hold picks Nos. 14 and 19 and want to "restock a little bit" on defense, according to general manager Ron Hextall.

"Because of his size, I think people underestimate the type of effects he could have on a team or an organization," Lambert said. "Whoever gets Ty, whether it's Philadelphia or whoever may be lucky enough to land him, is going to be an organization that will be very happy with their pick and they're going to be very appreciative that somehow, someway he fell on their lap."

Gostisbehere, a left-handed shot, was selected by the Flyers in the third round (78th overall) of the 2012 draft. At the time, he was 5-foot-11 and between 160-165 pounds, but regarded for his slick skating and scoring ability.

Smith, also a lefty shot, is 5-foot-10, 176 pounds — tinier guy but a menace at the point of the power play with an NHL-ready offensive acumen. The lissome Canadian pivots, maneuvers, creates and transitions with some of the best in this strong defensemen draft class. If Smith's offensive repertoire lacks anything, it's the shot, a trademark of Gostisbehere's game.

"I think one of his strengths is his shot and his ability to get it off and get it on net," Lambert said of Gostisbehere. "I think that's where Shayne has a big advantage over Ty right now; Ty does not have that shot."

To the naked eye, while Gostisbehere seems to be an obvious comparison to Smith, Lambert remembered Ivan Provorov, as well. He sees traits from both of the Flyers' defensive pillars in Smith.

"You know what, when I think of Provorov, and I think of his hockey sense, and Gostisbehere, I think Ty Smith kind of fits in there somewhere," Lambert said. "A little bit of one and a little bit of the other, and you probably get a guy that equals Ty Smith. He's probably in between those two and I think they're both two special players."

Smith has become a defensive stud in the WHL, just like Provorov did with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Smith produced a 41-point increase from last year, putting up 73 on 14 goals and 59 assists in 69 regular-season games. He erupted for a seven-point night in February, a game Lambert said probably wasn't even Smith's best. 

He also went from a minus-12 in 2016-17 to a plus-44 this season. Lambert noted how such a mark is especially impressive considering Smith was matched up against the opposition's top players every game. Include the intangibles, and "the sky's the limit for Ty, even with his lack of size," the coach said.

"He's got two things that are special. One of them is his hockey IQ, the understanding of the game," Lambert said. "And probably the other one that you maybe don't know until you get to know him as a young man, is his character and just how he shows up every single day. It didn't matter if he played 35 minutes the night before or not, the next day, he's your hardest-working player at practice, so that shows a lot of leadership. 

"Not the most vocal leader, but certainly a leader that leads by example and he's a driver, a guy that pushes your teammates, pushes your team usually into special places."

Smith may be on the doorstep of starting to do so in the NHL.

"Well, to be honest with you, one of my fears is that he's going to get drafted and he's going to impress teams in a hurry," Lambert said. "And I say that as a fear, it's also one of my dreams, like I hope that for him."

It didn't take Gostisbehere or Provorov real long, either.

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