Flyers

Eric Wellwood gives opponent's perspective on 'rare' Flyers prospect Isaac Ratcliffe

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Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers

Eric Wellwood gives opponent's perspective on 'rare' Flyers prospect Isaac Ratcliffe

Eric Wellwood remembers watching film of Isaac Ratcliffe and somehow losing him. Even the thought seems hard to believe. After all, Ratcliffe is a 6-foot-6 winger — it's tough to miss that large of a player in a junior hockey setting.

Then again, Ratcliffe is far from just sheer size. Wellwood quickly realized that once the lean, smooth-skating, goal-scoring force popped back into the frame.

"Sometimes the TV doesn't catch where he just moved and all of a sudden he has a partial breakaway," Wellwood said.

From surprising camera operators to doing things uncommon for players of his physical stature, Ratcliffe became a terror over the course of his final Ontario Hockey League season. The Flyers' 2017 second-round draft pick scored 50 goals and 82 points in 65 regular-season games for the Guelph Storm. He added 30 more points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 24 playoff games to lead the Storm to an OHL title.

Eleven of Ratcliffe's points came against Wellwood and the Flint Firebirds during the regular season. Ratcliffe put up six goals and five assists in four meetings with the Firebirds. Wellwood, the former Flyer and now 29-year-old head coach of Flint, drew a clear conclusion about Ratcliffe after those four matchups.

"It seemed like he was out of his league playing in the OHL last year," Wellwood said a week and a half ago in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

"He's got an asset that not many players get — that's how big and strong he is for his age. Being that big at this level, he can clearly dominate by using his size. I think that's the easiest thing to pick out, but it's his offensive instincts, he knows how to play the game, he can read when a defense breaks down."

Ratcliffe is not your typical big winger. He doesn't just wreak havoc with his size in front of the net. The 6-foot-6, 204-pound frame is noteworthy, but it's Ratcliffe's ability to dangle the puck, flash skill and score with finesse that has many intrigued by his NHL upside.

"His overall game but especially his skating — it stands out when you're a 6-6 guy that has skill and hands like he does," fellow Flyers prospect and OHL product Morgan Frost said in June. "As he's gotten older, he has really developed his skating part — that's been huge for him. He's just putting it all together now."

Ratcliffe went from a minus-28 in 2017-18 to a plus-36 last season. Over the past three years, his goal production climbed from 28 to 41 to 50. Off the ice, he is mature and well-spoken, sounding more and more like a pro.

But, on the ice, just how skilled and dynamic is the 20-year-old?

If he was a normal, typical-build hockey player, he would still be a very good hockey player and sought-after prospect. Then you add the element of how good he is, you combine the two — it's truly rare to have somebody at that age that physically mature already.

He almost has like a sling shot for a shot. He just whips it in the corner and the goalies don't even go down, they don't even see it some of the times because of a screen. Being that big, you get the flexibility of having a bigger stick, so you get more whip and he can usually shoot it pretty hard. He's got a lethal shot.

- Wellwood

As a forward, Wellwood made the transition from the OHL to the AHL and NHL. The 2009 sixth-round pick played 164 career games with the Phantoms and 31 with the Flyers. He said the biggest difference from junior to pro isn't always speed. For Ratcliffe, Wellwood said, it can be "playing against guys that are relatively his size."

"He's just got to make sure he's working on his skating and continually getting stronger," Wellwood said.

In Ratcliffe, the coach sees some Pat Maroon.

"He kind of reminds me of that type of player," Wellwood said. "No offense to Patty but he might be a little bit better of a skater. You add that and he's got a lot of potential as a player in the NHL."

And everyone knows to watch him.

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With newcomers, Flyers keep on humming in NHL playoff race, have Penguins in their sights

With newcomers, Flyers keep on humming in NHL playoff race, have Penguins in their sights

BOX SCORE

A day after the NHL trade deadline, the Flyers showed off their new look and didn't miss a beat.

With reinforcements Derek Grant and Nate Thompson, the Flyers defeated the Sharks, 4-2, Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers (36-20-7) have won four straight games, their longest win streak since Dec. 17-23, when they also won four in a row.

Not many in the league have been better than the Flyers over their last 20 games. The Flyers are 14-5-1 with an NHL-high 72 goals since Jan. 8. Over that stretch, only one club has more points than the Flyers' 29 — the Lightning with 31.

The Sharks (26-33-4), who have a number of injuries and traded away Barclay Goodrow and Patrick Marleau before Monday's deadline, have lost five straight.

• Good work by the Flyers handling a lesser opponent.

Tuesday was a big night in the playoff race as the Islanders, Blue Jackets and Hurricanes were all in action

The Flyers are still in third place of the Metropolitan Division and climbed to within one point of the second-place Penguins.

• The new line of Scott Laughton, Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny sure was fun to watch.

During the second period, Hayes and Konecny scored goals to help the Flyers restore order with a 3-1 lead at intermission.

Hayes tacked on another in the third period, giving him 21 markers this season. The 27-year-old is projected to break his career high of 25 set in 2017-18 and he might flirt with 30.

On Hayes' first goal, the 6-foot-5 center used his impressive reach to snag Laughton's pass and bury the shot. The Flyers are 17-0-1 when Hayes scores a goal.

Meanwhile, Konecny finished with his third three-point effort over the last four games. He had two three-point games over his first three NHL seasons.

Laughton continued his always reliable play with two assists and a plus-3 mark.

• Grant and Thompson, both acquired by the Flyers Monday, were eased into duty.

Both went scoreless as Grant committed a penalty and was solid in the faceoff circle, while Thompson centered the fourth line.

Here's how they're getting acclimated (see story).

• At home, Carter Hart has been an absolute nightmare for opponents.

With 26 saves, he improved his home mark to 17-2-2.

The 21-year-old has yielded two or fewer goals in 17 of his 21 home games. He is a must-see ticket in Philly.

• Defensemen Matt Niskanen and Travis Sanheim made clutch third-period plays to break up juicy scoring chances for the Sharks.

• Nicolas Aube-Kubel has six goals this season. He has turned into one of the biggest surprises since his mid-December call-up.

Last season, he went scoreless over nine outings, playing just 5:35 minutes per game.

• A beautiful job by the Flyers.

• The Flyers are off Wednesday and practice Thursday at 11:30 a.m. in Voorhees, New Jersey, before hosting the Rangers Friday night (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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Don't like the Phillie Phanatic's new look? Gritty has a message for you

Don't like the Phillie Phanatic's new look? Gritty has a message for you

When Gritty and the Phillie Phanatic met in September 2018 at Citizens Bank Park, a special bond was born.

With his best friend from across the street under the microscope for his new look, Gritty stepped up Tuesday night in defense of the Phanatic.

During the first period of the Flyers-Sharks game at the Wells Fargo Center, Gritty had a message for anyone out there not in support of the Phanatic's fresh style.

This is what best friends do.

Good for Gritty. The Phanatic would do the same for the orange fella.

Both will be reunited at the ballyard soon.

Look out.

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