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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Flyers at Oilers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

Flyers at Oilers: Live stream, storylines, game time and more

At this point, Alain Vigneault's group is probably itching to come home.

First, though, the Flyers (2-1-1) have a matchup Wednesday night with Connor McDavid and the Oilers (5-1-0).

Let's get into the essentials:

When: 9:30 p.m. ET with Flyers Pregame Live at 9 p.m. ET
Where: Rogers Place
Broadcast: NBC Sports Philadelphia
Live stream: NBCSportsPhiladelphia.com and the NBC Sports MyTeams app

• The Flyers are wrapping up a rather brutal stretch of travel.

Including the final three preseason games, the Flyers have been in Boston, New York, Lausanne, Switzerland, Prague, Czech Republic, Philadelphia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Calgary, Alberta and Edmonton, Alberta, over a span of 24 days.

The team returns to the Wells Fargo Center on Saturday, but following a Nov. 1 matchup in New Jersey, the Flyers will have played eight neutral site/road games compared to four true home games.

Not an easy stretch, especially for a team that has been prone to slow starts in recent years past.

• The Flyers have lost the first two contests of this three-game Western Canada swing. After putting up a total of eight goals in their first two games, they've produced just three over the previous two defeats — a 3-2 shootout decision to the Canucks and a 3-1 loss to the Flames.

It would be stunning if Claude Giroux, James van Riemsdyk and Jakub Voracek don't get things going Wednesday night. The trio has a combined one point (a Giroux assist) through the Flyers' first four games. Last season, Voracek and Giroux had a combined 14 points in the team's first four games, while van Riemsdyk suffered an injury in Game 2.

If the Flyers can come home 3-1-1 with those three not yet producing at a high clip, they'll absolutely take it.

• Carter Hart, who is from right outside of Edmonton (Sherwood Park), will start at Rogers Place for the first time as an NHLer.

The 21-year-old has worked with Oilers goaltending coach Dustin Schwartz since he was 13 years old.

• A few notes on Oilers forwards McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and James Neal:


Projected lineup

Forwards

Claude Giroux-Sean Couturier-Travis Konecny
Oskar Lindblom-Kevin Hayes-James van Riemsdyk
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Jakub Voracek
Carsen Twarynski-Connor Bunnaman-Tyler Pitlick

Defensemen

Ivan Provorov-Justin Braun
Travis Sanheim-Matt Niskanen
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere

Goalies

Carter Hart
Brian Elliott

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    Sloppy play, surprising trends and Flyers take 2nd straight loss before running into Connor McDavid

    Sloppy play, surprising trends and Flyers take 2nd straight loss before running into Connor McDavid

    BOX SCORE

    This time, the Flyers had the opposition take it to 'em.

    Alain Vigneault's team never had the reins Tuesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Flames at Scotiabank Saddledome.

    The defeat marked the first in regulation for the Flyers (2-1-1), who must shift their focus to salvaging a game on this Western Canada road trip.

    The Flames (3-3-1) had their way, outshooting the Flyers, 38-22, and putting the pressure on Brian Elliott.

    • The Flyers had difficulty getting the puck up ice, which gave them little chance to play Vigneault's preferred style. When you can't successfully transition the puck out of the defensive zone and through the neutral zone, there's no shot to play a possession-based game.

    The issue wasn't effort. The Flyers just weren't sharp and the Flames were fast, dangerous and all over the puck.

    • To make matters worse, the Flyers did not help Elliott, who was making his first start of the season. The first two goals allowed were self-inflicted products. The third was an empty-netter.

    Elliott made some tough stops and finished with 35 saves. He gave the Flyers an honest chance on the road. They were problematic in front of him.

    • The Flames scored what turned out to be the game-winner in the second period. Five seconds after a faceoff in the Flyers' end, Calgary made it 2-0 when Andrew Mangiapane's shot bounced off Travis Sanheim's stick and past Elliott.

    • A bright spot among a not-so-bright performance from the Flyers was Matt Niskanen. He scored his first goal as a Flyer on a delayed penalty in the third period. But the 32-year-old has been even better defensively with his decisions, breaking up scoring chances and moving the puck. He has been as advertised and a major improvement on the blue line.

    • Jakub Voracek opened the game on the third line with Scott Laughton and Tyler Pitlick after a third-period demotion in last Saturday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Cannucks. Clearly Vigneault wanted to see smarter decisions — and maybe smarter effort — from Voracek, while James van Riemsdyk played on the first line following a solid performance against Vancouver.

    With the Flyers trailing, 2-0, the lines were shuffled in the third period and Voracek saw time with Sean Couturier and Claude Giroux but couldn't get much cooking.

    Giroux (one assist), Voracek and van Riemsdyk have combined for one point during the first four games. The early drought is uncharted territory for Voracek and van Riemsdyk, who both had previously never gone scoreless through their opening four games of a season.

    The good thing is the Flyers know the offense will come from those three and the team is still 2-1-1.

    • The Flyers were outmatched in the opening five minutes, when the Flames were a step ahead in every phase and set the tone.

    Michael Frolik beat Elliott just 1:35 into the action on an ugly sequence by the Flyers. After Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov misconnected on a pass up ice, Justin Braun failed to clear the puck and then inadvertently tripped Elliott as Frolik blasted his shot.

    The Flyers were fortunate to be trailing by only one goal at first intermission. They could have done more than just weather the storm but went 0 for 3 on the power play and finished 0 for 4 overall. They were sluggish and then sloppy.

    • The Flyers finish their three-game road trip with the second half of a back-to-back set when they take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET/NBCSP). Edmonton is 5-1-0 and McDavid has 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in six games.

    The Flyers are then back at the Wells Fargo Center Saturday to play the Stars (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

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