Flyers

Flyers prospect Egor Zamula can 'do things that not many players can'

Flyers prospect Egor Zamula can 'do things that not many players can'

Back in January 2018, Calgary Hitmen general manager Jeff Chynoweth saw a slender 17-year-old defenseman and thought “huge upside.”

Two years later, Chynoweth has watched the once raw and cocooned prospect play his final WHL game. The GM no longer sees potential — he sees a player.

That player is Egor Zamula, now 19 years old and hunting down the NHL, a prospect who has gone from diaphanous to dynamite within the Flyers’ farm system.

“The incline has been very high,” Chynoweth said last Saturday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia.

The incline is at a halt — for now. Zamula, an undrafted product who signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers in September 2018, had his 2019-20 season cut short because of a back injury. Zamula has been in the Philadelphia area since mid-January and was scheduled to undergo surgery Tuesday, according to Chynoweth.

While the incline has been put on hiatus, the excitement about it has not.

In 2017-18, Zamula scored 18 points over 69 games between the Regina Pats and Hitmen. In 2018-19, after the Flyers signed Zamula thanks to the diligence of amateur scout Mark Greig, the lanky blueliner recorded 56 points (10 goals, 46 assists) through 61 games for Calgary.

At Flyers development camp in the summer and training camp during the fall, Zamula showed his smooth skating stride, disruptive length and confidence with the puck. His strengths are particularly appealing when accentuated in an Alain Vigneault type of system, which encourages defensemen to push pace, pin the opposition and make plays.

After drawing high praise from Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, Zamula put up 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) and a plus-19 rating in 28 games this season, his third junior hockey campaign. There won’t be a fourth and final one.


What I liked about his game was he could see the ice very well, he had a long, active stick,” Chynoweth said. “Being a 6-foot-4 guy anyways and with a long stick, he was good at getting pucks away from opposing players, he could slow the game down. For a big man, he could thread the pass like a needle in a haystack. He could do things that not many players can. He had a bomb from the point.

He was almost a point-a-game player last year, you look at the numbers he put up last year as an 18-year-old, and then he just continued right into this year, point-a-game player and unfortunately got hurt at the world juniors. But he was having a great season, he had a great world juniors, named one of the top three players for Russia at the world juniors. I mean, the sky was the limit, and then unfortunately he has a back injury.

Zamula’s season came to an end at the 2020 IIHF World Junior Championship where he went down swinging. He helped lead Russia to a silver medal with five points (two goals, three assists) in seven games, playing through the injured back.

"He's been playing in pain for a while and playing remarkably well, but not at 100 percent," Fletcher said two weeks ago.

The Hitmen stated the injury was a result of a degenerative condition that intensified at the world juniors tournament. Could a degenerative issue be a concern moving forward?

Chynoweth didn’t believe so.

“I just think that this is something that he’s had and it just got progressively worse,” he said. “Just to tell you, to speak about his pain threshold, we never once heard about it when he was here. He played and it just got worse as he got more in the last little bit. It just got to a point where they had to have something to do about it. He’s going to have surgery, he’s going to be out three to four months but he should be ready for the start of development camp for the Flyers after the draft.”

Zamula will most likely open the 2020-21 season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley, but you never know. With the Feb. 24 trade deadline and a whole offseason ahead before next training camp, things can change.

Zamula will continue to change as he recovers and gears up for pro hockey. Gaining more strength will be a focus during the offseason. Zamula was listed at 6-foot-3, 160 pounds to start the 2018-19 season. This season, he was 6-foot-4, 170.

“I think that’s the biggest thing, he’s going to have to get stronger,” Chynoweth said. “You can never stop working on your skating, you see how fast the NHL game is, it’s getting faster all the time. But the things he does well, you can’t teach. Most guys put on weight as they get older and get stronger. Obviously now being with the Flyers in Philadelphia for the surgery, he’ll be there under their watchful eye through the rehab process. And I’m sure that once he’s cleared to start working out, they’ll do a great job.”

Chynoweth is looking forward to seeing Zamula in Calgary again.

Not as a prospect, but as an NHL player.

“The next time we watch him, hopefully it will be on Saddledome ice when the Flyers come to town,” he said.

“The Flyers have a good one there. … I think the sky’s the limit for Egor.”

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How Flyers prospect Cam York can help and torture goalies

How Flyers prospect Cam York can help and torture goalies

NHL talent evaluators couldn't miss Cam York's offensive exploits.

The catch-me-if-you-can defenseman lit up score sheets and caught all eyes during his draft year. When a teenage blueliner skates as smoothly and handles the puck as dynamically as York does, pro clubs watch in bunches and envision big things for the future.

Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said the team's entire scouting staff had seen York 10 to 15 times during the 2018-19 season. The Flyers then drafted York at No. 14 overall last summer after he set a U.S. national team development program single-season record with 65 points (14 goals, 51 assists) in 63 games.

For John Wroblewski, the head coach of the loaded USNTDP under-18 squad that year, he didn't want NHL suitors hypnotized by just the offensive gifts.

He emphasized York's defensive strengths.

"One of the things I kept telling scouts that I was so impressed with Cam was how the game was always in front of him," Wroblewski said last month in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The puck hardly ever advanced behind him, you couldn’t beat him 1-on-1 — I could probably count on one hand how many times he got actually beat 1-on-1 over two years — and his strength around the net; he just understands.

"He has innate defensive ability, it’s natural. It seems effortless. Some guys you know they’re competing in their defensive zone and they have to, they scratch and claw — he just always has the right spots. His gap control, his stick detail, it’s all organic.

"I think he’s going to be rock-solid offensively in the NHL, but his prowess will be how reliable he is defensively. Working around him and watching his video on a daily basis, he never got beat." 

(Zack Hill/Philadelphia Flyers)

York is now with Michigan and his upcoming sophomore year could be his last at the collegiate level. Because of two impressive years in the USNTDP, he went to the draft and Ann Arbor with hype.

"I think if you asked him, he would want to turn pro tomorrow," Flahr said after the Flyers drafted York. "He's going to a good program at Michigan, we'll take it year by year. I don't see him as a four-year guy, let's put it that way."

In 2018-19, York was the go-to defenseman on a U.S. team that produced eight first-round draft picks last June — Jack Hughes (No. 1), Alex Turcotte (No. 5), Trevor Zegras (No. 9), Matthew Boldy (No. 12), Spencer Knight (No. 13), York (No. 14), Cole Caufield (No. 15) and John Beecher (No. 30).

York, a 5-foot-11, 174-pound lefty shot, was third on the U.S. in assists (behind only Hughes and Zegras), fifth in points and sported a team-best plus-56 rating.

"He just hit the ground running at the program, he was such a student of the game, he’s smart in practice, his instincts were outstanding," Wroblewski, who led the U-17 team this season, said. "He never really hit any type of a speed bump throughout his two years with the program. He seamlessly went from being our top defenseman to running the power play for the U-18 team in February and beyond, and then of course he set defensive scoring records at the program.

"Really kind of a seamless two years, but a kid that never really took it for granted, either. He always showed up, he had a workmanlike attitude in regard to practice. He was like a pro from a young age — he showed up, did his job, low maintenance, but a fiery competitor at the same time."

Just how skilled and electric is he with the puck on his stick?

"It’s interesting, for as much talent as we had on that team, I think Cam might have been our best shootout guy," Wroblewski said. "We didn’t utilize him because of the star power that you had with those top-five scorers — Boldy, Zegras, Cole, Jack and Alex Turcotte. We never utilized him because this just doesn’t make a lot of sense when you’ve got that firepower up front, but he was probably our best shootout guy."

As a defenseman on that team.

"The things that he would do to our goalies and Spencer Knight, he would make them look silly with the edgework," Wroblewski said. "He looked like a video game the way that he could come in, carve his edges and then just like sling it underneath the crossbar. It was really cool to watch. I’d never seen anybody be able to create on the shootout like he did."

(Rena Laverty/USA Hockey)

In his freshman season at Michigan, York dealt with a pair of injuries but still put up 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) and a plus-9 mark through 30 games. The 19-year-old led the Wolverines in secondary assists (eight) and was third in blocked shots (54).

A healthy and stronger York as a sophomore will bring him closer to the Flyers. He'll play a ton of minutes — which is what he's shooting for at the pro ranks, as well — and an even bigger role on what should be a formidable 2020-21 Michigan team.

York's strength and developmental curve at the Division I level, especially next season, will determine how quickly he signs his entry-level contract.

“Defensemen are always going to take a little bit longer," Wroblewski said. "Goalies take the longest, defensemen are the next, you look at the middle of the ice, centermen, that’s next and then wingers transition the quickest to the NHL obviously.

“I think any opportunity, as long as he’s being challenged at the college level, he should stay. But I also appreciate the challenge of the American Hockey League. I know a lot of guys don’t want to go there, ride the bus, but after having worked in that league, that buffer zone between there and the NHL is very important and can be pivotal for defensemen and young players.

"You look at [Casey] Mittelstadt in Buffalo as an example of how college wasn’t challenging enough for him, the NHL might have been too much — that American League is a really, really, really pivotal spot for a lot of young players. ... It can be a huge tool and not one that prospects should be scared of or feel slighted if they end up there.”

But Wroblewski doesn't see York far down the ladder.

"Just from his past, the way that he came into the program, U-17 and was able to fit right in, and then really thrive at the U-18 level as an underager and then set the scoring records that he did," Wroblewski said. "He looks at home in the college game and displays the same offensive characteristics. A kid that truly appreciates keeping the puck out of his net first and then letting the offense come to him — those are characteristics that should prove worthy of him making a quick climb to the NHL.”

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Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award as the player with most 'heart'

Predictions for who wins Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award as the player with most 'heart'

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Taryn Hatcher and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Predicting who wins the Flyers' 2019-20 Gene Hart Memorial Award as the player with the most “heart.”

Destra

Looking back at the season, no one is more deserving of this award than Oskar Lindblom. 

When the news was given back in December that Lindblom had been diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, the whole NHL community was in shock. Through the news and the process since, the 23-year-old has continued to be a positive light for the organization and fans. 

Though his season on the ice was cut short, his impact remained just as important as the year progressed. The team went out and played for him every single night. Those moments when he was in Wells Fargo Center — whether the team knew, it was a surprise or even when he popped up on team picture day, he always made it better. 

Head coach Alain Vigneault says it best whenever Lindblom is mentioned, always commenting on his “beautiful smile.”

Emmer

The player to win the Gene Hart by the end of the season should be Sean Couturier.  

Couturier is so clutch for many reasons. We always talk about his strong 200-foot abilities and simply put— his marvelous abilities with the puck. On top of that all, he’s consistent.  

Couturier is always stepping up for this team and bringing heart to the game in times the team needs it most. Specifically, games following defeat. 

Couturier in games following a loss: 

26 games, 13 goals, 19 assists, 32 points, plus-13

Couturier is a game-changer and I think there’s something to say about how he’s been such a consistent key component for the Flyers. 

I completely believe Couturier deserves to be awarded the Gene Hart for the third consecutive season because of that passion he brings to the Flyers, and the sport of hockey in general. 

Hatcher

The Gene Hart Memorial Trophy has to go to Lindblom.

Lindblom is a phenomenal teammate according to every single person who plays alongside him, a guy who is tremendous to work with in every interaction I’ve had with him (and every other reporter who covers the team will say the same), and a player who was seemingly taking a massive step in his career this season before it was so unfairly cut short.

Despite Lindblom being forced to take a step back from the ice to battle Ewing’s sarcoma, he has become a key piece in the force that drives this team. This team has made it clear that it fights for him while he’s forced to fight for his health. 

I’d pull up stats for how the team has played on days when Lindblom has been at morning skate, or quotes on all the wonderful things the Flyers have said about what Lindblom means to them, but honestly this video of him surprising the team (and specifically Jakub Voracek’s reaction) says more than I could adequately say. 

Hall

It would be really cool to see Robert Hagg win this award.

The 25-year-old Swede is a low-key guy who does the unglamorous things and never aims for recognition. Instead, he plays with a huge heart and always puts his teammates first.

Hagg has found his niche on this 2019-20 team, all while dealing with the shocking news of his good friend Lindblom being diagnosed with cancer. He has pushed forward for Lindblom and the Flyers.

Hagg is a player that doesn't make the headlines. He deserves this one.

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