Future Flyers Report: Mark Friedman puts himself on the map

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Future Flyers Report: Mark Friedman puts himself on the map

Hockey games begin to matter Thursday night, when the Flyers open the regular season on a quick two-game West Coast road trip beginning in Las Vegas against the Golden Knights.

Before the season begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior ranks. College hockey is still a few weeks away.

• The Flyers on Sunday trimmed their roster down to 29 players, which essentially was 24 because of injuries. The final roster cut will be announced today, but Sunday’s batch was notable.

Among the cuts was Mark Friedman, who turned a lot of heads in training camp and preseason. A 2013 third-round draft pick, Friedman likely worked his way up as a potential call-up option.

Friedman was always a standout during his five development camps because of his compete level. In training camp and preseason, that competitiveness really translated well this year.

The 22-year-old played a steady game in the preseason and avoided mistakes. At times, he outplayed veterans and deserved to stick around as long as he did. He put himself on the map.

In his second professional season, Friedman will be one of the Phantoms’ top defensemen this season. He had 16 points in 65 games during his first campaign in Lehigh Valley last year.

He’s a right-handed shot who skates well and moves the puck. Against the Bruins Saturday, he made small but strong defensive plays and bailed out his partner, Philippe Myers, a few times.

If injuries start to hit the Flyers’ blue line this season, Friedman might be atop the list of in-house candidates to come up. He appears more ready to handle an NHL workload than Myers.

• After going undrafted in June, Yegor Zamula earned himself an entry-level contract with the Flyers during training camp. Calgary GM Jeff Chynoweth told NBC Sports Philadelphia last week that he was surprised Zamula went undrafted because “there's a huge upside with Yegor.”

Calgary is still searching for its first win after four games. Zamula has yet to record a point but has nine shots on net in three games with a minus-4 rating. Still, the 6-foot-3 defenseman is someone to track. The Flyers may have themselves another Myers.

Quick hits
• A pretty solid start to the season for Everett defenseman Wyatte Wylie, who has five points in four games with 14 shots on net. Wylie had a two-point game Saturday.

• Morgan Frost had a goal and an assist Friday but was pointless Saturday for the first time this season. He has five points in four games.

 Isaac Ratcliffe continued his strong start this weekend, potting three goals and five points. He had a three-point game Friday. He has three goals and five points so far this year.

• Matthew Strome picked up his first goal of the season Saturday in a two-point game, then an assist Sunday.

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Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

Don't lose perspective with Flyers prospect Jay O'Brien

The Flyers saw both ends of the spectrum with their first-round picks from the 2018 draft.

While Joel Farabee shined at Boston University this season (see story), Jay O'Brien struggled to find his game at Providence College.

After a freshman season comprised of injuries and five points (two goals, three assists) in 25 games, it appears O'Brien's time with the Friars is over.

According to a report Tuesday by Jeff Cox of the New England Hockey Journal, O'Brien has entered the NCAA transfer portal and will play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season.

O'Brien, a playmaking center, will have three years of college eligibility remaining.

Now, before anyone starts debating O'Brien's future, let's remember the importance of perspective with teenage prospects. 

O'Brien was perceived as a bit of project when the Flyers' previous regime of Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor selected him 19th overall last summer. Taking O'Brien at No. 19 was viewed by many as a reach, but the Flyers' scouting staff was high on the Thayer Academy product and trusted its evaluation. The Flyers took O'Brien over other centers Joseph Veleno, Rasmus Kupari and Isac Lundestrom.

This season, Veleno put up 104 points in the QMJHL, Kupari had 33 points over 43 games in Liiga (Finnish pro league) and Lundestrom appeared in 15 games with the Ducks.

O'Brien, because of his smaller stature (5-foot-11, 174 pounds) and being drafted out of prep school, had an adjustment period playing Division I hockey (see story). Multiple injuries also didn't help his cause with the transition.

But patience with O'Brien was always going to be imperative. The Flyers drafted him on a lot of upside after taking more of a guarantee in the quick-rising Farabee five picks earlier. The 19-year-old O'Brien isn't lacking in ability or work ethic. Providence head coach Nate Leaman, who led the Friars to a national title in 2015, called O'Brien's skill set "elite."

"It takes time to learn to play at the speed, to play with the lack of space," Leaman said in January during a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia (see story).

"These guys that come right from high school, it takes time and I know Philly has told us that they understand that also."

O'Brien paid little attention to pre-draft rankings last summer.

"I don't even know where I was," he said at development camp. "It doesn't mean much to me. It's not really where you get drafted, it's what you do after you get drafted."

He'll have a new path in 2019-20, another chance to prove himself. There's still plenty to like, with plenty of time.

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Game 7s are here for Maple Leafs-Bruins, Golden Knights-Sharks series

The two best words in sports: Game Seven.

Well, we get two times the fun Tuesday night as Game 7 matchups are here for the Maple Leafs-Bruins and Golden Knights-Sharks first-round playoff series.

Below is the full schedule for Day 14 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Toronto Maple Leafs at Boston Bruins (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Vegas Golden Knights at San Jose Sharks (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here