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Future Flyers Report: Still questioning the Morgan Frost draft pick?

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Aaron Bell/NBCSP/USA Today Images

Future Flyers Report: Still questioning the Morgan Frost draft pick?

Welcome back to the return of the Future Flyers Report, a weekly column tracking the development of the Flyers’ prospects. This year, we’ll try some new tricks along the way.

We’re nine days out from the Flyers’ season opener, and when preseason ends, it’s expected that a few mainstays of this report from years past will graduate to the NHL. That’s OK. As the Flyers enter their youth movement, we’ll continue evaluating their first-year players with weekly reports on their progress throughout their rookie seasons.

The CHL opened its regular season last week, and international leagues have been underway since earlier this month. As hockey season returns, let’s dig into the future.

Morgan Frost, C, 18, 5-11/172, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Think back to draft night in June, when the Flyers traded Brayden Schenn to the Blues and then used the 27th overall pick on Frost. Not many knew who Frost was, and the projections had the centerman as a second-round pick. Fans reacted as such on social media, without ever seeing Frost play. I didn’t know too much about the player when the Flyers drafted him, but all the reports were positive and I immediately thought of the Travis Sanheim draft. It’s too early to say Frost will rise to that level of prospect, but he showed in development camp the hockey smarts and playmaking ability that drew the Flyers to him.

Frost had an explosive start to the season this weekend, especially Saturday night in the Greyhounds' season opener against Oshawa, a 7-4 loss. He picked up two assists in Sault Ste. Marie's loss, but his first helper was a dandy. Frost found Tim Gettinger open in the faceoff circle across the ice, through multiple defenders with a slap-pass and Gettinger finished with the goal. On Sunday night, Frost followed up with a shorthanded penalty shot for his first tally of the season.

It was exactly the type of start you'd want to see from Frost, who was sort of a riser in his draft class. It's his third season in the OHL, and you want to see a leap offensively from him. He got off to a strong start this weekend.

Felix Sandstrom, G, 20, 6-2/192, Brynäs IF (SHL)
One of the Flyers’ top goalie prospects, Sandstrom was expected to miss the start of the season because of a simple laparoscopic procedure, but the procedure was postponed. Sandstrom made his first start Thursday, stopping 29 of 32 shots in Brynäs’ 4-2 loss to HV71. With Oskar Lindblom, German Rubtsov and Mikhail Vorobyev in North America, Sandstrom is the most intriguing international prospect in the Flyers’ system. It’s a safe bet he’ll be the top-selling international flavor of this report this year.

Connor Bunnaman, C, 19, 6-1/207, Kitchener (OHL)
Before the Rangers’ first game Friday against Flint, Bunnaman was named the 53rd captain in Kitchener history, replacing Frank Hora, who is with the Phantoms on an AHL contract. Bunnaman joins Mike Richards (2003-05) and Bill Barber (1971-72) as Flyers draft picks who wore the ‘C’ with the Rangers. Paul Evans, who was drafted by the Kings but later played for the Flyers, was the Rangers’ captain in 1973-74. Bunnaman also played in his 200th career OHL game Friday night, recording three shots and no points in a 5-3 Rangers loss. He was highly effective in the Rangers’ 3-1 win over Sarnia on Saturday night with five shots on goal, his first assist and a plus-three rating.

Anthony Salinitri, C, 19, 5-11/170, Sarnia (OHL)
This is an important season for Salinitri if he wants to earn an entry-level contract with the Flyers. This will be the Flyers’ final season of holding Salinitri’s rights before having to decide to either sign him or let him go. They elected not to sign Sam Dove-McFalls this summer, and Salinitri, a 2016 sixth-round pick, is in a similar situation. There’s no guarantee the Flyers sign him, and he was cut early during training camp. With a 50-contract limit, the pressure is on Salinitri to make a major impact this year in Sarnia.

Salinitri’s 2017-18 campaign didn’t get off to a bad start, though. In his first game Friday night, the centerman scored his first goal of the season and also potted a shootout goal in the Sting’s 4-3 win over the Guelph Storm. He did lose 10 of his 13 faceoffs, however. On Saturday night, against Kitchener, Salinitri was a minus-two with two penalty minutes, two shots on goal and no points. He won two of his five faceoffs in the 3-1 loss.

Pascal Laberge, C/RW, 19, 6-1/162, Victoriaville (QMJHL)
Laberge is another prospect with an important season ahead of him. After dealing with more adversity in 2016-17, this time with concussion issues, Laberge has to put himself back in good standing within the Flyers’ organization. General manager Ron Hextall, while understanding of the situation, made it clear this summer he didn’t like the way Laberge competed at times last season. In training camp, Laberge showed he still has a lot of work to do. Still, the 2016 second-round pick still has plenty time to develop.

I would expect Laberge to have a bounce-back season. In Victoriaville’s season opener Friday night, Laberge was the top-line center. He was held pointless in the Tigres’ 2-1 win over Gatineau, registering three shots and winning 50 percent of his draws. Laberge picked up his first point of the season Sunday night, setting up Maxime Comtois' game-winning goal in the Tigres' 4-3 overtime win over Shawinigan.

Quick hits
• Rubtsov was unavailable for Chicoutimi during the Saguenéens’ opening weekend because of paperwork, according to La Presse. He should play this week.

Isaac Ratcliffe, a hulking 6-6 winger, netted a shootout goal in Guelph’s 4-3 loss to Sarnia on Friday but didn’t register any points in either of the Storm’s first two games.

David Kase, a 20-year-old European prospect who’s playing in the SHL this season, had a goal and assist with three shots in Mora IK’s 5-1 win over Rogle on Thursday.

Olle Lycksell, a 2017 sixth-round pick, has four assists in four games with the Linköping HC J20 team.

Linus Högberg, a 2016 fifth-round pick, has an assist in three games with Växjö (SHL).

Valeri Vasiliev has three assists in four games and is averaging over 17 minutes with Severstal (KHL). Vasiliev, 23, was a seventh-round pick in 2012.

• The Russian goalies: Ivan Fedotov has a 1.92 goals-against average and .905 save percentage in four games with Toros Neftekamsk (VHL). Kirill Ustimenko has a 2.00 GAA and .904 save percentage in six games with Dynamo St. Petersburg (MHL).

With injured Michael Raffl out a month, Flyers call up Mikhail Vorobyev

With injured Michael Raffl out a month, Flyers call up Mikhail Vorobyev

Updated: 2:13 p.m.

VOORHEES, N.J. — Mikhail Vorobyev, and the Flyers, are hoping a third time is the charm.

The 2015 fourth-round pick has been recalled on three occasions this season, with the most recent call-up coming Wednesday. With Michael Raffl out approximately four weeks because of a broken right pinkie finger suffered Tuesday night, Vorobyev is back and could center the Flyers' fourth line.

Raffl was placed on long-term injured reserve.

Vorobyev, a 22-year-old center with skill and penalty kill ability, has played six games with the Flyers this season. Down in Lehigh Valley with the AHL affiliate Phantoms, Vorobyev had 14 points (five goals, nine assists) through 19 games.

The Flyers will want to see him show consistent effort in limited minutes. That will have to be evident if he's going to stick in Raffl's absence.

“Misha, originally when he got here, I thought I liked the way he was playing, his energy," Flyers head coach Alain Vigneault said Nov. 6. "It slipped a little bit."

Vigneault said Wednesday after practice that the Flyers may play 11 forwards and seven defensemen Thursday when they host the Coyotes (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP), while 19-year-old rookie Joel Farabee will likely jump into the penalty kill rotation.

The Flyers have significantly improved their goal prevention and Raffl has always been a key piece to their defensive focus. His injury comes a week and a half after Scott Laughton, another important role forward, returned following a 13-game absence from a broken finger.

"It sucks, kind of a similar injury to mine with the finger, but just a sh---y scenario and a sh---y play," Laughton said of Raffl's injury. "It sucks, for sure, but guys are going to have to step up — that's what you have to do and that's what guys did when I was out.

"It definitely sucks to lose him on the ice, but off the ice, as well. He's huge for this group, for the young guys."

The Flyers are allowing 74 goals in 28 games after permitting 101 goals over 28 games last season. During their season-best five-game winning streak, the Flyers have surrendered 1.60 goals per game.

Raffl is one of the team's better puck possession forwards who helps control pace and has played the Flyers' third-most shorthanded minutes among forwards.

Vorobyev will get the first chance to fill the void.

 

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Flyers erupt for 5 late goals, are NHL's best since Nov. 1 (but lose Michael Raffl to injury)

Flyers erupt for 5 late goals, are NHL's best since Nov. 1 (but lose Michael Raffl to injury)

Updated: 10:07 p.m.

BOX SCORE

After an NHL-best November, the Flyers picked up their season-best fifth straight win to kick off December with a 6-1 decision Tuesday night over the Maple Leafs at the Wells Fargo Center.

The Flyers turned a defensive game into a laugher with five goals over the final 10 minutes of regulation. Claude Giroux scored the game-winner midway through the final frame before Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, Shayne Gostisbehere and James van Riemsdyk followed suit (see highlights).

The Flyers (16-7-5) have allowed only 1.60 goals per game during their winning streak. Since Nov. 1, they are 11-2-4 with 26 points and a plus-15 goal differential. No NHL team has more points over that stretch.

The Maple Leafs (13-12-4), a top-10 goal-scoring club, had won four of their previous five games since firing head coach Mike Babcock.

• Great response from the Flyers after Carter Hart allowed a flukey game-tying goal in the third period.

Philippe Myers and Konecny made great plays to set up Giroux's goal. The floodgates then opened.

Konecny has 17 assists and will shatter his career high of 25 set last season. Myers added another assist to spring Konecny as the Flyers put the game on ice with a 3-1 lead that ballooned even more.

• Hart, who went 6-2-2 with a 1.94 goals-against average and .927 save percentage in November, converted 27 stops.

Hart delivered a huge first period in which he made 15 saves as the Maple Leafs looked faster and more dangerous.

Amazing what consistent goaltending can do for a team. The Flyers have gotten it from Hart and Brian Elliott thus far.

• Fourth-line center Michael Raffl was not on the bench during the third period, playing just six minutes overall. After the game, head coach Alain Vigneault said Raffl suffered a broken right pinkie finger and is expected to miss around a month (see story).

The 31-year-old is one of the Flyers' better puck possession and penalty kill forwards.

• More and more, Kevin Hayes is starting to show how he can dominate a shift with his size.

The big-bodied puck protection is an area in which the 6-foot-5 center excels and he put it on display to create the game-opening goal in the second period.

Scott Laughton, who finished the play, has three goals in the last four games.

The Flyers are 9-2-1 when Hayes records a point. He has seven points (four goals, three assists) and a plus-5 rating over the past eight games.

• Competition is hot between Myers, Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg, who are in a rotation for playing time.

Myers was excellent with three assists and a plus-3 mark.

Gostisbehere was as noticeable and active as he's been this season. His elusiveness drew a penalty during the second period, giving the Flyers their first power play opportunity. The Flyers went on the man advantage again not long after as they controlled the final eight minutes of the middle stanza while holding a 1-0 lead.

If Gostisbehere (one goal, one assist, plus-3) can make that type of impact consistently, he'll take himself out of that rotation. The same goes for Myers.

• The Flyers continue their three-game homestand Thursday when they host the Coyotes (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP).

 

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