Future Flyers Report: Bad news for Carter Hart; German Rubtsov makes immediate impact

Zack Hill/Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Bad news for Carter Hart; German Rubtsov makes immediate impact

This week sees the Flyers conclude their season-opening four-game road trip Tuesday in Nashville for the Predators’ home opener and their own home opener Saturday against Washington.

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

In this edition, we’ll check in on three members of the 2016 draft class and a goalie prospect who’s one injury away from reaching the NHL.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Let’s begin with the undesirable news first. Hart, the consensus top goaltending prospect in the Flyers’ organization, will be out of action for some time because of mononucleosis, according to The Herald’s Jesse Geleynse. The Silvertips last Wednesday signed goalie Kyle Dumba to back up Dorrin Luding while Hart recuperates.

It might be a while before we see Hart back in net. Mono can take serious time to recover from — just ask Sean Couturier, who battled it during the 2010-11 offseason and it potentially cost him from being drafted in the top three. While missing significant time would stunt his development, mono probably shouldn’t raise any major red flags long term.

Hart has appeared in just two games this season. He stopped 35 of 38 shots in his first start in picking up a win against Kelowna on Sept. 29. Then, Hart allowed three goals on 25 shots in relief in a loss to Tri-City on Sept. 30. What will be worth watching when he returns is how quickly will he get back to looking like his normal self.

German Rubtsov, C, 19, 6-0/187, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
After missing the Saguenéens’ first four games because of paperwork issues, Rubtsov made his 2017-18 campaign debut last week and made an immediate impact for Chicoutimi. Rubtsov picked up third-star honors and a dandy of an assist in his season debut last Wednesday, a 4-0 win over Victoriaville. On Sunday, Rubtsov added two more assists, both secondary, in the Saguenéens’ 5-0 shutout of Shawinigan.

Rubtsov faces his first full season in North America. He finally came over from Russia near the end of last season once he was able to negotiate a release from the KHL, where he couldn't cement a significant role. Once with Chicoutimi, Rubtsov flashed the hockey sense and ability that caught the Flyers' eye in the 2016 draft. An injury cut his QMJHL season short, though. Now in North America full time and after a summer and preseason with the Flyers, Rubtsov will become more comfortable as he goes along. The skills are there, and if you caught him during development camp or even rookie camp, you saw the speed and playmaking. He's still a prospect fans should be excited about.

Wade Allison, RW, 19, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison, who turns 20 on Saturday, had quite the start to his sophomore season with the Broncos this past Friday. Allison, one of three 2016 second-round picks, netted two goals and an assist in No. 20 Western Michigan’s 6-1 win over Ferris State. On the first goal, Allison beat Ferris State goalie Justin Kapelmaster, tapping home a 2-on-1 pass. The second goal was more impressive. With a 3-0 lead late in the second period, Allison showcased his howitzer with a long slap shot goal on the power play. After a decent freshman campaign, Allison could be in line for a big jump in his second year.

Alex Lyon, G, 24, 6-1/200, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
With Anthony Stolarz out for the foreseeable future, Lyon will carry the brunt of the workload for the Phantoms in his second professional season, which has gotten off of to a busy start. Lyon started both games this past weekend, turning away 61 shots in two games. He allowed two goals on 31 shots in the Phantoms’ 7-2 season-opening win in Allentown Saturday night against Hershey and then stopped 35 of 36 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss Sunday at Hartford. That’s 125 minutes on back-to-back nights with travel.

Lyon looked sharp in the preseason with the Flyers, which should comfort the front office should an injury hit either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth. It’s a big season for Lyon, who’s on his second one-year contract. A strong second season and Lyon could position himself for an NHL backup role next year, whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.

Quick hits
Carsen Twarynski, who returned to Kelowna from Phantoms training camp last week, registered a goal, three assists, and points in each of his first three games this season. Dating back to last season, Twarynski now has an eight-point, six-game streak going.

• This is worth noting: Isaac Ratcliffe appears to be a volume shooter, which the Flyers certainly could use in the future. Ratcliffe had an assist in each of his two games this past weekend for Guelph, and on Friday night, he fired eight shots on goal. He had just one shot Saturday but on the season, he has 28 in six games — 4.6 shots per game.

• Not exactly the best week for Morgan Frost, who went pointless in two games. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centerman also struggled in the faceoff circle. Frost was 10 for 34 (29.4 percent) in the dot, with a 3 for 16 game Thursday and 7 for 18 Friday. On the season, he’s won just 44.4 percent (56 for 126) of his faceoffs.

Phil Myers recorded his first pro point in his first game Saturday night, a primary assist on Danick Martel’s hat trick goal in the Phantoms’ 7-2 opening win over Hershey.

Mike Vecchione also recorded his first pro point Saturday night and followed up with another assist Sunday. In two games, Vecchione has centered Martel and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Both of Vecchione’s assists have come on Martel goals.

• And let’s talk about Mikhail Vorobyev picking up his first career North American point. Vorobyev had the lone assist on Greg Carey’s third-period marker Saturday. He’s the pivot on a line with Carey and Corban Knight.

• Owen Sound winger Maksim Sushko had his first multipoint game of the season last Wednesday against Sarnia, registering a goal on his only shot and a primary assist on the Attack’s game-tying goal in the third period. Owen Sound lost, 6-5, in a shootout. Sushko, a 2017 fourth-round pick, has points in three straight games. However, he did not play Saturday. He has points in three consecutive games and a goal in two straight.

• Pascal Laberge missed a game last week because of a lower-body injury that wasn’t serious enough for him to sit out Sunday’s game against Sherbrooke in which he picked up a goal — his third of the season — and an assist in Victoriaville’s 5-4 win.

Noah Cates recorded a secondary assist with two shots in the Omaha Lancers’ 2-1 loss to the Tri-City Storm in their season opener Friday night.

• Remember Matej Tomek? Sure you do. The Slovak goalie prospect recruited to North Dakota who then failed to earn playing time before leaving for the USHL this season. Tomek is now with the Waterloo Black Hawks and stopped 22 of 24 shots in his first game. Playing time is important for Tomek and he’ll get it with the Black Hawks.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom stopped 14 of 15 shots in his only game last week, picking up a win Thursday against Karlskrona.

• Two more assists for David Kase, whose SHL career is off to a solid start. Kase has four assists and seven points in his first seven games with Mora IK.

Andrew MacDonald set to return; Flyers could lose another player through waivers

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Andrew MacDonald set to return; Flyers could lose another player through waivers

After the Flyers laid out an initial prognosis that defenseman Andrew MacDonald would miss the first few weeks of the regular season, it turns out the Flyers defenseman will be ready for the season opener on Oct. 4 in Las Vegas.

“He’s good to go,” general manager Ron Hextall said. “I’ve been watching him for awhile. He seems to have an ability to heal quickly and he’s done it again.”

The Flyers also expect to work MacDonald into a couple of the remaining preseason games.

MacDonald’s importance to the Flyers' blue line can’t be understated. Last season, he missed games with a lower-body injury, the result of a blocked shot, and the Flyers proceeded to win just three of their next 15 games, going 3-6-6 during that stretch. 

MacDonald’s presence should also help stabilize the defensive pairings, as he’ll likely work with Robert Hägg, who has struggled recently, to start the season with Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere comprising the top pairing.

After losing Martel, Flyers fear there could be more 

Organizationally, the Flyers appear stacked at the forward position, and so it didn’t come as much of a surprise to see the Tampa Bay Lightning claim 5-foot-9 forward Danick Martel off waivers Saturday (see story).

The move ensures Martel will be on the Lightning’s opening night roster, where there wasn’t much of a fit on the Flyers.

“The system is set up for guys like that,” Hextall said. “Good for Danick. It’s probably not the last time it’s going to happen to us in the next few years. We’ve got a lot of players and we’ve got a lot of good young players. We certainly would have liked to keep (Danick) in the system, but that’s the way the device is made for, to give a guy a chance.” 

If prospects Mikhail Vorobyev, Carsen Twarynski or Phil Myers make the team’s final roster, the Flyers would have to make room by placing a veteran such as, Michael Raffl, Dale Weise or Jori Lehtera on waivers to create the necessary roster space. 

Other injury updates

A day after coming off the ice prematurely, center Sean Couturier is dealing with soreness which kept him out of practice on Sunday. The Flyers still expect Couturier to play in at least one, if not two, preseason games.

Defenseman Travis Sanheim remains on track to resume skating this week. The Flyers' second-year defenseman has not practiced since sustaining an upper-body injury after he was driven into the boards by the Islanders' Matt Martin last Sunday in the Flyers' preseason opener.  

Wayne Simmonds continues to maintain his diligent preseason regimen. The Flyers' power forward says he's “pretty antsy” to get in some needed game action. Simmonds was working with the top power play unit — a group that also included Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Shayne Gostisbehere and Mikhail Vorobyev. The Flyers are aiming for Simmonds to see action in at least one of the final two preseason games.

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What Carter Hart can learn from Shayne Gostisbehere's rookie season

What Carter Hart can learn from Shayne Gostisbehere's rookie season

Ron Hextall has exercised as much extreme caution and due diligence when it comes to throwing a young promising prospect into the frying pan of an NHL rink.

But Nov. 14, 2015, will always be a day when the Flyers' general manager and the entire organization was forced to deviate from the plan.

And for the better.

With an injury to Mark Streit, the Flyers were desperate for a puck-moving defenseman to bring an offensive punch to their blue line. The five healthy blueliners were Nick Schultz, Radko Gudas, Brandon Manning, Michael Del Zotto and Luke Schenn.

The Flyers were begging for a player of Shayne Gostisbehere’s abilities. That night, Gostisbehere assisted on the Flyers' game-tying goal before Jake Voracek provided the overtime game-winner to beat the Hurricanes in overtime. Three nights later, Gostisbehere ripped a power-play slap shot past Jonathan Quick for his first NHL goal.

Seventeen months after leading Union College to a national championship in Philadelphia, GhostMania was sweeping over the Wells Fargo Center once again, and it never stopped. Ideally, the Flyers wanted Gostisbehere to spend a full season with the Phantoms, but that egg hatched well before the timer expired.

Gostisbehere went on an amazing tear in January, scoring a point in 15 straight games to set a new NHL record for a rookie defenseman. When March rolled around, he was easily logging over 20 minutes a night.

“Play your game, do your thing,” Gostisbehere said, “When all of that stuff was happening with me and everything going so well, I think the most important thing is the guys in this room keeping you down to Earth and your family and your support system don’t let you get too big of a head. It was crazy, but it was a fun ride.”

And the Flyers' goaltending carousel always seems to be one crazy, never-ending ride.

Sunday, general manager Ron Hextall added to the ongoing drama by declaring Michal Neuvirth doubtful for the season opener in Vegas with an injury he labeled as “not day to day,” which leaves the Flyers with Brian Elliott, Anthony Stolarz and Carter Hart as their only healthy goaltending options.

As he did with Gostisbehere three years ago, Hextall is hesitant to heap too much praise on Hart despite the rookie’s impressive body of work in the preseason with a 1.20 goals against average and a .957 save percentage, and ideally would prefer the 20-year-old Hart to receive a significant workload in Lehigh Valley before he’s thrust into the NHL spotlight. 

“If it’s right for the team, sometimes you have to do it,” Hextall said. “I haven’t ruled out anybody who’s on the ice with our team right now.”  

Three years ago, Hextall had no choice in elevating Gostisbehere from Lehigh Valley, where the defenseman had just 14 games under his belt. Now, here we are 11 days removed from the regular season and the Hart era seems to be one heartbeat or hip injury away from reality. 

Gostisbehere remembers the support system he had in 2015, and with the same core group in the Flyers' dressing room, the team's fourth-year defenseman can’t see why Hart can’t have the same level of success if given the opportunity.   

“It’s you against the world. If you do bad, it’s not the worst thing in the world,” Gostisbehere said. “He will kill it because he’s such a good goaltender. When he gets a chance, I know he’ll be ready.”

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