How Flyers found prospect Yegor Zamula and his 'huge upside'

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How Flyers found prospect Yegor Zamula and his 'huge upside'

The moniker is one for the all-name team.

Yegor Zamula.

While it grabbed the eyes scrolling down the Flyers' rookie and training camp rosters, that was all it did — other than that name taking you to the end of the alphabet, nobody knew a thing about the player.

Except for the Flyers.

They at least knew something thanks to Mark Greig.

"Mark Greig has been a big Western scout for the Flyers for a number of years," Jeff Chynoweth, the general manager of the WHL's Calgary Hitmen, said last week in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "I know Mark very well, I talk to him throughout the season, he'll ask you questions about certain players. They see things differently, that's their job. Mark has a great eye and has for a number of years."

The club's amateur scout stayed on the Zamula trail, which has now found its way to the Flyers. When the 18-year-old went undrafted this summer and didn't stick with the Flames after the team's development camp, Greig kept in touch with Zamula's agent Vlad Shushkovsky. It resulted in the Flyers inviting the 6-foot-3, 160-pound defenseman to camp on an amateur tryout. Eleven days later, he had an entry-level contract from the Flyers and had fans thinking about another Philippe Myers.

The 6-foot-5 blueliner went undrafted himself and latched on with the Flyers in 2015 via an entry-level deal. Less than a month ago, Myers, now 21, was ranked a top-50 prospect by NHL Network.

In 2018-19, Zamula will play his first full season with Chynoweth's young but up-and-coming Calgary team in the WHL. 

"I think the biggest thing is everyone develops at a different rate," the Hitmen GM said. "There are a lot of late bloomers. You scour the globe looking for the best players and prospects you can and not everyone develops at the same time."

Greig, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager and director of player personnel Chris Pryor have had success with defensemen out of the WHL, specifically Ivan Provorov (2015 first-round pick) and Travis Sanheim (2014 first-round pick), a Calgary product himself.

"Western guys that Mark has seen a lot of," Chynoweth said. "And it's not just because of him, it's the whole staff under Chris Pryor."

The Hitmen claimed the Russian Zamula off WHL import waivers in January. The Regina Pats, his former team, were forced to place Zamula on waivers after making a trade that put them over the two-player limit of non-North American import players.

"We had a little bit of knowledge about him because his agent represents the other Euro on our team and actually our Euro on our team lives with the agent," Chynoweth said. "So we kind of had a bit of an inkling of what might happen in Regina and from our end, we just felt it was an opportunity to add a young guy with lots of potential."

So who is Yegor Zamula and what is the potential?

"I think he's only going to get better," Chynoweth said. "He's a very slight player, that's the one thing he's got to do like any young player, he has to get bigger and stronger.

"He reads the ice very well, he can slow the game down. … He reads and reacts, he's got a great, active stick.

"I think there's a huge upside with Yegor. I'll be quite honest, I was surprised he wasn't drafted. … He definitely has a lot of things going for him and obviously, Ron Hextall, Chris Pryor and his staff thought the same thing."

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Capitals, Hurricanes set for Game 7 clash

There were two Game 7 matchups Tuesday night.

On Wednesday night, we've got another one and it should be good as the defending champion Capitals try to put away the Rod Brind'Amour-led Hurricanes, who are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.

The first-round series hasn't lacked fireworks or physicality. Game 7 should be no different.

Below is the full schedule for Day 15 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Carolina Hurricanes at Washington Capitals (tied 3-3)
Game 7, Eastern Conference first round
7:30 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

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

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

Updated: 5:13 p.m.

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 is expected to play for the Penticton Vees of the BCHL during the 2019-20 season. However, per separate reports, O'Brien's decision for next season is still being decided.

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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