Tanner Laczynski, a Flyers prospect growing into a pro at Ohio State

AP Images/Al Goldis

Tanner Laczynski, a Flyers prospect growing into a pro at Ohio State

When many think of forwards in the Flyers' pipeline, names like Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe come to mind.

Here's a name that should be on everyone's radar for 2019-20: Tanner Laczynski.


Because the 21-year-old center isn't all that far away. His game oozes with pro readiness, from his size (6-1/193) to his shot and, most notably, his preparation.

College has done him well.

And at Ohio State, a big senior season awaits Laczynski, one filled with motivating factors and a potential run at the Hobey Baker Memorial Award (top college player).

Forget that sixth-round label; he'll be a guy to watch among all Flyers prospects.

"The biggest thing for Tanner is he trains like a pro," Ohio State head coach Steve Rohlik said Monday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "He's our hardest worker every day in practice, he's not easy to practice against, he competes at a very high level all the time. 

"That's what's a major factor in him continuing to develop. And he takes advantage of the resources — our strength and conditioning, nutrition, off ice, on ice with the coaches, individual skill sessions, all those kind of things. I think that's one of Tanner's benefits is that he takes advantage of all those areas and that's why you see him continue to succeed and continue to get better."

Laczynski, a 2016 sixth-round selection of the Flyers, enjoyed a standout sophomore season in which he scored 47 points (17 goals, 30 assists) in 41 games, was named a Second Team West All-American and helped lead the Buckeyes to the Frozen Four.

The encore wasn't as special.

As a junior, Laczynski missed nine games because of injuries, including a key six-game stretch through February.

"When he came back, he certainly wasn't at 100 percent as far as where his game was," Rohlik said. "But it didn't take him long to get back into that."

He put up 30 points (10 goals, 20 assists) in 27 games and Ohio State was upset in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals before being shut out in its opening game of the NCAA Tournament. The Buckeyes lost their final three games, with Laczynski going scoreless over the last two.

Not the way he wanted to go out, so it's back to school for one more go-around.

For a guy like Laczynski, why not? The Flyers have until Aug. 15, 2020, to ink Laczynski to an entry-level contract before losing his rights. His game has steadily progressed into pro caliber and another year of Division I hockey will only help. Rohlik said Laczynski will play "in a lot of situations where he can continue to improve" while handling the puck "as much as anybody." 

"He wants to come back and try to finish some unfinished business and those are all goals — get a degree, get better as a hockey player, develop, become a better person and try to win your last game," Rohlik said. "I think all those things fill his bucket."

Given how far Laczynski has come since 2016, Flyers player development coach John Riley won't mind taking a few more trips to Columbus, Ohio.

"He's been at a lot of our games, a lot of communication, what they see, what we see, continued areas that we all want to see him develop," Rohlik said of Riley, Ohio State's go-to contact with the Flyers. "They've done a great job of communicating with me, liking what they see, feedback — good or bad."

The Buckeyes recruited Laczynski back to his midget hockey days in 2013 with the Chicago Mission.

"Just a big, strong kid, had great hand-eye coordination and certainly was a big factor at every level he played in," Rohlik said.

The pro level will be next after four years of college, time well spent by Laczynski.

"Strength-wise, that's not going to be an issue. Work ethic's not going to be an issue," Rohlik said. "But I know there are parts of his game that he wants to continue to get better. He shoots the puck like a pro, but he's got to learn to shoot more. … Smaller areas, working on those first few steps, all the little things that are going to continue to help him get better.

"He's going to do whatever it takes to be the best player he can for the Flyers. That has been his main goal here at Ohio State, that he's going to take advantage of every resource he can here because his dream is to play at that level. … I just think he's going to come in there and try to prove himself and try to be an everyday player for them at some point."

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Chuck Fletcher: Flyers are 'bullish on Philippe Myers' upside'

Chuck Fletcher: Flyers are 'bullish on Philippe Myers' upside'

Back when Philippe Myers was called up to the Flyers in February, it was evident general manager Chuck Fletcher liked the 22-year-old prospect.

The Flyers were rolling through an NHL-best 10-game stretch at the time and pushing for the playoffs. Still, Fletcher had no qualms with trusting a kid who had no NHL experience to possibly jump into a postseason race.

"The fact that he's getting the call is a recognition of what he's accomplished and that he's knocking on the door," Fletcher said Feb. 9.

Where are the Flyers now on Myers?

Pretty high.

"We're bullish on Philippe Myers' upside," Fletcher said Saturday in a conference call.

Some of Fletcher's maneuvering with the Flyers' defense over the past two days has revolved around Myers and his ability to jump on a full-time role in 2019-20. The Flyers on Friday traded 29-year-old Radko Gudas in exchange for defenseman Matt Niskanen (see story). On Saturday, they parted ways with Andrew MacDonald, placing the 32-year-old on unconditional waivers for the purpose of terminating his contract (see story).

While Fletcher's work is far from done, the Flyers' defense is already rounding into shape, with visions of Myers taking a big step forward. The overwhelming point of trading Gudas was to acquire Niskanen, who can benefit the Flyers' defense in a variety of ways (see story). But the move also came to fruition with Myers in mind.

"Radko has been a very effective third-pairing defenseman for us," Fletcher said. "He's been a great member of our organization, he's competed hard and certainly we appreciate everything he did for our organization. 

"Going forward, we feel we have an in-house player in Philippe Myers that can come in and take on some of that role. He's only played [21] games in the NHL, so there could be an adjustment period, but having the ability to maybe slot Philippe into that third slot on the right side, we feel is a real proper place for him to potentially start his NHL career."

Myers, a 6-foot-5, 210-pound righty shot, was rated a top-50 prospect by the NHL Network last season. He's come a long way from going undrafted in 2015. He's quick for his size, a fluid skater and brings offensive qualities, as well.

He showed plenty of glimpses in his 2018-19 showcase.

Here's an early look at the Flyers' potential 2019-20 defensive pairings:

Ivan Provorov-Matt Niskanen

Shayne Gostisbehere-Travis Sanheim

Robert Hagg-Philippe Myers

"Certainly if we can find a guy that can play in our top four that we have the ability to acquire, we'll certainly look at it," Fletcher said. "I will say that we have some really top-end young defensemen here that have the potential to grow into that role. If you look at Ivan Provorov and Travis Sanheim … Shayne Gostisbehere is a young man that's been very effective in his young career so far, and by bringing in Matt Niskanen, we feel that we have some quality defensemen.

"You're always looking to upgrade if you can, but it will certainly depend on whether we can acquire that player and whether even that player is available.

"In saying our defense corps is young, I do believe it's the strength of our team going forward."

Myers can make it younger and stronger. In just two days, the Flyers cleared him a path, as if to say: Here's a spot, go take it.

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Chuck Fletcher, Matt Niskanen see a Flyers team ready to pop

Chuck Fletcher, Matt Niskanen see a Flyers team ready to pop

At first, Matt Niskanen was "a little surprised" and caught "a little off guard."

He had just been traded by the Capitals, a team with which he won the 2018 Stanley Cup and experienced fond memories, and was now headed to a division rival.

But after Niskanen spoke with Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher, his emotions slowly started to shift. Fletcher wanted Niskanen to believe in the Flyers' situation and how the accomplished defenseman could be integral to it taking off.

"He said he likes their team, he felt that they're ready to pop," Niskanen said Friday in a conference call after being dealt to the Flyers (see story). "He kind of feels the same way that I do about the group there — young talent, they're close, just need to add some more pieces along the way. 

"It sounds like he's trying to put together a real good team and we'll see where that takes us. But I'm excited to be there. Trying to be a real solid piece for what they have there already. They have a lot of talent, these guys can play and put up some goals, and maybe get our goals against down — so maybe that's where I come in, to help out with that. I'm excited for that challenge."

From the start, the Flyers fell well short of expectations in 2018-19, which put Fletcher in the team's GM chair. The 82 points were the Flyers' fewest in a full season since 2006-07 and the club hasn't made the playoffs in consecutive years since 2010-12, when it last won a series.

In this league, things can change quickly, though. 

"We're all close," Fletcher said on April 18.

The Flyers went 0-4-0 against the Capitals in 2018-19 and were outscored 18-9, but Niskanen remembered looking at one of his teammates during the regular-season series and saying, "Man, they should be doing better than they are."

Fletcher sees Niskanen as the type of player to change that narrative.

"This is a guy that has played over 1,000 games in the NHL when you factor in his playoff experience," Fletcher said Saturday on a conference call. "He's a guy that commands respect with how he plays and how he prepares, he shows up every day.

"I'll give Ron Hextall and Chris Pryor (former general manager and assistant general manager) a lot of credit here — we have some top-end young talent on that back end, and I think the goal right now is to try to surround them with the right people and add some talent back there, as well."

Niskanen didn't need a whole lot of convincing by Fletcher. The GM's message only helped build the excitement for the former Capital and Penguin who has played 38 career games against the Flyers.

"Over the last few years they've gotten younger. I like their team," Niskanen said. "They have dangerous people, they've added young players with a lot of promise, hard to play against.

"They have good people, dangerous players, talented forwards, a young group of D that can really play — they're just young, I think. They're on the upswing. It was hard to play against the Flyers. Good organization, they play the game hard, they play to win. A lot of promise there. I'm excited about that."

With the Capitals' first-round exit in the 2019 playoffs following their Cup run the previous season, Niskanen said he has been training for over a month now and feels much better physically. He knows about the Flyers' defense. He referred to the group as "young studs" multiple times (see story).

So, yeah, as tough as the trade is, Niskanen believes in Philly.

"I've been fortunate to be on real good teams," he said. "I've been around and I know what good hockey looks like, I know what a good culture looks like. I'm not going to be a rah-rah guy, but I think with my résumé, my words hold a little bit of weight, especially with young players. 

"They have a good team and I'm not going to come in and ruffle any feathers, but I think my word will hold some weight. I'll come in and try to have real good practice habits and have a good attitude, bring a good work ethic, and hopefully I'll be another piece to what they already have there."

And potentially make the Flyers pop.

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