Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

Future Flyers Report: Could prospect Connor Bunnaman be headed back to NHL soon?

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers' depth at forward is being seriously tested.

The team is without Travis Konecny (concussion, out indefinitely), Michael Raffl (broken right pinkie finger, out approximately four weeks) and Nolan Patrick (migraine disorder, out indefinitely).

Going into their three-game road trip, the Flyers have only 12 healthy forwards. In his fifth stint with the big club since the beginning of 2018-19, Mikhail Vorobyev is centering the Flyers' fourth line. The 22-year-old is in audition mode yet again with the Flyers and will have to be noticeable in limited minutes to stick.

How Vorobyev performs moving forward and the Flyers' depth concerns could open the door for Connor Bunnaman. The 21-year-old forward made the Flyers' season-opening roster. He's healthy again with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley after missing nearly a full month because of a lower-body injury.

Bunnaman brings size and positional versatility as the 6-foot-3, 214-pounder can player either center or winger. This past week, Bunnaman scored a goal and had eight shots in three games.

The Flyers may want to have him play more games with the Phantoms before calling him up. However, they may need him soon. Bunnaman has Raffl-like potential and ability.

On Sept. 26, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher spoke highly of the 2016 fourth-round pick who scored 19 goals in 62 games with Lehigh Valley last season and two goals this preseason.

He’s been the best player in training camp. He was outstanding in the practices. ... By best player, I mean in terms of expectations. He’s come in and blown them away.

He honestly seems twice as fast this year to last year. I know we make a habit of saying players are quicker and faster but this guy is legitimately much faster than last year and he scored 19 goals last year, had a heck of a year in the American League.

There’s no reason to doubt that he can play some games for us this year.

The Phantoms play Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The Flyers play Wednesday, Saturday and Sunday. Keep an eye on Bunnaman and the big club's bottom-six depth.

Quick hits

• Noah Cates is continuing to turn heads.

As a sophomore, the 2017 fifth-round pick leads defending national champion Minnesota Duluth with nine goals and is a point-per-game player (16 points in 16 contests).

The 20-year-old winger is coming off a four-point weekend (three goals, one assist) in the Bulldogs' two-game sweep of Omaha.

The Flyers couldn't stop bragging about Cates this summer and are probably bragging some more to each other this week.

"I just need to play the way I can play, especially these next couple years with my development," Cates said in June. "They're on board with that, they're happy with where I'm at, but I've got to keep making strides."

He's doing just that.

• Cam York, the Flyers' 2019 first-round pick, recorded a goal and an assist in Michigan's 4-1 win over Penn State last Friday.

The mobile and skilled puck-moving defenseman owns nine points (four goals, five assists) in 14 games as a freshman.

• Egor Zamula enjoyed a three-point weekend for the Calgary Hitmen.

The 19-year-old is third among WHL defensemen with 28 points (seven goals, 21 assists) in 28 games and has a plus-19 rating.

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Future Flyers Report: A closer look at the current Phantoms, NCAA and beyond

Future Flyers Report: A closer look at the current Phantoms, NCAA and beyond

It's that time again — our weekly Future Flyers Report has arrived checking in on the Phantoms, NCAA and beyond!

A look into the Valley

• It took 17 games since making the transition from the Hamilton Bulldogs to Lehigh Valley Phantoms, but Matthew Strome finally scored his first professional goal with the Phantoms on Nov. 29.

• That same night, Carsen Twarynski — after going three games without a point since being sent back down from the Flyers — had himself a three-point night (two goals, one assist), all coming in the second period within a 12-minute span.

Isaac Ratcliffe had his second two-point week of the season, registering a goal and an assist. Before his assist on Nov. 27, he went seven games without a point. He now has five points on the year.

• Mikhail Vorobyev is like a switch — he's on when he's with the Phantoms and off when he's up with the Flyers. It's possible he used up his last chance with the big club after underperforming time and time again, but he still finds success in Lehigh. Who knows, anything's possible. Vorobyev had two assists this past week, which brings him to nine on the season.

• I figured it’d also be fun to note that even though Morgan Frost has been up with the Flyers since Nov. 18, he’s still tied for fourth in points with the Phantoms on the season.

• There were a lot of expectations for Nicolas Aube-Kubel heading into the season. With new faces in the organization, he had the opportunity to come out hot and prove himself ... but he's fallen short early on. While he did tack on an assist Nov. 29, he finds himself with only seven points in 22 games.

• And while this isn’t a note on a prospect, Saturday’s win brought head coach Scott Gordon to 375 career wins, moving into eighth place for wins by a coach in AHL history!

The college kids are kicking it up a notch

• Still trying to decide what was better this weekend — Cam York’s power play goal or his celly afterwards. Even though he did score, Michigan wound up falling short on Nov. 30 in a loss to Wisconsin.

• Now, switching gears from York and Michigan’s loss, prospect Wyatt Kalynuk wound up scoring the tying goal late in the second period. He now has three goals on the season.

• Ohio State had a successful two-game sweep against Michigan State this weekend. On the back end of the weekend, Tanner Laczynski scored in the first period to give his team the lead. Zero hesitation and puck placement make this one heck of a goal.

• Bobby Brink and the Denver Pioneers had the weekend off but hopefully that won’t hinder the fact that he’s starting to heat up. After going five games without a point, he registered four last weekend (two goals, two assists) in two games. Let’s hope he can keep that rolling when he and the Pioneers face Arizona State in a few days.

A little deeper into the pipeline

• Egor Zamula cooled off a bit this weekend after having five points in the previous. Still, he tallied two points, both assists in Calgary’s 4-1 win on Nov. 29. Not only are the Hitmen dominating their division, Zamula ranks second among all defensemen in assists with 19 and fifth overall in plus-minus.

• Week after week Jay O’Brien continues to impress in the BCHL. With a two-assist night Nov. 30, O’Brien ranks second in the league in points with 45. He and the Penticton Vees going 2-1 on the week, they now have 47 points on the season and are sitting comfortably at the top of the Interior division by five points.

• Everett’s Wyatte Wylie had a rare weekend in which he didn’t register a single point. This is only the second time this season in which he has gone two games in a row without getting on the board.

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Future Flyers Report: Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk one of four prospects to watch in Big Ten

Future Flyers Report: Wisconsin's Wyatt Kalynuk one of four prospects to watch in Big Ten

It’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

• The Flyers have some exciting young defensemen at the pro level. They also have some at the college and junior ranks.

Two that have received a lot of attention are Cam York and Egor Zamula. York was the Flyers' first-round pick this summer and is in his freshman year at Michigan, while Zamula is a near-point-per-game 19-year-old playing for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.

Another defenseman to keep tabs on his Wyatt Kalynuk, who the Flyers selected in the seventh round of the 2017 draft. The junior at Wisconsin had a goal, eight shots and seven blocked shots over two games against Notre Dame last weekend.

The 16th-ranked Badgers sport exciting underclassmen with Cole Caufield (2019 top-15 pick), Alex Turcotte (2019 top-five pick) and K'Andre Miller (2018 top-25 pick).

“The goal is to win a national championship," Kalynuk said this summer at Flyers development camp.

Kalynuk is a huge piece for Wisconsin. The 22-year-old has 10 points (two goals, eight assists) through 12 games.

"Probably my biggest strength is skating," Kalynuk said. "At Wisconsin, getting bigger, stronger and faster just improves it even more.

“I would consider myself a late bloomer, but it’s not a knock on me or anybody."

Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher checked out the Badgers last season in February. Wisconsin was playing Flyers prospect Tanner Laczynski and Ohio State. With Kalynuk, Laczynski, York and Bryce Brodzinski (2019 seventh-round pick at Minnesota), the Flyers will be watching plenty of Big Ten hockey this season.

Quick hits

• Goalie Kirill Ustimenko, a 2017 third-round pick, had a 32-save shutout for the ECHL's Reading Royals in a 1-0 win last Saturday over the Wheeling Nailers. The 20-year-old has a 2.57 goals-against average in 10 games (six wins).

• Isaac Ratcliffe has missed the Phantoms' last three games with an injury. The 2017 second-round pick is transitioning to the pro level with three points (one goal, two assists) in 12 games.

• Noah Cates scored his team-leading fifth goal in Minnesota Duluth's 3-2 win Saturday over Miami (Ohio). The 2017 fifth-round pick is a sophomore on the country's ninth-ranked team.

"We talk about him every day and we can't stop bragging about him," Flyers player development coach Kjell Samuelsson said this summer.

• Jay O'Brien, a 2018 first-round pick, is second in the BCHL with 40 points (15 goals, 25 assists) through 26 games for the Penticton Vees.

• Wyatte Wylie, another defenseman to watch, is a point-per-game player right now with five goals and 14 assists in 19 contests for the WHL's Everett Silvertips.

 

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