Isaac Ratcliffe

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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Philippe Myers wows on 1 play, German Rubtsov scores twice, more in Flyers rookie game observations

Philippe Myers wows on 1 play, German Rubtsov scores twice, more in Flyers rookie game observations

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — A rookie game is far from a preseason game.

However, there's always eyes on a game.

"A lot of these kids are coming in, they want to make an impression and games are the best way to evaluate players," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.

"It's a great opportunity to make a first impression, particularly with our coaching staff."

Plenty of Flyers prospects did positive things Wednesday night at PPL Center, home of the AHL affiliate Phantoms, in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Islanders' prospects.

The Flyers received goals from German Rubtsov (two), David Kase and Sean Comrie. Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Rubtsov were denied in the skills competition.

Let's get into some observations:

• During the summer, Fletcher said the team was "bullish" on Philippe Myers' upside and why wouldn't they be?

When you see Myers up close, he looks like an adult, not a 22-year-old prospect. The defenseman is built like an NHLer now at 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, and moves like one, too.

In the first period, he completely deked a defender, took advantage of space and found Rubtsov for a one-timer.

Right after Rubtsov buried the shot, he pointed at Myers as if to say that was you

It would be surprising if he's not in the Oct. 4 season-opening lineup for the Flyers (see story), who reworked their defense this offseason in large part because of Myers (see story). Everything is improved and then he does what he did Wednesday, which is an added bonus.

• One way to describe Rubtsov is steady. He might not jump off the page in a specific area but he does so many things well, which is why he could slide into a bottom-six role and fit in.

He scored a goal at even strength and on the power play. His offense is an underrated part of his game and a focus of his entering training camp (see story).

• Farabee was excellent. Not only is he offensively dynamic, but coaches have raved about his motor and it was evident Wednesday.

His puck pursuit stands out and that's where his wiriness benefits him because he skates hard and stays low to outrace the opposition. He worked his butt off in overtime and nearly won the game but nailed iron on a shot.

It's understandable why his current size (6-1/175 pounds) might be a concern at the NHL level over an 82-game season. There are times when he gets pushed off the puck around the boards, then there are moments when he outsmarts a defender with his quickness to avoid a hit or turnover (see story).

The Flyers definitely have options for their third-line vacancy (see story).

• The linemates of Farabee — Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe — were also impressive.

Both tallied assists on Comrie's first period goal.

Frost is a treat to watch with the puck on his stick and will make his case for the Flyers during the exhibition games (see story). Ratcliffe, Frost and Farabee created chances and showed what they can do with space on the power play.

Ratcliffe also has a nasty side to him, which should endear him to Flyers fans.

If all three start the 2019-20 season in the AHL, traveling to Allentown for Phantoms games will be worth the trip.

• The Flyers' decision to play Mikhail Vorobyev on the penalty kill but not the first-unit power play was notable.

The front office and coaching staff likely want to see his effort in that type of setting. Vorobyev was the preseason darling last year and won the Flyers' third-line center job out of camp. He then quickly lost it just 11 games into the regular season.

The vision and size (6-2/215) are there, but can he consistently play the hard minutes? Bottom-six players need to make an impact when they're not scoring and the Flyers will evaluate that with Vorobyev (and many other roster hopefuls) throughout the preseason.

• Felix Sandstrom and Kirill Ustimenko split the goaltending duties, with Sandstrom playing a little more than half the game.

He performed well with 24 saves and one goal allowed.

The 2015 third-round pick will see playing time behind Alex Lyon with the Phantoms. If the Flyers endure health issues in net, Sandstrom could see a ton of playing time during his first AHL season.

Ustimenko, a 2017 third-round pick turning pro this season, had a rough outing.

• Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman, two Phantoms to not overlook, did not play as the Flyers wanted to offer some of the non-pro prospects an opportunity. 

• A quick note on a defenseman: Keep tabs on Mason Millman this season. The 2019 fourth-round pick should make big strides with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit and both Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr have spoken highly about the 18-year-old.

• Gritty was in attendance and got away with a penalty ... because of course he did.

• The Flyers hold media day Thursday and Day 1 of training camp Friday (see details).

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Morgan Frost showing his hands, Chuck Fletcher praises Egor Zamula, more on Flyers rookie camp

Morgan Frost showing his hands, Chuck Fletcher praises Egor Zamula, more on Flyers rookie camp

VOORHEES, N.J. — The games are about to begin.

Day 4 of Flyers rookie camp wrapped up Tuesday, setting the stage for Wednesday's prospects game at PPL Center in Allentown, Pennsylvania, against the Islanders.

Let's get into our latest five observations:

1. Chill in the air

Morgan Frost will be fun to watch Wednesday night and throughout the preseason.

When the 20-year-old center has time and space, he's super dangerous. But even when he's in tight and around the net, his hands are so impressive. He's brisk, instinctual and accurate, and it will be fascinating to see how quickly those strengths translate at the pro level.

In camp, he has centered two of the Flyers' other top prospects Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe. The trio's chemistry looks natural and don't be surprised to see that line in the rookie game.

"It should be awesome," Farabee said. "Playing with some really elite guys in our group here."

2. Don't ignore Egor

When general manager Chuck Fletcher was asked if any prospect has jumped out at him during camp, he mentioned Egor Zamula.

The 6-foot-3, 172-pound defenseman continues to turn heads with his progress.

The one guy, to me, that just keeps getting better every day is Zamula. He's an impressive young man. He has another year of junior, so he's not a candidate to make our team this year in Philadelphia. But I saw him last year play junior, watched him play in training camp with the Flyers last year and he just continues to get better and better. He has a tremendous package of size, skill and skating, and as he matures and gets stronger, he's going to be a pretty impressive player.

- Fletcher

Zamula (who said there's no Y needed in his first name) was an excellent discovery by Flyers amateur scout Mark Greig (see story). The 19-year-old went undrafted last summer, was invited to 2018 Flyers training camp and earned an entry-level contract.

He is no longer a raw prospect as he skates smoothly, covers ground and possesses great reach. The lefty shot scored 56 points over 61 regular-season games in 2018-19 with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.

"Coming in here, he looks really comfortable," AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley head coach Scott Gordon said. "Obviously it's a nice find."

3. 'The best way to evaluate players'

A rookie game is a lot different from a preseason game.

However …

"A lot of these kids are coming in, they want to make an impression and games are the best way to evaluate players," Fletcher said.

The Flyers' GM has been pleased with the showing in camp.

"It's been great for Scott to start to work with them on some of the habits and things that we want our players in Lehigh to do this year," Fletcher said.

This is a talented rookie camp considering it features seven players with a shot at winning a season-opening roster spot on the big club.

4. On the Laberge of more?

The Phantoms will be loaded with experienced and young forwards in 2019-20.

One of those forwards to keep an eye on is Pascal Laberge.

The 2016 second-round pick has battled injuries throughout his early career, but in the 15 games he did play last season with Lehigh Valley, he scored five goals.

There's some offensive potential in the 21-year-old's game. 

5. The game

Gordon, who will coach the Flyers in the rookie game, said the team will dress 19 skaters and two goalies.

The Flyers will hold a morning skate from 10-11 a.m. at Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey, so we'll know more then about the lineup. 

The game is at 7 p.m. and will be broadcast on NBC Sports Philadelphia+ (no live stream).

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