Welcome to the 2016 edition of “Top Shelf NHL Prospects”. As we go through the Summer of 2016 I will be featuring a team-by-team look at the top prospects in the NHL. I will follow the order of the first round of the NHL draft (as if there were no trades). You can find all the articles here. Since we had an extensive NHL Draft preview, I will not be reviewing the players who were drafted this year. There have been no games since then, and my reports on them will not have changed.
What I will be doing is linking you to those articles, as well as taking a look at prospects that were acquired before this year’s draft; their progress, and their chances of making the 2016-17 roster. I will also bring you one sleeper pick – a player who was either drafted in the 4th-round or later; or an undrafted free agent signing who I pick as my darkhorse to make the NHL. The cut-off for what is or isn’t a prospect is typically about 50 NHL games played or being 25 years old. These are not hard or fast rules though, and I may make some exceptions depending on the circumstances.
TSP: Philadelphia Flyers Prospects
The Philadelphia Flyers looked to be dead and buried early last season. Almost all playoff hopes seemed gone. Then they called up Shayne Gostisbehere. His puck-moving ability and offensive flair from the blue line sparked the team and led them on a long march up the standings. The Flyers would finish in the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference, and play the Washington Capitals in the first round. While they would fall to the Caps, the season must still be considered a success overall.
Its been a relatively quiet off-season for Ron Hextall. He worked to re-sign key members of the team. The only notable additions are depth pieces in Dale Weise, Boyd Gordon and T.J. Brennan. It will be up to the Flyers prospects to add to the team and take it to the next level.
Draft Picks: German Rubtsov, Pascal Laberge, Carter Hart, Wade Allison, Carsen Twarynski, Connor Bunnaman, Linus Hogberg, Tanner Laczynski, Anthony Salinitri, David Bernhardt
Graduates: Shayne Gostisbehere, Nick Cousins, Scott Laughton, Brandon Manning
Philadelphia Flyers Prospects Scouting Reports
Top Prospect Ivan Provorov
Defense — shoots Left
Born Jan 13 1997 — Yaroslavl, Russia
Height 6’0 — Weight 200 lbs [183 cm / 91 kg]
Drafted by Philadelphia Flyers in round 1, 7th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
Provorov had a strong season in Brandon, leading the Wheat Kings to the WHL title, and a spot in the Memorial Cup tournament. Unfortunately things didn’t go well when they got to Red Deer. There is no reason to let three games (during which Provorov still had two points), ruin the positives of the 21 goal, 73 point campaign. He was both the WHL and CHL defenceman of the year
Provorov is a very good skater. He has good speed and acceleration in both directions. He combines this with his solid stick handling to both lead and join the rush. With that speed he can sometimes recover defensively even when he makes a mistake. He is already working on picking his spots better. It sometimes seeme he tried to go end-to-end every time he touched the puck, or join the rush. He is caught less often. Provorov also has very good edge work and pivots, which allows him to cover a lot of ice. His balance and power is decent which helps him to win board battles or establish position on forwards in front of the net.
Provorov is a very good stick handler who protects the puck extremely well. He has the poise to control the puck at the blue line, and be the powerplay quarterback. He has good passing skills and vision, as he can make crisp tape-to-tape passes. Provorov has both a very good wrist shot, with a quick release as well as a strong slap shot from the point. Provorov is extremely good at moving laterally to open up passing and shooting lanes. He is a smart player who seems to always make a good play with the puck on his stick. In his own zone, he is extremely adept at avoiding fore checkers and makes a great first pass.
Provorov shows outstanding defensive skill as well.He has the potential to be a really good two-way defenceman. Provorov is strong positionally, and reads the play very well. He understands how to use his stick to cut down passing lanes and his body to block shots. Provorov shows improved strength and clearing the front of the net extremely well and in winning battles along the boards, though he can continue to work on adding muscle to his frame. While he isn’t one to throw big hits, he isn’t afraid of the physical play and board battles, and he will take a hit to make a play when necessary.
Provorov is very close to NHL ready. Expect to see him get a long look in training camp. Even if he does not make the roster to start the season, it won’t be long before he is in the Flyers lineup.
#2 Prospect: Travis Sanheim
Defense — shoots Left
Born Mar 29 1996 — Elkhorn, MAN
Height 6’4 — Weight 199 lbs [193 cm / 90 kg]
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in round 1, 17th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
Travis Sanheim had a strong season with the Calgary Hitmen as he finished his WHL career. He scored 15 goals and 53 assists for 68 points in just 52 games, setting new personal bests in goals per game, assists per game and points per game. He also played for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships. Sanheim also made his AHL debut, with three points in four games.
Sanheim is an excellent skater. He has very good top end speed in both directions, strong acceleration, and an excellent first step. His pivots and edge work are extremely good for a man his size. It gives him strong mobility in all directions. His balance is also good and while he isn’t much of a hitter, it gives him the ability to battle in front of the net, contain his man in the cycle, and win battles along the boards.
Sanheim takes charge of the play and leads rushes for the Hitmen, as well as joining as a trailer. He has the stick handling and the skating skills to move the puck out of danger in his own zone, and transition to the attack and lead the rush. He also makes a smart first pass and can be key to starting the transition game. Sanheim is also a very good passer from the blue line, showing poise in handling the puck, making smart offensive reads and creating scoring opportunities.
He’s developed his upper body strength since being drafted, and has a much harder slap shot from the point. It still won’t be characterized as a bomb, but Sanheim has ability to get it through to the net effectively. By walking the line and opening up shooting lanes he makes his shot more dangerous. He utilizes a quick wrister at times to keep defences off balance, which really adds to the slap shot effectiveness.
Defensively, Sanheim is very difficult to beat one-on-one. His excellent mobility and strong footwork keeps attacking forwards to the outside and makes him very hard to beat off the rush. Sanheim uses his long stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes and take away options when opponents are set up in the zone. He isn’t afraid to use his big frame to block shots and does so effectively.
Young defencemen take time. Travis Sanheim is incredibly talented, but he will also need some more development team. Expect to see him in the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for at least one season.
#3 Prospect: Travis Konecny
Right Wing/Centre — shoots Right
Born Mar 11 1997 — London, ONT
Height 5’10 — Weight 176 lbs [178 cm / 80 kg]
Drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers in round 1, 24th overall at the 2015 NHL Entry Draft
It was a tumultuous but productive season for Travis Konecny. The Ottawa 67s traded Konecny at the OHL trade deadline, moving him to the Sarnia Sting. Konecny put 101 points over 60 games between his two teams. He also had three points in two playoff games, but an injury kept him out of much of Sarnia’s first round loss.
Skating and Offensive Game
Travis Konecny has excellent speed, and tremendous acceleration. He utilizes it both on the rush, and to be a cannonball on the fore check. He has good balance and is strong on his skates. This helps him to to grind in the corners, work in the cycle game, or fight through checks to get to the front of the net. Konecny has strong agility and combines that with his great stick handling to elude defenders and create plays. His speed must be respected. He takes defenders wide and cut to the net. This gives him the ability to slow up quickly and create shooting or passing lanes.
Add to this great vision and passing ability and Konecny is the type of player who can make his linemates better. He also has a strong wrist shot and a good release. The good stick handling and soft hands also come in handy for Konecny when he gets close to the net, as he can beat goalies in close, or can tip in shots, or pounce quickly on rebounds. He has the versatility to play centre, right wing, and even play the point on the power play at times.
Konecny might be undersized, but he plays a physical, gritty game. He is also more than willing to use that physical game in his own end of the rink, coming back hard on the back check, applying back pressure and disrupting plays, and battling down low. He is more than willing to block shots, and has improved his face-off skills this season. Konecny could stand to add some muscle to his frame, and this will greatly help him when he starts to face bigger and stronger opponents in pro hockey. He also played important matchups and penalty killing minutes for the 67s and Sting this season.
In all likelihood, Konecny returns to Sarnia for his final year of junior hockey. He should be a leader for the Sting, as well as a leader for Team Canada at the World Junior Championships.
#4 Prospect: German Rubtsov
The Flyers drafted Rubtsov with the 22nd overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth scouting report on Rubtsov. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#5 Prospect: Sam Morin
Defense — shoots Left
Born Jul 12 1995 — St. Henri, PQ
Height 6’7 — Weight 227 lbs [201 cm / 103 kg]
Drafted by Philadelphia Flyers in round 1, #11 overall, at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft
Morin finished a decent rookie season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, scoring four goals and 19 points in 76 games. He also picked up 118 penalty minutes. It took some time for Morin to adjust to the AHL game, but he seemed to get better as the season went along.
Morin skates pretty well for a big man, but he does have some areas he needs to work on. His straight line speed is good for his size, and his acceleration is decent enough. His agility is also at a very good level, and this gives him some decent mobility. However he does need work on his edge work and pivots. Morin has had some trouble dealing with speedy forwards especially when they make quick cuts around him. He will need to work on this aspect of his game, and improve his ability to change directions quickly before he is ready for the speed of the NHL game.
Morin’s offense has greatly improved since his draft year. He is more confident with the puck on his stick and is more willing to wait an extra second or too to make to make a better play in the offensive zone. Morin has always had a good first pass in his own zone. He could use it better in the offensive zone, but this area of his game is improving. One thing that would help is if he keeps his slap shot low to allow his teammates to go for tips and rebounds. He may never be a huge scorer in the NHL, but there is some potential to be a second unit PP guy.
Listed at 6’7″, Morin is an imposing physical specimen at the back end. He plays a strong defensive game, using his size and physicality in his own zone. Morin throws big hits and battles hard in front of the net and along the boards. He plays a strong positional game and uses his size and his long stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes.
Morin has even got a bit of a mean streak, he plays very physical, and is often right on the border (and sometimes even over it) on what is legal. His high penalty minute totals can attest that he does have a tendency to sometimes cross that line. Morin is not afraid to drop the gloves either and with his size, its no surprise that he has been very successful when doing so.
Morin’s size literally made him a man amongst boys in the junior ranks and while he’s increased his weight from 207 when drafted to 227 last season, there was a bit of an adjustment to facing men in the AHL. Morin had to learn that he could not just push people around the way he did in junior and had to work on gaining leverage to be effective. He also had to adjust to the quicker speed of the AHL. Those gave him issues early in the year, but his game improved by the end of the year.
Morin will likely be in the AHL to start the season. As mentioned earlier, defencemen need time to develop, and the Flyers should be patient. With his size, it might even take Morin just a little longer to be NHL ready.
#6 Prospect Pascal Laberge
The Flyers drafted Laberge with the 36th overall pick in this year’s NHL draft. Prior to the draft, we did an in-depth dsscouting report on Laberge. As no games have been played since that report; we will not repeat it. You can check out the report here.
#7 Prospect Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Right Wing — shoots Right
Born May 10 1996 — Sorel, PQ
Height 5’11 — Weight 196 lbs [180 cm/89 kg]
Drafted by Philadelphia Flyers in round 2, #48 overall at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft
A leader for the Val-d’Or Foreurs, Aube-Kubel had an excellent season. He scored 38 goals and 84 points in 61 games. However Aube-Kubel and the Foreurs were a little disappointing in the playoffs. He only had three goals and no assists in their first round loss.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel is an excellent skater. If there is one area to criticize, and its really a minor concern, he needs some work on his first step. That said, its still better than most. Once he gets going he shows excellent acceleration and very good speed. Aube-Kubel has very good edge work and agility, and shows the ability to make very tight turns, and has an excellent crossover. His balance is decent but could be improved with more core strength going forward and this would help him to be stronger on the puck and better in board battles.
Aube-Kubel has a very good wrist shot coupled with an excellent release. He loves to shoot the puck and will fire from anywhere in the offensive zone. He has good hockey sense and an ability to find open spaces when his linemates have the puck. Makes decisions quickly and gets the puck off his stick in a hurry. Is a decent passer, with good vision; but shooting is more his game.
Aube-Kubel’s stick handling is decent, but he’s not one to hold the puck for long periods of time, he is always looking to quickly pass it off and get open on a give and go, or take the shot and go after the rebound. He’s also a good fore checker who gets in on the puck quickly and is very good at creating pressure and turnovers. Aube-Kubel is willing to battle in the corners, and will go to the front of the net and battle to score goals.
Aube-Kubel is a very good defensive player. He back checks hard and aggressively supporting the defence down low and plays physical on the puck carrier. He cuts down passing lanes with a good active stick and causes turnovers which he can quickly transition into attacking options.
Expect Aube-Kubel to continue his development with Lehigh Valley in the AHL this season.
Sleeper Prospect Philippe Myers
Defense — shoots Right
Born Jan 25 1997 — Moncton, NB
Height 6’4 — Weight 205 lbs [193 cm / 93 kg]
Signed as a free agent in September 2015
Undrafted in the 2015 draft, last season would become a dream year for Myers. He attended Flyers training camp, where he impressed the brass and earned an entry-level contract before heading back to junior with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. The Huskies had a magical campaign, going first overall in the regular season, and becoming QMJHL Champions in the playoffs. They would get all the way to the Memorial Cup Final, before midnight struck and they lost in overtime. Myers put up 17 goals and 45 points in 63 regular season games, and four goals, 16 points in 20 playoff games. He had hip surgery following the season and hopes to be back for the start of the season.
Myers skating is very good for his size. He moves quickly in both directions and has very good acceleration. If pressured, he can skate the puck out of danger, and away from fore checkers. He also has very good agility and foot work, making him extremely tough to beat on the rush. Myers is strong on his skates and has very good balance.
Myers really broke out this season. He always had a hard slap shot, but had real trouble getting it on net in the past. Myers corrected that issue this season and the goal total went through the roof. He also became more poised with the puck, waiting for the play to develop before getting rid of it. He makes smart passes and shows the vision needed to anticipate plays.
Myers uses his size to win board battles and to gain leverage in front of the net, but he really isn’t a big hitter. If he can develop this aspect of his game, he could become a really intimidating force of the back line. Myers does read the play well with good positioning. He anticipates where the play is going, creating turnovers. Once those turnovers are created he can transition to offence quickly. He uses his long stick to cut down the passing and shooting lanes.
Myers is looking like an absolute steal for the Flyers. He will still need time to develop and should find himself back in the QMJHL next year. With his size and skill set, if he can continue to refine his game, he could be a good NHL defenceman.
The Flyers have worked to build an outstanding system. The highlight is clearly the defence. Gostisbehere is already and NHL star. Provorov is likely to be a star. And Sanheim, Morin and Myers could all develop into top four level defence. Another Flyers prospect Robert Hagg hasn’t exactly developed as hoped, but there is still some potential there. Mark Friedman just accentuates the vast amount of blue line riches in the Flyers system.
The Flyers defencemen protect a strong group of goaltenders. My colleague Zach Anderson, went over the goalie prospects yesterday. There are some legitimate prospects in the group including Carter Hart, Alex Lyon, and Anthony Stolarz.
Upfront Konecny, Rubtsov, Laberge, and Aube-Kubel are a nice foundation of prospects. Wade Allison, Oskar Lindblom, Taylor Leier, Mikhail Vorobyev, and Tanner Laczynski add depth. The Flyers prospect group will rank very highly when we rank every NHL team. The only thing they are missing is a can’t-miss, blue chip forward.