Philadelphia Flyers

Flyers 2017 rookie camp: Outlook, projections for 25 players on roster

Flyers 2017 rookie camp: Outlook, projections for 25 players on roster

Sometimes rookie camp features a few prospects with legitimate shots at cracking the Flyers' roster when big camp breaks.

This year's edition is a bit different.

As the Flyers' youth movement picks up a notch, 2017 rookie camp presents five to six players with a conceivable chance to make the big club on opening night or at some point this season.

Those prospects and many others kick things off Monday at Flyers Skate Zone before main training camp opens Friday.

Let's get you set for rookie camp by breaking down the roster, which is comprised of 25 players:

Forwards (16)

Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW, 5-11/187, No. 62
Outlook: The 21-year-old's prolific junior scoring didn't translate into his first year of AHL competition, which is common for some prospects in Year 1 of the jump. More acclimated and with a bigger role, the 2014 second-round pick is excited for Year 2 in Lehigh Valley.

Projection: Second season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Connor Bunnaman, C, 6-1/207, No. 82
Outlook: Bunnaman, a physical two-way center, had a breakout 2016-17 junior season, scoring 37 goals after posting 16 the year prior. Selected in the fourth round of the 2016 draft, the 19-year-old signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers in April.

Projection: Fourth season with OHL's Kitchener Rangers

Radel Fazleev, C, 6-1/192, No. 65
Outlook: Fazleev, 21, is coming off his first pro season with the Phantoms in which he put up 16 points (six goals, 10 assists) in 65 games. The 2014 sixth-round pick endured a difficult transition because of a more limited role compared to his days with the WHL's Calgary Hitmen.

Projection: Second season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Morgan Frost, C/LW, 5-11/172, No. 68
Outlook: The Flyers' other first-round pick from this past June, Frost is a smart and skilled facilitator with high offensive upside. The 18-year-old, who wants to prove his well-roundedness in 2017-18, is still growing into his body but may be closer to the NHL than it appears.

Projection: Third season with OHL's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds

Ivan Kosorenkov, RW, 6-0/181, No. 89
Outlook: As of right now, the Russian winger is the Flyers' only training camp invite. He impressed at development camp after surprisingly going undrafted this summer. A teammate of Flyers prospect Pascal Laberge, the 19-year-old scored 34 goals in the QMJHL last season and will try to earn a contract with the Flyers.

Projection: Second season with QMJHL's Victoriaville Tigres

Pascal Laberge, C, 6-1/162, No. 75
Outlook: Laberge went through a hellish 2016-17 season. He was the victim of a vicious hit, resulting in a bad concussion and mental hurdles thereafter. The 2016 second-round pick possesses excellent makeup and is anxious to be his old self in his 19-year-old season.

Projection: Fourth season with QMJHL’s Victoriaville Tigres

Oskar Lindblom, LW, 6-1/192, No. 54
Outlook: Once a relatively unknown 2014 fifth-round pick, Lindblom is now on everybody's radar. The 21-year-old Swede has developed into one of the organization's top prospects and will be pushing hard for a roster spot after showing his game in the SHL. Lindblom's size and scoring ability on the wing have many believing he is a building block and soon-to-be difference-maker.

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms or the Flyers

Nolan Patrick, C, 6-2/198, No. 64
Outlook: A training camp headliner, the 2017 No. 2 overall pick will have all eyes on him as he shoots for the Flyers' roster instead of a return to the WHL. Patrick, who turns 19 next week, is a do-it-all talent up the middle but must prove he's ready for the rigors of the NHL after an injury-plagued draft year and June abdominal surgery. It will be hard, though, to send him back to junior hockey — he can help now.

Projection: Either returns to WHL's Brandon Wheat Kings or makes Flyers' roster

Isaac Ratcliffe, LW, 6-5/205, No. 76
Outlook: A big boy, Ratcliffe is strong on his skates and soft with his hands around the net. Some viewed him as a first-round pick in June. The Flyers traded up to snag him in the second round (35th overall). The 18-year-old comes with a tall ceiling and will try to build off a 28-goal, 26-assist junior campaign.

Projection: Third season with OHL's Guelph Storm

German Rubtsov, C, 6-0/187, No. 63
Outlook: The 2016 first-round pick was super impressive at development camp in July and this marks his first rookie/training camp with the Flyers. The 19-year-old owns an advanced game and can do a lot of things. Once the Russian center played with his age group last season, his potential glowed.

Projection: First full season with QMJHL's Chicoutimi Sagueneens or first season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Anthony Salinitri, C, 5-11/170, No. 86
Outlook: Salinitri, 19, made big strides last season with Sarnia, going from 17 goals and 13 assists in 2015-16 to 28 and 30 in 2016-17 — not bad for a 2016 sixth-round pick. A former junior teammate of Travis Konecny, Salinitri exhibits nice speed at the center position.

Projection: Fourth season with OHL's Sarnia Sting

Matthew Strome, LW, 6-3/201, No. 78
Outlook: A ton to like in his size and skill on the wing but Strome is a flawed skater, a reason he dropped to the fourth round this summer. Still, that's a trait an NHL organization can massage and mold with time. The 18-year-old is a good kid and understands hard work.

Projection: Third season with OHL's Hamilton Bulldogs

Maksim Sushko, RW, 6-0/179, No. 90
Outlook: The Flyers' 2017 fourth-round pick from Belarus is a fast skater and polished with his stick. Only 18 years old, don't be surprised to see a considerable increase in offensive production for his second junior campaign.

Projection: Second season with OHL's Owen Sound Attack

Carsen Twarynski, LW, 6-2/201, No. 81
Outlook: Traded from the Calgary Hitmen during the 2016-17 season, Twarynski was strong with the Kelowna Rockets, totaling 22 points (seven goals, 15 assists) in 28 games with a plus-19 rating. The 2016 third-round pick is a tough-minded forward with good size. Set for his fourth junior season, he turns 20 years old in November.

Projection: First full season with WHL's Kelowna Rockets

Mike Vecchione, RW, 5-10/194, No. 74
Outlook: Far from inexperienced, Vecchione was a four-year standout at Union College, signed with the Flyers at the end of March and made his NHL debut in April. An intelligent and dedicated player, the 24-year-old will be fighting for a job in a forwards group brimming with competition.

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms or the Flyers

Mikhail Vorobyev, C, 6-2/207, No. 46
Outlook: The 20-year-old Russian played in the KHL last season and opened eyes at the world juniors with a tournament-leading 10 assists in seven games. The 2015 fourth-round pick enjoys creating behind the net and will be a player to watch at Lehigh Valley.

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Defensemen (7)

James de Haas, D, 6-4/209, No. 85
Outlook: Another big blueliner, de Haas, 23, signed with the Phantoms in August after four years with Clarkson University. As a captain last season, de Haas tallied 29 points — most by a Clarkson defenseman in 14 years — on seven goals and 22 assists in 37 games.

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Mark Friedman, D, 5-10/191, No. 59
Outlook: A bit under the radar given the rich amount of defensive prospects in the Flyers' system, Friedman goes all out and has two years of USHL experience along with three years of college (Bowling Green State). Don't forget about the 2014 third-round pick at Lehigh Valley.

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Frank Hora, D, 6-1/203, No. 77
Outlook: The 21-year-old signed with the Phantoms in July after playing four years with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers. More of a stay-at-home defenseman, Hora registered a career-high 33 points in his second junior campaign.

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Sam Morin, D, 6-6/227, No. 50
Outlook: This should be the season the 2013 first-round pick makes the jump to join the Flyers' youthful blue line. Morin, 22, has had plenty of seasoning. Strong along the boards and in his own end, he looked the part in his NHL debut last April.

Projection: Third season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms or first season with Flyers

Phil Myers, D, 6-5/209, No. 61
Outlook: With a full summer of good health and training, the 20-year-old is stronger and could be a dark horse to make the Flyers out of camp. Myers looks like an absolute steal as an undrafted free agent the Flyers snagged in 2015. A true two-way defenseman, Myers is getting much closer to making an impact in orange and black. 

Projection: First season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Travis Sanheim, D, 6-4/199, No. 57
Outlook: If not out of camp, Sanheim very well could be with the Flyers at some point in 2017-18. The 2014 first-round pick is the Flyers' most talented defensive prospect. Only 21 years old, Sanheim has come a long way physically and in his own end, while his offense is already there. Despite facing a bit of a numbers crunch this season, he's "coming to make the Flyers," he said.

Projection: Second season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Reece Willcox, D, 6-3/183, No. 60
Outlook: The 2012 fifth-round pick played 48 games last season with the Phantoms, his first at the AHL level. The Cornell product is a complementary defenseman and the 23-year-old will want to see more action in 2017-18.

Projection: Second season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Goalies (2)

Carter Hart, G, 6-1/177, No. 79
Outlook: Mature beyond his years, Hart is a mentally sound goalie with a precocious game. The 19-year-old has been superb at the junior level and it'll be intriguing to see how much he dominates that competition in 2017-18. Many view the 2016 second-round pick as the Flyers' goalie of the future.

Projection: Fourth season with WHL's Everett Silvertips

Alex Lyon, G, 6-1/201, No. 49
Outlook: Lyon will be the guy at Lehigh Valley this season after the injury to Anthony Stolarz. Following a stellar career at Yale, Lyon was solid in Year 1 with the Phantoms, posting a 2.74 goals-against average and .912 save percentage. He turns 25 years old in December and may see the Flyers if an injury hits the big club's goalie tandem of Michal Neuvirth and Brian Elliott.

Projection: Second season with AHL's Lehigh Valley Phantoms

Flyers GM Ron Hextall: 'We have a tough roster to crack right now, which is good'

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Flyers GM Ron Hextall: 'We have a tough roster to crack right now, which is good'

VOORHEES, N.J. — With 26 players still competing to make the Flyers' 23-man opening day roster, the competition over the final few spots is heating up.

"We have a tough roster to crack right now, which is good for us," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Saturday after practice.

The Flyers already trimmed 18 players from their roster Thursday, but the most difficult decisions lie ahead. The tightest battle appears to be developing at defenseman, where Brandon Manning and rookies Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg are all vying for two spots. Travis Sanheim is still in the mix, but will likely start the season at Lehigh Valley.

So far, there is no clear winner in sight.

"We're going to monitor the situation as we go along here," Hextall said. "We'll see what we have with injuries and whatnot, and we'll make decisions at the appropriate time."

"They've all played well. They're all here for a reason still. We could've sent one of them down if they didn't deserve to be here, but at this point, they all deserve to be here."

Both Morin and Hagg have impressed this training camp and preseason. Manning has experience but is also working his way back from offseason back surgery — though Hextall does not sound concerned.

"There's nothing that tells me or certain information that I have from our staff that he's not ready to go," Hextall said, "so as far I'm concerned, he's 100 percent ready to go."

Some cuts will be easier than others. As expected, Alex Lyon was demoted to Lehigh Valley on Saturday.

Between Lyon and one of the blueliners, the roster will eventually get down to 25. That means two forwards will eventually wind up out of the equation, and the three players on the fringe fighting over that one spot are running out of time.

"We have four (preseason games) left," Hextall said. "Our big guys have to play, so we're getting ready for the season now. There's still players in the mix, but you get down as quick as you can and go from there."

Hextall acknowledged spots are "hard to come by" for prospects such Mike Vecchione, who has only appeared in two preseason games thus far. However, the Flyers are not viewing a demotion as a disappointment for any of their young talent.

"We'll see what Vechs, what he does," Hextall said, "and if he has to start out down below, or a couple other guys have to start out down below, that's the way it is."

In addition to the 18 cuts the Flyers made, two players will wind up on injured reserve to begin the season. Winger Colin McDonald and center Cole Bardreau are finished for the remainder of camp and preseason.

Bardreau is out for three-to-four weeks with an upper-body injury. McDonald is down for an undisclosed number of weeks with a lower-body injury.

Barring any additional major injuries, the Flyers intend to carry a full 23-man roster in the regular season, which is set to open Oct. 4 at San Jose.

"You plan certain things in injuries and performance," Hextall said. "You have to adjust on the fly."

"Right now, I'd say we plan 23, but see who gets injured — if a guy is injured, how long is he gonna be — all that kind of stuff. We'll adjust as we go along here, but right now, I'd say we plan on 23."

Roster cuts
The Flyers on Saturday continued to trim their roster. Forwards Greg Carey, Corban Knight and Phil Varone and defensemen Mark Alt, T.J. Brennan and Will O'Neill were assigned to Lehigh Valley after clearing waivers as well as Lyon.

Rating 5 changes the NHL made to its rulebook

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Rating 5 changes the NHL made to its rulebook

If you have witnessed preseason hockey this past week, you are well aware that the NHL is buckling down on its rulebook and even revising it. An excess of penalties and power plays have occurred as a result of these changes. Are they good for the game? I examine each of the five new rules or changes to the existing rulebook. 

Rule 78.7 (b) — A coach's challenge on an offside play — If the result of the challenge is that the play was “onside,” the goal shall count and the team that issued the challenge shall be assessed a minor penalty for delaying the game.

In 2015, the NHL granted each coach a challenge they could utilize in the event of overturning an incorrect call on the ice. If the challenge failed and the original call stood, then the challenging coach would forfeit the team’s timeout. Starting this season, a failed challenge on an onsides call in which there’s a goal will result in a two-minute minor penalty.   

By doing so, the NHL instituted a method to help maintain the game’s integrity in the event of a missed call by a linesman, as many coaches hold onto their challenge at a critical juncture — typically during the third period. Now with a two-minute penalty, it’s a way of reversing course without actually taking away the challenge. It's as if the league is saying we want you to have a challenge, but not really. The league is now discouraging teams from using it. As we’ve seen over the past few years, offsides calls can be measured in millimeters — that’s how arbitrary it’s become. But to penalize an entire team for a coaching staff’s misjudgment is excessive, and as we’ll see this season, it will sway the outcomes of a few games. Forfeiting a timeout for losing a challenge is acceptable, but killing a two-minute power play? Absurd, and for that I give it …

Two thumbs down   

Rule 61.1 — Slashing — Any forceful or powerful chop with the stick on an opponent’s body, the opponent’s stick, or on or near the opponent’s hands that, in the judgment of the referee is not an attempt to play the puck, shall be penalized as slashing.

Flyers fans can call out Sidney Crosby for emphasizing this rule, which is not a rule change but simply the enforcement of an existing rule. Crosby violated this in the worst way when he performed a machete slice over the hands of Senators defenseman Mark Methot late in the season. The result was a broken finger, nearly severed from the tip and the loss of one of Ottawa’s top defensemen for weeks. Watch the video and you can hear Methot scream in pain as Crosby took his whack.

In the preseason, we have seen more slashing than department store prices during Black Friday. It’s out of control, not the slashing itself, but the slashing calls. As the rule states, it’s a "forceful or powerful chop," which usually requires a two-handed grip. However, the referees have resorted to blowing the whistle for a one-handed love tap. As Shayne Gostisbehere said Wednesday, “When they blow the whistle and everyone’s like, ‘What just happened?’ That’s not a penalty.”  

I suspect come October when the regular season begins, the officials will ease up on their slashing calls, but it definitely creates a gray area, much like the interference call. Over the course of the season, some refs will whistle everything, while others will let stuff go. If it protects the league from injury, especially serious injury in cases like Methot and even Johnny Gaudreau, it can be beneficial, but I see some inconsistency from game-to-game and for that I give it ...

One thumb up ... my good, non-slashed thumb

Rule 76.4 — Faceoff positioning and procedure — The players taking part shall take their position so that they will stand squarely facing their opponent’s end of the rink and clear of the ice markings (where applicable).

Like the slashing penalty previously discussed, this is another enforcement of an existing rule. In other words, the league wants to cut down on cheating during faceoffs. You know when players began cheating on faceoffs? Since the inception of the faceoff. In fact, I can recall producing a three-minute story when I was working at a Nashville TV station on how players gain advantages and bend the rules on faceoffs. Three minutes. On cheating! 

Now, those L-shaped lines are no longer suggestions or recommendations, but strict guidelines of where the players should stand prior to a faceoff. If a team is caught twice during the same faceoff (and it doesn’t have to be the same player), the result is a two-minute minor penalty. The Islanders' Josh Ho-Sang was a guilty offender twice during Wednesday’s game in Allentown and the Flyers benefited with a power play in each instance. The league’s explanation states they want to protect players from banging heads, and more importantly, protect the linesman dropping the puck. 

Like the slashing penalty, I’m curious to see which linesmen strictly enforce this rule and which ones will be a little laxer. This is another one of those penalties (like the challenge call) that you certainly don’t want to impact the outcome of a game. The league has good intentions for enforcing Rule 76.4, but will they have consistent enforcement? And for that I give it …

One thumb up

Rule 87.1 — No timeout shall be granted to the defensive team following an icing.

Once again, here’s another example of a moment when a coach would intervene during a critical point of a hockey game (usually late during the third period). An attacking team is applying pressure in the offensive zone of a close game and the defensive team, obviously gassed, flips the puck out of the zone for an icing. That coach proceeds to call a timeout to allow his team to catch its breath and grab some water before the ensuing faceoff.

My take on the new rule: Love it! This rule should have been implemented years ago. You can penalize a team for icing without actually calling a penalty. Allowing a timeout does exactly the opposite and circumvents any drawbacks of icing. By forcing a tired group of guys to line up and take a faceoff right away is precisely the way it should be handled, and for that, I give this new rule …

Two big thumbs up

Eliminating Rule 80.4 — Numerical advantage on faceoffs — When a team on the power play high sticks the puck, the ensuing faceoff will be conducted at one of the two faceoff spots in their defending zone.

This is the abridged version of the rule that was roughly half a page long. Playing the puck with a high stick is instinctual and when the game is played at warp speed, a player’s natural inclination is to raise their stick in an attempt to knock the puck out of the air. When a player is guilty of a high stick, the whistle is blown and a faceoff occurs. Now that this rule has been eliminated entirely from the rulebook, the ensuing faceoff will take place in the zone in which the infraction was committed.

No team should be given a territorial advantage as a result of a high stick. I’m surprised it’s taken this long to acknowledge the absurdity of Rule 80.4, and for finally acknowledging this, I give the elimination of this rule …

Two thumbs up