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Prospect Pool Overview: Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers don't have a strong prospect pool, but Tony Ferrari took a deep dive to see which players can become impact NHLers at some point.
Ronnie Attard

Chuck Fletcher is really just out here doing stuff, eh? 

The Philadelphia Flyers general manager sent out three draft picks for Tony DeAngelo before signing him to a two-year deal. He then released the inspirational Oskar Lindblom to help get out of the cap issues that he created, and then flubbed on the Johnny Gaudreau sweepstakes despite being the favorite all because of that difficult cap situation. All this, while depleting their prospect pool and building a roster that currently looks like a bottom-10 roster in the league is one way of doing things.

Philadelphia’s prospect pool isn’t among the best in the league, but they've got some notable pieces. Elliot Desnoyers has proven to be a talented offensive producer who will relentlessly hunt down the puck on the forecheck. He's a dog on a bone in pursuit of the puck and then defers to his teammates to find and exploit pockets of space to utilize his shot or crash the net and bang home a loose puck. Zayde Wisdom is another diligent forward who battles for every puck. Wisdom was impressive in the AHL during the OHL’s lost season and then played a pivotal role for the Frontenacs in his return to junior last season. Wisdom will be with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms again this season in the AHL and will look to pick up right where he left off two seasons ago,

Tyson Foerster has a bomb of a shot and can be a power play weapon because of it but the first-rounder has dealt with injuries over the last two years and has had his development stagnated a bit. If healthy, he could play NHL games this year. Another goal-scoring winger, Samu Tuomaala, should take a step in the Liiga this season as he is starting to physically mature. Adding the finishing ability of either Foerster or Tuomaala would help a stagnant Flyers offense that finished second to last in goals for last season.

Bobby Brink is a good prospect who uses deception and silky smooth passing ability to pick apart his opponents. Unfortunately, he'll be out for the first half of the season as he recovers from a hip labrum surgery he had last month. Noah Cates is another NCAA product that looked good in his first stint of NHL action last season and could factor into the lineup this season.

Cutter Gauthier was the team's first-round pick last month. Drafted as a center despite primarily playing on the wing, the Flyers hope his plan to play center at Boston College goes well and he can fill a role down the middle of Philly’s lineup in time. Gauthier is a physical forward who gets to the middle and tries to settle into pockets to get his shot off. Whether he ends up as a center or on the wing, Gauthier fits the traditional Flyers’ brand of hockey.

The Flyers seem to lack the desire to build their prospect pool at the moment. They lack star power and depth at most positions. They have some players they’ve taken swings on in the draft that seem to be working out such as Yegor Zamula and Zayde Wisdom, but they lack a star at most positions. Who's the face of the next era of Flyers hockey? Are the young players already on the roster such as Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, or Cam York going to take it on? Are any of them in that tier league-wide? Chuck Fletcher has built a roster and pipeline with more questions than answers.

2022 NHL Draft Class

Round 1 (5 Overall) - Cutter Gauthier, LW/C, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
Round 3 (69 Overall) - Devin Kaplan, RW, U.S. National Development Team (USHL)
Round 5 (133 Overall) - Alex Bump, LW, Prior Lake (USHS - Minn.)
Round 6 (165 Overall) - Hunter McDonald, D, Chicago Steel (USHL])
Round 7 (197 Overall) - Santeri Sulku, LW, Jokerit (U20 SM-sarja)
Round 7 (220 Overall) - Alexis Gendron, RW, Blainville-Boisbriand Armada (QMJHL)

With the fifth overall pick, the Flyers selected Gauthier from the U.S. National Team Development Program. They selected the American forward for his blend of physicality and finishing ability. Gauthier played primarily on the wing this year aside from a short stint replacing Logan Cooley during the canceled world juniors. Gauthier works off the wall efficiently, using his 6-foot-2 and 200-pound frame to establish body position before escaping into space. His shot is a legitimate weapon and will give him a chance to be a 30-goal man at the NHL level if he is put in the right situation. Gauthier also physically engages in the defensive end, closing out along the boards and pestering opponents throughout the defensive end. His skating is good but could use some work; building in some more agile movement will allow him to be more effective with and without the puck. He lacks some of the dynamism and flash that could make him a high-level offensive play driver at the next level, but he could be a very good complimentary piece that likely ends up on the wing.

Devin Kaplan was a very nice addition to the prospect pool. He was possibly the most underrated member of this year’s NTDP squad. He was versatile enough that he was capable of playing anywhere in the lineup asked of him with his typical high motor and excellent use of his frame. At 6-foot-3, Kaplan showed the ability to protect the puck, use his size in board play and the cycle game, and chip in offensively at times. After a couple of seasons at Boston University, Kaplan could very well step into a bottom-six NHL role and never relinquish the spot.

Alex Bump split his season between high school and the USHL. His shot is legit and he has some slippery moves in his arsenal, but there will be some refinement that is necessary. He tends to stay to the outside, relying on his hands to open up space which isn’t always the most effective against more skilled and stout defenders who thwart his efforts. With another USHL season before heading to the University of Vermont, Bump will have ample time to round out his game.

Alex Gendron in round seven is an excellent value pick. A smaller player who bucks the trend of being a perimeter presence, Gendron attacks the middle lane with speed and skill before finishing with a very good shot. The QMJHL product was one of the better players at creating his own shot because the talent around him wasn’t always capable of helping him offensively. Still, Gendron might be one of the best picks from the seventh round.

Strengths

Philadelphia has some very solid depth on the wings. That’s especially true when you consider that their top two center prospects in Gauthier and Foerster will likely end up on the wings as well. Desnoyers and Wisdom bring some bottom-six workhorse-style forwards who can both chip in offensively. They play simple games predicated on being the hardest workers on the ice, which they often are. Tuomaala is a sniper who looks to exploit holes in defenses and tear them apart of the power play. He won’t drive play but he can be a very high-end passenger. Foerster is a bit more well-rounded but his shot is also his main weapon, feasting on opposing goalies when he is able to burst into space and get his shot off. The Flyers have a ton of depth on the wings in their prospect pool with various traits and skill levels that should help fill their NHL roster over time.

Weaknesses

Despite drafting Gauthier with the hope that he'll play down the middle, Philadelphia is short on bodies and talent in the middle of the ice. Even if Gauthier sticks to center, the Flyers have a shortage. JR Avon is an interesting signing as an undrafted free agent who popped off in the OHL this year for over a point per game after missing last year due to the COVID lost season in the OHL. Foerster could stick at center but his game fits better along the wall and not being relied upon as a high-volume transition player. Morgan Frost is a young center but he’s still figuring his game out at the NHL level. A pure center should be an area of focus should the Flyers draft high again in the next draft.

Next Man Up: RD Ronnie Attard/W Noah Cates

This would have been much easier had Bobby Brink not been injured in his offseason training. The former University of Denver standout would have slotted nicely into the bottom six of the Flyers lineup with room to move up but the labrum surgery will hold him out likely until the new year. With that, Ronnie Attard and Noah Cates could both fill roles on this Flyers squad that lack depth. If the team decides they don’t want to rely on aging and declining veterans, both Attard and Cates have proven to be capable NHLers in their short stints.

Prospect Depth Chart Notables

LW: Elliot Desnoyers, Isaac Ratcliffe, Noah Cates
C: Cutter Gauthier, Tyson Foerster, Jon-Randall Avon, Owen McLaughlin
RW: Bobby Brink, Samu Tuomaala, Zayde Wisdom, Devin Kaplan
LD: Emil Andrae, Yegor Zamula, Mason Millman
RD: Ronnie Attard, Wyatt Wylie
G: Samuel Ersson, Alexei Kolosov

For a deeper dive into the prospect pool with player rankings, check out the Yearbook and Future Watch editions of the Hockey News print edition

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