For the newest members of the Philadelphia Flyers organization the annual developmental camp held in Voorhees, New Jersey is their first taste of pro hockey. For others who’ve been part of the organization for a couple of years, it’s the first chance of the year to showcase the progress they’ve made since last camp. It offers a shot to convince the higher-ups you may be ready for a crack at the NHL.
Another developmental camp has come and gone, with the week-long activities ending with a full 5v5 scrimmage open to the public. I was lucky enough to attend the final day and observe the up-and-coming young prospects first-hand to see which new faces popped, and which of the elder members look ready to take the leap to the pros.
Most of the 41 prospects in attendance rights’ are already owned by the Flyers, but for a handful of kids, this is an opportunity to earn an entry-level contract (ELC) and become the next Philippe Myers or Yegor Zamula (previous camp invites who performed well enough to earn ELC’s).
As expected, the forwards were the star’s of this year’s scrimmage, showcasing the variety of skillsets present in the organizational prospect pool. A few defensemen did make their mark on the game as well. Let’s get into whose star shone brightest.
Cam York, D, USNTDP
Anyone upset about the Flyers decision to select defenseman Cam York in the first-round over goal-scorer Cole Caufield can put their uneasiness to rest. York looked every bit like he belonged in this game, showing off his smooth skating, poise, and excellent IQ.
York showed a willingness to carry the puck out of the defensive zone to escape pressure if necessary, and never panicked under heavy forechecking. In the offensive zone, he constantly found soft spots and cycled well to set-up teammates and maintain possession.
Without the puck, he always seemed to be in the right place at the right time to break up opportunities before they ever truly developed. On one occasion he plucked a saucer pass out of the air that would have resulted in at least a 2-on-1 without his aggressive read.
Joel Farabee, LW, Boston University
Joel Farabee, the Flyers 2018 first-round pick, should see himself in an orange and black sweater in short order if he can replicate his work in this scrimmage.
All of Farabee’s traits were on full display; relentless forechecking ability, excellent defensive zone reads, and good instincts in the neutral zone contributed to a solid showing. There’s a reason his line alongside Wade Allison and German Rubtsov spent almost all of their time in the offensive zone.
His best play came when he stepped up in the neutral zone to pick off a cross-ice pass, giving him a clean breakaway. Although he didn’t bury his opportunity, it’s a glimpse at how smart of a player he is. He got his redemption in the team-wide shootout, making a sweet deke before sliding the puck through the goaltenders five-hole.
Wyatt Kalynuk, D,University of Wisconsin
Wyatt Kalynuk was a pleasant surprise at this event, and to my eye’s, was the most impactful defenseman from start to finish. I’d wager a big leap is coming this year for Kalynuk – the former seventh-round pick – at Wisconsin where he’ll take over as captain.
The 6-foot-1 defenseman flashed some speed using it to escape forechecks and buzz around the offensive zone. He utilized a hard accurate shot on multiple possessions, ringing one off of the post in the second period, catching the attention of the crowd.
At this point, Kalynuk is an under-the-radar prospect with sneaky upside, one that Flyers fans should look out for.
German Rubtsov, C, Lehigh Valley
A former first-round pick, Rubtsov was known for his advanced defensive game and untapped offensive potential. Before going down for the season last year with an injury, he was starting to flourish in the offensive zone.
It appears as though Rubtsov is going to pick up right where he left off. Early in the game he was driving play and making plays in all three zones.
Great defensive zone coverage? Check. Aggressive neutral zone reads? Check. Quality opportunities in the attacking zone? Check.
The 6-foot tall Russian was a monster along the boards in this game, consistently getting the better of his counterparts and using his long cycles and forechecks to set up teammates for dangerous shots on goal.
Rubtsov has put himself in the running to make the team out of camp, that is unless another highly touted prospect has something to say about it.
Morgan Frost, C, Sault Ste. Marie
Which brings us to Morgan Frost, the front-runner amongst the prospects vying for a shot with the big club.
Frankly, Frost’s play for the majority of this contest was a bit underwhelming for a guy most expect to knock the door down at training camp. That is until his line, which included Isaac Ratcliffe and Bobby Brink, decided to take over the game in the last 10 minutes or so.
Frost set-up Brink on the back-door with a beauty of a cross-slot saucer pass through two defenders, showcasing his excellent vision and playmaking ability. His biggest moment came in the shootout bringing the crowd in Voorhees to a roar on this magnificent goal.
This is the elite skill that has Flyers fans so anxious for Frost’s professional debut. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp, expect him to be the first call-up during the season. This kid is the real deal.
Bobby Brink, RW, Sioux City
It’s up for debate who sparked the second half onslaught for this line, but I’d put my money on Brink. Despite his noted awkward skating stride, he had no trouble torching the opposition, setting up a ton of dangerous chances in a variety of ways.
Although Frost fed him with an impeccable pass, finishing the feed was not easy. Yet, on his backhand, at full speed, he redirected the puck into the top-shelf giving his team the lead, and the win.
Brink looks like an absolute steal at this point. Aside from his skating which seems fixable, he has all the tools to be high-end NHL’er.
Noah Cates, LW, Minnesota-Duluth
The most surprising standout of the day was winger Noah Cates who dominated every time he stepped on the ice. A may be a bit of hyperbole, but I don’t believe he spent any time in the defensive zone when his line took the ice. He was that good.
Cates displayed patience, willing to turn the puck back and reset a play rather than force it and cause a turnover. He constantly kept his feet moving, hustling to break plays up in the neutral zone and turning it right back into offensive zone time.
He showcased excellent vision, creativity, and quick hands, and even set up camp invite, and brother, Jackson Cates for an easy tap-in goal. I’m intrigued to see how big of a jump he can take in his development this year at Minnesota-Duluth, where he’ll take on a huge role with the team.
As mentioned, Jackson Cates may have earned himself a longer look with the Flyers after a fantastic final day. Jackson was just as involved as his brother in setting up scoring opportunities and showed a shoot-first mentality.
Matthew Strome utilized his large frame to help guard the puck against defenders. He used his reach and size on numerous occasions to set-up plays and even tapped home a goal after parking himself in the opposing crease. His skating, while marginally better, still needs to improve for him to have a shot at the NHL.
Isaac Ratcliffe, like his linemates, had a strong second half but didn’t stand out as much as I expected him to. He did score a goal on a hard wrist shot that snuck through the goaltender and tallied the secondary assist on Brink’s goal.
Wade Allison looks to be recovering nicely from his ACL tear last season. He showed good burst and physicality, but outside of an early shift in the second half of the game, he slowed down considerably and couldn’t find the room to use his plus-shot. With more time to recover, he’ll be right back on track.
Every goaltender at camp (Kirill Ustimenko, Felix Sandstrom, Roddy Ross, and Samuel Ersson) performed admirably and made difficult saves look easy. In particular, Ustimenko and Ross stood out the most. The former made a few high-difficulty saves on one-timers, while the latter shut the door for Team Orange at the end of the game while Team White used an extra attacker down a goal.