The Philadelphia Flyers could have as many as five prospects playing in the 2021 World Junior Hockey Championship in Edmonton. Two players are returning from last year’s Team USA roster, two were invited by Team Canada to their selection camp, and one will most likely crack the Swedish roster.
Let’s start with the players who have already suited up in the WJC: the Flyers’ top two picks in the 2019 Draft, Cam York and Bobby Brink.
Related: THW 2021 World Juniors Coverage
York, a left-shot defenseman, was the team’s first-round pick, 14th overall. He had a strong freshman season in the NCAA with the University of Michigan Wolverines, posting five goals and 16 points in 30 games. He’s also off to a good start in 2020-21, with four points in as many games. The California product should see more ice in this year’s tournament than in 2020 when he averaged just 5:55 in ice time per game and was held scoreless in five contests.
Brink, meanwhile, saw the ice a little more, with an average of 11:22 per game. He posted a goal and an assist in the tournament. Brink, a Minnesota native, could earn a role in the top six this time around. The 19-year-old right winger hit his stride offensively in 2019-20 as a freshman with the University of Denver Pioneers, racking up 11 goals and 24 points in 28 games.
Flyers’ 2020 Draft Picks Have a Shot
Philadelphia’s top two picks in this year’s draft also have a good chance of playing in the 2021 tournament. Forward Tyson Foerster, the team’s first-round pick at 23rd overall, is attending Team Canada’s selection camp after a strong sophomore season with the Ontario Hockey League’s Barrie Colts in 2019-20. The 18-year-old more than tripled his rookie totals, scoring 36 goals and 80 points in 62 games. If Foerster makes the team, it would be his first time representing his country on the international stage.
Emil Andrae, the Flyers pick at 54th overall in the second round, has made the jump full-time to the Swedish Hockey League this season, amassing two assists in 14 games to date for HV71. He played 10 games for them in 2019-20 but spent most of the year at the under-20 level, where he led all defensemen in scoring with nearly a point per game. The Swedes have three returning defenders in Philip Broberg, Tobias Bjornfot and Victor Soderstrom, but I’m betting Andrae grabs one of the remaining four spots.
Canada’s Millman an Underdog
The Flyers’ fourth-round pick in 2019, 103rd overall, was also invited by Team Canada to their selection camp. Mason Millman is a 19-year-old defenseman for the Saginaw Spirit of the OHL whose stock has been on the rise. Last season, the first after he was drafted, he racked up 13 goals and 44 points in 58 games.
Saginaw head coach Dave Drinkill said he expects Millman to be one of the top defensemen in the OHL this year, whenever it gets going. “His ability to transport pucks either with his feet or with his head and brain, they’re elite at our level. And I’m betting that if he keeps developing and gets into the Flyers’ system, he’s going to keep becoming an elite defenseman that way.”
It’s certainly not unheard of for Team Canada to take players picked in the later rounds or even those who were undrafted. But Millman is facing very stiff competition. The other 13 defenders in camp were all selected higher than he was, including six first-round picks. If he makes the roster, it’ll be a pleasant surprise for him and the Flyers.
In the absence of NHL hockey, Flyer fans should have several prospects to keep an eye on during the World Juniors, assuming it’s able to go ahead with the second wave of the virus surging in Alberta as it is elsewhere.