Ever since Ron Hextall took over as General Manager in the summer of 2014, it has been a word that has been ringing in the ears of Flyers fans.
It has made for two exciting drafts, a restocking of the prospect pool, and unprecedented excitement for the future of the team. But it has also led to below average NHL teams that are weighed down by bad contracts.
However, as the Flyers defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, fans got to see a small amount of that patience pay off. It was Flyers’ fans first taste of what the future could look like. It was a very small taste, no doubt, but a taste nonetheless.
The Flyers restocking of their prospect pool actually began under Paul Holmgren. Although he made a few bad free agent signings and a few questionable trades, his regime was marked by smart drafting.
One of his final drafts at the helm, the 2012 Draft, could prove to give the Flyers multiple NHL players. Their first five selections in that draft were:
2oth overall – Scott Laughton (C)
45th overall – Anthony Stolarz (G)
78th overall – Shayne Gostisbehere (D)
111th overall – Frederik Larsson (D)
117the overall – Taylor Leier (LW)
With the exception of Frederik Larsson, who was forced to cut short his North American hockey career due to health concerns, every player seems to be on track to have an NHL future.
On Saturday night, three of those players suited up for the Flyers. These players, who are only 21-22 years old, still have their brightest days ahead of them. They are still young, but have been brought along slowly by the organization.
To finally see some of the Flyers legitimate prospects on NHL ice was a breath of fresh air.
What Is Still To Come?
Since that 2012 Draft, the Flyers have added even more prospects.
From the 2013 NHL Draft, both Samuel Morin (D, 11th overall) and Robert Hagg (D, 41st overall) are playing for the Phantoms and are heading in the right direction. Tyrell Goulbourne is also on the Phantoms and has been surprisingly productive in his first 15 professional games. It is still too early to tell if the Flyers slew of late round picks in 2013, Terrance Amorosa (D), Merrick Madsen (G), and David Drake (D), will ever make the NHL.
The 2014 Draft, the first under Ron Hextall, saw the Flyers add another top defense prospect in Travis Sanheim (D, 17th overall). Sanheim led the WHL in points by a defenseman last season and is leading them again this year despite missing several games with an injury.
Other 2014 picks like Nicolas Aube-Kubel (RW), Oskar Lindblom (LW), Mark Friedman (D), and Radel Fazleev (C/LW) will begin to see themselves filtering into the Phantoms and Flyers over the next few years.
Finally, the 2015 draft saw the Flyers pick up a few players who could find themselves on the NHL team next year. Ivan Provorov (D, 7th overall) and Travis Konecny (RW, 24th overall) are both blue-chip prospects who have the potential to be NHL game-changers.
Other 2015 draftees like Felix Sandstrom (G), Cooper Marody (C/RW), and Mikhail Vorobyov (C) have started the 2015-16 season strong and look to be headed in the right direction.
The Early Fruit
The fact of the matter is, when the Flyers began preaching patience at the end of 2013 and beginning of 2014, it seemed like it would be a long time before any of these prospects saw NHL ice.
Now, just a few years later, the Flyers are beginning to see such players trickle into the lineup. Scott Laughton, who spent part of last season with the Flyers has cemented himself as a mainstay on the roster.
Shayne Gostisbehere impressed at both ends of the ice in his season debut. Barring a major letdown, he will be in the NHL for the long haul. Taylor Leier played sparingly in his first NHL appearance, but there was plenty to like about his game. He used his speed to draw a penalty and set up a few scoring chances.
Seeing these members of the 2012 Draft class break into the NHL and begin making an impact should make Flyers fans even more excited about the future. The team has even better prospects coming.
As the Flyers look to develop prospects, there will be bumps along the way. Some guys will not pan out, while others will start out great and quickly falter. But in the end, the patient approach is the best approach.
For a fan base starving for youth and excitement, there is nothing better than getting a small taste of the future to whet their appetite.