Saturday, August 9, 2014

Taylor Leier 2013-2014 WHL Highlights

Taylor Leier has come a long way after being selected by the Flyers in the 4th round of the 2012 draft. As captain of the Portland Winterhawks, Leier finished with the 21st most points in the Western Hockey League. His play was good enough to merit a selection to the Canadian World Junior Team, where he played along side some of hockey's best prospects. Leier definitely opened the eyes of many in the hockey world and will move on to play for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms next season. If his offensive ability and solid two-way play can translate to the pros, he will be playing in Philadelphia soon enough.

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Pre-draft: Flyers Top 10 Prospects

With a little less than one week until the NHL draft, here are my current rankings of the Flyers prospects before Ron Hextall takes the stage in Philly:


1. Scott Laughton (C, Oshawa Generals, OHL) 
2012 1st round, 20th overall

The choice between Laughton and Gostisbehere was probably the toughest decision I made in this top 10. Both are absolutely blue-chip prospects, but I gave the slight edge to Laughton. Laughton tore up the OHL with Oshawa this season, potting 40 goals and adding 49 assists in 54 games. He also put up 11 points in 7 playoffs games. The only bad thing you can say about Scott Laughton’s season was his performance in the World Juniors. He was given the honor of captaining the Canadian team, which tells you a lot about how much respect his plays garners. Laughton, along with his team, severely underperformed. He only recorded one point in 7 games as Canada failed to medal. But besides the WJC’s, Laughton exceeded all expectations. He was voted as the OHL’s best center, as well as best faceoff man and penalty killer. Since he excels in these areas of the game, he will be seriously considered for the Flyers 3rd or 4th line next year.

2. Shayne Gostisbehere (D, Union College, NCAA) 
2012 3rd round, 78th overall 

Shayne Gostisbehere wowed the college hockey world with a spectacular season for Union. He finished with 9 goals and 25 assists, while leading the Dutchmen to their first ever National Title. Ghost was absolutely unreal in the Frozen Four in Philadelphia, giving Flyers fans a sneak peek at what is to come in the future. He did everything for Union. He was sound defensively, ran the powerplay, and even played a little goalie (VIDEO). He was regarded as one of the best defenseman in all of the NCAA and was one of three finalists for the Hobey Baker Award, college hockey’s equivalent to the Heisman. Gostisbehere was signed to an entry-level contract by the Flyers a few days after winning the championship. He played a couple games with the Phantoms at the end of the year and he may be in Allentown to start next season. After his marvelous display last year, he will definitely be given a fair shot to make the big club.

3. Anthony Stolarz (G, London Knights, OHL) 
2012 2nd round, 45th overall

Anthony Stolarz’s season was filled with many ups and downs. He was stellar in the regular season, finishing with the best save percentage in the Ontario Hockey League. He was also named to the United States World Junior team as the backup goalie. He only got one start, but made the most of it by recording a shutout against Germany. But after a great regular season, Stolarz and the Knights imploded in the playoffs. Stolarz only played in three games before being suspended for a vicious slash to head of Windsor forward Josh Ho-Sang (GIF). He was out for the rest of the playoffs and the Knights bowed out in the next series. But since the Knights were the Memorial Cup hosts, Stolarz would have another chance to win some hardware. The Knights played horribly and did not advance past the round robin stage. Stolarz’s play was subpar, but he was far from the Knights’ biggest problem. Though the season did not end on a high note, Stolarz showed a lot of promise during the regular season. He will likely be competing for time with the Phantoms next year, but there is a chance he could be back in London.

4. Samuel Morin (D, Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL) 
2013 1st round, 11th overall 

Morin, the Flyers most recent first round pick, may still be a few years away from the NHL, but is on the right path with his development. He was considered a very raw prospect when picked and drew comparisons (probably unfairly) to former Flyers D-man Chris Pronger. He has made strides since the draft, but still needs to work on a few areas of his game. His offensive upside was a concern before, but he showed a huge improvement last season. He tallied 7 goals and 24 assists for Rimiouski in 54 regular season games and added 8 more points in the playoffs. He did seem to lose his cool at some points throughout the year, taking unnecessary penalties out of frustration. Hopefully as he matures he learns to play smarter, while still playing with the edge that makes him a unique prospect. At 6 foot 6, Morin has the frame to be a punishing force in the NHL. The Flyers need to be patient with him, and allow him to develop in their pipeline. Morin will likely be back with Rimouski in the QMJHL next season.

5. Robert Hagg (D, Adirondack Phantoms, AHL) 
2013 2nd round, 41st overall 

The Flyers picked up Hagg, who was projected as a first round pick by some, in the 2nd round of last year’s draft. If Hagg can turn into a 2nd round steal, the Flyers would be elated, due to their recent inability to develop quality NHL defensemen. Hagg had a decent year in SHL, good enough to earn him a spot on Sweden’s World Junior Team for the 2nd straight year. After finishing his season with MODO, Hagg made his North American debut. He was very impressive with the Phantoms, showcasing his two-way play and skating ability. It is unclear if he will be returning to Sweden or playing in the AHL next year. If he chooses the latter, he will be a key piece for the Phantoms in their inaugural season in Lehigh Valley.

6. Jason Akeson (RW, Philadelphia Flyers, NHL) 
2011 Free agent signing 

After leading the Phantoms in scoring for the 3rd straight season, Jason Akeson was finally given a shot to play for the Flyers. Akeson was thrown right into the fire, playing only one NHL regular season game before being placed in the lineup for the playoffs. He was one of the Flyers top offensive forwards in the series against the Rangers. He showed creativity and poise with the puck, scoring 2 goals and assisting on one. You really have to wonder how Akeson was not giving a shot a earlier on a Flyers team that was so streaky offensively. His main knock was his defensive game, which has improved under Phantoms coach Terry Murray. He will need to continue to improve his two-way game, but Akeson looks like he will be an NHL regular next year.

7. Taylor Leier (LW, Portland Winterhawks, WHL) 
2012 4th round, 117th overall 

Taylor Leier had an outstanding season for the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL. After a hot start, Leier was selected to Team WHL for the Super Series against Russia. His strong play in those games helped him earn a spot on Team Canada’s World Junior team, something no one would have deemed possible at the beginning of the season. Leier finished the year with 72 points in 62 games. He also put up 21 points in the Winterhawks playoff run, where they lost in the WHL finals. Taylor Leier is a good two-way forward, who can chip in offensively. If he can establish himself as a defensively responsible forward in the pros, he may have a chance to play for the Flyers down the road. It looks like Leier will play in the AHL to start the season.

8. Mark Alt (D, Adirondack Phantoms, AHL) 
Acquired via trade from Carolina for Luke Pither 

Mark Alt is a dark horse candidate to crack the Flyers top six next season. Depending on offseason moves, there may be 1 or 2 spots to be won in training camp. The departure of Erik Gustafsson to the KHL only helps Alt’s chances. Alt was consistently one of the Phantoms best defenseman last year. He is sound defensively, has good speed and size, and can put up a decent amount of points, finishing with 26 last season. If there is a spot to be won in training camp, look for Alt to be in the mix of things.

9. Nick Cousins (C, Adirondack Phantoms, AHL) 
2011 3rd round, 68th overall 

Some may have been a little disappointed with Nick Cousins’ first season as a professional. He finished with 11 goals and 18 assists in 74 games, which are decent numbers. But they show he is still a long way from playing for the Flyers. He was one of the OHL’s leading scorers two years ago, which may have raised expectations a little bit too high. Cousins is a gritty forward who plays both ends of the ice. He was always known as a bit of a pest in juniors, which is obviously something the Flyers like. He will have to show he can put up big numbers at the next level and he will have a chance to do that next year with the Phantoms.

10. Tye McGinn (LW, Adirondack Phantoms, AHL) 
2010 4th round, 199th overall 

Tye McGinn was always the top of the call-up list for the Flyers when injury struck. He has been given numerous chances, and has shown flashes of quality play. But his recent stints with the Flyers have not gone as well At times he did look like a legitimate power forward, but at others he looked like nothing more than a good AHL player. He has shown the ability to get to the front of the net and cause traffic or score on a deflection or rebound. He needs to improve his play off the puck and get quicker. Because of this, the Flyers were always reluctant to use him on the 4th line. It may be too late for McGinn to improve some aspects of his game, and he may be a non-prospect soon if things do not change. However he will be given a chance to compete with teammate Jason Akeson for a spot on the Flyers roster. If he falls short, he will be a top line player for the Phantoms.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Flyers Prospects in the Postseason

The players in the Flyers pipeline have garnered a lot of attention this postseason, both positive and negative. Here are a few write-ups to get everyone up to speed.

Shayne Gostisbehere (D, Union College, NCAA)

Defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere absolutely set the Frozen Four on fire. Playing in his future home rink, the Wells Fargo Center, Ghost gave Flyers fans a preview of what he can bring to a hockey club. He posted 2 assists in Union's 5-4 win over Boston College in the semifinals, but he waited until the championship to steal the show. In the 1st period, Gostisbehere used his slick skating ability to create space and got Union on the board with a beautiful wrist shot to tie the game at 1. Ghost added two assists later on as Union skated to a 7-4 win over Minnesota to capture their first ever national title. He finished +11 in the Frozen Four and was named the most outstanding player. Three days after winning it all, he was signed to an entry-level contract by the Flyers. Gostisbehere will skate with the Phantoms for their remaining games, but unfortunately will not suit up for the Flyers this postseason.

Here is a nice little reel of Ghost's championship game.

Scott Laughton (C, Oshawa Generals, OHL)

The Flyers top prospect has scored at a decent pace so far in the playoffs. He's recorded 3 goals and 4 assists in 7 games. Oshawa made quick work of their first two opponents, sweeping both Mississauga and Peterborough. However, Laughton received a three game suspension for a butt-end he gave to a Peterborough player during game 2 of the series. The Gens will face the North Bay Battalion in the Eastern Conference finals. Laughton will have to sit out game 1 on April 18th before he can return to action. Oshawa is favored over North Bay, so it is unlikely we will see Laughton playing with the Flyers anytime soon.

Taylor Leier (LW, Portland Winterhawks, WHL)

Taylor Leier has surprised a lot of people in the hockey world this year. Leier made the Canadian World Junior team and was one of the WHL's top scorers, both accomplishments were unexpected. His production slowed toward the end of the season but he still finished 21st in points. Leier's solid play has continued thus far in the postseason. He has recorded 4 goals and 11 assists in 9 games, enough to put him in the top 10 playoff scorers. The Winterhawks have yet to really be tested in the first two series. They've blown past Vancouver and Victoria, with most of their wins coming in blowout fashion. The Hawks are set to face Kelowna in the next round. Taylor Leier will go head to head will fellow Flyer draft pick, Tyrell Goulbourne.

Anthony Stolarz (G, London Knights, OHL)

The OHL playoffs were not very kind to Anthony Stolarz and the London Knights. Stolarz was off to a pretty good start, he posted a .933 save percentage in the Knights' first three games vs Windsor. However during that third game, Stolarz lost his cool and did a very, very dumb thing. He was lightly slashed after covering a puck by Windsor forward Josh Ho-Sang. Stolarz retaliated by hitting Ho-Sang in the back of the head with his goalie stick. (Video) The OHL suspended Stolarz for 8 games. The Knights were eliminated by Guelph in the next round. Being the host for the Memorial Cup, Stolarz and his team will have a chance to redeem themselves. It has already been announced that the final two games of his suspension have been waived, so look for him to return as the starter.

Samuel Morin (D, Rimouski Oceanic, QMJHL)
Sam Morin and Rimouski were very up and down during the QMJHL playoffs. Rimouski blew past Chicoutimi in 4 games but were halted by Blainville-Boisbriand in the next round. Morin had a pretty good playoff in terms of offense, scoring 4 goals and adding 4 assists in 11 games. But his defensive play was suspect at times. The worst for both Morin and his team came in game 7 of the series vs the Armada. Rimouski blew a 4-0 lead and ended up losing 8-7 in overtime. Morin did not have one of his best games. He finished at -1 and took a 10 minute unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the 1st period. To top it all of Morin suffered a strained achilles in the 3rd and only played a few shifts afterwards. A time table for his recovery has not been announced.

Other Notes

Jason Akeson will be in the Flyers lineup for game 1 against the Rangers.

Tyrell Goulbourne and Kelowna are set to face Portland in the WHL conference finals. Goulbourne has notched 2 goals and 2 assists in the Rockets' 9 playoff games.

Goalie Merrick Madsen appeared in 3 games for Minot in the NAHL playoffs. He posted a 2.46 GAA and a .932 SV%.

D-man Terrance Amorosa and Sioux City are underway in their opening round series vs Omaha. Amorosa is a +2 in 2 games thus far.

Forward Michael Parks recorded a goal and an assist in North Dakota's NCAA tournament run. UND defeated Wisconsin and Ferris State before being knocked out by Minnesota in the Frozen Four.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

World Juniors Preview

For the first time in years, the Flyers will have a handful of their top prospects at the WJCs. Some are virtual locks to represent their countries, while a couple others still have some work to do in the preliminary camps to secure a spot on the roster. I'll take a look at the Flyers' picks who have a chance to play in Malmo.


C- Scott Laughton, Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Laughton has been dominant in the OHL this year.  Posting 47 points (24G, 23A) in 28 games after an early demotion from the Flyers, Laughton has shown he may be too good for juniors. But with the CHL-NHL agreement, the Flyers weren't able to send him the AHL and had no choice but to return him to Oshawa. Laughton has done everything for the Gens. He has been a force on the powerplay, penalty kill, and in even strength play. He was rewarded for his stellar play when he was given the captaincy for Team OHL in the Subway Series. As a guy who can play in any situation and plays both ends of the ice, Laughton is a lock to play for Canada in Sweden.

LW- Taylor Leier, Portland Winterhawks (WHL)

Taylor Leier has been a pleasant surprise for Portland this year. His Memorial Cup tournament was cut short last season, after taking a high hit from Saskatoon's Dalton Thrower. Leier was concussed and some thought it might affect his game next season. But Leier has come out blazing hot this year, sitting at 7th in overall scoring in the WHL with 43 points. He will have to prove that his numbers aren't inflated from being on an offense juggernaut like Portland. Canada still has to trim its roster down by 3, with Leier being a player on the bubble. He did impress in the WHL's super series games, so if he can continue to play like he has, he will be in Malmo.


D- Valeri Vasiliev, Spartak Moscow (KHL)

Vasiliev is a question mark for me. Can’t say I’ve seen him or the most of the other Russian defensemen play, but he has played in 25 games for Spartak Moscow this year. The 2012 7th rounder has represented Russia before, at the U19’s and the Ivan Hlinka. As a 19 year old with KHL experience, it seems like Vasiliev should have a decent shot at making the Russian team.


D- Robert Hagg, MODO (SHL)

Robert Hagg has already secured a spot on the Swedish team. Hagg was a last minute addition to team Sweden last year, when Hampus Lindholm went down with an injury. He was very impressive in Ufa, and was often getting minutes in key situations for the Swedes. Hagg has been up and down for MODO this year, and hopes to get on track with a good showing at the World Juniors on home soil.

United States

G- Anthony Stolarz, London Knights (OHL)

Stolarz has been a brick wall for the London Knights this season. His numbers are among the OHL's elite and he has shown vast improvement after making the transition from the NCAA last year. Stolarz is a lock to play for the United States in the WJCs. He leads the OHL in SV% (.927) and sits at 4th in GAA (2.45). Some would credit his numbers to a good London d-corps, and Stolarz will have to prove his critics wrong in camp. He will likely be the backup for the US, with the NCAA's best netminder, Jon Gillies (Providence) having the edge. Gillies has posted ridiculous numbers this year and was on last year's WJC team, making him the favorite to start. It will certainly be a battle in camp.

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Prospect Profile: Petr Straka

Petr Straka
Another free agent acquisition by Paul Holmgren has a chance to prove himself this upcoming year. Petr Straka is a 92 born Czech forward, who was drafted by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2nd round of the 2010 entry draft. Before being drafted, Straka was coming off a great rookie season in the QMJHL with Rimouski Oceanic, where he finished with 64 points in 62 games played. He was second on his team in scoring as a 17 year old. But the following two years were riddled with injuries and he reportedly grew out of favor with his coach. His point totals were down, as he finished with 25 points in his second year and 37 the following season. Though he had a good playoff in his final year with Rimouski, scoring 10 goals and adding 12 assists in 21 games, his decline in play was steep enough for Columbus to not offer him a contract.

Straka reentered the draft in 2012, but was not selected. He had offers to attend some NHL camps, but those were quickly off the table due to the lockout. So Straka returned to the QMJHL as an overager and was traded from Rimouski to Baie-Comeau. In his overage season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, Straka returned to form. He led the team in scoring with 41 goals and 41 assists, totaling 82 points in 55 games played. He added 25 more points in 19 playoff games before Baie-Comeau fell to Halifax in the finals. On April 11, during that playoff run, Straka was signed to an entry level contract by the Flyers.

Petr Straka is a right winger who is very gifted offensively. He has a great shot, good speed, and a slick pair of hands. The crafty forward has shown he can score at the junior level and also set up goals. He has a lot of areas that need improvement though. He needs to work on his two way game as well as his strength and physical play. He also needs to be more consistent. Because of these flaws, Straka is best suited for a top six role and will likely get that with Adirondack next season. If he is able to continue to score and show growth in other aspects of the game, Straka may have a chance to be called up to the Flyers at some point.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Prospect Profile: Tye McGinn

Tye McGinn
Tye McGinn might be the most NHL ready prospect the Flyers have right now. He may not have as much potential as a Scott Laughton, but he has shown that he is more than capable of playing in the NHL as a 4th liner. He was chosen by the Flyers in the 4th round of the 2010 draft, and they may have found a sleeper.

McGinn's junior career started with the Ottawa 67's in the OHL, where he played with his older brother, Jamie, who is now with the Colorado Avalanche. Tye put up 11 points in 59 games as a 17 year old. He was cut by Ottawa after one season. He then decided to take his talents to the Quebec League, where he joined the Gatineau Olympiques. McGinn was Gatineau's best player in his final two seasons with the club. He led the team in scoring in 2009-2010, putting up 62 points, finishing with 27 goals and 35 helpers. McGinn's final year in juniors as a 20 year old was injury plagued. He ended up only playing in 42 games, but still finished 2nd on the team in goals with 31. McGinn was an integral part of his team's success and chipped in 13 points in 14 games during Gatineau's 2011 playoff run.

Tye McGinn made his AHL debut on October 11, 2011 with Adirondack. McGinn had an alright first year in the AHL, posting 18 points in 63 games. But he showed vast improvement in his second professional season, where he started to find his offensive game. He scored 11 goals and added 4 assists in 33 games before getting recalled to the Flyers.

McGinn made his NHL debut on January 22 against the New Jersey Devils. He was used as a 4th liner and immediately became a fan favorite because of his willingness to play a rough and tough, grind it out type of game, something that Flyers fans love. He also showed that he was not afraid to drop the mitts and was even able to chip in a bit offensively with the big club. He was getting a solid amount of ice time, he averaged 12:43 and even got some time on the power play, and looked to be a good fit with the Flyers. But on February 25th, he sustained a broken orbital bone in a fight with Mike Brown of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He recovered but was sent back down to the American Hockey League, and would only suit up in two more games with the Flyers. He ended the season with 2 goals and 3 assists in 18 games played in the NHL.

Tye McGinn is 6'2 and 205 pounds, and he plays like it. He is a strong kid with good hockey sense and uses his big frame to get in position around the net. McGinn has a solid chance to play for the Flyers next year. He is a capable fourth line player and assuming no one else is signed this offseason, there is also a vacancy on the third line. He may be a candidate for this spot, but has to improve his offensive game. McGinn has shown flashes of offensive potential in juniors and in the AHL but has to show that he can hang in the NHL. He will likely be in competition with fellow prospect Scott Laughton for a spot on the roster. If McGinn fails to make the Flyers out of camp, there is no question that he would be at the top of their call up list.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Prospect Profile: Marcel Noebels

Marcel Noebels
In the 4th round of the 2011 entry draft, the Flyers selected the Tornisvorst, Germany native, Marcel Noebels. Noebels had come over from DEL, German Ice Hockey League, the season before and played for a bad Seattle Thunderbirds team in the WHL. Noebels had a decent rookie campaign with Seattle, potting 28 goals and adding 26 helpers. Following his first WHL season, Noebels wanted to return to Germany to play for Krefeld Pinguine in the DEL. But the Flyers advised him to remain in juniors and he obliged. He started off 2011-2012 with 24 points in 31 games before being traded to a stacked Portland Winterhawks team. He kept up his solid play with Portland, adding 34 more points before season's end. Noebels continued to chip in for the Winterhawks, tallying 23 points as they made a playoff run. Portland ended up losing in the WHL finals to Edmonton.

Due to the NHL lockout, there was more top-end talent on the Phantoms roster. This left Marcel Noebels on the outside looking in at the start of the 2012-2013 season. Noebels instead made his North American professional debut with the Trenton Titans in the ECHL. Through his first 31 games, he recorded 11 goals and 19 assits and was named to the ECHL All-Star team. It became apparent that the 20 year old was ready for the American Hockey League. On New Year's Day, Noebels was recalled to the Phantoms. Noebels didn't miss a beat in the AHL as he continued to produce, finishing third on the team in goals with 13 and also added 10 assists in 43 games. Following the season, Noebels represented Germany in the World Championships. Noebels suited up in three games for the senior squad, but recieved limited playing time and did not record any points.

Marcel Noebels is a big winger, listed at 6'3, 205 pounds, with a wicked wrist shot. He has shown his playmaking ability along with his scoring touch. He has been successful on the power play in both the ECHL and the AHL and has also played on the penalty kill.  Noebels has shown flashes of potential but has also had some stretches of inconsistent play. Next year is a big year for him, as he will likely be playing on one of the Phantoms top 2 lines. Noebels will need to continue to work on his skating and maybe start using his size to his advantage more often. If Noebels can continue to develop and come out hot next season, he may have an opportunity to play for the Flyers down the road.