When Ron Hextall took over as Flyers General Manager in 2014, his focus was on overhauling a farm system that was severely devoid of talent. He reversed a team philosophy of trading draft picks for veterans and instead began to invest in acquiring draft picks through dealing older players and patiently developing younger ones.
In just three years Hextall, and the organization, are seeing the fruits of their labor. Last month ESPN ranked the Flyers farm system as the best in the league.
It’s already produced budding stars such as Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecney. More are loudly knocking on the door.
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Many of the current prospects responsible for giving the Flyers such lofty status will be in attendance at rookie camp, which begins this Friday. If there ever was a time to pay attention to the five-day event, which concludes with a game against the Islanders rookies next Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center, it’s this year.
The days of not recognizing the names on the invite list are history. The roster for this season is overloaded with well-known and publicized players who are either expected to make the Flyers opening night lineup this season or join the team at some point in the next couple of months or years.
Need a guide on players to keep an eye on? It’s a long, long, list. Regardless, let’s try and summarize which players bear the most attention.
Ready for Prime Time
By now, you’ve probably heard of the guys closest to graduating to the NHL. Nolan Patrick, taken with the No. 2 pick in last year’s draft, leads the crop of possibly five players who are penciled in to join the Flyers. Joining Patrick are likely forwards Oskar Lindblom and Mike Vecchioine and defensemen Sam Morin and Robert Haag.
On the Cusp
If defenseman Travis Sanheim fails to make the Flyers this month, he will be the first player summoned from the Phantoms to fill in for an injury. Phillipe Myers, a towering 6-foot-7 defenseman, will be the second. Both could end up as mainstays before the season ends.
A Year or Two Away
German Rubtsov is quickly climbing the depth chart. Taken 22nd overall in the 2016 draft, he is a longshot to make the Flyers this year but could climb to On the Cusp status next fall. Goalie Carter Hart is at least two years away but the two-time top goaltender of the Western Hockey League is emerging as the team’s No. 1 goalie of the future.
While they might not fit into one of the three categories mentioned above, make sure to circle jersey numbers for forwards Pascal Laberge, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe and goalie Alex Lyon.