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Free Agents, who are still available, that could prove to Pay Dividends for the Flyers

By |July 16th, 2024|

After a flurry of deals that resulted in teams spending over a billion dollars on just the first day of free agency (July 1st), it’s easy to assume that anyone who could actually help the Philadelphia Flyers organization next season has long since been signed by another team, but you would be wrong!

Now, while I will admit the Flyers’ options may be limited at this point, given the fact that they have very little cap space thanks to their multiple buyouts used over the years and the list of available players already being heavily picked over. I still think there are some free agents out there that could prove to pay major dividends.

Carter Savoie

The first and perhaps most affordable option out there that makes sense for the Flyers to sign or at least invite to camp is 22-year-old Carter Savoie. Carter, who is a left winger, previously won an NCAA National Championship with the University of Denver while playing alongside Flyers prospects Bobby Brink and Massimo Rizzo, where that season, he was able to post 23 goals and 22 assists for 45 points in just 39 games played. Savoie, who is now an unrestricted free agent, was originally taken in the fourth round of the 2020 Draft by the Edmonton Oilers because he was deceptive both with and without the puck, which created many offensive chances.

But, sadly, since turning pro, Carter (who was once thought of as one of the Oilers’ top prospects) has yet to make an impact at the pro level, which ultimately led to his becoming a free agent.

However, the Oilers’ loss could be the Flyers’ gain in that a change in scenery and a couple of familiar faces may be all that Savoie needs in order for him to get back on track. Case in point: Savoie, who is still just 22 years old, was once thought of as a top-tier prospect, and therefore, his career should be far from over, which is why I feel Philadelphia would be wise to sign Savoie to a one-year two-way contract to give him the chance to revive his career most likely with the Phantoms. That way, if he still does not perform, they could let him walk at the end of the season, but if he thrives playing alongside some of his former teammates, then they just gained themselves a player who could be a problem for the rest of the Metropolitan Division for the next ten years.

Kailer Yamamoto

Throughout this off-season, the Flyers management stressed that they wish to improve their team down the middle. They backed that statement up recently by selecting multiple centers a few weeks ago at the draft, with the most notable being the newly signed Jett Luchanko, who the team took with the 13th overall pick.

But although Jett looked quite impressive at development camp, he most likely will not be ready to make the big clubs opening night roster this fall.

What other options may the team then have, you may be asking? Well, as far as Dot Dwellers go, the team has both Denver Barkey and the previously mentioned Massimo Rizzo signed. But both are likely to start the season in Lehigh Valley.

So, I would suggest they take a look into what it would take to sign 25-year-old Kailer Yamamoto. Kailer, at times last season, was asked to center the Krakens’ second line. Where while he did not turn out to be a big point producer, only scoring eight goals and eight assists for a total of 16 points, he did manage to create plenty of scoring chances for his less-than-impressive linemates.

What should be noted here is that Kailer is not known for being a playmaker like he was forced to be last year in Seattle. He instead is more known for his ability to put up points in bunches when playing with other talented players, as he did in Edmonton a few years back, where he scored 20 goals, and 21 assists for 41 points while playing on a line with a guy like Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and on power play opportunities while lining up alongside the likes of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.

Now, the Flyers may not have elite-level offensive talent like the players found in the Oilers’ top six. But, I think that Yamamoto (who only made $1.5 million last season) could prove to be a more suitable option over Morgan Frost to keep up with the likes of Owen Tippet and newcomer Matvei Michkov, who may very well be this team’s new dynamic duo.

Kirill Marchenko

Ok, those may be the more plausible options that the Flyers could make, but if they wanted to finish the off-season with a bang, I would suggest they try and trade for the rights to the Blue Jackets restricted free agent forward Kirill Marchenko. Kirill, who hails from Russia, is a 23-year-old versatile winger who is equally comfortable lining up on either side of the face-off dot.

Columbus originally drafted him in the second round of the 2018 Entry Draft. Where after quite some time he finally decided to come over to play in North America for the 22-23 season, where, after suiting up for just a handful of games at the AHL level, he was promoted to the NHL, where he was able to net 21 goals in just 59 games.

Always striving to get better this past season, Kirill was able to top those totals by scoring an impressive 23 goals.

In my mind, Kirill would make the perfect linemate for the Flyers, impeding superstar Matvei Michkov. He is a young, established Russian player who is already thriving in the NHL and could help Matvei with any trials or tribulations that may arise during his first full season playing in North America.

As far as why Marchenko may still be considered an option, the Blue Jackets have yet to name a new head coach and have a new GM in Don Waddell. A guy who was formally the GM of the Carolina Hurricanes, and if you know anything about him, he is hesitant to sign anybody to a long-term deal like Marchenko is rumored to be asking for.

But what makes the Flyers chances that much better is that the Blue Jackets just inked free agent forward Sean Monahan to a new 27.5 million dollar deal and re-signed Yegor Chinakhov to a new two-year contract. Not to mention the fact that Marchenko is not the only restricted free agent, that Waddell still needs to resign. The team’s former top-five pick, Kent Johnson is still waiting to sign his new contract as well.

Think about it. We all know the Flyers were trying to move up to select the young Russian Ivan Demidov to pair with Michkov and failed miserably in their attempts. So, why not offer up future draft capital to obtain a proven NHL talent like Marchenko, who could be there for Matvei day one of training camp? I’m sure this kind of acquisition would not come cheap, but the Flyers have the means to get the deal done with the three first and three second-round picks that they have acquired over the last few years for the 2025 Draft. Not to mention, they could throw in any number of roster players like Morgan Frost or the often-rumored Joel Farabee to combat their own salary cap issues. Then there of course is the Flyers already drafted prospects, like forwards Samu Tuomaala and Olle Lycksell. Defenseman Emil Andre and Helge Grans, or goalie Alexei Kolosov who any combination of these players when paired with a couple picks could prove enough to entice the Blue Jackets newly appointed GM to make a deal.

So, if the Flyers really wish to accomplish their goal of returning to playoffs sooner rather than later. They need to make a couple, if not all, of these moves. So, what if the team is competitive? They haven’t won a championship in over 49 years! So, take a chance if it’s there, Danny. While the idea of having all these draft picks is nice, if you keep on trading back to acquire more, it will only prolong the drought!

Prospect Watch: Here are Two Players who are set to take the USHL by Storm Next Season

By |July 9th, 2024|

Photo Credit:

The United States Hockey League is growing by leaps and bounds; so many players have been drafted out of it in recent years that it has become a hatchery of sorts for prospects. What I mean by that is, it has become a place where some of the best NCAA teams from around the nation come to watch and recruit players who have gone on to become future Hobey Baker Award nominees, finalists, and even winners like the first overall selection from this year’s NHL Draft Macklin Celebrini, who before joining Boston University was a standout star for the Chicago Steel back in the 22-23 season. This trend will continue this year with the likes of John Mustard, who was the recipient of the USHL’s Rookie of the Year Award last season, who played for the Waterloo Black Hawks and was just drafted by the Chicago Blackhawks a week ago. He is slated to be heading to Providence College next season, where he is sure to impress.

But, with the new season approaching, the question now becomes who will be the next up-and-coming players that will prove to take the league by storm?

Blake Zielinski

One player who could do just that is 16-year-old New Jersey native Blake Zielinski, who was taken 3rd overall in Phase One of the USHL Draft back in May by the Des Moines Buccaneers.

Blake, a forward who grew up locally playing for the Philadelphia Flyers Elite AAA Teams, took a chance this season by deciding to play for the much more competitive North Jersey Avalanche of the AYHL, where he scored 26 goals, and 26 assists for 52 points in only 22 games played this past year! That decision proved to be a wise one because the 1.18 goals per game and 2.36 points-per-game he average made USHL executives sit up and take notice.

Zielinski, whose breakaway speed, elite stick handling, and extreme patience with the puck on his stick when bearing down on the goalie, will pair nicely with the likes of the Buccaneers’ breakout star from last season, Ben Kevan, who, at just 16 years old was able to compile a near point-per-game average in just his first year playing in the USHL.

This is why, with these two swashbuckling prospects at the helm next season, I look for the Bucs to plunder their way through a couple more wins and thus place Des Moines in the talks for league supremacy.

Adam Valentini

The other name that will have fans sitting up and taking notice next season is Adam Valentini, who the Chicago Steel signed to a USHL tender agreement for the 2024-2025 season.

This 16-year-old, who hails from Toronto, Ontario, was the highest-scoring player in Canadian AAA hockey last year, where he netted 52 goals and 82 assists for 132 points in only 57 games played! Folks, that was good enough for him to average 2.31 points per game last season.

A feat that not only earned him the honor of playing for the Steel, who have produced prospects like Owen Power, who went 1st overall in 2021, Adam Fantilli, who went 3rd overall in 2023, Macklin Celebrini (who we already spoke about) who went 1st overall this year, and Michael Hage who went 21st overall. But also the honor of receiving an offer to play for the University of Michigan in the future, which he has since graciously accepted.

Adam will bring with him to Chicago next season a shot that already rivals most players in the NHL primarily because it is both powerful and accurate. As far as his play style goes he wastes no time holding onto the puck; he simply sets out to seek and destroy any goaltender who is brave enough to stand in front of his shot. To go along with that, he is dominant in the face circle, which gives his team plenty of offensive chances, as well as needed defensive zone wins, which allows his team to gain more puck possessions to create breakout chances.

Now, I know it may seem early to make this assumption but trust me when I say this: if you live close to a USHL team’s rink, you may want to go ahead and reserve your seats when these two players come to town with their respected clubs because they are sure to put on a show.

What to Make of the Flyers Draft Haul

By |June 30th, 2024|

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steve Marcus

Coming into this weekend, the Philadelphia Flyers were already defeated. They had tried to create cap space by attempting to trade their 35-year-old underachieving diminutive winger Cam Atkinson, who they were due to be still on the hook for $5,875,000 this season. But after working out a deal to send him to the San Jose Sharks. Cam quickly rejected it thanks to his modified no-trade clause.

Resulting in the team having to place him on waivers with the intent to buy him out. Doing so will save the Flyers over $3.5 million in salary next season but will cost them nearly two million in 2025 for him not to play for them.
Now, I know that Atkinson is a veteran player who is coming into the final years of his career, but to NOT be able to find any other trades for him, even if they were to retain some of his salary, seems laughable.

Especially since the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to create $11 million in salary cap space mid-draft by trading one of their overpaid blueliners in Mikhail Sergachev to Utah, who is signed for seven more years at $8.5 million a season, and Tanner Jeannot to the Kings. Mind you, both of these trades came with no mention of Tampa Bay having to retain any salary. These sudden draft day deals are the ones that create championships or at least keep teams competitive year in and year out. Case in point: because of these masterful moves on the draft floor, the Lightning will be able to re-sign both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Something that before today seemed highly unlikely.

Also, leading up to the draft, we heard rumors about Philadelphia desperately trying to make a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, among others, to try to secure a top-five selection. It was a move they could have clearly made with all the draft assets that they had previously acquired, but when it came right down to it, the Flyers were unwilling to ante up and make a deal with them giving up or folding on their pursuit. They lost out on the chance to select their prized prospect, Matvei Michkov’s former teammate and friend Ivan Demidov, whose elite passing skills would have paired perfectly with Michkov’s innate finishing ability.

Only to later pass on the opportunity to select a multiple World Junior Championship gold medal-winner/ NCAA National Championship award-winning defenseman in Zeev Buium. And the most lethal scorer in this draft in Cole Eiserman, whose 127 career goals for the Red, White, and Blue saw him surpass the likes of Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, and Cole Caufield to become the National Development Program’s new all-time goal scorer. For them to only to reach for a center at 13, which wasn’t even projected to go until the mid to late twenties overall.

Jett Luchanko- 1st Round Pick 13th Overall from the Guelph Storm

So, who is this guy the team passed on so many other seemingly excellent prospects to select? Well, that would be none other than Jett Luchanko—a fast-rising prospect who opened a lot of eyes late in the season. Being one of the youngest players in this draft class, Jett started the year as a virtual unknown, but with each passing game, he gained more and more respect from scouts around the league. Why? You may be asking, well, let’s just say he is a player who undoubtedly lives up to his name.

Because every time, Luchanko steps on the ice, the opposition is left saying who was that or what just happened. That’s because Jett (pardon the pun) is known to turn on the afterburners as soon as he touches the puck. Seriously, Jett is hands down the fastest player in this draft class. Now, while he can score goals, as evident by the 20 lamp lighters that he was able to accumulate this season, he is more of a playmaker. A setup artist, if you will, who achieved 54 assists on the year.

And, if you’re on the ice with him, please pay attention and keep your stick down. Because, as they say about some gifted shooters, the puck doesn’t stay on his stick long. The only difference is that Jett is not just going to throw it at the net immediately. His excellent on-ice vision allows him to play two steps ahead of everyone else, so if a shot is not there, he is going to find his target instantly and launch an absolute cruise missile to an awaiting teammate’s stick blade.

These are all good things if your name is Matvei Michkov.

After making that selection, the Flyers made another head-scratching move when they chose to trade away their second-first round pick, 32 overall, that they received from the Panthers when they dealt away their long-time captain Claude Giroux. They dealt that pick that they waited so long to receive to the Edmonton Oilers for a future 1st round pick in either 2025 or 2026, depending on where the Oilers finish next season. A move that could possibly leave the Flyers with three first-round selections in 2025.

Jack Berglund- 2nd round 51st Overall

So, with that, Philly had to wait until the 51st pick to make their next selection, which they used to select another center. This time, it was a 6’3, 207-pound Swedish one that goes by the name Jack Berglund.

Now, if you don’t know Berglund, he is a 200-foot center who doesn’t put up a ton of points but has sneaky good hands and a surprisingly high finishing rate. Obviously, with his size, he does well in board battles and can drive the puck to the net with ease without even noticing his opponent’s attempts to strip the puck from him. But as far as where he could fit in terms of the NHL, I think his ceiling is a third-line gritty center.

There are a lot of other players I would have selected here, but Danny Briere said he thought the center position was a need for them, so another center he went out and got.

After making this selection, the Flyers saw a guy they really liked still on the board, so they traded back into the second round to take a defenseman this time.

Spencer Gill- 2nd round 59th Overall from the QMJHL Rimouski Oceanic

Spencer is a big-bodied defender who likes the offensive side of the game. He possesses a pretty decent shot, and he pairs it with a good release. This season Spencer was able to score 12 goals and 34 assists for a total of 46 points in 65 games played.

He needs to clean up his skating and work on his decision-making.

If they wanted to take a blueliner this high, I would have taken a guy like Charlie Elick with the 32nd overall pick and not traded it to Edmonton. I think they would have gotten a much better defender who skates well and makes much better decisions on the breakout.

Heikki Ruohonen- 4th Round 107th Overall Pick U20 SM-Sarja

Without a 3rd round pick because of all the trades, the Flyers’ next selection came in the 4th round, where they took yet another center. This time, it was Heikki Ruohonen from Finland. A 6’2 204 pound center who scored 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points in 37 games played at the junior level.

Now, Rouhonen is not the most physical player, and he won’t blow you away with any one skill over another player, but what he will do is outwork you. And what apparently is a must now if you want to be drafted by the Flyers is he is a 200-player. One that will play you just as hard in the defensive zone as he will in the offensive zone. Fun fact here is that Heikki is committed to playing for Harvard University in the coming years.

If they wanted to take another center with this pick, I would have suggested a very underrated player in Tomas Mrsic, who scored nearly a points-per-game for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL this year.

Noah Powell 5th Round 148th Overall Pick RW USHL

In the 5th round, we saw the Flyers take their first winger, Noah Powell. He is an overager who was able to triple his point production from last season. Noah, who exemplifies what it is to be a late bloomer, went from scoring just eight goals last year to leading the league this past season, scoring an awe-inspiring 43 goals, with 16 of them coming while on the power play, which was also a league-best total.

Like Ruohonen, Powell is an intelligent player who loves to use his 6’2, 201-pound power forward frame to drive to the center of the ice and get a scoring attempt closer to the paint.

He is committed to playing for Ohio State next season, and I think his game should transition well there.

If it were up to me with this pick, I would have taken a chance on a 17-year-old 5’8 diminutive forward by the name of Justin Poirier from the QMJHL. Poirier was still on the board when the Flyers made this selection, and he is nothing but a pure goal scorer. This season, Poirier put up a league-leading 51 goals. He averaged 1.20 points per game while still maintaining a +40 average. Just my opinion, but I would much rather take a chance on Poirier, who is a pure goal scorer, rather than a guy who couldn’t put up numbers in his draft year, so he decided to stick around and accumulate huge stats playing against much younger prospects.

Ilya Pautov 6th Round 173rd Overall Pick

In the later rounds, you begin to take more chances, and Pautov is just that. While he will do some things that impress the heck out of you, there are still many areas where his decisions will have you shaking your head.

Despite all that, his puck handling is strong, and his point totals reflect that. With him scoring 15 goals and 30 assists for 45 points in 46 games played in the MHL (Russia’s junior league)

But, as impressive as those stat lines are for a 6th-round player, he tends to shy away from contact, and that simply won’t bode well for him if he ever wants to come over to play in North America.

Again, while I don’t necessarily hate this pick, I would have rather seen them take a chance on a guy like Nathan Free. A player who scored 32 goals and 33 assists for 65 points in 60 games played this season for the Brooks Bandits of the BCHL.

Scheduled to follow his former teammate Aiden Fink to Penn State next season, I think Nathan Free is going to have a breakout year in the NCAA next season.

Austin Moline 7th Rd. 205 Overall Pick

For their last selection this year, the Flyers took a 6’4 194 pound right-hand-shot defender by the name of Austin Moline from Shattuck St. Mary’s—a big-bodied defender who has good mobility and isn’t afraid to jump up into the rush.

He will play next season for the Brooks Bandits of the BCHL and has agreed to attend and play for Northern Michigan University after that.

If it were up to me, I would have selected Christian Humphreys from the United States National Development program with this pick. No, they don’t need another center after drafting so many, but he is a PA native who is scheduled to play for the University of Michigan and was able to post 23 goals and 35 assists for 58 points in only 52 games played this year.

In closing, I would give the Flyers a draft grade of C-. They had a lot of picks that they could have used to move up to select a real game changer, but they didn’t pull the trigger on a deal. Instead, they settled for a lot of guys who like to make their way to the center of the ice to the high-scoring areas. And, even though they had the chance to draft a franchise-changing offensive talent like Cole Eiserman, they passed on him so they could draft even more two-way centers that play a 200-foot game but will never blow you away with their offensive production. Call me crazy, but don’t they already have a bunch of those with guys with Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost, Ryan Poehling, and Noah Cates all being on the roster for next season?

With Just Hours to go before the Draft, Briere is showing that he is Willing to Go “ALL IN” to Improve his Club

By |June 28th, 2024|

Photo Credit: SKA St. Petersburg

With the 2024 NHL Draft (which will be held in Las Vegas, Nevada this year) now only a few hours away from commencement, the Flyers General Manager Danny Briere has shown that he is willing to ANTE UP and go ALL IN to improve his club.

And why shouldn’t he? Especially after his gamble of selecting Russian forward Matvei Michkov with the seventh overall pick last year (who at the time was under contract for three more years to play in the KHL) just paid off after the news broke earlier this week that Michkov’s team, SKA St. Petersburg has officially let him out of his deal so he could chase his dream of playing in the NHL.

With a year now under his belt as the Flyers GM, Danny has now come to The Neon City armed with his best poker face, ready to take on some high-stakes action. He has a lot of chips with him in which to play with, that include multiple first-round picks in this year’s draft as well as multiple in the 2025 draft. With that being said, that leads us to the team’s latest rumor that Dealing Danny has already tried to make a move by offering up their 12th overall pick this year, a roster player, and a 2025 first-round pick to Columbus, for the Blue Jackets 4th overall pick in this year’s draft.

Now, while the Blue Jackets have turned down this trade offer, it doesn’t mean they won’t revisit the idea on the draft floor or that Philly won’t be trying to make a similar one with another team within the top five in order to try and get a prospect who could quite possibility make the Flyers opening night roster next season out of camp.

I don’t know about you, but I like this idea given the fact that with Michkov becoming available now instead of 2-3 years from now, it has sped up their rebuild significantly. Philadelphia last season surprised a lot of people with their play, so much so that they were able to hold down a playoff spot in the Metropolitan Division for well over 100 straight days before folding during the last two weeks of the season.

But, with that in mind and the addition of possibly the second-best player to come out of last year’s draft now in the mix, there is no better time than now to backdoor some people and come out once again on top.

The only question is, who did Briere have in mind to acquire with that fourth overall pick? My guess would be one of Michkov’s fellow Russian comrades.

The obvious choice would have been to go after Matvei’s former SKA teammate, Ivan Demidov. Ivan is a 6’0, 192-pound skilled puck handler whose distributing skills would pair perfectly with Michkov’s elite finishing ability.

This past season, Demidov played primarily for SKA’s 1946 MHL (Junior Hockey League) Team, where in 30 regular season games, he was able to produce 23 goals and 37 assists for 60 points. And if that two-points-per-game average wasn’t impressive enough, the fact that he was able to maintain a +47 average should be.

But with the possibility that Demidov would already be off the board come the fourth overall pick, Briere could have also been looking to draft either one of these Eastern European defensemen named Artyom Levshunov or
Anton Silayev.

Artyom Levshunov -may not be Russian, but he is from Belarus, a country that directly borders Russia and only gained its independence from them in 1991 after the fall of the Soviet Union. What’s most intriguing about Levshunov is that this 6’2, 209-pound right-hand shot defender is probably the most NHL-ready blueliner in this draft class. Because instead of playing oversees Artyom was able to kick start the learning process of the North American style game by playing in the USHL for the Green Bay Gamblers in 22-23 and for the Michigan State Spartans of the NCAA this past season, where he was able to post nine goals and 26 assists for 35 points in only 38 games played.

Artyom would bring the team four-way skating mobility, which allows
him to cycle the puck with ease around the offensive zone, making him a true power play threat, an attribute that the Flyers desperately need to add to their arsenal.

Anton Silayev

Is still a relatively raw prospect whose immense size of 6’7 and 207 pounds, when paired with his elite skating ability, has seen his stock rise immensely. So much so that before this past season started, most experts didn’t even have him ranked on their draft boards. But I guess when you’re that big and can skate as well as he can, it’s hard not to be spotted by scouts who are in the stands.

If Anton can find a way to add some aggression and physicality to his game this summer, he could find his way onto an NHL roster sooner rather than later.

Any of these players would make good additions to the Flyers prospect pool, not to mention help to ease Michkov’s transition to the NHL. But time will tell if Briere will be able to get his way by trying to move up in the draft to select one of them. We will just have to tune in tonight to find out.

How did the NHL get to the point where they are handing out No Movement/Trade Clauses like Candy?

By |June 23rd, 2024|

Photo Credit Lenny Redkoles

With the Philadelphia Flyers General Manager Danny Briere trying to find some way to create cap space before free agency commences on July 1st, yet another player has blocked a deal from happening.

Recently, the Flyers were searching for a way to prevent them from having to shell out $5,875,000 again to an underperforming 35-year-old winger in Cam Atkinson. Who was only able to accumulate 13 goals and 15 assists for 28 points this past season. Folks, if you do the math, it adds up to him making $214,285.71 per point, and at least in my mind, that doesn’t cut it. But, after the team had worked really hard laying out a deal that would alleviate at least some of the burden with them possibly having to retain some of his contract, Cam, who still holds a modified no-trade clause at this the last year in his contract nixed the deal because he did not wish to play for the San Jose Sharks who the deal was in place with.

But, as far as the team goes, this is not the first time this has happened. In fact, since the official induction of the No Trade Clause (NTC)/No Movement Clauses (NMC) back in 2005, CBA’s that included the initiation of the Salary Cap. In the past the Flyers have had multiple stars block trades from happening. For instance, Giroux blocked a supposed very lucrative return from the Colorado Avalanche from occurring before the team had to eventually settle for what they could get from Florida (which, lucky for them, turned out ok, I guess). But their bad luck extends beyond that. It also includes players from other teams’ example being when defenseman Torey Krug from the St. Louis Blues blocked a trade that would have brought him to Philly using his no trade clause.

Now, long before the 2005 CBA made it official, players were asking for and receiving no-trade clauses/no-movement clauses in their contracts, but they were only handed out to elite players who were faces of the team’s franchise. A guy who a team would draft and hopefully want to keep until they decide to hang up their skates for the last time. But, now it has just gotten out of hand.

Take the Flyers, for example. We already talked about Atkinson having one but that was gifted to him by Columbus’ former GM Jarmo Kekalainen some years ago. When Chuck Fletcher was in power, he handed out like candy for example when he signed Travis Sanheim to an eight year $50 million deal that pays him $6.25 annually until 2031. Chuck gave him a full no-trade clause for the first four years of the deal and a modified no-trade clause for the last four years. This means if the Flyers ever wished to trade him, Sanheim would be allowed to come up with a list of 12 teams he would be able to reject a trade to. Another Fletcher folly was Sean Couturier’s eight-year $62 million deal. Where Chuck gave Coots a full NMC until 2029 when he will be 36 years old, and a modified no-trade clause in his final season of the deal, that’s a long time to retain that right, especially after having had multiple seasons where he has not played entire seasons or half seasons due to injury. At least those players are considered top-line players and not fourth-line brawlers like Nic Deslauriers, who good old Chuck gave out a modified no-movement clause to in the first two years of his four year seven million dollar deal he signed him to back in 2022.

Even though I had more faith in Briere in this respect when he took the job, he ended up giving in and allowed a utility defenseman in Nick Seeler to receive a no-trade clause for the first two years of his new contract.

I get the players and their union wanting to fight for this, given the fact that these players have families and whole lives outside of hockey to think about, but at the end of the day, these clauses were made to be given to the elite, not some a random scrub player who doesn’t even make the roster every night. By allowing this, franchises are putting themselves into compromising situations that could have been avoided. And because of that, they are being forced to make drastic unwanted changes to their roster, like moving out other players that they would otherwise like to keep in order to combat the bad decisions made prior when they agreed to sign a player who was good a few years ago when they signed him but has underachieved ever since.

It may be a competitive market out there. Teams may have to give a little in order to make a deal with a player they want, in order to prevent others from doing just that. Still, if the owners came together on this issue and refused to offer this once luxury bargaining chip to players who don’t deserve it, they could shift the power back in their direction. If they don’t, they will continue to be snake-bitten by their bad contractual decisions for years to come.

Prospect Watch: Rocco Pelosi

By |June 22nd, 2024|

Photo Credit:

While other websites out there are scrambling to gather information on this year’s NHL Draftees because they neglected to follow what they were doing all year long, we here at Prospect Watch have already been there and done that, so, in an effort to keep you up to date on all the latest and greatest developing young talents from around the world today we decided to dive even deeper into the prospect pool with this article to talk about a fifteen-year-old phenom who won’t even be available until the 2027 Draft.

That player’s name is Rocco Pelosi. Now, what makes Rocco unique in my mind is that he is a local prodigy, a Sewell, New Jersey native who is taking the hockey world by storm right now.

And, if for some reason you haven’t seen the hundreds of videos of him and his team on YouTube and or numerous other social media platforms, you’ll be eager to know that Pelosi played for the Mount St. Charles Academy’s 14U AAA Team last year. Where this 5’10, 154-pound center was able to compile an unheard-of 87 goals and 83 assists for 170 points through just 64 games played this year! Folks, to save you the math, that means he averaged 1.35 goals per game and tallied 2.65 points per game this season.

But don’t get it twisted, Mount St. Charles wasn’t just playing games against your local rinks teams this past season; they spent the year traveling around North America to compete against some of the best clubs around. Teams like the Huron Perth Lakers, who they beat to win the Florida Exposure Cup, the Pens Elite to take the Northeast Pack Championships, and the legendary Shattuck St. Mary’s Hockey Club to claim this year’s National Championship (a team, mind you that has produced such NHL legends as Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews, and Nathan Mackinnon).

And, so that it sinks in on how great Rocco could potentially be, let me share with you how his accolades from this season compare to Nathan Mackinnon’s from his 14U season with Shattuck St. Mary’s. Back in the 2009-2010 season, when Nathan played for SSM, he was only able to put up 54 goals and 47 assists for 101 points through 58 games played, which acquits to a margin of difference of 33 goals and 69 points!

Now, at this point in the article, I usually try to break down each prospect’s strengths and point out some weaknesses in their game. But, honestly, it’s hard to do at the present time because Rocco’s level of play is off the charts. I mean, it’s to the point where he can do whatever he wants while he’s out on the ice—leaving me no holes in his game to point out. Will that change in time? Probably, when he reaches a level of competition where he is playing against young men who are at least three or four years older than him, but as of right now, all we can do is sit back and watch in amazement.

A Back-Up Option Every GM should know about heading into the Draft

By |June 18th, 2024|

Photo Credit:

We see it every year: a team that is so focused on drafting a particular player that they have spent so many hours watching game tape on, sending scouts to watch their games, as well as spending time performing pre-draft workouts and interviews with, only to see their guy get selected by another team just before it’s their turn to hit the podium.

Then the panic sets in; of course, they have other names that their scouts have suggested, but they (the general manager) didn’t think that they would actually have to resort to drafting those players, and with the time clock ticking down and a decision having to be made the team ends up drafting a player that they will come to find out that they are less than impressed with not to mention could very well cost them their job.

That’s why, after I have spent the entire season talking about so many other exceptional prospects, I’ll leave you and any NHL GM who is smart enough to read this article with one last name before the draft is set to commence in less than two weeks.

And that is a guy who I believe most teams and draft experts are sleeping on, and that is Tomas Mrsic from the WHL’s Medicine Hat Tigers. Currently, Mrsic, who is 18 years old and stands at 5’11 & a half, has been given a third-round grade.

But I think he could prove to be worth so much more than that, considering that this season the media overshadowed him by constantly highlighting his incredible teammates, such as the towering presence and potential top-ten pick Cayden Lindstrom, first-round talent Andrew Basha, and of course the 16-year-old prodigy Gavin McKenna.

Now, not to take anything away from those players, but if you honestly watch the Tigers game tape, you’ll notice that Tomas was often the driving force behind their offense. And he did so by using his gift of incredible speed. Mrsic functions like any good muscle car does; before taking off towards the finish line, “he dips and grips.” Given his low center of gravity, Mrsic is able to create extremely powerful strides that leave his opponents in his rearview, which helps him to create the time and space needed to find his teammates for plenty of goal-scoring opportunities.

Don’t get me wrong, though, while Tomas may be a pass-first player. He is more than capable of putting the puck past the opposition’s netminder as well. Don’t believe me; just watch these videos below to pay witness to his incredible shot.

And after looking at his point totals from this season, 23 goals and 39 assists for 62 points in 63 games played. Tomas begins to remind me a lot of the Flyers Prospect Denver Barkey. Barkey, who was drafted last summer by Philadelphia, is a pass-first sub 6’0 center who, while playing for the London Knights of the OHL in his draft year, was able to put up 22 goals and 37 assists for 59 points in 61 games played. But he was able to really come alive this season when he was able to help lead his team to an OHL Championship, scoring 35 goals and 67 assists for 102 points during the regular season and another 27 points in 18 playoff appearances.

So, come draft day, if your team is the one frantically scrambling to find stat sheets and combine results on players at the last minute because their guy is now off the board, you better hope they settle on drafting a player like Tomas Mrsic, who could very well prove to be one of the steals of this draft.

The Rumor is that the Flyers are high on Defenseman Carter Yakemchuk, but should they be?

By |June 11th, 2024|

(Photo Credit: Twitter@WHLHitmen)

According to reports, the Philadelphia Flyers and their General Manager, Danny Briere, appear to be very enamored by the high-scoring Calgary Hitman defenseman Carter Yakemchuk. The only question is, should they be?

Don’t get me wrong; there is no denying that Carter, who stands at an impressive 6’3 and weighs in at 194 pounds, is an exceptional young talent with a very high ceiling—especially with him scoring 30 goals and 41 assists for 71 points in only 66 regular season games played this year.

However, as tantalizing a prospect as he might be, should the Flyers really be prioritizing drafting another offensive defenseman right now? I mean, the current roster is already filled with them, take for example, guys like Travis Sanheim, who is signed until 2031. A 23-year-old Cam York who is now considered a mainstay on the Flyers blueline, which the team took with their first-round pick back in 2019. Not to mention, they just traded for the former 6th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Jamie Drysdale. All of these players are offensive-minded and have been known to take off down the ice to join the rush.

Still, while their point production (of 293 combined career points) may be nice, does it really add any value when their shared career plus-minus average is -134? Think about that for a minute. That means while Travis, Cam, and Jamie were on the ice playing in the NHL and focusing on putting up points in the offensive zone, collectively, they were on the ice when their team allowed 427 goals!

To add to that, let’s not forget that the team also has Swedish-born 22-year-old offensive defenseman Emil Andrae in the system, which they took in the second round of the 2022 draft and had playing with the Phantoms last year. Then if that wasn’t enough they went out and utilized a 1st round pick last summer on the over a point-per-game defenseman Oliver Bonk who just won an OHL Championship with the London Knights this season.

Call me crazy, but I would go ahead and say we are good as far as that type of player goes.

Instead, I would think they would try to replace the kind of prospect that they lost when their 2022 fifth-overall pick, forward Cutter Gauthier, requested a trade. Because as of right now, the forward with the highest point totals this year was Travis Konecny. Who even with his 33 goals scored this year, he only averaged out to be the 27th highest-ranked player in that category, making him 36 goals off the pace of the league leader Austen Matthews’ total of 69. And if we look at points, Konecny only scored 68 points on the season, ranking him 59th in the league, which fails in comparison once again to the league leader Nikita Kucherov’s 144 points, which means in this category, he was a mere 76 points off the pace.

This harsh dose of reality is why I feel the team needs to focus on drafting an elite-level talent to pair with Matvei Michkov, who they took with their seventh overall pick in last year’s draft.

An example of a player who could meet this requirement would be a guy like Berkly Catton, who scored 54 goals and 116 points for the Spokane Chiefs this season.

Or how about Cole Eiserman, who broke Cole Caufield’s all-time goal record for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program by finishing his career with 127 lamplighters?

Both of these prospects are elite performers who would make a proper partner for Michkov for years to come, not to mention the fact that they would make an immediate impact on the team’s league-worst power play unit with Berkly Catton racking up 13 PPG this season and Cole scoring 25 goals this year while on the man advantage.

So, in saying that, the Flyers should draft with a mindset of need over want early in the draft. And wait until the second or third round to pick a still-quality defenseman.

If they should come to their senses, I would suggest a more stay-at-home type guy who could prove to one day pair well with the likes of either Sanheim, York, Drysdale, or Bonk.

Charlie Elick

Early in the second round, a blueliner the Flyers could look to nab would be Charlie Elick from the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Charlie, in my mind, is one of the most underrated defenders of this draft class. At 6’3, 198 pounds, he already possesses the size and strength he would need to compete at the NHL level. To go with that Elick has shown that he has a physical edge to his game as well.

And while his point production won’t necessarily blow you away, with him netting just 27 points in 65 games played this year. This plus players skating will! Charlie is THE BEST backward skater of any defenseman in this draft. His ability to transition from a forward motion on the rush to a full-on retreat appears effortless as the pure strength in his legs allows him to match stride for stride with some of the best players in the world as they come rushing into his zone only, he is doing it in reverse.

Don’t believe me? Well, to prove his worth, all you have to do is check his family’s mantel, where I’m sure both the Gold Medals he won while playing for Team Canada currently sit. One was the one he earned from playing in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and the other was the one he won while playing in the U-18 World Junior Championships this year.

Stian Solberg

If they, by chance, are looking for a clear-the-porch type of guy, then they should look to draft Norwegian-born defenseman Stian Solberg. Stian is an absolute defensive force. The joy he gets out of playing the body is unmatched by anyone else who is available in this draft class. So much so that this 6’2 201-pound blueline will even stop what he’s doing with the puck just to repel opposing players off of him that dare try to attempt to knock him off balance. In doing so, he is able to totally take them out of the play and then resume what he was doing in the first place.

The most surprising thing teams have found out about him, though, is the fact that this behemoth of a man-child can skate. So well, in fact, that he frequently is able to bring up the puck from well within his own zone to the point where he sometimes will have to wait for his forwards to catch up to him before they can begin to cycle the puck in the offensive zone.

Ben Danford

A traditional old-school defenseman who could prove worth their wild in the third round would be Ben Danford from the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. Ben will not light up the stat sheet; hell, if he’s playing his game, you might not even notice him on the telecast at all, and that’s ok with him because that just means he is doing his job!

Danford is a shutdown defender. A stay-at-home guy who is a leader both on and off the ice and whose only contribution to the offensive will be a well-thought outlet pass that sends a winger off to the races.

Now, while Ben may not have the kind of offensive skill some other so-called “defensive prospects” have in this draft, he does have the ability to outthink them. And seeing that Danford is always playing two steps ahead of everyone on the ice, you would think that this player, who was able to retain a +27 average this season, would have been regarded as one of the best defenders in this draft class. However, despite his reminding me of a young Ryan McDonagh, he will find himself falling to the middle rounds just because he is loyal to his first responsibility of stopping the opposition from scoring. Sad, isn’t it?

That’s why I think that any one of the three prospects I mentioned above would be a better choice for the Flyers this summer. I have nothing against Yakemchuk because he is a fantastic player in his own right. But I think it’s high time the team starts to be able to rely on their offense to score goals and their defense to be able to prevent them! And that just won’t happen if they add yet another guy who managed to score 1.07 points per game this season from the back end and still somehow managed to be a minus player.

The Flyers are Rumored to be doing their Due Diligence This Off Season

By |June 7th, 2024|

Photo Credit: Philadelphia Flyers

Despite Philadelphia not making it into the Stanley Cup playoffs this season, the team’s General Manager Danny Briere has not let that deter him from continuing to try to return this once great franchise to its rightful place alongside the league’s other perennial playoff contenders.

To do so, it has been rumored that the team has been doing their due diligence this off-season by checking in on what it would take to acquire the services of some very productive NHL players from around the league. The latest being the 25-year-old Czech-born Martin Necas from the Carolina Hurricanes. But while trading for this former 2017 first-round pick who has previously been able to set career highs of 28 goals and 71 points would be nice. It might prove harder than some may think, given the fact that the Flyers will hold the highest dead cap space of any team in the league next season, thanks to them being forced to wait to place Ryan Ellis on LTIR every year, agreeing to pay Kevin Hayes $3.5 million a season not to play for them. Them having $1.6 Million already allocated to Anthony DeAngelo’s buyout. On top of figuring out what to do with the four million dollars in retained salary, they are inclined to pay for Ryan Johansen and most likely another $3.85 million in buried cap penalties so they can hide Cal Petersen back down in Lehigh Valley again next season.

So, when you factor all that in, the chances of the team being able to bring in a player like the aforementioned impending free agent Martin Necas, who may seem like a bargain at just three million for next season, might be easier said than done.

Unless this workup is meant to be a backup plan in case the team cannot come to terms with their own impending free agent, Travis Konecny, who has been rumored to be seeking upwards of nine to ten million dollars a season for the duration of his next contract. A price that the Flyers just cannot afford to pay out at this time and would likely then be forced to have to move Konecny out of town in order to get something for him before he is a free agent.

But with the team still seeming optimistic about possibly re-signing Travis, a less flashy but more cap-friendly acquisition that I would suggest for this upcoming season is the potential pickup of the Los Angeles Kings forward Arthur Kaliyev.

Kaliyev, who was taken in the second round of the 2019 NHL Entry Draft and who still is just 22 years old, would cost the team fewer of their stockpiled assets to acquire than Necas. Given that he is much younger, still unproven, and has become frustrated with his lack of playing time in LA which in turn made him recently ask the Kings for a trade.

Now, I get it: Kaliyev is nowhere near as good a player as Necas is, but he could soon be! Because, like Owen Tippett was before Philly brought him in, Arthur is a virtually untapped offensive threat with an elite-level shot which is buried on the Kings’ depth chart and in need of a fresh start.

If you don’t remember him, before being drafted, Arthur played three seasons for the Hamilton Bulldogs of the OHL, where during that time, he was able to compile 126 goals and 122 assists for a total of 248 points.

But since being drafted, he has had to battle for ice time and has never really been given a fair shot with any sort of consistent line-mates at the NHL level with which to build chemistry. However, despite being forced to deal with those irregularity’s, Kaliyev has still been able to produce, reaching the teens in goals in back-to-back seasons prior to this one.

Arthur is signed through next season with a cap hit of just $894,167. Making him, at least in my mind, a low-risk-high reward type guy who could prove to make an immediate impact once brought in to be a part of this team’s young nucleus that they are currently building.

As for what it would take to land him, I don’t know about you, but I would be willing to offer up center Morgan Frost and his $2.1 million cap hit, being that the team has already re-signed Ryan Poehling and have centers Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, and Noah Cates all still under contract.

You may disagree with me, but Frost (who was often in Tort’s doghouse this season) could prove to be a much-needed upgrade for the Kings over the under-performing center Blake Lizotte, who tallied just 15 points in 62 games played this season for LA.

As always, I appreciate the read and hope you enjoyed the little food for thought on what the Flyers are up to this off-season.

An Early Look at How the Flyers Could Clean up in the 2025 NHL Draft

By |May 30th, 2024|

Photo Credit:

Since Briere took over as General Manager of the Philadelphia Flyers, he has put a strong emphasis on rebuilding through the draft. So much so that in the 2023 Entry Draft, they made two selections in the first round, taking Russian Forward Matvei Michkov seventh overall and the newly crowned OHL Champion London Knights defenseman Oliver Bonk 22nd overall. With both picks appearing (at least at this point) to be home runs, Danny will attempt a similar fate when he is due to make multiple first-round selections this summer as well, which, if you’re interested, you can view my suggestions for those picks on our website

But that’s not all; keeping up with this trend of planning for the future, Briere has already managed to set his franchise up with multiple first-round selections in the 2025 draft as well. In fact, when paired with the ones already in the team’s system and the ones that soon will be from this summer’s draft, we could very well be playing witness to the fate of this franchise-changing right before our eyes.

So, with that being said, let us take a look at some promising prospects that Briere and the team’s scouts should be setting their sights on for next season.

As of right now, with the fate of Matvei Michkov still not confirmed as to where he will be playing next season, we will assume the Flyers will likely finish around or slightly better than they did this past season—leaving them to pick somewhere just outside the top ten to the early teens. And a player whom I think they should select with their own first-round pick in 2025 is the Erie Otters’ shutdown defender, Matthew Schaefer.

Matthew Schaefer

Matthew, who we here at got to speak to recently on our PodCast called Prospect Watch-

– was the OHL’s number-one overall pick in their 2023 Priority Selection Draft. And for good reason. Schaefer was able to show this past season for the Otters that he possessed great speed and size, which helped him hinder their opposition’s advances. But while his swiftness has many scouts drooling for me, it’s his ability to use his great hockey sense to wait until his opponent drops their head to try and regain control of the puck after he has poke-checked from them to then step up and use his body to not only take them out of the play but off of their skates entirely.

If you would like to read more about Schaefer and his game, here is an article I recently posted on him.

Jordan Gavin

As for their previously mentioned additional first-round selection that we, of course, know Danny was able to pick up in a trade with the Colorado Avalanche for impending free-agent defenseman Sean Walker, I would suggest Philadelphia look at a tantalizing forward that goes by the name Jordan Gavin, who plays for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL. Gavin is a dynamic forward with a quick release who can hurt you if given space. But unlike most players his age, Jordan is just as satisfied if not more eager to set up a teammate than he is to score himself. This being a trait that led the Americans to draft Jordan second overall in the 2021 WHL Prospects Draft.

It is my opinion that Jordan will have an absolute breakout year this upcoming season. One that will make his 23 goals and 45 assists for 68 points he was able to total this season seem minuscule compared to what he will have compiled this time next year.

Lynden Lakovic

While fans should be happy if the Flyers were done after day one with drafting both Schaefer and Gavin, where the team could really clean up will be in the second round, and here’s why.

In 2025, the Flyers have the opportunity to make three selections in the second round. The first to be utilized would likely be the one they received from the Anaheim Ducks for the arrogant Cutter Gauthier.

And it’s with this pick that I would suggest the Flyers take the 6’4 forward Lynden Lakovic, who can be found playing for the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors.

Like a magician, Lynden uses his unusual length and phenomenal stick-handling ability to create the illusion for the opposition’s defense that he is going to do one thing just to pull the puck back in tight to his body to do another. This sleight of hand allowed Lynden to score 18 goals and 21 assists for a total of 39 regular season points this year.

And, with guys like the already drafted Jagger Firkus, Brayden Yager, Matthew Savoie, and Denton Mateychuck all either aging out or potentially making the jump to the professional level next season, Lakovic is set to gain a lot more ice time, which should lead to a substantial rise in his point production.

Benjamin Kevan

The Flyers’ subsequent second-round pick should be coming from the Columbus Blue Jackets. It is a conditional pick that they acquired in a trade for defender Ivan Provorov. The only caveat to this is that the Blue Jackets have to end of the 1st round of this summer’s draft to decide whether they will give up their 2024 2nd round pick or their second selection in 2025. But with the Blue Jackets set to hire a new GM in the coming days and having that selection be the 36th overall pick to be made this summer, I think they will likely be holding on to it and thus forcing them to defer their 2025 second-round selection to the Flyers.

So, if that is the case, I would advise the Flyers brass to draft the USHL’s Benjamin Kevan with that pick. Ben, who plays for the Des Moines Buccaneers, was able to compile a near-point-per-game average in just his first season in the USHL, where he scored 24 goals and 33 assists for 57 points in just 59 games played. This feat earned him the honor of being named to the USHL All-Rookie Team this season.

Better still, to go with Kevan’s breakaway-type speed and finishing ability, the Bucs just added the young and talented Blake Zielinski with the third overall pick in the latest USHL Entry Draft, so with these two manning the helm next year, Des Moines bounty should prove plentiful.

Liam Kilfoil

Now, as far as what the team should do with their own 2nd round pick, I would recommend they take a look at a prospect who most experts are sleeping on right now, and that player would be Halifax’s Liam Kilfoil.

This season was Liam’s first in the Q, and while he only scored nine goals and eleven assists for 20 points in the regular season, the progression and skill set that showed through at times would lead me to believe that great things are still to come from this young man.

Kilfoil showed this season that he possesses the type of speed, pace, and strength that allows a player to take the puck from coast to coast unscathed. Let me give you an example: From a standstill, Liam shows the wherewithal to wait for a defender to throw himself off balance by lunging for the puck before he takes off down the ice. Once he has gained that initial space, he is off to the races. At speeds so fast, he can take the outside lane along the boards to get by defenders protecting the puck the whole time before making evasive maneuvers to allow himself to cut right in front of the oppositions net to create a scoring chance with his lightning-quick release while remaining seemingly untouched.

And that’s just one example of his early skill set. Many more traits were beginning to shine through towards the end of the season. To prove that, all you have to do is look at what he did in the playoffs, where he scored three goals in only four games.

Take my word for it: this player will be shooting up mock draft boards next season to the point where teams will be flying scouts on the teams’ plane to Halifax next season just to see him play in person.

Although it may seem very early to be talking about the 2025 draft, I guarantee you the Flyers organization has their scouts working overtime to begin to gather information on these players, given the fact that their literal future depends on getting these picks right that they have given up so much to acquire.

Prospect Watch: Matthew Schaefer

By |May 22nd, 2024|

Photo Credit: Erie Otters

With the 2024 NHL Entry Draft right around the corner, you would think that we here at Prospect Watch would be getting ready to sit back and watch our prognostications begin to unfold just as we said they would. Instead, we prefer to get a jump on the following year’s crop and to do that, I can think of no better prospect to start talking about than a guy who the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League chose to take number one overall in the 2023 Priority Selection Draft, and that player was 16-year-old defenseman, Matthew Schaefer.

Now, for those of you not yet familiar with Matthew or his game, let me tell you I have seen some defenders with size. I have seen some defenders with speed, but it’s been quite a while since I’ve seen a defender who has been so lucky to possess both of these qualities and be able to utilize them so fluently together at such a young age.

Offensively, while on the rush, Matthew appears so poised that you would think he’s an NHL veteran of at least ten years. This is thanks to that aforementioned speed, which permits him to break away from a pack of defenders with ease and provides him (and his team) with endless scoring opportunities, which they then make look effortless.

But I assure you Schaefer is so much more than just some run-of-the-mill point-producing offensive defenseman. This young man has shown us this past season that he is wise beyond his years. What I mean by that is he has already appeared to have learned the importance of being patient while standing guard on the blue line. Matthew knows when to join the rush and when it’s best to stay back and protect his end of the ice. And we all know or at least are playing witness to just how invaluable a true two-way defender who can put up points as well as maintain a positive plus-minus rating can be in the playoffs.

As exciting as this prospect already is, it should be noted that he is only going to get better. In fact, one attribute that I feel should be both documented and monitored closely over the next year by NHL scouts is just how physical this young man is becoming. While reaching an age and maturity level where most are struggling just learning how to drive, Matthew (while only weighing in at 161 pounds this past season) was made to show that he could be relied upon to combat the advances of some of the leagues oldest, largest, and most talented competitors. And, if you had watched any of his games or even the video clips I provided you with in this article, you would have seen that Schaffer was able to do so flawlessly.

With most of the leagues around the world now preferring a kinder/gentler game, most defenders have become soft for fear of receiving a penalty. With that, sadly, it has become satisfactory to most coaches if a defender just throws out a lazy poke check to a speedy opposing winger who is able just to brush it off and keep advancing into the attacking zone. So as a result, these leagues have become more wide-open, leaving goalies to fend for themselves.

However, this is not the case with Schaefer. Despite him being known to throw out an effective poke check on the opposition, what sets him apart from the rest is while the forward drops his head to try and regain control of the puck, Matthew has been trained to follow said poke check, up by immediately putting on the brakes and lowering his shoulder. This is done in an effort to eliminate any threat of a potential goal by taking his man out of the play completely.

The last and seemingly most important quality that we’ll talk about Matthew possessing (that most players his age don’t) is his ability to lead. Almost instantaneously upon his arrival in Erie, Matthew appeared to become a leader of this rebuilding franchise. To this point, multiple teammates have gone on record saying it’s true when Schaefer walks into the locker room, it is almost like his presence demands respect. And it’s not because of an attitude problem or him being vain, far from it, because he’s one of the nicest, most wholesome kids you would ever want to meet.

What I think has developed this worthwhile quality is the fact Matthew has unfortunately had to deal with a lot of hardship in his young life with the loss of both his mom, whom he loved dearly, to breast cancer as well as his billet Mother in Erie, whose death was unexpected. Both women (or mother figures, if you will) in his life passed only a couple of months apart. And, when forced to deal with that kind of adversity, you do one of two things: you crack under the pressure or you press on like Matthew chose to do because it’s what his mother, who played mini sticks with him since he could first stand with a binky in his mouth would have wanted him to do.

Now, Schaefer’s three goals and fourteen assists for seventeen points this season for the Otters would be impressive for any 16-year-old defender playing in this league (especially), given all he had to go through this season. But for me, it was what he was able to do at the World Championships recently in Finland that proved to me that he at least belongs in the conversation of who will be named the top ten talents for the 2025 NHL Entry Draft.

This is because Matthew did not only play for Canada in the U-17 Tournament, where he scored four points in eight games. He also managed to make the cut to join their U-18 Team as well, where he tallied five points in seven games. In all these games, Schaefer showed that he could not only play with some of the best young talents in the world today, but in my mind, he was able to get the best of them.

So, if you get the chance next season to head up to Erie for a game, I would highly suggest it because with the Otters having both Malcolm Spence, who they took second overall in the 2022 Priority Draft, and Matthew Schaefer, who they took with the first overall pick in 2023 returning to play for them next season there’s no doubt that the cheers reverberating out of the Insurance Arena will be heard all the way across Lake Erie and up into Matthew’s hometown of Hamilton, Ontario.

Who Stays/Who Goes, and What Enticing Free Agents Might the Flyers Look to Add this Off Season?

By |May 10th, 2024|

Let us now take a look at what the team should do with the players who have expiring contracts and whom they might replace them with if they choose not to re-sign them.

To make things easier, I will break them down into positions. First up, we will take a look at what the team has offensively.

On the front lines, the Flyers look pretty set since most of the players will be returning next season to play out the remainder of their contracts. And to add to that, Briere has already shown that he wishes to be proactive instead of reactive in nature (like past administrations) by getting a jump on things given his recent re-signing Owen Tippett, who was due to be a restricted free agent this summer to a new eight-year deal worth over $49 million. They also decided to bring back center Ryan Poehling for an additional two seasons to the tune of $1.9 Million a season.

In addition to these NHL re-signings, Danny also chose to sign a 25-year-old 6’4 220-pound winger named Oscar Eklind out of the SHL to a one-year prove-it type deal. Eklind is a fast-moving power forward who was able to score 17 goals this season for the Lulea HF and should pose a real threat to take someone’s spot on the Flyers out of camp.

Also, management has inked their recent NCAA National Champion-winning prospect, center Massimo Rizzo, to a two-year entry-level contract. Rizzo, of course, played for the University of Denver this past season, scoring 34 points in 30 regular season games played for the Pioneers.

Thus leaving the soon-to-be 23-year-old restricted free agent Bobby Brink as the only piece offensively to have to re-sign this off-season. However, even though re-signing him should come easy, seeing that he is a (RFA) restricted free agent. He could prove to be a viable trade chip if the Flyers wished to package him up in a deal in an effort to move up in the draft, considering he showed some real promise in his first entire season with the team, where he was able to score 11 goals, and 12 assists for 23 points in 57 games played.

But this does not mean the team should not seek help offensively come July 1st, for they have a bunch of forwards with expiring contracts next season that include unrestricted ones like Cam Atkinson, Travis Konecny, and Garnet Hathaway. Not to mention restricted ones like Noah Cates, Morgan Frost, and Tyson Foerster.

So, although signing a potential free agent right now would make it a little crowded, my thought process would be to try and cut some dead weight and save some money at the same time. A way to do that would be to buy out 34-year-old Cam Atkinson this summer, whose point totals took a drastic nosedive this past season. This move would save the Flyers a total of $3,516,666 next season but force them to have to pay $1,758,334 the following season as well as in the form of a cap penalty.

Yakov Trenin

With this move, though, the Flyers could look to sign a guy like UFA forward Yakov Trenin. Trenin is a 27-year-old 6’2 201 pound human wrecking ball. Throughout his time in Nashville and even now with Colorado, his unrelenting, aggressive play style has allowed him to move up and down the lineup when needed, mainly when injuries occur.

He can play center as well as wing and is known around the league to be a very high-energy guy. And while he may not be the most talented player out on the ice, he is one to watch still as he is a guy that will undoubtedly outwork you!

For example, Yakov is a 200ft player who lives to deliver massive mind-erasing hits to unsuspecting players on the opposition who are taking their time gathering the puck out of the boards in both their defensive and offensive zones. Not to mention, Trenin has the admirable trait of being willing to stand up for his teammates. Fearless in his approach, Yakov is but one of few players who have been crazy enough to drop the gloves on more than one occasion with the “Nephilim-like” Zdeno Chara.

But beyond all that, the one thing that should make Trenin a definite target over others this off-season is the fact that he is Russian and could help ease the transition for Philly’s star prospect Matvei Michkov, who the team have hinted at the possibility of maybe being able to break free from his contract in the KHL so can join the team as early as this upcoming season.

Now, Yakov is coming off a deal that paid him $1.7 million a season and is rumored to be looking to get a much-deserved raise. But the Flyers may not have to pony up more than you think to acquire his services this off-season. Because Trenin was traded to Colorado and the Avalanche are stacked and therefore only using him to center their fourth line. Not to mention the fact that this off-season, Colorado is set to lose more than half of their offense as well as their defense to free agency, which includes names like Casey Mittelstadt, Jonathan Drouin, and ex-Flyer Sean Walker, whom all they will have to pay dearly for.

So, in my mind, Yakov could bring the Flyers more bang for the buck than he could Colorado. Besides, this underrated player seems like he would not only be a fan favorite here in the City of Brotherly Love but also appear as he would flourish in Tortorella’s system. To the point that I would expect him to reach a new career high in goals under John’s tutelage. (NOTE: his previous career high in goals is 17).

Moving on to defense, we can now begin to see some holes appear as the team has multiple veteran UFA defenders, such as 36-year-old Erik Johnson and 37-year-old Marc Staal, to make decisions on.

In my mind, it should have been to the point that they both should have been told at the team’s exit interviews. Thanks for what you did for the team this season, but we will no longer need your services moving forward.

This in no way is to say that they did not play a role. Both players brought an extensive amount of knowledge and experience to a very youthful defensive core. Still, with that being said, the team would benefit from an upgrade in that area. However, I don’t see the need for multiple veterans to offer their guidance to their youth. Thus, potentially providing a roster spot for one of their impressive blueliners in their system to make the big clubs’ opening night roster next season: Yegor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, Adam Ginning, Helge Grans, and/or Oliver Bonk will all prove to be options who could fight for this spot.

So, which veteran blueliner should Philadelphia look to sign this offseason, you might be asking?

Jani Hakanpaa

Well, if I had my choice, it would be Dallas’ towering 6’7, 225-pound defender who goes by the name Jani Hakanpaa. Jani is 32 years old and is set to be an unrestricted free agent after the season.

Now, while his statistics of two goals and ten assists for twelve points this season may not blow you away. His defensive prowess should. Hakanpaa is a force that is not to be messed with in his own zone.

Whether it’s clearing his goalie’s porch, laying a huge hit to regain puck possession, or standing up for teammates after the opposition has laid a dirty hit, Jani can do it all with punishing force.

And, while he may not be known for his offensive skill set, it should be known that in due-or-die situations when his team is down, Hakanpaa has proven to let one rip right past the goalie from atop the point.

So, I think the Flyers would be crazy not try to offer the league’s most underrated defenseman, (who is currently playing over twenty minutes a game for the Stars right now in the playoffs), a contract come July 1st. Especially since he has never been paid over $1.5 million a season in his entire career and has gained more playoff experience than most of the players combined currently on the Flyers roster throughout just the last three seasons.


For the first time in my life, I feel confident enough to say that there is depth between the pipes in Philadelphia!

This, of course, comes as much more of a surprise given the fact that the Flyers lost Carter Hart to legal troubles mid-season.

So, it should go without saying that the team should look to let Hart’s expiring contract go to the wayside, given the fact that they will still have Samuel Ersson playing on his rookie deal and just re-signed the long-awaited “Russian Bear” Ivan Fedotov to a new two-year deal that will pay him $3.275 million a season.

With that being said, the team should let their 27-year-old pending UFA goalie Felix Sandstrom walk as well, seeing that he has been with the team for parts of four seasons and has yet to impress.

Still, if the Flyers wanted some short-term reassurance given the fact that Ivan’s stats this season upon joining the club late in the year were as follows: a 4.95 goals-against-average (G.A.A.) and a .811 save percentage (SV%). It might make sense to give Fedotov just a little more time to get used to playing on the smaller ice surface.

Scott Wedgewood

So if they felt such a need I guess I would suggest taking a look into what it would cost them to sign a player like Scott Wedgewood. Scott is a 31-year-old netminder who you may remember from his days playing for a struggling New Jersey team, but for me, it is the body of work he has been able to put up while in Texas that should have grabbed the Flyers’ attention.

For example, over the last three seasons playing as a backup in Dallas and making just one million dollars, Wedgewood has been able to average a 2.83 G.A.A. and a .907 SV%. And, if those stat lines weren’t impressive enough, you’d be surprised to find out that he was able to tally 16 regular season wins this season.

But I would not want the team to offer him anything longer than a one-year deal, given that they have the likes of goalies Alexei Kolosov, Carson Bjarnason, and Yegor Zavragin all developing at a pretty fast pace in their system as we speak.

And, if the Flyers are capable of pulling off these simple acquisitions I listed above, I think that they would be in a much better position to start next season than they were this past September.

*As always, let me know what you think*

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