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With Michkov and Bonk Added to Fray, Flyers Pipeline Continues to Jump in League-Wide Rankings

(Dave Sandford/NHLI via Getty Images)

To fans of the Philadelphia Flyers, draft rankings hold an entirely different meaning now, especially after the Ron Hextall era.

The Flyers were ranked number one by The Athletic in 2017, 7th in 2019, and 10th in 2020. Other venerable sources had pegged the Flyers in the top-5 or at the very least within their top-10 between 2016-2019.

2018: 12th place

1. Phil Myers
2. Morgan Frost
3. Joel Farabee
4. Carter Hart
5. Oskar Lindblom
6. Mikhail Vorobyev
7. Jay O’Brien
8.. Isaac Ratcliffe
9. German Rubtsov
10. Noah Cates

2019: 7th place

1. Joel Farabee
2. Morgan Frost
3. Cam York
4. Phil Myers
5. Isaac Ratcliffe
6. Bobby Brink
7. Samuel Ersson
8. Wade Allison
9. Noah Cates
10. Tanner Laczynski

2020: 10th place

1. Joel Farabee
2. Carter Hart
3. Nolan Patrick
4. Morgan Frost
5. Egor Zamula
6. Cam York
7. Bobby Brink
8. Ronnie Attard
9. Wade Allison
10. Noah Cates

2021: 17th place

1. Joel Farabee
2. Morgan Frost
3. Cam York
4. Samu Tuomaala
5. Egor Zamula
6. Bobby Brink
7. Tyson Foerster
8. Ronnie Attard
9. Zayde Wisdom
10. Emil Andrae

2022: 19th place

1. Joel Farabee
2. Cutter Gauthier
3. Cam York
4. Tyson Foerster
5. Egor Zamula
6. Emil Andrae
7. Zayde Wisdom
8. Bobby Brink
9. Elliot Desnoyers
10. Samuel Ersson

After stockpiling draft picks for 5 years and selecting over 40 prospects in that time, the Flyers essentially have nothing to show for it other than Travis Konecny and Carter Hart. As we fast forward to 2023, many of the aforementioned and listed prospects that were being heralded by these rankings have not panned out and there seems to be a consistent theme in nearly every season from 2018 onwards. Morgan Frost had been at the top end of the list from 2018 to 2021, finishing 2nd in 2018, 2019, and 2021. Joel Farabee has been at the top of the list from 2019 to 2022, finishing 1st in 2019, 2020, 2021, and 2022. Cam York has finished 3rd in 2019, 2021, and 2022.

Outside of Frost, Farabee, York, and Carter Hart, the Flyers haven’t had much success from their pipeline and even the quartet have had their fair share of issues. Phil Myers (1st in 2018) was a revelation as a rookie in 2019-20 but the fell out of favour before being dealt in the summer of 2021. Mikhail Vorobyev (35 games), Jay O’Brien (0 games), Isaac Ratcliffe (10 games), German Rubtsov (4 games), and Tanner Laczynski (38 games) have a combined 87 games between them.

Wade Allison has had a bumpy ride with injuries and inconsistencies, Oskar Lindblom’s bout with cancer understandably slowed him down before being bought out, and players like Noah Cates, Ronnie Attard, and Samuel Ersson are finally getting their feet wet.

After the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, the Flyers added several quality pieces to their burgeoning pipeline in Matvei Michkov and Oliver Bonk. Tyson Foerster has taken strides over the last few seasons and showcased some of his skill and flair in his short 8-game stint this past season. Cutter Gauthier was drafted 5th overall in 2022 and has already proven himself on the international stage at only 19 years of age.

Bobby Brink, an oft-forgotten prospect who is coming off a lengthy injury absence, proved to be a vital piece of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in short order in the second half of the season and could seen as a diamond in the rough since he’s been overshadowed by his peers. Being a 5th round pick hasn’t stopped Elliot Desnoyers from sky-rocketing the charts either. He scored 23 goals in his rookie season with the Phantoms, was one of the few call-ups during the season, and even impressed John Tortorella in short order.

The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler posted his top-50 NHL prospects the other day and the Flyers – for the first time in a very, very long time – have a player in the top-2 and 2 players in the top-15. The NHL Network posted their rankings of the NHL pipelines and had the Flyers sitting at number 9. Adding a prospect like Michkov completely changes the landscape of your team but the addition of Bonk and the uptick from players like Foerster, Ersson, York, and Desnoyers have helped immensely.

Michkov’s story populated and engulfed the 2023 NHL Draft because he had the skills to go head-to-head with Connor Bedard but the “Russian factor” and not being available until 2026 had many teams either panicking or balking – fortunately enough, not the Flyers. Many have pegged him as being the best Russian prospect since Alexander Ovechkin, some say he’s a hybrid of Kirill Kaprizov and Nikita Kucherov, and after all the records he’s already broken it’s hard not to get excited.

The Flyers also did a good job in replenishing their goaltending depth, after it had gone bone dry for a few years. Ron Hextall attempted the same when he drafted Felix Sandstrom, Carter Hart, Matej Tomek, Kirill Ustimenko, Ivan Fedotov, and Samuel Ersson. Tomek and Ustimenko never panned out, Fedotov was on his way over before being detained in Russia – and now won’t be in North America for at least another 2 seasons – Sandstrom and Ersson were given plenty of opportunities this season, and Hart remains the cream of the crop.

Alexei Kolosov took a massive leap this season and is seen one of the future pieces in goal, they drafted Carson Bjarnason and Egor Zavragin in the 2nd and 3rd rounds, respectively, and have very high hopes for Ersson after his first stint with the Flyers. Bjarnason was the top-ranked North American goaltender heading into the draft and while his peripherals don’t look great, he was playing in net for a very bad Brandon Wheat Kings team in a junior circuit that is very offense-oriented.

Hart, Sandstrom, Ersson, and Kolosov make for a strong goaltending pool but then you add in the recently drafted Bjarnason and Zavragin and it only gets better.

While Oliver Bonk isn’t the flashiest prospect or wasn’t the biggest name still on the board, the Flyers found themselves drafting a very responsible, two-way, and safe top-4 defenseman with offensive upside. He joins Cam York, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andrae, Egor Zamula, and Helge Grans on the back end with Mason Millman, Ethan Samson, and Hunter McDonald not too far away either, while also having prospects in Brian Zanetti and Ty Murchison lurking behind them.

The Flyers added a lot of depth this summer so there’s an off-chance that maybe only one of Attard, Zamula, and Andrae makes the NHL-lineup but all of that will be decided in training camp. The Flyers have at least 4 NHL-ready prospects on the back end waiting in the wings making this one of their strengths in the prospect pool – somewhat surprisingly.

The Flyers also had a very good 2023 draft outside of drafting Michkov, Bonk, and Bjarnason, as they selected Denver Barkey, Carter Sotheran, Alex Ciernik, and Cole Knuble all a round or two later than projected, while finishing things off with Ryan MacPherson and Matteo Mann. They covered all their bases positionally, added right-handed shooting defensemen, replenished their goaltending depth, and selected a few prospects with tremendous upside that fell in the draft. 

Overall, the Flyers have a very balanced and deep pipeline that is headlined by the likes of Michkov, Gauthier, Foerster, and Bonk with a lot of quality behind them in Brink, Desnoyers, Lycksell, Andrae, Attard, Kolosov, and Bjarnason – essentially at every position.

The rebuild is starting off on the right foot and with a few more losing seasons, the Flyers will only be adding to their pipeline with high quality prospects at the top of the order, while also configuring in extra draft capital that they already have and will be acquiring over the next few seasons.

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