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MCKEEN’S 2023-24 NHL YEARBOOK – PHILADELPHIA FLYERS – Top 20 Prospect Profiles – Organizational Rank #10

Top 20 Philadelphia Flyers Prospects

1. Matvei Michkov

Move over Austin Powers, Matvei Michkov is the new International Man of Mystery. On talent alone, Michkov deserved to be selected inside the top five of this year’s draft. He had been hyped just as long as Bedard for the top of the 2023 class. However, the invasion of Ukraine by Russia, and the corresponding ban on Russia from the IIHF threw a huge wrench into that narrative. His contract situation in the KHL (another three seasons, at minimum) further complicate things. However, the Flyers decided that the risk was worth the reward. An elite offensive player, Michkov is one of the most creative and gifted young players outside of the NHL. Over the next three years in the KHL, the Flyers will be looking for improved consistency away from the puck, improved utilization of his teammates, and improvements made to his explosiveness as a skater. All signs would point to Philadelphia receiving an immediate impact player once he arrives, rewarding their patience, just as the Wild were rewarded with Kirill Kaprizov.

2. Cutter Gauthier

One of the more recent additions to the Philadelphia organization, Gauthier was selected fifth overall in 2022 out of the USNTDP. He was a standout player for the program, including a strong performance at the U18s. Post-draft, he has continued that success, helping Team USA to a bronze medal at the World Juniors and contributing over one point per game as a freshman with NCAA Boston College. He plays a fearless game, driving the net, jumping into puck battles, and playing so with speed. He's a high-volume shooter who could pick his shots better, but you have to appreciate the confidence. He plays in a style that should allow him to seamlessly adjust to the NHL. He has already confirmed that he will stick in Boston for his sophomore season, but it shouldn’t be long before he’s wearing the orange, black, and white.

3. Tyson Foerster

Selected 23rd overall in the 2020 Draft, Foerster has had some issues with a nagging shoulder injury but has always been able to find his game. He spent the pandemic with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, easily transitioning to the higher level. He spent more time in the OHL in 2021-22 but returned to the AHL last season, even seeing time in the NHL. In fact, he almost looked better in the NHL than he had at any other level. Foerster has one of the best shots not in the NHL and does extremely well at creating offense, both for himself and his teammates. He plays hard and shows promising attention to the defensive side of the puck as well. His skating was a worry in his draft year but has steadily improved since then. He looks NHL-ready and likely makes the jump in 2023-24 as a middle-six producer.

4. Bobby Brink

The Flyers have been patient with Brink, which has proven to be the correct path. He was selected 34th overall in 2019 from the USHL’s Sioux City Musketeers, where he had been named USHL Forward of the Year. Following the draft, he made the jump to the NCAA with the University of Denver, transitioning seamlessly with a strong rookie season, and was named to the NCHC All-Rookie Team. After a down sophomore campaign, Brink exploded in 2021-22, leading the entire NCAA in points (57) and was named the NCHC Forward and Player of the Year and was a finalist for the Hobey Baker Award. He moved up to the AHL last season, continuing his upward development slope. He’s a very strong skater , who does well at getting off the wall and into the middle of the ice. He’s not far off from a middle-six role in the NHL.

5. Oliver Bonk

Bonk, the son of former Ottawa Senator standout Radek, has a game predicated on his strong positioning, anticipation, and awareness. One would probably expect nothing less from someone who grew up around the game. One of the smartest defenders available in the 2023 draft, he is a disruptive force in the defensive end. Additionally, what makes Bonk such a defensive asset is his ability to kickstart the transition game. As mentioned, his IQ is the strongest component of his game, and this is evident when he has the puck on his stick in the defensive zone. From an offensive perspective, there may be some limitations to his game. He is not a dynamic skater, either in terms of his linear quickness or his agility. He will jump up in the play and he does a great job of getting pucks through to the net, both skills based off his high intelligence level. However, he is not incredibly creative, and that lack of quickness hurts him as a carrier. There is a fairly safe road to Bonk becoming a dependable, longtime second pairing defender at the NHL level. The London Knight’s track record at developing blueliners is another factor in his favor.

6. Emil Andrae

One of the most exciting defensive prospects out there, Andrae is the picture of the modern defender. He thrives jumping up into the rush and leading the transition, using his light footwork to navigate through the opposition. Drafted 54th overall in 2020, he joined SHL HV71 during a rough season which saw the team relegated. He followed with an excellent season in the HockeyAllsvenskan, helping the team jump right back to the SHL and earning the Best Junior award, leading all rookies in points. He also starred on the Swedish WJC team, leading all defenders in goals and being named to the tournament All-Star Team. He’s a strong playmaker with excellent vision and has been improving his decision-making over the past few seasons. His size may be a concern, but he has the skill of a top four defender. He made the jump to North America at the end of last season and will look to build off a strong, yet brief cameo.

7. Helge Grans

Grans still has a lot of work left to do before he'll be ready to hack it at the NHL level. His play thus far in the AHL hasn't lived up to expectations, but the long-term upside that he possesses is undeniable. He checks off a lot of boxes that you want to see in a defenseman: athleticism, size, reach, mobility, and puck movement. Heck, he even shoots right-handed. Unfortunately, he still struggles to blend all these tools together. There are fair questions about his hockey sense and processing speed, and for a blueliner with his profile, you'd like to see more sandpaper and a stronger willingness to work hard to win positioning and pucks. Grans could be the type of prospect who blows up in his mid 20s, or he might never become much more than he is right now.

8. Carson Bjarnason

It was a tale of two seasons for Bjarnson in 2022-23, with a storybook start to his campaign but then a horror finish, as injuries derailed him during the back end of the regular season and again at the IIHF U18s. The good news for him now is that his long-term projection is still very promising. He is an impeccably well-rounded netminder, with plenty of natural net coverage, stoic mental composure, refined technique and stance, and clean movements in his crease. When he is at the top of his game, he can single-handedly steal wins for his team while making it look easy and routine. He has the right combination of traits to eventually become an NHL number one, and he'll get two more years’ worth of reps as a starter in the WHL to help prepare himself, while gaining valuable and transferable experience in that kind of role. Like almost all teenage goalies, he is still very much a project, with consistency concerns and the need to cut down on the number of weak goals he allows, but his foundation is solid.

9. Elliott Desnoyers

A later round pick selected 135th overall in 2020, Desnoyers moved to the Halifax Mooseheads from the Moncton Wildcats in 2020-21, suiting up as an alternate captain. He took a big step forward on the ice while also taking on more of a leadership role in 2021-22, wearing the ‘C’. He made the jump to the Phantoms last season and continued to show improvement as one of the more productive players on the team. He seems able to be plugged in anywhere in the lineup and succeed, playing a hard-fought game with an underrated amount of skill. Desnoyers plays a smart game, rarely making a mistake. He’s well on his way to becoming a solid bottom six contributor who could move up in the lineup in the appropriate situation. It is already safe to call him a draft success considering where he was selected and how he has since progressed.

10. Ronnie Attard

One of the older prospects not yet in the NHL, it’s been a long road for Attard. However, it seems like that road and the patience of Flyers’ brass with him has paid off. Selected 72nd overall in 2019 after a huge season with the USHL Tri-City Storm where he was named USHL Player and Defenseman of the Year, as well as USA Hockey Junior Player of the Year. He then jumped to the NCAA’s Western Michigan University where the success continued, being named a two-time NCHC Best Offensive Defenseman within his three years there. Last season, he continued his rise, joining the Phantoms and fitting right in. He’s an aggressive, offensive defender that performs very well in transition. He has all the tools to be a reliable bottom-four defender at the next level and isn’t far off from making it.

11. Egor Zamula

This is a huge year for Zamula as he is no longer exempt from waivers. The puck moving defender has a real solid shot of finally becoming a permanent fixture on the Flyers’ blueline this season, but his defensive game still needs to show growth.

12. Ethan Samson

A two-way defender out of the WHL, Samson has developed incredibly well since being drafted. He holds the offensive blueline extremely well and makes opposing players earn touches in the defensive end. It will be interesting to see how he adjusts to the pro level this year.

13. Alexei Kolosov

An outstanding athlete, Kolosov was already a starter in the KHL as a 21-year-old last year, playing for hometown Minsk. He could move up the prospect rankings pretty quickly if he plays well with Lehigh Valley this year.

14. Alexis Gendron

Among the Q’s leading goal scorers last year, Gendron is deadly in open space. His speed can be deadly, but there are still concerns about his lack of size. He is likely returning to the Q for an overage year and is a contender to lead the league in scoring.

15. Olle Lycksell

While the Flyers’ depth chart looks pretty crowded right now, Lycksell has to be one of the favourites to be called up in a case of a long-term injury. He is a very creative playmaker and he was great after finally crossing the pond to play in the AHL last year.

16. Devin Kaplan

Kaplan plays such a mature, pro ready game already as a young prospect. He had a solid freshman year at Boston University, but there is a need for him to continue to become a more dynamic skater. Kaplan is a potentially elite bottom six player and penalty killer.

17. Samuel Ersson

Thrust into NHL action last year, Ersson held his own and managed to win six games for the Flyers as a rookie. The soon to be 24-year-old finds himself as part of a crowded crease, but he has NHL upside.

18. Denver Barkey

A tenacious worker, Barkey does so many things well and that’s why the Flyers used a third-round selection on him this year. He is a serious 2023-24 breakout candidate with the London Knights.

19. Samu Tuomaala

After a disastrous 2021-22 season, Tuomaala appears to have gotten himself back on track with a strong season in the Finnish second league. He still has the speed. He still has the big shot. But there are still questions about his hockey sense.

20. Zayde Wisdom

Possibly still feeling the after-effects of a wonky shoulder, Wisdom’s development has stalled in a big way. He was so good in that Covid shortened AHL season and he has yet to come close to matching that. Let’s see if he can get back on track this year as an AHL regular.