It is that time of year again, the time where the best prospects come together to compete for country as well as to make an impression on the myriad of scouts in attendance. The Flyers are no exception, while they may not have any of the top tier players of other teams, they still have 4 solid prospects to keep an eye on.
Maxim Sushko-Belarus, RW
Shusko is definitely one of the more underrated prospects the Flyers have, drafted in the 4th round this past draft, he has went under most fans radar partly due to his obscure birth nation. The Belarusians came into this year’s tournament as a heavy underdog, a preliminary round shutout was not out of the question. However, they ended up playing quite well, even taking the Czech Republic down to the wire, losing 6-5. One of the biggest contributors to this surprising turnout was Sushko, who tallied a goal and three assists in all four preliminary round games, good for a point per game. He is a big body, listed at about 6’0, 180 at just 18 years old, and he uses that well to get in front of the net. His only goal came from that spot, picking up a rebound and slotting it home, this is consistent with his play in the OHL with Owen Sound. It seems to be his biggest strength, using his quick hands around the net to pick up rebounds. The three assists also show that he has an ability to find teammates and set up a play well, his 11 shots on goal are tied for the team lead, and his -1 rating, while underwhelming on paper, is pretty good for a team who was outscored 19-13. Overall it’s been a positive tournament for Sushko, it was always going to be hard to make a huge impression when his team was so weak, but he did what was asked of him and looked pretty good; overall, he showed well.
NHL COMPARISON: Michael Raffl
Linus Hogberg-Sweden, D
Hogberg is in the polar opposite of Sushko, he is part of the powerhouse Swedes , who are stocked to the brim with future stars such as forwards Alex Nylander and Elias Pettersson, as well as 2018 draft eligible defenseman Rasmus Dahlin. Hogberg is definitely more conservative than his 17-year old countryman, but he does have the defensive side of the game pretty down pat. A prototypical shutdown, stay-at-home Swedish defender, Hogberg isn’t going to “wow” you with any single part of his game, he is going to be defensively responsible, block shots, and make the simple plays well. Which is why it is odd that Swedish coach Tomas Monten has decided not to play him more throughout the first four games of the tournament. Unfortunately, the big names of Dahlin, Erik Brännström, (drafted 15th in 2017 by Vegas), and Timothy Lilijgren, (selected by the Maple Leafs two picks after in the same draft), have taken attention away from Hogberg, as his draft position (139th overall in 2016) seems to have dropped his name down in the lineup card. He has played well in his limited minutes, just as he has with the Växjö Lakers in the SHL.
NHL COMPARISON: Carl Gunnarsson
German Rubtsov-Russia, C
“Ruby”, was the Flyers 1st rounder in 2016, and has taken over a major role in Valeri Bragin’s team throughout the first four games of the tournament. With one goal and 3 assists in four games, he has produced quite well, but his play-making skills are even better than his stats suggest. Throughout the first round, Rubtsov has shown impressive vision and passing accuracy, and if not for his linemates being streaky, he would have at least a couple more points. But the good thing about Rubtsov is his overall game, he is proficient in all three zones, and can be trusted just as much defensively as he can offensively. This was demonstrated during the Russians game against Sweden where he was a huge part of the Russian penalty kill that kept the high powered Swedish power play at 0/6. Defensively, Rubtsov is very responsible, and on face-offs he is above average as well. His all-around game has been very consistent, and he has bounced back after his sub-par effort last year to show just how vital he could be to a team like the Flyers in the future.
NHL COMPARISON: Sean Couturier
Carter Hart-Canada, G
The most anticipated prospect out of the bunch, Hart is the undisputed starter of yet another powerhouse Canadian squad, and as a result has had a very light workload compared to other goaltenders in the tournament. In his three games, he has had to make 78 saves, compared to the Belarus goaltender Andrei Grischenko, who has made almost double that, 140, in 4 less minutes played. So he hasn’t exactly been put under siege in any one game, but he still has looked every bit as good as he has in the WHL, he lead the tournament in Save Percentage and Goals Against Average during the preliminary round among goalies who had played the majority of their team’s games. He even handled the difficult match-up against Americans in the outdoor game well, which was a very different environment to play in. Hart’s biggest strength is his elite positioning, he always seems to be in the perfect spot to make the save at any given time, there are no wasted movements in his game. The issues other Flyers’ goalies have had with erratic movement in the butterfly and on follow up shots (SEE: Bryzgalov, Ilya and Mason, Steve). Hart makes playing net look easy, he is very calm and collected in net and that leads to him not dwelling on mistakes and makes it very easy for him to bounce back, his mental toughness is an immeasurable asset, especially when he makes it to the next level. Hart looks primed to continue his ascent to the top tier of goaltenders, and Flyers fans should be eagerly anticipating his arrival, because he currently looks like an absolute stud.
NHL COMPARISON: Carey Price