Any Flyers prospects report should contain three names at the top: Oskar Lindblom, because many expected him already to be here; Morgan Frost, the player obtained with the draft pick obtained by the St. Louis Blues in the Brayden Schenn trade, and who is making that deal look more palatable by the game, as he tears it up in the OHL; and 19-year-old Carter Hart because, well, he’s a really good goalie who just excelled in the high-pressure, no-room-for-mistakes World Junior Championships, and emerged with a gold medal around his neck.
After a slow start that he acknowledged in December was influenced by his failure to make the Flyers (as expected), Lindblom, 21, has rallied to become the Phantoms’ second leading scorer with 27 points.
“He’s taken his play to a higher level with the plays that he’s making with the puck, largely through his efforts with the coverage that’s on him,” Phantoms coach Scott Gordon told the Allentown Morning Call recently.
Amid a three-game pointless streak, Lindblom had a point in 14 of his previous 20 games before that (18 points).
“Heavy body, really tough to knock off the puck,’’ said Steve Degler, who broadcasts Lehigh Valley games. “He’s probably their most consistent player.’’
The Ontario Hockey League and Canadian Hockey League Player of the Month for December, Frost has 27 goals and 44 assists over 42 games, already exceeding his numbers over 62 games the previous season.
Click on to any OHL highlight package involving his first-place Saulte St. Marie Greyhounds and you are likely to see a deft move, slick pass or precise shot. He finds open space. He is constantly in a scoring position. But what invariably excites Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is the steady development of his 200-foot game. He was a minus-6 in his first season as a 16-year-old. He was plus-15 last season.
This year? How about a plus-50! The Greyhounds, Wayne Gretzky’s old team, are 37-3-3 this season.
Still just 18, Frost has been favorably compared to Claude Giroux and Simon Gagne at this juncture of each player’s career. Because he will be just 19 and still ineligible to play in the AHL next season, Frost must either make the Flyers out of camp or be returned to the Soo for a final season. Doubt they would mind.
After surviving a nationwide media blitz following Canada’s 3-1 gold-medal victory over Sweden, Hart is back with his junior team, the Everett Silvertips.
Meanwhile, 6-7 Samuel Morin, whom some projected to make the Flyers, has played in two of the Phantoms’ recent games after being out of the lineup since Dec.7 with what was described, tongue-in-cheek, as a “body injury” by Gordon. Before playing in the middle game of a three-game set against Hershey over the weekend, the defenseman had missed 11 straight games.
Also beset by injuries this season, Philippe Myers scored his third goal in a 4-1 loss to Wilkes-Barre Wednesday night. More important, it was his 10th game in a row after being hobbled for much of the season with a groin injury.
“Very impressive to watch him skate, as big as he is,’’ Degler said of the 6-5 defenseman, who will turn 21 on Jan. 25. “He is getting more and more confident as his game reps go up. It’s easy to see why the Flyers like him.’’
Danick Martel, who earned a brief promotion to the Flyers with a hot start, suffered a broken jaw after a blow to the head during Saturday night’s Phantoms game in Hershey. Colby Williams, the Bears defenseman who delivered the blow, received a three-game suspension – and an immediate takedown by Lehigh Valley teammate Nicolas Aube-Kubel.
Martel had surgery on the jaw Sunday and will miss his first AHL all-star game as a result; Lindblom was chosen to replace him. Playing for Reading at this time a season ago, Martel has 17 goals and nine assists in what has been a breakout season for him.
With 11 goals, 24 points and a plus-8 over 41 games, Aube-Kubel, said Degler, “is probably the most improved player who was on the roster the whole last season.’’ Still just 21, the 2014 second-round pick has developed into a durable, heavy-bodied forechecker with some offensive skills – particularly a sneaky and accurate shot. He’s already exceeded his goal and point totals from a season ago.
Wade Allison has 15 goals and 15 assists over 21 games in his sophomore season at Western Michigan University. Picked late in the second round of the 2016 draft, the power forward is also a plus-8 for the Broncos, currently ranked 11th in the USHO polls.
“He’s an elite player,’’ said Western Michigan head coach Andy Murray, the former Flyers assistant and head coach of the L.A. Kings and St. Louis Blues. At 6-2, 210, with two seasons of juniors already on his resume and an edge that fits the pro game well, the 20-year-old Allison is considered by some scouts as pro ready.
Drafted by the Flyers in the sixth round of the 2016 draft, Tanner Laczynski is another college player to keep an eye on. Just named the Big Ten second star of the week following a five-point weekend against Penn State, the Ohio State sophomore is having a breakout season, among the nation’s leaders in points with 23 assists and 34 points. He has five goals and nine assists over his last eight games for the Buckeyes, currently ranked sixth in the nation.
Isaac Ratcliffe, the 6-6 forward taken by the Flyers in the second round of last June’s draft, has 21 goals and 36 points for the Guelph Storm of the OHL. He is also minus-13, one of nine players on the Storm who are minus-9 or worse.
Still 18 and in his second year of juniors, he will have to improve on that.