Cutter Gauthier, Emil Andrae, Matvei Michkov, Philadelphia Flyers, Tyson Foerster

Philadelphia Flyers 2023 Prospect Pyramid

As the NHL news cycle winds down during the dog days of summer, most of us have some idea of what this year’s lineup will look like. For teams on the rise, like the New Jersey Devils and Dallas Stars, that means Stanley Cup dreams. For the league’s worst rosters, eyes quickly dart from the bleak depth charts to promising prospect pipelines.

Nowhere is that truer than in Philadelphia, where the Flyers have embarked on their first rebuild in three decades. The Orange and Black have young talent led by Russian phenom Matvei Michkov and collegiate sniper Cutter Gauthier, and general manager Daniel Briere is eager to add to that group through the trade market. For now, news out of Philadelphia is at a lull, so this is the perfect time to assess prospects at every rung of the organization.

Blue Chip Prospects

This tier is reserved for players who not only could but should become superstars. Only the league’s truly elite prospects could be considered on this level.

Matvei Michkov

There are no plaudits for Matvei Michkov that have not already been written. The Russian struck for 9 goals and 20 points in 27 games for HC Sochi, the worst team in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL) by 17 points. The third-worst team in the division, Barys Astana, collected 61 points to Sochi’s 32. They were that bad, yet Michkov, who turned 18 in December, scored at a respectable clip in the world’s second-best league.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Flyers’ Decision to Draft Michkov

When Michkov comes stateside, he will be 21 and primed to change Philadelphia’s hockey landscape. Scouts mention the sniper in the same breath as Connor Bedard, the only 2023 prospect widely acknowledged as more talented, and another Russian stash pick, Alexander Ovechkin. The Flyers have other valuable assets, but Michkov is in a class all his own.

Real Deals

Players who are considered untouchable in trade negotiations comprise this tier. Prospects on this level are expected to find a niche in a team’s top unit.

Cutter Gauthier, Emil Andrae

Boston College Eagle Cutter Gauthier immediately invigorated the Flyers’ prospect pipeline when the team picked him 5th in 2022; he would be a valid number-1 prospect in most organizations. The 19-year-old followed up a 16-goal, 37-point freshman season (32 games) at BC with another 7 tallies in 10 games with Team USA at the IIHF World Championship. At 6’2, 200 lbs, Gauthier already looks and scores like a grown man. The power forward can be a perennial 30-goal threat and, depending on the Eagles’ fortunes during his sophomore year, could join the Flyers next spring.

Cutter Gauthier USNTDP
Cutter Gauthier, USNTDP (Rena Laverty / USA Hockey’s NTDP)

Gauthier nearly comprised another one-player tier, but blue-liner Emil Andrae’s tools are too intriguing to ignore. More so than 2023 22nd-overall selection Oliver Bonk or even Cam York, the Swede has explosive potential as an offensive defenseman. Where Bonk is a lock for NHL minutes thanks to a well-rounded game, and York established himself as a rookie with his mature instincts on the puck, the 21-year-old Andrae has a rare combination of dynamic attributes that could make him an All-Star if he puts it all together.

Andrae will, at the very least, quarterback a power play in the NHL; over the past two seasons for HV71, he dished out 48 assists over 92 games in the top two tiers of Swedish hockey before scoring 2 goals and 6 points in a 10-game stint with the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Where Andrae sets himself apart from the Tony DeAngelos of the world is his ability to throw big hits and actively defend despite his 5’9″ stature. He is not the prototype Gauthier is, but Andrae’s unusual skill set from the left-sided point makes him a uniquely interesting prospect. A recently reworked agreement between the NHL and Swedish Hockey League (SHL) means that, as a former second-round pick, the defenseman needs to make the team or rejoin HV71.

Future Contributors

Teams expect these prospects to settle in as regular NHL contributors. All-Star appearances would not be out of the question if they reach the upper-limit of their potential.

Tyson Foerster, Oliver Bonk, Ethan Samson, Alexei Kolosov

Tyson Foerster misses the second tier by a whisker; as an out-and-out sniper, he does not quite measure up to fellow goalscorer Gauthier. That does not mean the former Ontario Hockey League (OHL) standout is not a stud in his own right, though. After a first full pro season that saw him named to the AHL’s All-Prospect Team with 20 goals and 48 points in 66 games for Lehigh Valley, Foerster will likely make the Flyers to start the season. He looked more than comfortable in a late-season 8-game stint with that team when he scored 3 goals and 7 points. The 21-year-old’s shot is lauded as the best in the organization and will keep him in work for a long time.

Tyson Foerster Philadelphia Flyers
Tyson Foerster, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Oliver Bonk is another player that many will feel belongs higher on this totem pole, but he projects to be more dependable than dynamic. Bonk does everything well but nothing great, much like the recently departed Ivan Provorov. The difference? Bonk is bigger, fills a need on the defense’s right side, and will not carry the weight of the Norris-level expectations that ultimately made Provorov’s stint in Philadelphia a near miss. Expect Bonk to find a place alongside Andrae or York in the Flyers’ top-four after another season or two of dominance for the OHL London Knights, where he scored 10 goals and 40 points in 67 games last season.

That Ethan Samson is on this list, let alone as a prospective NHLer, should indicate that the Flyers hit a home run when they picked him in the sixth round of the 2021 Draft. Another year, and Samson might have gone in the first two rounds. In 2021-2022, Samson scored 43 points in 68 for a wretched Prince George Cougars in the Western Hockey League (WHL) before scoring 18 goals and 60 points in 60 games last year after being handed the captaincy.

Samson turns 20 this summer and will be eligible to play in the AHL next year. His physicality needs work, but his rangy stride and right-handed shot should carry him to an NHL roster spot one day. He has a player profile similar to current Flyer Travis Sanheim, and if he can develop the signature skill that has eluded the 27-year-old, he could become a player to watch.

Alexei Kolosov is a 21-year-old KHL goaltender whose numbers in that league suggest he could become an NHL starter in the next few years. The Flyers picked the left-handed glove in the third round of the 2021 draft and will be thrilled with his development so far. Over 73 KHL games for a bang-average Dinamo Minsk team, Kolosov has allowed just 2.67 goals per game while saving .910 percent of shots. Against some of the best snipers on the planet, those stats are no joke; they were enough to convince Briere to offer the 21-year-old his entry-level contract this summer.

Related: Flyers Should Not Rush Carter Hart Out the Door

Kolosov is 6 ‘1 and trusts his quick reactions instead of over relying on the butterfly. As a Belarusian playing in his hometown, he is at no risk of the sort of Russian shenanigans that scuttled fellow goalie Ivan Fedotov’s chance with the Flyers and scared several GMs away from Michkov. The Flyers will be bad no matter who’s in goal, and Kolosov’s imminent arrival (his KHL contract is up next summer) might make them consider Carter Hart a tradable asset.

High Floor Assets

Even though few will expect this group to turn into world-beaters, they should find themselves on opening-night rosters throughout their careers.

Ronnie Attard, Samuel Ersson, Elliot Desnoyers

This tier is officially listed above ‘Question Marks’ but exists because its three players carry little risk, none less so than Ronnie Attard. Attard is a physically strong player that can do a job at both ends and will be frustrated that the recent acquisition of veteran Marc Staal threatens his spot on the Flyers. He was an AHL All-Star last season after scoring 12 goals and 32 points in 68 games for the Phantoms, and his play earned him a spot alongside Gauthier on Team USA.


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As a twice-undrafted three-year college player, Attard is nearly a finished product, though. The righty will turn 25 this season, and while he is ready for a role with the Flyers, he is unlikely to become a true top-four player.    

Ersson is similar to Attard in that he looks like a pro player, but it is hard to envision him as much more. The Swedish goaltender has stellar positioning and the sort of confidence coaches, especially his biggest supporter John Tortorella, love in a goaltender. He went 6-3 with the Flyers, and though he only managed a pedestrian 3.07 goals-against-average, 12 of the 33 NHL goals he shipped came in two starts against vastly superior teams. As Ersson was making spot starts, he was on his own. The 23-year-old was a workhorse for Lehigh Valley last year, but a lack of physical tools should cap his ceiling as a platoon netminder for the Flyers.

It will surprise some to see Elliot Desnoyers listed ahead of the infinitely more-talented Bobby Brink, but remember, this tier is all about NHL fitness, and the Quebecer is an ideal bottom-six player in today’s league. Desnoyers can check, win faceoffs, and play all three forward positions. His versatility and ahead-of-schedule offensive development (23 goals and 44 points in 65 AHL games) mean he will cash checks as a reliable defensive forward before long.

Question Marks

These players have pro tools, but have yet to show just why they will belong in an NHL lineup. If all goes well developmentally, look for them on South Broad Street before long. That is no guarantee, though.

Adam Ginning, Bobby Brink, Helge Grans, The Rest of the 2023 Draft Class

Adam Ginning is tailor-made for the Flyers’ third pair and penalty kill. He is a house of a man at 6 ‘3, 200 lbs, willing to drop the gloves to protect his teammates and just as able to impose himself between the whistles. The Swede’s body-checking as a stay-at-home defenseman still has a market in the NHL; ask former Flyers Luke Schenn and Radko Gudas, who were each overpaid this offseason for their feistiness on the back end. Ginning is something of a Nick Seeler clone, except he will not turn 29 before reaching his full potential.

So why is he a question mark? Ginning might not require the sort of odyssey Seeler did to reach the NHL, but he has already played lots of pro hockey. The Flyers drafted the 23-year-old in the second round of the 2018 draft as a banger, but he never became more than that in his home country. Over 216 SHL games for Linkoping HC and Farjestad BK, Ginning scored just 29 points. The physicality of the North American game was much kinder to the player, who tied a Lehigh Valley record with his +24 rating last year while scoring an improved 19 points in 68 games. Still, if he is to find his niche as a nasty bottom-four defenseman, he needs to be good enough on the puck to make the big club.

Bobby Brink is only a question mark due to his slightness and recent injury struggles. Only Andrae generated similar buzz in development camp, and Brink will jump a tier or three once he plays a healthy AHL season.

Bobby Brink Philadelphia Flyers
Bobby Brink, Philadelphia Flyers (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Brink did not debut for the Phantoms until January after an offseason hip surgery; while 12 goals and 28 points in 41 AHL games are very respectable for a rookie player who had no offseason, the organization will want to see more from the former 34th-overall selection in 2023-2024. Brink, who starred for the University of Denver, certainly has the skill to play for the Flyers; no one in the organization except for Michkov and perhaps Morgan Frost has more talent. As a relatively unathletic 160-pounder, does he have the body?

The Los Angeles Kings traded Helge Grans to the Flyers to sweeten the pot of a three-way trade that sent Ivan Provorov to Columbus and some misfit contracts to Philadelphia. Like Brink, he just missed the first round when he was picked 35th overall by LA in 2020. Unlike Brink, he carries questions about what sort of player he wants to be. He is a big puck mover but does not score at a threatening clip and has struggled with turnovers.

Related: Evaluating Flyers’ Rebuild After Provorov Trade

The upside is there for any 200-lb player that skates well, and a backslide from 24 points as a rookie to 9 as a sophomore suggests that the Ontario Reign’s anemic attack was at least part of the issue. Perhaps playing alongside his countryman Ginning on a rapidly improving Phantoms team will shake something loose for the right-handed Grans.

As for the rest of the 2023 draft class, the Flyers traded up to get top North American goalie Carter Bjarnasson before snatching up a score of potential second-rounders who slid in the draft. Bjarnasson has more tools than production at this stage, while Denver Barkley, Alex Ciernik, and Carter Sotheran were great value picks but slid for one reason or another. There is a lot to love about Briere and Keith Jones’s first crop of prospects, but the coming seasons are necessary to identify the real standouts.

Longshots

Some prospects have done enough to force themselves into consideration for a future spot, but remain a long way away from NHL minutes.

Egor Zamula, Olle Lycksell

How can Egor Zamula, a veteran of 26 NHL games who made last season’s opening-night roster, be a long shot to become a regular in the league? Simple: the Flyers organization has passed him by. The Russian spent the early season stuck in the seventh defenseman spot, and by the time he returned to Lehigh Valley, his confidence had suffered.

Zamula does not have the physicality of Ginning, Grans, or even Andrae. He has been lightweight for years; that is unlikely to change as he recovers from shoulder surgery. While his skill on the puck has gotten him this far, the former Calgary Hitman has scored just 5 goals in 153 professional games in North America, severely limiting his potential as an offensive D-man.

Olle Lycksell has come a long since the Flyers took a chance on him in the sixth round of the 2017 Draft. As a rookie for the Phantoms, he paced the team in per-game scoring with 14 goals and 45 points in 53 games. Still, like Zamula, Lycksell has not shown the ability to create for himself, with 37 goals over his last 154 pro games in the AHL, SHL, and NHL, where he played 8 games last year. At the highest level, that will not bode well for his scoring.

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Lycksell is a responsible player but has neither the penalty-killing attributes of Desnoyers nor the physicality of Wade Allison, both of whom he will compete with for bottom-six minutes. The 23-year-old is not dynamic enough to stand out in a crowded top-six picture or crafty enough to make his mark further down the lineup.

Flyers Building For the Future

In a perfect world, Kolosov and Ersson would turn into a top-of-the-line goaltending battery, homegrown players would fill all six defensive slots, and every top-six forward the Flyers need would already be in the organization. That, of course, will not be the case. For the team to rehab its relationship with the city, big-ticket signings and aggressive trades must indicate the end of a presumably years-long rebuild.

There will not be room for every enticing prospect to make his mark in the NHL, and harsh as it is for those players, that is a good thing. One of Samson, Grans, and Attard has to show why they belong in a top-four spot over the competition. Kolosov will likely have to take Ersson’s job, not share it. Brink and Foerster will fight to unseat more established names on the power play. Some will exceed, and others will fail, but when Michkov arrives in 2025, the strongest of these young players will form a ready-made supporting cast for the next Flyers superstar.

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