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Meltzer's Musings: Rookie Camp Forwards, Vasiliev Injured, Quick Hits

September 6, 2013, 5:42 AM ET [262 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
FLYERS ROOKIE CAMP PREVIEW: FORWARDS

The Flyers will have 14 forwards participating in their three-day rookie camp, which begins today at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. Most eyes will be on Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, but there are several other young players of interest at the camp.

Thumbnail profiles of the participating forwards follow below. I looked at the participating goalies and defensemen in yesterday's blog. Note that older, more professionally experienced prospects such as forwards Jason Akeson and Michael Raffl and defensemen Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning will bypass rookie camp. Instead, they must officially report along with the Flyers veterans when full camp starts next Thursday.

Brandon Alderson (#64, Rookie, NHL contract): A teammate of Nick Cousins with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, the now 21-year-old Alderson was signed by the Flyers as an undrafted rookie free agent. He got his feet wet in the pros late last season with a nine-game AHL stint with the Adirondack Phantoms. As a pro, Alderson projects as a no-frills, two-way role player with good size (6-foot-4).

Tyler Brown (#56, 3rd Pro Season, NHL contract): Heading into last season, Brown was frequently mentioned as a possible NHL callup. Unfortunately, he dropped a bit on the depth chart after a bit of a disappointing season for Terry Murray’s Phantoms. The 23-year-old Brown could still work his way back into the mix this year, in the final season of his entry-level contract. He has no offensive upside to speak of, but the former Plymouth Whaler is a role player with good speed, above-average size and a solid work ethic.

Nick Cousins (#52, Rookie, NHL contract): The Flyers’ third-round pick in the 2011 NHL Draft was a playmaking dynamo in the Ontario Hockey League, but the agitating 20-year-old center will likely have to remake his game at the pro level to be more of a third-line player. His skating and defensive games are works in progress. Cousins worked out frequently in Voorhees this summer to add strength to his 5-foot-11 frame. He has had brief AHL stints at the end of each of the last seasons but this will be his rookie pro season. For more on Cousins’ transition from the junior level to the professional ranks, click here .

Kyle Flanagan (#59, Rookie, NHL contract): The Flyers struck gold a few years ago when they signed an undrafted, undersized and late-blooming collegiate hockey standout named Matt Read to an entry-level contract. The organization rolled the dice again this past year in signing Hobey Baker Award finalist Flanagan to a contract. Smaller than Read at 5-foot-9, 179 pounds, the 24-year-old Flanagan relies on speed, craftiness with the puck and a hint of a chippy streak to create room for himself and teammates. While Read dominated instantly during a brief AHL stint prior to his rookie NHL season (seven goals, 13 points in 11 games), Flanagan’s output in 13 late-season games for the Phantoms (one goal, six assists) was much more modest. The Phantoms will rely on Flanagan this season to be one of their main offensive creators. While Flanagan has a decent finishing touch, his primary value is as a playmaker.

Tyrell Goulbourne (#53, Rookie, Flyers third-round pick, #72 overall, in 2013 Draft): A controversial pick in the 2013 Draft because of where Philadelphia picked him after he previously went undrafted, the organization believes that Goulbourne is close to being pro-ready and has all the tools to become a pot-stirring NHL role player in the mold of current Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo. Former Flyers forward P.J. Stock is another comparison player. Goulbourne has little to no offensive upside as a pro and, at 5-foot-11, 195 pounds, is no heavyweight fighter. However, the 19-year-old winger skates quite well. Goulbourne throws his body around with abandon and brings a lot of sandpaper and agitation to the mix.

Stephen Harper (#74, Rookie, Tryout): Entering the 2012-13 season, Harper was touted as a potential first-round or second-round pick in the NHL Draft. Thereafter, his stock sunk like a stone as his individual development stagnated in his second OHL season with a bad Erie club. He ended up going unselected in the 2013 Draft. However, he still has significant potential, and that is why he was invited to the Flyers’ rookie camp.

Andrew Johnston (#46, 2nd Pro Season, NHL contract): The Flyers signed the late-blooming Johnston as an undrafted rookie free agent last season. He never played major junior in Canada or U.S. collegiate hockey but was on the radar screen of several NHL clubs after emerging as a dominant player in the SJHL. As a pro, he was projected to be a player who could be plugged anywhere in the lineup, using a combination of very good speed and above-average size. Johnston had an up-and-down rookie pro season last year, dealing with a concussion and having trouble cracking the Phantoms’ lineup as an AHL regular. He ended up spending more time in the ECHL with Trenton than with the Phantoms. The 2013-14 season will a crucial one for the 23-year-old if he is to work his way up the organizational depth chart.

Scott Laughton (#21, Rookie, NHL Contract): The Flyers’ first-round pick in the 2012 NHL Draft enjoyed a season of steady progress last year, despite serving a pair of OHL suspensions for on-ice incidents. Laughton spent a five-game NHL stint with the Flyers at the end of the lockout and did not look out of place. At the OHL level, he showed steady improvement in his offensive game. No one ever questioned his defensive ability or intensity. He’s also added some much-needed muscle to his frame over the last year. At the end of rookie camp, Laughton will join the Flyers for their full training camp and is likely to appear in several preseason games. Will he make the big club this year? Is his long-term NHL potential more in the mold of John Madden (a comparison an NHL scout for another team made on Draft night 2012) or former Flyers captain Mike Richards, to whom Paul Holmgren compared Laughton immediately after last year’s Draft? Only time will tell.

Taylor Leier (#58, Rookie, Flyers 4th-round pick, #117 overall, in 2012 Draft): The Flyers have to make a decision by next June on whether to sign Leier to an entry-level contract or relinquish his rights. He is a little bit undersized and has dealt with some injury setbacks but otherwise brings two-way awareness and a combination of speed and hockey sense to the table. For an in-depth look at Leier, click here .

Matt Mangene (#54, 2nd Pro Season, NHL Contract): An undersized converted defenseman signed out of the University of Maine last year as undrafted free agent, Mangene’s greatest asset is his skating ability. He split last season between the Phantoms in the AHL and the Titans in the ECHL. Mangene dealt with some injuries and inconsistency in his rookie play. When the Flyers signed Mangene, the organization envisioned him as a role player who uses his speed to get in the forecheck in a hurry and with the hands to finish opportunistic scoring chances. As with Johnston, the 2013-14 season will be the one where the 24-year-old Mangene must either move dramatically up the depth chart or fall to the fringes of the organization’s plans.

Derek Mathers (#57, Rookie, NHL Contract): Mathers was arguably the most feared heavyweight enforcer in the OHL before turning pro. He has worked hard in the last year to develop his all-around game and show that he can do more than just fight. Nowadays, it is tough to make the NHL even as a fourth-line tough guy unless there is at least baseline ability to effectively play along the boards, make safe plays with the puck and avoid leaving the team shorthanded too frequently. Mathers has trouble finishing scoring chances, so it is unlikely he has power forward upside even at the AHL level. The enforcer role is his present and future, and whether he ultimately is destined to perform that difficult and often-misunderstood role at the AHL or NHL level remains to be seen. Apart from fighting other tough guys, if Mathers is to advance at the professional level, he will have to show he can contribute on the forecheck and hold his own defensively at an NHL-caliber level.

Marcel Noebels (#47, 2nd Pro Season, NHL Contract): Noebels was signed to an entry-level contract in the summer of 2011 and made his pro debut last season. After starting the season with the ECHL's Trenton Titans, where he had dominant months of October and December sandwiched around a poor November, Noebels spent the remaining 43 games in the AHL with the Phantoms. Noebels showed promise in tallying 13 goals and 23 points as a rookie with the Phantoms and later dressed in three World Championship games for Team Germany. The more I see of Noebels' game, the more he reminds me of Ruslan Fedotenko at the same age. However, Noebels still has work to do on his skating and two-way consistency to get to same point Rusty was at in 2001, just before Fedotenko made the jump to the NHL level and never looked back.

Andrew Ryan (#73, Rookie, Tryout): The left winger is coming off a successful season as a role player for the Memorial Cup champion Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. Last season, the undrafted 19-year-old brought some size and added two-way depth to his club's formidable lineup. He was especially good in the playoffs. Ryan has good size (6-foot-3, 203 pounds) and two-way awareness but modest natural offensive ability.

Petr Straka (#51, Rookie, NHL Contract): Straka is a hit-or-miss type of prospect, who is either going to become a top-six forward in the NHL or will be a bust. There isn’t a lot of likely middle ground with him. Back in April, the Flyers beat out several NHL teams to sign Baie-Comeau Drakkar right winger Petr Straka. Originally a second-round pick (55th overall) by Columbus in the 2010 NHL Draft, Straka became a free agent last summer when the Blue Jackets did not offer him an entry-level contract. Over the last year, Straka has re-emerged as an NHL prospect after a monstrous offensive season as a QMJHL overager. The Flyers had to outbid other suitors to land him. Straka is a pure goal scorer who needs to produce points to have a role. He has improved somewhat defensively but still has a way to go before he could be called a two-way player. For an in-depth look at Straka’s development and upside, click here .

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Flyers Prospect Vasiliev Injured

Defenseman Valeri Vasiliev, who was selected by the Flyers in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL Draft, sustained what appeared to be a significant shoulder injury midway through the third period of yesterday's KHL regular season opener between Spartak Moscow and Atlant Moscow.

Late in a Spartak power play, Vasiliev retreated to his own zone and gathered a loose puck, facing the side boards from about two feet away. With Vasiliev in a vulnerable position, an Atlant player cross-checked him in the back and sent the 19-year-old defensemen awkwardly crashing into the boards.

Vasiliev was immediately in a lot of pain. At first, it looked like his wrist had gotten pinned under his weight, and he held his wrist close to his body as he skated up the tunnel after getting up off the ice. However, according to what his coach said in the postgame press-conference, the player sustained a shoulder injury. He was taken to a nearby hospital for X-rays and did not return to the game.

There is no further update available as of this writing, but it would be surprising if Vasiliev does not have some sort of shoulder separation and miss at least a month of action. A replay of the injury is shown at the 3:28 mark of this video highlight package of the game, which Spartak won by a 2-0 score.



Incidentally, in a Russian newspaper interview earlier this week, Vasiliev said that his aim right now is to play three KHL seasons and then come over to North America to take his shot at playing for the Flyers.

Vasiliev has a decent shot at someday playing in the NHL, if he can stay healthy and continue to add muscle to his frame. Apart from the usual "Russian factor", a setback from a shoulder injury was the main reason why he dropped from a projected second-round pick to the seventh round of the 2012 Draft.

Prior to this most recent injury, Vasiliev was coming off a solid preseason with Spartak and the Russian national U20 team. He played well in yesterday's opener up to the point of the injury, logging a little less than 11 minutes of ice time before he went down. Assuming all goes well with recovering from yesterday's injury, Vasiliev has a good shot at playing for Russia at the 2014 World Junior Championships.

Vasiliev is an aggressive, hard-hitting defenseman in the same mold as Montreal's Alexei Emelin. He does not have much offensive upside, but is a competent puck-mover who has been working on improving that aspect of his game along with gettng physically stronger.

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FRIDAY QUICK HITS

* Although it has been known for at least two months that the Flyers planned to use the Greenville Road Warriors as their ECHL affiliate for the 2013-14 season, the official announcement did not come until yesterday. It will be a shared affiliation with the New York Rangers/ Hartford Wolf Pack. With the Trenton Titans ceasing operations earlier this year, the Flyers were left in need of an ECHL affiliate. The Flyers used Greenville as their affiliate prior to the switch to Trenton.

* Congratulations to Flyers forward Matt Read on his recent engagement.

* Today in Flyers History: On this date in 1994, the Flyers made an unusual trade. Just a couple months after Philadelphia selected Russian forward Alexander Selivanov in the sixth round of the 1994 NHL Draft, recently re-hired general manager Bob Clarke traded him to the Tampa Bay Lightning in exchange for a fourth-round pick (Radovan Somik) in the 1995 Draft. Selivanov, who married the daughter of Tampa's founder and original general manager Phil Esposito, went on to post a 31-goal season in his second NHL campaign before steadily slipping in his production during a 459-game NHL career. Tragically, Carrie Selivanov passed away at age 43 in February 2012 after suffering an abdominal aneurysm. The couple has three children.

* Flyers Alumni Birthday: Defenseman Bill Root, who played 24 games for Mike Keenan's 1987-88 club, turns 54 today.

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