It’s been a long time since the Flyers had a goaltender in net, well, for a long time.
Some say it goes all the way back to the days of Ron Hextall in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
And, ironically, it’s now Hextall, serving as current team general manager, who is looking for the “next’’ Hextall.
He may have found one, be it Carter Hart or Felix Sandstrom, both of whom rate on our FlyingFishHockey.com top 10 Flyers’ prospect list.
Hextall won’t put a timeframe on when either of these phenoms might be ready for the NHL but secretly he’s probably thrilled at their quick development.
“It’s all a work in progress,’’ he says. “If you put a timeline on it, all you do is raise expectations. Not fair to the player.’’
Here’s how we rank what we think are the Flyers’ top 10 prospects:
- Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1, 180, Everett, WHL: Coming off a Canada silver medal in 2017 World Juniors and gold in 2018, Hart has impressed Flyers scouts with his desire to keep getting better. “Carter is probably a prime example of how you want your players to get better every year,’’ Hextall says. “He’s worked at his game every year and gotten better every year. He’s tried to find different ways to become a better player. He’s a very focused player and he’s done everything we expect of him in junior.’’ Contracts of NHL vets Brian Elliott, Michal Neuvirth end in 2019 and Hart might be ready then.
- Philippe Myers, D, 21, 6-5, 202, Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL: Undrafted, Myers signed a free-agent contract just before the Flyers’ 2015 training camp and proceeded to light it up. Injuries have slowed his progress but he’s still considered a strong NHL possibility. Good range, skates well for a big man. “Any young player, you want him to grab momentum and continue through the year,’’ Hextall says. “Phil’s been interrupted but it can help you because mentally you become stronger and learn how to get yourself through some of the rougher times and the adversity you’re inevitably going to face. His biggest area of improvement is going to be picking his spots.’’
- Felix Sandstrom, G, 21, 6-2, 193, Brynas IF, SHL: An abdominal injury back in the fall resulted in a trip back to a lower league in Sweden. In four games there, Hextall was pleased with the results. “He played extremely well,’’ Hextall says. “He was the best goalie at the World Juniors. He’s a talented guy, a real battler. It’s just raising his game. With goalies, we’re in no rush. He wanted to go back to Sweden this season. We’ll evaluate at the end of the year and see where we’re at.’’ There’s still the little matter of having Hart ahead of him on the prospect list before thinking about the NHL.
- German Rubtsov, C, 19, 6-0, 190, Acadie-Bathurst Titan, QMJHL: Making the transition from Russia, still learning the culture and the language. “We’re happy with his progress,’’ Hextall says. “Good hockey sense. There are times when he needs to push north a bit more and he has to become a bit more consistent. He’s got to differentiate between the time to get going and sticking to his guns defensively. I think he needs to work on his strength and gain some weight. It’s been a big adjustment (from Russia) and he’s handled it well.’’ Rubtsov has averaged a point per game since being traded from Chicoutimi back in November.
- Sam Morin, D, 22, 6-7, 227, Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL: All the hype about Morin being the second coming of Chris Pronger is a bit over the top. Like Pronger, he’s mobile and sees the ice well. But while the penalty minutes are in triple-digits, the nastiness level isn’t quite Pronger-like. “It takes longer with bigger guys,’’ Hextall says. “With Sam it’s taken a little bit longer. I think the public perception was a bit off of what he really is. And that I think has been hard for him. . .to live up to the lofty expectations. He’s a really hard guy to play against. Those guys are hard to find.’’
- Oskar Lindblom, LW, 21, 6-1, 191, Lehigh Valley Phantoms, AHL: Steady progress since a slow Flyers training camp; AHL All-Star injury substitute.
- Morgan Frost, 18, C, 6-0, 170, Sault Ste. Marie, OHL: Hextall says he needs to get stronger, push the pace at opportune times.
- Wade Allison, RW, 20, 6-2, 205, Western Michigan, NCHC: Power forward, shoots well, Hobey Baker nominee, out for season with lower-body injury.
- Cooper Marody, RW, 21, 6-0, 172, Michigan, Big 10: Skill player with good vision who needs to work on strength.
- Tanner Laczynski, C, 20, 6-0, 192, Ohio State, Big 10: Still has to improve skating but accurate shooter who’s making progress.