VOORHEES, N.J. – Every team seems to have that handful of prospects who, for whatever reason, fly a little bit under the radar.
In the Flyers’ organization, Mikhail Vorobyev was one of those. . .for a while.
But now the 21-year-old Russian center has drawn so much attention with his play that he’s making people forget he was only a 104th pick in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.
Vorobyev, 6-2, 187 pounds, gave a preview of his talent at the 2017 World Junior Championships when he registered 10 assists in just seven games with a plus-6 rating, helping Russia win the bronze medal.
Last season, his first in professional hockey, he accrued 29 points in 58 games with the Phantoms, playing a role in getting Lehigh Valley all the way to the conference finals.
At the Flyers’ Development Camp, which ended on Monday with the annual three-on-three tournament at the Skate Zone, some of the organization’s young stars – including No. 1 prospect goaltender Carter Hart and 2017 first-round draft pick Morgan Frost – said Vorobyev’s talent is eye-catching.
“He’s a really skilled player,’’ said Hart. “He’s got great vision. At the World Juniors a couple years ago, when I played against him, he led the tournament in assists. So he is a very skilled playmaker.
“He’ll be a real good player (next year), whether it’s in the NHL or the American League.’’
Frost was Vorobyev’s teammate in Monday’s tournament, so he got a close-up view of his skills.
“I mean he’s a big body, he’s got a really good sense for the game,’’ Frost said. “His hockey sense is really high. It’s hard to get the puck away from him. I think he’s going to be a really good player.’’
Like countryman German Rubtsov, Vorobyev is still working on his command of English. But he’s making significant strides in North America, not only with the language, but the culture and the smaller ice surfaces.
“He’s getting a lot better with his English,’’ Frost said. “Around the room, it’s easy to communicate with him. I guess it’s the ‘universal hockey language’ you could say.
“Ever since I’ve been in the organization, from last year to this year, he’s gotten a lot better. I’ve always thought he was a special player.’’
Speaking through a translator, Vorobyev sounded relaxed in his surroundings. One gets the impression he took some positive things from this camp.
“The coaches have been working on details,’’ he said. “And through the details you become better.’’
Does he feel like he’s making progress toward the NHL?
“That’s for the coaches to decide,’’ he said. “I have to show what I’m capable of. Right now, everything can be improved.
“I feel much better (about getting used to life here) after one year in the AHL. The guys on the team understand me. But I’m not comfortable speaking to the press yet.’’
Well, it should be noted, there are players born here who aren’t comfortable with that chore either.
General manager Ron Hextall has been keeping tabs on Vorobyev’s progress.
“The amount of games he played last year was a lot,’’ Hextall noted. “It’s the first time he’s played three games in three days, 15 games in a month. I think that got to him at times.
“But he was a very good player for us, consistent in terms of his effort. He’s a very intelligent player. He made strides. For him to come over (from Russia) and be all in, his commitment level has been very good. Just a little more pop in his skating.
Keep an eye on this promising prospect. He might be squarely on the NHL radar one of these days.
Team Clarke, featuring 2018 first-round (14th overall) draft pick Joel Farabee, along with Isaac Ratcliffe and Philippe Myers, won the three-on-three tournament. The Clarke team defeated the Bill Barber team (Rubtsov, along with the Flyers’ other 2018 first-round (19th overall) pick Jay O’Brien by a score of 4-1. Team Ashbee’s Pascal Laberge led all skaters with five goals. Felix Sandstrom was the only goaltender to win both of his games, allowing a total of just four goals.