Flyers’ top prospects hold key to successful rebuild

Rookie defenseman Ronnie Attard was set to make his NHL debut on Saturday night vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs. (Zack Hill photo)
      When it comes to the Flyers’ compete level, few questions have been raised since the notorious Broad Street Bullies set the bar high a generation or two ago.
      At least until recently. There’s been talk the team could use a few more energetic players, especially moving past this forgettable season.
      Assistant general manager Brent Flahr, who runs the Flyers’ development program, acknowledges the team ranks skill, speed and strength first but a player with fire in his eyes doesn’t hurt.
      “Being a competitive guy, having that drive and compassion, is vital,’’ he says. “Some guys overachieve because of that.’’
      In the past week alone, college stars Noah Cates and Ronnie Attard have already made their NHL debuts with the Flyers.
      Here are the top 10 prospects in the Flyers’ development system as judged by a sampling of NHL scouts:
      (FIRST FIVE)
      >1. Tyson Foerster, RW, 20, 6-2, 194, Lehigh Valley (AHL): The Allison, Ont. native is out for the year after undergoing shoulder surgery. Prior to that, there was a chance he might get a look with the Flyers. “He’s skating now,” Flahr said, “but we’re going forward on the side of caution. Hopefully he can use the time to get stronger, he’s been doing power skating. It’s frustrating having to miss this year. You saw what he could do last year (10 goals in 24 games in AHL); his compete level is very good.  Skating is something he’s always working on and he continues to improve. His skill level, hands, shot all point to a big offensive potential for us.’’ Acquired: 2020 draft, 23rd overall.
      >2. Egor Zamula, D, 21, 6-3, 177, Lehigh Valley (AHL): Consistency might be the biggest thing lacking from the Chelyabinsk, Russia native’s game. Injuries and illness have conspired to make that a difficult objective. “He lost five pounds and he’s not a player who can lose five pounds,’’ Flahr said. “Strength is an issue and it’s an ongoing process. His hockey IQ is very good, both with and without the puck. He’s blessed with the (long) reach.’’ Zamula has had brief trials with the Flyers the last two seasons; also impressed coaches in training camps. “In battles at the NHL level, it’s a lot different,’’ Flahr said, “dealing with the pace and the size and skill level of the game.’’ Acquired: Free agent, Sept. 20, 2018.
       >3. Wade Allison, RW, 24, 6-2, 205, Lehigh Valley (AHL): Speaking of fire in the eyes, that description fits Allison to a tee. Only problem is, it prevents him from staying healthy. Last year he suffered two ankle sprains (one costing him 25 games) and in 2022 a sprained MCL. Should he dial it back a notch? “It’s bad luck. We might have to sacrifice a chicken,’’ Flahr said. “There’s not a guy who works harder off the ice. He’s built like an Adonis but he’s just been unfortunate with the injuries. The compete level, the juice that he plays with can benefit both teams (Flyers, Phantoms), wherever he finishes the season. He’s a guy that we’re really excited about.’’ Acquired: 2016 draft, 52nd overall.
      >4. Samu Tuomaala, RW, 19, 5-10, 180, Oulun Karpat, (Liiga, Finland): It’s been a very hectic year for the young right wing from Oulu, Finland. He had a brief trial with the Phantoms then went back to his homeland. “He’s got great tools,’’ Flahr noted. “He has the speed, the big shot off the wing. There’s still some work to be done on defense. He has some dynamic qualities for sure.” Added Flyers senior advisor Mike O’Connell: “He’s a fun player to watch. Every time he gets on the ice, he kind of brings me out of my seat watching this kid go. Very enthusiastic. We just want to educate him as much as possible in a short period of time.’’ Acquired: 2021 draft, 46th overall.
      >5. Bobby Brink, RW, 20, 5-8, 159, University of Denver (NCHC): When your middle name happens to be “Orr,’’ as in hockey legend Bobby Orr, a love for hockey is just about a given. “This kid is a rink rat, he’s a hockey player,’’ Flahr said. “Tenacious, highly intelligent, skilled. He’s just one of those guys who loves to play the game. He gets his nose in the blue paint. He’s one of those guys that if you leave him on the ice after practice, he’ll be out there all day.’’ Flahr believes Brink has a bright future. “He’ll be ready to turn pro after this season,’’ Flahr predicted. Acquired: 2019 draft, 34th overall.
      (SECOND FIVE)
      >6. Emil Andrae, D, 19, 5-8, 181, HV71 Jonkoping (Swe-1): Smart, competitive leader. Speed makes up for his lack of size. Acquired: 2020 draft, 54th overall.
      >7. Noah Cates, LW, 23, 6-1, 179, University of Minnesota-Duluth (NCHC):  U.S. Olympian very detail-oriented. Overachiever, plays in all situations. Offensive threat. Made his Flyers debut this past week. Acquired: 2017 draft, 137th overall.
      >8. Ronnie Attard, D, 22, 6-3, 208, Western Michigan University (HCNC): Powerful point shooter. Needs to work on pace and speed of game. Was scheduled to make his Flyers debut on Saturday vs. Toronto. Acquired: 2019 draft, 72nd overall.
      >9: Alexei Kolosov, G, 20, 6-1, 185, Minsk Dynamo (KHL): Finding rare success at young age in KHL competition; poised, confident netminder. Acquired: 2021 draft, 78th overall.
      >10. Tanner Laczynski, C, 24, 6-1, 190, Lehigh Valley (AHL): Hip surgeries have hampered progress. Sound player at both ends. Acquired: 2016 draft, 169th overall.
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About Wayne Fish 1782 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.