While much of the hockey world awaits the belated start of their respective 2020-21 seasons -- or have begun but are dealing with pandemic-related interruptions -- there are some circuits that have been able to conduct their schedules. Two Flyers prospects had particularly notable performances this past weekend.
In the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Flyers 2020 fifth-round pick Elliot Desnoyers is off to a scorching hot start after transferring from the Moncton Wildcats to the Halifax Mooseheads. Over a span of five games from Oct. 24 to Nov. 7, Desnoyer posted three or more points three times, including four-goal games on Oct. 24 against Cape Breton and Nov. 6 against Charlottetown. On Saturday, Desnoyers followed up the latter performance with a one-goal, two assist outing in a 5-4 overtime win against Saint John.
Overall, Desnoyers has racked up 11 goals and 20 points through 12 games to date. He's already matched his goal total from last season in Moncton (in 49 fewer games) and is one off his junior career full-season high set during his 2018-19 rookie season. Before the 2020 NHL Draft, scouts leaguewide praised Desnoyers for his unusually mature level of defensive awareness and forechecking acumen. Flyers scouts, including assistant general manager Brent Flahr and QMJHL-based scout Todd Hearty, also believed that the 18-year-old had untapped offensive potential that could manifest itself once he moved from a supporting role on a loaded Wildcats team to a top-line, all-situations opportunity for Halifax. So far, that assessment appears to be right on the mark.
In the four-goal game against Cape Breton, goal No. 1 was a power play squeaker from just below the left dot that trickled just over the goal line. Goal 2 came off a skate carom on a shoot-in. Goal 3 was a slam-dunk off the rush as Desnoyers trailed his linemate on a one-on-one and made a beeline for the right side of the net as the play moved left. Goal 4 was scored on a 2-on-0 counterattack in the final minute of the game. Desnoyers, naturally, too first star honors. The two-way forward had seven shots on goal and won 16 of 30 faceoffs.
In the four-goal outburst against Charlottetown, Desnoyers' first goal came just 21 seconds after the opening faceoff as he followed up a point shot rebound near the net. With 3:13 remaining in the first period, Desnoyers notched his second tally of the game on a power play deflection in the slot from an initial shot from above the left circle. He completed the hat trick at 15:58 of the middle frame as he took a pass at the offensive blue line, cut in past a defender and beat goaltender Jacob Goobie to tie the game at 3-3 after Charlottetown had scored three straight goals to take the lead.
Entering the final minute of regulation, the score was tied at 4-4. Desnoyers sent his team home a 5-4 winner as he notched his fourth goal of the game with 36 ticks left on the third period clock. On the play, the Islanders turned the puck over on the defensive half boards and Desnoyers went to the net to receive a pass from teammate Robert Orr. Goobie stopped Desnoyers' initial point-blank shot, but the Flyers' prospect followed it up to score on his rebound.
Denoyers' prettiest goal of his hot streak came one day later against Saint John. With the Mooseheads on the penalty kill and leading 1-0 ( a power goal on which Desnoyers assisted) in the early minutes of the second period, Orr applied pressure and Desnoyers stripped the Sea Dogs' point man of the puck to skate off on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Moving in on goaltender Noah Patenaude, Desnoyers faked a between-the-legs drop pass, pulled the puck back to his forehand and scored his fifth goal of the weekend. Desnoyers' third point of the game and 20th of the season came after he kept a play alive and centered the puck from just below the goal line.
In the meantime, over in Finland, 21-year-old Flyers goaltending prospect Samuel Ersson (2018 fifth-round pick) was with the Swedish national team at the annual Karjala Tournament in Helsinki. On Saturday, Ersson made the second senior-level international start of his career, and his first of the 2020-21 season, getting the nod in net against Russia.
Ersson did everything in power to give Tre Kronor a chance to win, making 15 saves in the first period and a dozen more in the middle frame to keep the game scoreless heading into the third period. Unfortunately, after his side finally got on the scoreboard, Ersson was not quite able to finish off a 1-0 shutout. With Russia attacking 6-on-5 with their goaltender pulled for an extra attacker, Rodion Amirov scored to force overtime. The Russians ultimately prevailed, 2-1, via shootout. Ersson finished with 35 saves.
Over in the Swedish Hockey League (SHL), Ersson has had an excellent start to the season with the exception of one rough outing on Oct. 22 (six goals against on 23 shots against HV71) that has bloated his early season goals against average (3.03 GAA) and dropped his save percentage (.903). Ersson's team, Brynäs IF, returns to action on Nov. 10.