The 2018 World Junior Summer Showcase kicks off today (Saturday) and will take run through Aug. 4 at the Sandman Centre in Kamloops, BC. The event is the first steppingstone for prospects with aspirations of earning roster spots at the 2018-19 World Junior Championships, which will be held in Vancouver and Victoria, BC (Dec. 26, 2018 to Jan. 5, 2019).
Four national junior teams are participating in the Summer Showcase tourney: Canada, USA, Sweden and Finland. Early in the tourney, the Team USA (USA Blue and USA White) and Canada (Canada Red and Canada White) rosters will each be split into two separate squads which will later be pared down into single rosters for the remainder of the tournament.
The Flyers farm system is well represented at this year's Showcase, with eight Philadelphia draftees participating: two for Canada, three for USA and three for Sweden. Here's a look at the eight participating prospects...
Morgan Frost: One year ago, despite being selected by the Flyers with the 27th overall pick of the 2017 NHL Draft, Frost was not invited by Hockey Canada to the Summer Showcase. Subsequently, although he was en route to a 112-point, CHL-best +70 season for the Ontario Hockey League's Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, Frost was not invited to Team Canada's selection camp in December or chosen for the final roster.
Frost was hardly the first notable 18-year-player to fall between the cracks of Team Canada's roster, nor will be the last. For example, future Flyers star Claude Giroux (who, coincidentally also had a 112-point junior season in his draft-plus-one year) was not included in Team Canada's WJC roster until he was 19.
"To be totally honest with you it wasn't too much of a disappointment for me," Frost said. "I wasn't thinking to myself, 'Oh, I should be on this team.' I knew there was maybe a little bit of a chance, but I guess just build on that and play [angry] but it wasn't in my head too much. It wasn't like, 'I need to show these guys.' I want to keep playing better so that I get a look for next year."
This time around, with Frost coming off a season in which he second in scoring and the top runner-up for the Ontario Hockey League's most valuable player award, he was a shoo-in for the WJC Showcase and stands a strong chance of earning a roster spot for Team Canada come December. It would be Frost's first major international tournament.
Isaac Ratcliffe: Ratcliffe had a breakout 2017-18 OHL season in his own right, especially in the second half of the season. The 6-foot-6 winger, who turned 19 on Feb. 15, finished the regular season with 41 goals, added five goals and nine points in six playoff games and then scored a deflection goal for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in his AHL debut game after Ratcliffe's Guelph Storm club lost in the first round of the OHL playoffs.
"I thought it was a good year; I feel like I progressed in a lot of areas of my game," Ratcliffe said. "Obviously, if I get a chance to play at World Juniors next season, that would be an awesome opportunity. There's a lot of good players for Canada to choose from, and it's great to get to compete to play for my country."
Back in 2017, Ratcliffe earned a roster spot on Team Canada for the Under-18 World Championships. He scored two goals in five games.
Next season, Ratcliffe will get ample ice time in Guelph to state his case for an invite to Team Canada's selection camp in December. He will also play a key leadership role as been appointed the Storm's new captain.
Joel Farabee: One of three Flyers prospects selected for the USA White roster at the World Junior Summer Showcase, the Boston University-bound Farabee has spent the last two full seasons in the famed U.S. National Team Development program (USNTDP), with whom he won gold (2017) and silver (2018) medals at the last two Under-18 World Championships.
This past season, Fabaree spent extensive time on the left wing of the U18 national team's top line, along with center Jack Hughes and right winger Oliver Wahlstrom. Now the 14th overall pick of the 2018 Draft will take part in his first U20 level Showcase tourney for Team USA. Shortly thereafter, he will embark on his freshman collegiate season at BU.
"I've got to learn a lot to make it to the next level so I'm just trying to get as much information as I can to be a better player and see what I can do," Farabee said.
Jay O'Brien: The Providence College-bound Thayer Academy center spent a portion of last season with the USNTDP. Selected 19th overall in the 2018 NHL Draft, O'Brien dominated at the high school level the last two seasons. He realizes that the challenge will get tougher at both the collegiate and international levels but feels well-prepared to succeed.
"I have to prove everything, I'm not going to go in there and be handed anything, so I'm prepared to do that," O'Brien said. "But I have confidence in myself. It's going to be a big step but I'm ready for the challenge and I'm going to embrace it."
O'Brien was selected for the USA White roster at the 2018 World Junior Summer Showcase.
Noah Cates: Headed for the University of Minnesota - Duluth, the Flyers' 2017 fifth-round pick quietly had a breakout season in the USHL last season. Cates got off to a slow start offensively (two goals, three assists through 13 games) but got better and better as the season went along to finish with 18 goals and 46 points in 50 games.
"Noah is a skilled player with a high hockey IQ. He wants to be a player. He came into Development Camp in good shape, and we're looking forward to seeing how he continues to progress. He's a bit of an under-the-radar player, but we're happy with him," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said.
As with Farabee and O'Brien, the 19-year-old Cates will be a member of the USA White roster at the World Junior Summer Showcase. After taking part in his second Development Camp with the Flyers and prior to departing for the Summer Showcase, Cates took part in the summertime Da Beauty League in Minnesota, featuring many NHL players and prospects. Among the players in the league were Flyers left winger James van Riemsdyk and now-former Flyers forward Matt Read.
Olle Lycksell: Chosen by the Flyers in the sixth round, 168th overall, of the 2017 Draft, Lycksell opened eyes last season when he hit the ground running at Sweden's top pro level, the SHL, after being called up from the Linköping J20 team to the men's team. In 26 games, the forward scored a very respectable five goals and seven points and held his own without the puck. He even got a look on Sweden's national men's team this past year.
"His profile is kind of similar to Noah's; a little bit under the radar. But Olle is a smart player, has a good shot and he is very competitive," Hextall said.
Lycksell was among the youngest players selected in the 2017 Draft. He turns 19 on Aug. 24.
Adam Ginning: A teammate of Lycksell's on Linköping, Ginning dressed in 27 SHL regular season games and seven playoff games last season. Selected by the Flyers in the 2nd round (50th overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft, Ginning has been a fixture for the Swedish national team at each step of his development path including the U16, U17 and U18 national teams.
Ginning played for Sweden at both the 2017 and 2018 Under-18 World Championships, winning bronze both years. At the 2018 tourney, he played on the top pairing for the "Little Crowns", as the shutdown half of a duo with dynamic offensive defenseman Adam Boqvist. Serving as team captain, Ginning also was named one of his team's three best players in the tournament by the Team Sweden coaching staff.
Ginnning turns 19 on January 13, 2019. He will be eligible for next year's World Junior Championships as well as the 2018-19 tourney.
"He's a big guy, but he moves pretty well for a big guy. He's got solid puck skills and got the range that you need for solid defensemen," Hextall said.
Samuel Ersson: Ersson, who will turn 19 on Oct. 20, was drafted by the Flyers in the 5th round (143rd overall) of the 2018 Draft. Internationally, he served as a backup goaltender for Sweden at the 2017 Under-18 Worlds. This past season, he made three appearances for Sweden's U19 team.
"Good size, really good feet, very competitive. You see a lot of upside there," said Flyers Sweden-based scout Joakim Grundstrom.