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Giving it the College Try

A look at the Flyers prospects who chose the college route to the NHL and why

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

The Flyers currently hold the rights to seven prospects who are slated to play NCAA hockey for the 2017-18 season. Two additional collegiate hockey-affiliated players whose National Hockey League rights are held by the Flyers will play in the USHL next season before transferring to NCAA programs come 2018-19.

In fact, there are nearly as many combined U.S. collegiate and college-track players in the Flyers development chain as there in Canadian major junior hockey. The Flyers presently hold the NHL rights to 11 players eligible to skate in a CHL-affiliated league (OHL, QMJHL or WHL) in 2017-18 if they do not earn roster spots with the Flyers. The organization also holds the rights to six players slated to play in European leagues next season. 

The bottom line: Far from an afterthought, collegiate hockey is a major talent source utilized by the Flyers. Every case is different. For some players, the collegiate track simply makes more sense than the CHL. For others, the junior hockey track may be preferable.

"I learned a lot, on and off the ice, at Bowling Green. It was definitely a great experience for me," said Mark Friedman, who signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers on March 21 after a three-year collegiate career at Bowling Green University.

"I had great teammates and coaches. I think my game has improved in every area but especially without the puck. I loved my time there. But my biggest dream was always to play pro hockey, and the time felt right." 

Friedman, a Toronto native who signed a letter of intent with Bowling Green at age 15, said that the college environment always appealed to him. Other former collegiate prospects in the Flyers farm system include second-year Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltender Alex Lyon (who passed up his senior year at Yale University to sign with the Flyers in the spring of 2016), third-year pro Cole Bardreau (free agent signee in 2015 after graduating Cornell University) and second-year defenseman Reece Willcox (drafted by the Flyers with the 141st overall pick of the 2012 Draft and signed after graduating Cornell in the spring of 2015). 

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Flyers Farm System Vaults to the Top

Quality and Quantity of Flyers prospects lands team in No. 1 spot

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

It is one thing for an NHL team to stockpile draft picks. It's quite another for the labors of the organization's scouts and developmental coaches to produce a farm system brimming with talent. In recent years, the Flyers have been succeeding on both fronts.

Over the last four years, general manager Ron Hextall and assistant general manager Chris Pryor did not oversee a process to bolstering the farm system in an effort to earn praise from pundits. Nevertheless, it is a nice bonus when a major media outlet recognizes the organization's prospect pool as the deepest in the NHL. 

Over the last five years, the Flyers have methodically restocked the prospect cupboard while also seeing promising early signs on the developmental side. Correspondingly, the organization has vaulted from 29th in ESPN pundit Corey Pronman's 2013-14 ranking and 25th the next year to 10th in 2015-16, sixth last year to the No. 1 spot for 2017-18.

"It's impossible to hit on all of your picks, but every Draft, you want to identify at least three or four kids who go on to play [in the NHL]. Sometimes it won't work out that way in the long term, but that's the objective each year. It's not just about the top pick," Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said shortly after the 2017 Draft.

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One More Time Around

Why staying with his Swedish team is important for goaltending prospect Felix Sandstrom

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

A storybook 2016-17 season for Flyers goaltending prospect Felix Sandstrom lacked a happy ending. Nevertheless, as he turns the page to prepare for next season and beyond, the 20-year-old Swedish netminder is looking at a bright future.

Drafted by the Flyers in the third round of the 2015 NHL Draft (70th overall), Sandström has progressed rapidly in his development. The 6-foot-2, 194-pound Brynäs IF Gävle goaltender has already logged 49 regular season games and 13 playoff matches at the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) level; a lot for a goalie his age. He has also shined on the international stage.

The Flyers' organization is pleased with Sandstrom's development to date. Along with 2016 second-round pick Carter Hart, Lehigh Valley Phantoms netminders Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon and 2017 third-round pick Kirill Ustimenko, the Flyers have one of the deepest pools of highly regarded goaltending prospects in the NHL.

Sandstrom's long-term plan is push for an NHL job with the Flyers. In the immediate future, however, he plans to spend one additional season with Brynäs.

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A Hungry Hart

Flyers goaltending prospect Carter Hart motivated for more in 2017-18

by Bill Meltzer @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

Nine years ago the Flyers used the slogan "Hungry for More" to represent the burning desire to take the next steps after reaching the Eastern Conference Final the previous season. The same motto could also be applied today to goaltending prospect Carter Hart.

Each of the last two seasons, the Flyers' 2016 second-round pick (48th overall) has won the Del Wilson Trophy as the top goaltender in the Western Hockey League. He won the CHL Goaltender of the Year award in 2015-16 as he was selected as the best netminder in any of the three Canadian major junior leagues (WHL, OHL, QMJHL). Last season, Hart represented silver medalist Team Canada at the World Junior Championships on home ice.

Now, Hart is hungry for even more. Bright, charismatic and hard-working as well as gifted, the teenager has his sights set high. 

Hart, who will turn 19 on August 13, realizes that he has little realistic shot of earning an NHL job with the Flyers out of training camp in September with veterans Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth on hand and Lehigh Valley Phantoms goaltenders Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon in the wings. Hart is not eligible for American Hockey League play in 2017-18 due to the age restrictions on players drafted from CHL-affiliated leagues. 

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Flyers sign 2017 Draft Picks Morgan Frost, Isaac Ratcliffe

Pair of forwards selected in June's draft ink entry-level deals

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

The Philadelphia Flyers announced today that they have signed 2017 Draft picks, forwards Morgan Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe, to entry-level contracts, according to general manager Ron Hextall.

Frost was selected by the Flyers in the First Round (27th overall) and Ratcliffe was the Flyers' Second Round selection (35th overall) in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Both selections were acquired by the Flyers via trade at the Draft.

Below are news & notes on Frost and Ratcliffe:

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Giroux's flying one-timer wins 2016-17 Best Highlight

Captain's earns the fan vote for best highlight in wild win over Oilers

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

VIEW ALL THE AWARDS

The fans have spoken and the final votes are in with Claude Giroux taking home the Best Highlight for the 2016-17 Flyers Awards, beating out five other highlights in the process.

Giroux's first goal of a wild, back-and-forth contest against Edmonton on Dec. 8 unfolded after a great play by Jakub Voracek to intercept a pass out of the zone. Voracek found the Flyers captain along the left face off circle where he quickly turned his body and fired home a one-timer in mid-air. The tally gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead and capped off a three-goal frenzy in an 1:12 span after trailing the Oilers 0-2.

Giroux would eventually add another tally, the game-tying goal to make it 5-5, as the club mounted a comeback in the third period as well to defeat the Oilers 6-5 at the Wells Fargo Center. 

The highlight now joins the list of former champions: Simon Gagne (2012-13), Claude Giroux (2013-14), Steve Mason (2014-15) and Shayne Gostisbehere (2015-16) as a Flyers Highlight of the Year Champion.

Have another look at 'Flying One-Timer' below:

Video: EDM@PHI: Giroux leaves his feet, pots one-timer blast

With one tournament ending, another begins - check back next week as the next 2016-17 Flyers Awards gets underway with Best Photo.

VIEW ALL THE AWARDS

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Hogberg, Hart impress at Summer Showcase

Pair of Flyers prospects on display at National Development Camps

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

In his first action of the camp, Flyers goaltending prospect Carter Hart shut the door against USA-Blue in Canada's first game at the four-nation, Summer Showcase being held in Plymouth, Michigan this week.

Hart, who backstopped Canada to a silver medal in the 2017 World Juniors as an 18-year-old, stopped all 19 shots he faced through more than 34 minutes of time in the crease (34:24) as Canada rode a 2-1 victory against the U.S. team. 

USA-White exacted a bit of revenge in the other split-squad game, taking an 8-2 win over Canada-Red. The Canadian and U.S. teams will now merge their split squads for the remaining games of the tournament.

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NHL, NBC Release National Broadcast Schedule

Flyers to play on national broadcast 16 times in 2017-18

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

The National Hockey League and NBC today released the national television schedule for the 2017-18 NHL season. The Flyers are scheduled to play in front of a national audience 16 times this season, including four weekend games on NBC.

Four of the 16 games will be exclusively televised on NBCSN as its Wednesday Night Rivalry, which returns for a fifth season and will feature some of the biggest rivalries in the NHL. The network will air exclusive coverage on Wednesday nights for 23 weeks, with games usually starting at 8 p.m. ET. 

In addition, the Flyers season-opening game on Wednesday, Oct. 4 at San Jose (10:30 p.m. ET) will be a part of NBCSN's Wednesday Nightcap coverage, which will immediately follow Wednesday Night Rivalry matchups.

The Flyers will be featured on national TV in a number of marquee matchups, including eight games against Metropolitan Division rivals, which include the Pittsburgh Penguins (3), New York Rangers (2), Washington Capitals (2) and Carolina Hurricanes (1).

The Flyers will also face off against their Eastern Conference opponents in the Atlantic Division a total of five times. They will play all three games of their season series against the Detroit Red Wings, as well as one game against the Boston Bruins and Montreal Canadiens.

The Flyers complete local television broadcast schedule will be released later this summer. 

Flyers National TV Schedule (All times Eastern Standard Time)

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Flyers prospects on display at World Junior Summer Showcase

Annual development camp gets underway for national teams

by PhiladelphiaFlyers.com @NHLFlyers / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

Canada, Finland, Sweden and the United States are set to gather for a mid-summer camp, which is generally viewed as a development camp in preparation for the 2018 World Junior Hockey Championship held after the holidays at the end of the Calendar year.

The Camp, held in Plymouth, Michigan, will run from July 28 through Aug. 5 and includes 12 international competitions between the four nations. For the Flyers, three players have been invited from two of the nations.

Hockey Canada invited a total of 40 players, who will all be looking to earn an invitation to December's final selection camp and eventually be apart of the team to compete for gold at the Championships, which will take place in Buffalo, NY.

Flyers goaltending prospect Carter Hart is among the invitees and is looking to become the starter for the second straight year for Canada. Hart earned a silver medal for Canada at the 2017 World Junior Championships as an 18-year-old.

He started in the gold medal game, where he stopped 31 shots, and four of five players in the shootout, but fell to the U.S. by a 5-4 score. Overall, he went 3-0-1 with a 2.38 goals-against average & .906 save percentage in his first WJC Tournament.

Also attending the camp for the Flyers is the second overall pick in the draft, center Nolan Patrick, but he will not be participating in the on-ice portion as he continues the rehab process from his surgery on June 13.

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Into the Lyon's Den

Alex Lyon looks to roar out to a strong second-year start

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer / http://www.philadelphiaflyers.com

One season removed from an outstanding three-year college hockey career at Yale University, Flyers goaltending prospect Alex Lyon navigated the adjustment period to pro hockey and enjoyed a solid 2016-17 campaign with the American Hockey League's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. 

"I don't think going from a 30-game season to a 70-game season, at least for me, was so much a physical challenge as an emotional one. Early on, I had to taper how much I put into each game. In a 30-game season, every game is like the Stanley Cup playoffs. It would have been exhausting to try to take that approach for a whole year, so you have to stay on an even keel. To me, that was the biggest adjustment," Lyon said.

The 24-year-old appeared in 47 games, posting a 27-14-5 record, .912 save percentage, 2.74 GAA and four shutouts. He also went 6-for-6 against shootout attackers.

Lyon played behind an attack-oriented Phantoms team that led the circuit in scoring during the regular season. He ranked among the AHL leaders in wins (T-4th), shutouts (T-7th) and shootout save percentage (T-1st). 

Teammate Anthony Stolarz was also perfect in shootouts, going 4-for-4.

During the portions of the season when Stolarz was on NHL recall to the Flyers, Lyon played on nearly an every-game basis. When both goalies were available, they shared time or head coach Scott Gordon rode the hotter hand.

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