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Prospect Roundup: NCAA Regional Semis Set

A look at Flyers prospects looking to advance to the Frozen Four and beyond

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

Three of the Six Flyers prospects who played collegiate hockey this season have advanced to the NCAA regional semifinals on the road to the Frozen Four. Here's a look at all six players starting with the ones whose seasons will continue into at least this weekend. 

Also included are two USHL players committed to playing college hockey starting next season. 

Tanner Laczynski (RW, Ohio State, sophomore)

Playing within a very structured Buckeyes system, Laczynski ranked in a tie for 15th in scoring across all NCAA divisions with 43 points (15 goals including five power play tallies, 28 assists) in 38 games. At the collegiate level, he plays on Ohio State's top line and carries the offensive expectations that come with it. He was a plus-16 at even strength this season and his 1.13 points-per-game average (on a team that only had one other player within the top 35 scorers nationally) ranked 19th in NCAA Division 1 hockey. 

Last year, as a member of the gold medal winning Team USA squad at the World Junior Championships, Laczynski played a role that would more likely mirror the duties he'd be assigned at the pro level. His emerging two-way abilities and versatility won him a spot over some bigger-name hopefuls the roster, and he played a bottom-six role.

Laczynski's star has risen significantly since the Flyers drafted him out of the USHL (Chicago Steel and Lincoln Stars) in the sixth round (169th overall) of the 2016 NHL Draft. The player will celebrate his 21st birthday on June 1.

Flyers fans who want to see Laczynski play in person will have a chance to do so this weekend. The Midwest Regional Semifinals will take place at the PPL Center in Allentown, PA (home of the Lehigh Valley Phantoms) on Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday at 3:30 p.m. EDT, Ohio State (24-9-5) will take on Princeton. The next day, with a trip to the Frozen Four at stake, the winner of this game will take on the winner of Saturday's match between underdog Penn State (18-14-5) and ex-Flyer/Phantom Jim Montgomery's University of Denver (22-9-5) team. 

Brendan Warren (left wing, Michigan, junior)

A two-way forward with decent size and good skating ability, Warren ranked ninth on the Wolverines with 14 points (8g-6a). His best weekend of the regular season came in a set of mid-January road games against the University of Minnesota as he scored two goals in the first meeting (even strength and empty net) and followed it up the next evening with a goal on his first shift.

Overall, though, Warren's primary duties for Michigan are to be defensively responsible forward who could be moved around the top 9 (primarily third line and second line) and see time on the penalty kill. Two of Warren's goals this season came while the Wolverines were shorthanded; the team as a whole scored three SHGs this season. 

Originally a third-round pick (81st overall) of the Arizona Coyotes in 2015, the Flyers acquired Warren's rights last summer in the trade that sent Nick Cousins and the rights to Harvard University senior goaltender Merrick Madsen to Arizona. Warren initially played center as a member of the U.S. National Team Development Program (NTDP), but has mostly skated on left wing in recent years.

Terrance Amorosa (defenseman, Clarkson, senior)

Originally drafted from the USHL by the Flyers in 2013, Amorosa's overall game - not just his offensive stats - have improved each year over the course of his four-season collegiate career at Clarkson. The 23-year-old defenseman has enjoyed a strong all-around senior campaign this year. He posted a plus-22 rating in 39 games (tied for third nationally) and also produced 27 points (7g-20a).

Both physically, and in terms of his game here, is a night-and-day difference between Amorosa now and from his first Development Camp with the Flyers back in July 2013. As with 2012 draftee Reece Willcox (now a second-year pro with Lehigh Valley), the four-year collegiate hockey route, proved to be the best route for Amorosa's development. The Flyers hold his rights until Aug. 15, 2018.

Clarkson (23-10-6) will face Providence (23-11-4) on Friday at 6:30 p.m. EDT in what could be a very good East Regional semifinal game in Bridgeport, CT. The winner will play the victor of Notre Dame (25-9-2) against Michigan Tech (22-16-5) for a trip to the Frozen Four. 

The only NCAA regional semifinal bracket that does not include any Flyers prospects is the West Regional in Sioux Falls, SD. In that bracket, the winner of the St. Cloud State (25-8-6) vs. Air Force (22-14-5) game will oppose the winner of Minnesota State (29-9-1) against Minnesota Duluth (21-16-3). 

Wade Allison (right wing, Western Michigan, sophomore)

Two of the Flyers' three second-round picks from the 2016 NHL Draft have made eye-opening progress since the time of the draft. One is top goaltending prospect Carter Hart. The other is power forward Allison, whom the Flyers chose with the 52nd overall pick.

An aggressive player with a heavy shot and shooter's mentality, Allison had a promising freshman year (12 goals, 17 assists, 29 points, 53 penalty minutes in 29 games). 

He took his game to another level as a sophomore, owing both to added experience and to an outstanding conditioning regimen. A muscular 210 pounds on a 6-foot-2 frame, the righthanded shooting Allison proved hard for opposing teams to contain either on the walls or in the scoring areas below and between the dots. He is good at setting up screens and scoring on deflections and rebounds but can also blast home a one-timer. 

Allison, who turned 20 on Oct. 14, ranked near the top of the NCAA scoring charts at the Christmas break. Unfortunately, one night after a two-assist effort against St. Cloud State, Allison went down early in the first period of a Jan. 13 rematch game with a lower-body injury. The injury turned out to be season-ending, requiring surgery. 

Unfortunately for the Western Michigan Broncos, the loss of Allison dealt a blow to the team's hopes of making a run in March. The team finished with a 15-19-2 overall record, including a 10-13-1 record within the National Collegiate Hockey Conference (NCHC). 

Despite being limited to just 22 games this season and his abbreviated final outing, Allison's 30 points (15g-15a) still enabled him to rank sixth nationally in points-per-game average (1.36). He is expected to be ready to play again for the start of next season. In terms of his continued development, apart from completing his injury rehab to return to 100 percent, the biggest challenge for Allison will be to retain his naturally aggressive style while playing under control from a discipline standpoint. 

Flyers general manager Ron Hextall recently said that the organization would talk to Allison and its other collegiate hockey student-athletes about plans beyond this year once their respective hockey seasons and/or spring semesters are done. 

Wyatt Kalynuk (defenseman, Wisconsin, freshman)

The offensively skilled and late-blooming Kalynuk, who will turn 21 on April 14, enjoyed a strong freshman season for the Wisconsin Badgers this year. Drafted by the Flyers from the USHL last summer in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft, Kalynuk made an immediate offensive impact as a freshman. He showed himself quickly to be a mobile defenseman with good puck skills, who can trigger a breakout and also make plays up-ice.  

Overall, Kalynuk posted 25 points (3g-22a) in 37 games as a freshman. While other parts of his game and physical development are a work in progress and there is always room to further improve his strengths, there is no rush with three remaining seasons of collegiate eligibility. He's already a rising talent among collegiate defensemen nationally. 

Wisconsin (14-19-4 overall, 8-13-8 within its conference) finished in sixth-place in the Big 10. The club yielded a conference-worst 124 goals this season, which was in line with Kalynuk's individual minus-11 stat at even strength. 

David Drake (defenseman, UConn, senior)

Originally drafted by the Flyers in the 7th round (192nd overall) of the 2013 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-6 Drake proved to be a reliable no-frills defenseman with a sound work ethic over his four-year collegiate career. Despite his huge frame, Drake is a good athlete who understands the game and makes a good first pass despite modest point totals. He had eight assists and 18 penalty minutes in 36 games as a senior in 2017-18. The Flyers hold Drake's rights until Aug. 15, 2018.

Unlike many of the other Flyers' collegiate players, Drake's University of Connecticut Huskies teams were generally thin depth-wise. The team finished at 15-19-2 overall this season and 11-12-1 within Hockey East conference games in 2017-18. Drake was even in plus-minus this season despite playing hard minutes for a team that generated just 100 goals of its own for the entire 37-game campaign.

Noah Cates (left wing, Omaha Lancers, USHL)

A high school hockey star in his native Stillwater, Minnesota, Cates was drafted by the Flyers in the fifth round (137th overall) of the 2017 NHL Draft. It took Cates a couple months this season to adapt to the rigors of his first full USHL campaign - he'd played parts of two previous seasons in the USHL after his high school season was over. Once he got fully acclimated, however, Cates came on like gangbusters as the season progressed.

The USHL is a low-scoring league in general. A feeder circuit primarily geared toward NCAA-bound players (both of traditional freshman age but also players in their early 20s), USHL players often find the level of competition at this level to be rather tough. Cates handled the transition admirably and went on after a slow offensive production start (two goals, three assists through 13 games) to finish with 18 goals and 46 points in 50 games. 

That was good enough to rank tied for 11th on the leaguewide scoring leaderboard. Cates also turned around his minus-four through 13 games to finish the season as a plus-15 by the end of the season.

Cates, who turned 19 on Feb. 5, still has considerable physical development to work on as he continues to climb the hockey ladder. His skating was fine for the high school level but will need refinement to become pro-caliber. Some of this should naturally occur as his body (165 pounds last year on a list 6-foot frame) continues to fill out, and the rest can come through coaching and hard work. 

Cates will be a freshman next season at the University of Minnesota-Duluth and has the potential to develop into an impact player in the NCAA as he gains experience. The Flyers hold his rights until Aug. 15, 2022.

Matej Tomek (goaltender, Waterloo Blackhawks, USHL) 

After an injury before his freshman collegiate season and very sparse playing time over two years, the Slovakian goaltender decided to take one step back for a year in order to move forward again in the future. Tomek left the University of North Dakota to play a season of USHL hockey and get much-needed playing time. 

In 26 outings for Waterloo this season, the 6-foot-3 netminder posted a 13-8-2 record, 2.49 GAA, .903 save percentage and one shutout. It was sufficient for the Flyers 2015 third-round pick (90th overall) to earn offers to return to NCAA Division 1 hockey. 

Recently, Tomek committed to the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the 2018-19 season. By NCAA rules, he has two years of collegiate hockey eligibility remaining as this year did not count against his eligibility. The Flyers retain his rights until Aug. 15, 2020.

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