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World Junior Showcase: 4 Flyers prospects enter camp tournament

Meltzer looks at the top Flyers prospects competing to represent their country come December

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

Running from July 26 until August 3, the 2019 World Junior Summer Showcase, is underway in Plymouth, Michigan, at USA Hockey Arena. The annual tournament is the first step toward national teams narrowing down the field of candidates for the next IIHF World Junior Championships.

Four Flyers prospects are participating. Forwards Joel Farabee and Bobby Brink as well as defenseman Cam York are part of the Team USA Blue roster during the split-squad phase of the tournament, which opened on Friday with Farabee scoring a shootout goal in a scrimmage loss against the Team USA White roster. Defenseman Adam Ginning is part of Team Sweden's roster at the Summer Showcase.

A member of the silver-medal winning 2018-19 Team USA squad at the World Junior Championships, Flyers 2017 first-round pick Farabee is one of six returning players from last year's Team USA squad at the WJC. He is a shoo-in for another roster spot at the WJC if the Flyers choose to make him available for the tournament. 

Farabee is turning professional in the upcoming 2019-20 season. He is more likely to spend the season in the American Hockey League -- where he'd be slide-rule eligible and not burn the first year of his entry-level contract -- than the NHL but he could change the Flyers' plans with a stellar NHL training camp or by dominating the AHL over the first quarter to one-half season to the point where he clearly belongs in the National Hockey League. 

Whether Farabee is playing in the AHL or the NHL, it will be up to Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher to give the player permission to report to Team USA's selection camp in December and to play in the next WJC. Tournament participation seems significantly more likely if Farabee is with the Phantoms rather than the Flyers. 

In 2014-15, the Flyers permitted Phantoms rookie defenseman Robert Hägg to join Team Sweden for the WJC, although Hägg had already played in the tourney as both a 17-year-old (his NHL Draft-eligible 2012-13 season) and 18-year-old (his draft-plus-one year). On the flip side, although Hockey Canada was interested in having Nolan Patrick as part of their 2017-18 WJC squad during Patrick's rookie NHL season, Patrick remained with the Flyers. 

Apart from Farabee, the other returning Team USA players from last year's roster who are attending this year's World Junior Summer Showcase are forwards Oliver Wahlstrom and Jack Drury, defensemen Mattias Samuelsson and K'Andre Miller and goaltender Spencer Knight. Wahlstrom was a frequent Farabee linemate on the U.S. National Team at both the under-18 and under-18 levels. Samuelsson, a Voorhees native, is the son of two-stint Flyers player and longtime development coach Kjell Samuelsson.

Among the first-timers at this year's WJSS are two Flyers prospects: 2019 first-round pick York and 2019 second-round selection Brink. 

York was the No. 1 defenseman on the ultra-stacked 2018-19 USTNDP Under-18 team that produced 17 full-time players selected in the 2019 NHL Draft (a new single-year NHL Draft record for one team). The incoming University of Michigan freshman stands a strong chance of earning a WJC spot and receiving power play time. 

The Denver University-bound Brink also spent time with USNTDP prior to the start of the USHL season and previously had a USNTDP stint in the under-17 age group. However, he was not drafted directly from the national under-18 squad (rather, Brink was a member of the Sioux City Musketeers) and is not counted among the 17 USNTDP draftees for official record-keeping purposes. In a crowded and highly talented roster field that also includes a similar type of player in Cole Caufield, Brink will have some work to do to earn a role on the WJC team.

Last year, Flyers 2018 first-round pick Jay O'Brien and 2017 fifth-round pick Noah Cates both had impressive performances at the WJSS that they parlayed into Team USA roster spots at the World Junior Championships. O'Brien struggled with injuries and productivity as a freshman at Providence College (he transferred out after the season, and is likely to play in the BCHL next season unless the NCAA agrees to waive its typical one-year sitout requirement for Div. 1 transfers before he is eligible to join Boston University). He barely played at the WJC. Cates, however, thrived at Minnesota-Duluth under Team USA-affiliated coach Scott Sandelin (a former Flyers defenseman during his NHL playing days).

Under IIHF rules, neither O'Brien nor Cates are age-eligible for the 2019-20 WJC. This the reason why neither are back for the Summer Showcase (some Flyers fans on social media and message boards erroneously assumed that O'Brien wasn't invited because his stock fell during his rough freshman season at Providence and very limited WJC usage). O'Brien will turn 20 on Nov. 4, while Cates is already 20.

Flyers defense prospect Jack St. Ivany, a 2018 fourth-round pick, did not take part in the Summer Showcase last year but the Yale defenseman earned a Team USA spot (albeit quite limited ice time) at the WJC. He will turn 20 on July 22 and has aged out of the WJC.

Flyers 2018 second-round pick Ginning does not turn 20 until Jan. 13 and is a shoo-in to once again represent Sweden at the WJC after playing for the Swedish side at last year's WJC. On the flip side. goaltending prospect Samuel Ersson is in the same boat after starring for Team Sweden last year. He will turn 20 on Oct. 20 and, thus, is ineligible to return for another WJC. Flyers forward prospect Olle Lycksell (drafted in the 6th round in 2017) will turn 20 on Aug. 24. 

Morgan Frost, a member of Team Canada at last year's WJC, is ineligible for Team Canada, as the incoming Phantoms rookie turned 20 on May 14. Isaac Ratcliffe, who did not survive the roster cuts from the Hockey Canada's December selection camp last year, has also aged out of WJC participation. Ditto incoming Phantoms/Royals forward Maksim Sushko, who has represented Belarus internationally at both the junior and men's levels. Royals/Phantoms rookie goalie Kirill Ustimenko has also aged out of WJC consideration.

Flyers 2019 sixth-round pick Egor Serdyuk, who led all QMJHL rookies in scoring last season, is eligible for Team Russia (he turned 18 on June 3), but faces an uphill climb to earn a spot on the Russian team for the 2019-20 WJC. He'd also be eligible for the 2020-21 tournament.

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