The Flyers learned this week that 23-year-old defense prospect Wyatt Kalynuk has opted to test free agency after deciding to forego his senior year at Wisconsin. It is still possible that he opts to sign with Philadelphia, but the choice is up to the player and his agent.
In the meantime, two already-signed Flyers blueline prospects, 20-year-old Wyatte Wylie and 20-year-old Egor Zamula, have their eyes on getting ready for their respective professional debuts come the 2020-21 season. Here's a look at the two young players, and the adjustments each will face as they adapt from the junior game to the demands of pro hockey.
The Flyers signed the right-handed shooting defenseman to an entry-level contract on March 10. A late-bloomer whom the organization drafted in the 5th round (127th overall) of the 2018 NHL Draft, Wylie completed his junior career with a fine all-around 2019-20 season for the Western Hockey League's Everett Silvertips, including 14 goals, 50 assists (tops among defensemen in the league) and a +28 rating while playing in all manpower situations.
Wylie was technically an overager in the Western Hockey League this season, as he turned 20 on Nov.2. Correspondingly, he was eligible for the AHL or the ECHL this season, but the Flyers opted to reassign him to the WHL's Everett Silvertips. The decision paid off.
Over the course of his junior career, Wyle showed adaptability to different roles. If Wylie is to eventually play in the NHL, those attributes may come in useful. The Flyers' organization sees him more as a defensive-minded defenseman with decent first-pass ability in the pro game, rather than as a someone who is likely to see regular power play time.
Going back to his draft year, Flyers have always liked Wylie's level of defensive responsibility, willingness to block shots and potential to be part of a penalty killing rotation.
"He's become a leader for that [Everett] team and he sees hard minutes. I think that's where his biggest strengths are," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said in January 2020.
Wylie served as an alternate captain for the Silvertips this season. He was a mainstay in their lineup for four seasons, and is good friends with his former Silvertips teammate Carter Hart.
Although he will not participate in games when the NHL eventually returns for Phase 4 of the return-to-play plan, Zamula has been working out with Flyers players in Voorhees during Phase 2, The 20-year-old left-handed shooting defenseman is coming off an outstanding half-season for the WHL's Calgary Hitmen and for Team Russia at the 2019-20 World Junior Championships before his campaign came to an abrupt end due to a need for back surgery.
Speaking to Russian outlet Sport24.Ru, Zamula said that he is now healthy and feeling better and better on the ice five-plus months after the surgery.
"At first, I was apprehensive to shoot the puck. Then I got tired of doing nothing, and the doctors approved me for full-scale training. Everything seems to be coming back.... Everything is great with my back. I am ready to play," he said.
Both in the WHL and the World Juniors, Zamula saw extensive use on the power play as well as even strength and the penalty kill. Flahr does not project Zamula necessarily as a power play regular in the pros but, instead, as a skilled puck-mover who is also savvy without the puck on his stick. The player's poise and feet are already above-average for a defenseman his age.
"Egor was very good in training camp for us, even in the [NHL] exhibition games he played, and he just kept right on going. It was impossible not to notice him at the World Juniors this year. He still needs to add some strength to compete up here. Overall, though, he has a good foundation that he will take into his first pro season next year," Flahr said in January 2020.
Prior to the WJC, Zamula was having an outstanding two-way season for the Western Hockey League's Calgary Hitmen. However, it was at the WJC where Zamula truly opened eyes as he led the Russian team in ice time, played strong all-around hockey with only a few isolated hiccups and began the tourney with a two-goal game.