These Flyers Prospects Are Having A Great Year
Prospects from around the league have gotten enough of their season in to know the general tone of the year they’ve had. There’s room around the margins to trend up or down. But for the most part, this chapter of the book is already written.
This stage of their development has played out, and it’s time to see where everyone is at. That makes right now the perfect time to evaluate where everyone stands, and what their future development looks like.
It’s important to note that I’m not going to dive into every single player in the Flyers’ pipeline. That is simply too time-consuming. But here are all the players who are more than worth having a conversation about.
Cutter Gauthier was drafted 5th overall by the Flyers in 2022. The highest they’ve drafted since 2017 when they were given stupid lottery luck that turned out to not be so lucky. The last time they earned a pick so high with play this poor was 2006. The expectations were massive.
The expectations remain massive. The Flyers front office, for all intents and purposes, is treating Cutter like a franchise altering and team defining talent. They refuse to bottom out and harvest top-5 picks, because they believe one is enough.
Effectively, they’re treating Cutter Gauthier very similarly to the way Connor Bedard or Adam Fantilli will be treated. He’s here to change the franchise. Perhaps not by himself; nobody accomplishes that. But he’s here to be the engine of change.
So, did he deliver?
Cutter Gauthier has 14 goals and 10 assists for 24 points in his first 22 college games. On the surface, those are impressive but not earth shattering numbers. They compare pretty well with some other recent top picks. Matty Beniers had 43 points in 37 games in his sophomore year of college, and D+1 season.
Beniers’ 1.1 points per game and Gauthier’s 1.09 points per game are nearly identical. Gauthier’s 0.58 goals per game outstrips Beniers’ 0.54 goals per game.
And both of these statistical snapshots were taken amidst something of a mini-slump for Cutter, which I expect him to be on his way out of. He’s hung around 1.2 points per game for most of the season, and I anticipate that he’ll finish there.
2021 5th overall pick Kent Johnson put up 37 points in 32 college games for his D+1 season. A nearly identical 1.15 points per game to both Beniers and Gauthier.
The most encouraging thing about these comparisons, though, is that Cutter has accomplished all of this with a far less talented team around him than either Beniers or Johnson.
Hell, Beniers and Johnson were on the same team. That Michigan team was essentially the Justice League down in the NCAA, with freshmen defensive wonder prospects Luke Hughes and Owen Power added on top. Oh, and top Sharks prospect Thomas Bordleau was playing with them and registered 37 points in 37 games!
Cutter has no other first round picks on his team. The leading scorer for Boston College, besides Cutter, is Nikita Nesterenko who was a 6th round pick in 2019 by the Wild. Nesterenko flashes real skill, and has a respectable 22 points in 26 games.
Yet Cutter and Nikita rarely play on the same line.
It’s as close to a one-man band as you can get in Boston College this year, and Cutter has put up a strong statistical profile regardless.
Between his Boston College performance and a 10 points in 7 games World Juniors appearance that somehow felt snake-bitten, Cutter has had a great first season since his draft.
It’s hard to say he’s exceeded expectations, because like I’ve said, the Flyers have raised the expectations through the roof.
But so far, he’s done an admirable job of meeting them.
Where do we go from here?
There’s been a lot of talk of Cutter being one and done at Boston College, and maybe we see him on the Flyers in March. He certainly has the stats to justify such a move. But I would caution against that, as it stands.
The excitement to see him in NHL action is justifiable, and a D+2 arrival to the NHL for a top-5 pick isn’t uncommon. But Cutter isn’t done developing.
Despite his remarkable production, there’s another level to be hit. There’s ways he can round out his game that will only help him once he reaches the NHL. Could he survive a rookie tour right now? Yes. Could he do well? Possibly. But could he impact games right now? No, not really.
The next stop for Cutter is back to school, in my opinion.
What does the next stage of development look like?
Right now, Cutter Gauthier is simply overpowering goalies with his shot. It’s incredible. When he says he patterned his shot after Auston Matthews, well, he did an incredible job of it.
His goal last night was a perfect example of how dominant his shooting ability is. On one level, look where he is standing. He’s on the outside of the circle and level with its apex.
This is not a shot that most shooters have any business taking. They might be benched for taking a wrist shot from that location when their team is down 1 with 90 seconds left.
But Cutter isn’t most shooters. There are very few shooters in the world like him. He can deliver a hard wrist shot from that location and pick a corner with a quick release.
And he shoots with deception, too. If you look at his goals in college, you’ll see curl and drag releases. You’ll see shots from the outside leg. You’ll see shots from the inside leg. You’ll see shots with a set stance and minimal weight shift.
There, note the shift in posture that suggests he was looking for a passing option, like any sane person ought to do. Then he fires the shot with very little movement and almost no tell. The goalie reacts too late, and it’s right by his glove.
The shot is dominant, and yes, it will beat goalies at the NHL level too. Especially as he matures physically.
But the point remains: Cutter falls in love with his shot too much.
He’s too confident of beating goalies from any range at any time, and will fling bullets at the net that never had any hope of becoming goals.
If he wants to be a dominant goal scorer at the NHL level, then he’ll need to develop a strong sense of when to settle for a long wrister and when to battle for something more. More goals from the inner slot. More goals from the net-front. Go to the reliable areas and score from there.
Then, when you’re totally blocked off from the more valuable ice and there’s no readily available other choice, then yes… do what only a few like him can do.
I believe Cutter has the game sense to develop that judgment. He’s already improved at it this season. And most importantly, he has all the tools to score from in close as well.
The shot works even better from the inner slot! And he has the understanding of how to get there with time and space ahead of him.
His combination of speed and power is married with enough skill to make him a force on the rush. He works give-and-go plays to get to the netfront, and knows where to shoot to beat goalies in tight.
He needs to become more of a consistently imposing physical force. Not necessarily with hitting and fighting, but he’s inconsistently dogged for pucks. When he’s locked on a loose puck, there’s a high chance that he’s bullying anyone in his path and picking it up. When he isn’t, when he’s playing too cute, he allows the game to pass him by.
Cutter needs to learn to use his physicality to change games.
He said his favorite player was Sidney Crosby, but that may change given who he was drafted by. Me, personally? I’m telling him to watch all the damn Crosby film he can find.
Crosby’s ability to marry grit and tenacity and be strong on pucks while still being one of the most skilled players in the game separates him from the rest.
In a different way, and almost certainly not to the same “GOAT” extent, it can separate Cutter from the rest too.
That Cutter needs more development isn’t a shock. That his game isn’t complete yet shouldn’t alarm everyone.
But isn’t as if he needs to learn significant new skills. He has all of the tools and all of the moves. He just has to optimize how he uses them. It’s a concept very similar to the ones taken with athletic phenoms in defensemen Mortiz Seider and Cale Makar. Or, for comparable forwards, Brady Tkachuk and Pierre-Luc Dubois.
With the right work ethic and personality, an athletic talent can take a much steeper development curve than most prospects.
And apparently, Cutter is one hell of an interview. A personality to believe in.
This was a lot of words to dedicate to just Cutter Gauthier, but Cutter Gauthier is that important. He is everything to this franchise, right now. He is their one potential ticket out of a decade of misery.
It’s been a while since Tyson has played the sport of ice hockey. After missing almost the entirety of his actual D+1 season due to injuries including shoulder surgery, this is his first real season to genuinely develop since he was drafted.
Understandably, the Flyers are committed to seeing him spend the entire season with the Phantoms. But he has impressed with the Phantoms nevertheless.
Tyson has 17 goals and 13 assists for 30 points through 44 games with the Phantoms. His efforts were enough to get him to the AHL All-Star game where he scored two more goals. His raw point totals would look more impressive if not for a recent 7 game pointless skid, which amounted more to bad luck than genuinely dipped play.
The most important thing to know about Tyson Foerster is this: the kid can finish. In a variety of ways.
While I wouldn’t put his shot at the level of Gauthier, it’s extremely good and not too far off.
But his hands make him likely to score in all sorts of ways. He’s quite dangerous on breakaways and rush attempts. Jesper Wallstedt, arguably the best goalie in the world outside of the NHL, found that out the hard way in the AHL All-Star Game.
And I could have swore I’d seen this move from Steven Stamkos a time or two.
He also found a way to score while… falling down? And elevated the shot?
The concern with Tyson was his skating, and he has not developed into Brayden Point since being drafted. He’s not beating defenders wide with raw velocity. But Tyson has a knack for not making that sort of thing matter.
He manipulates pace well, understanding when a defender is in a bad spot and he can take him wide, like he does here:
He also knows when a defender is taking too wide of a gap on him, and he’s quite adept at toe dragging away from encroaching sticks and into a devastating wrister. He recognizes loose pucks fast, and therefore he’s quick to the necessary spots.
And he works deception into his game frequently. He convinces the defenders that he’s going to hit a nonexistent trailer with a pass before spinning around and unleashing a hellacious wrist shot that sends the goalie straight to his highlight reel:
His ceiling likely isn’t as high as Cutter’s. He’s not going to save a franchise, most likely. But there’s a lot of skill to go with a ridiculous shot, and I see a quality top-6 forward here.
Where do we go from here?
Tyson is a more polished and NHL ready product than Cutter. While I expect him to finish the year with the Phantoms, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him given games after the March Trade Deadline. And by next year, I think he’ll be ready to take on a role with the Flyers.
On Day 1, he’ll be one of the team’s most dangerous Power-Play weapons. His 5v5 play is a bit up in the air, but I think he’ll be able to hold his own.
The development ahead of Tyson is mild and extremely nuanced. He needs to be willing to shoot for rebounds and create offense that way, instead of trying to pick corners when corners needn’t be picked then wind up hitting glass instead.
All in all, I see a player ready to be an NHL rookie next season. And quite possibly, a good one. Relative to most rookies, of course.
Bobby Brink has a knack for exceeding expectations, and being better than you think. Injuries slowed and stalled his development, but he finally went supernova last season on his way to (what should have been) a Hobey Baker season. He was screwed out of the award. He was college hockey’s best player.
He figured to have a decent chance at making the Flyers out of camp, but injury struck again and he ended up needing to have a torn labrum in his hip surgically repaired.
After that, it was expected that he’d need a lot of time in the AHL just to get his game back up to par. Well, he’s needed way less time than expected.
Brink has 11 points in his first 13 AHL games, and his first hockey games since hip surgery. His game was pretty well documented over here at the Liberty Yell after his recent 3 point performance.
The 5’8″ forward doesn’t blow people away with his skating speed. But his edgework is immaculate and his puck skill is undeniable. His ability to anticipate and to read plays is something of a superpower.
It’s almost impossible to give a concrete projection of Bobby Brink. It’s quite possible they have nothing at all, given that he’s the kind of guy who’s either on a scoring line or not on the team.
Yet, he’s been defying and exceeding expectations his entire life. So who’s to say he’s going to stop now?
The best I can say about Brink is this: let’s wait and see, he may just put on a show.
Mandatory Credit: John Quackenbos