End to End: Flyers' Most Under-the-radar Prospects

This week, Sporting News ranked the farm systems of all 31 NHL teams.

The Flyers, impressively, came in at No. 2, as general manager Ron Hextall has tirelessly restocked the franchise's prospect pool.

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In light of the rankings, we'll take a look at some of the Flyers' prospects the next few days.

Going End to End today are NBC Sports Philadelphia's John Boruk, Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: The three most under-the-radar prospects in the system.


1. Mikhail Vorobyev
The 21-year-old center and Flyers' fourth-round pick has progressed nicely in the three years since he was drafted. However, he started raising eyebrows during last year's training camp and preseason, and it will be intriguing to see where Vorobyev is at next month.  His playmaking ability, vision and awareness are his greatest strengths, and clearly Vorobyev looked as if he had the all-around game necessary to play in the NHL. He needs another season with the Phantoms before we can consider a jump to the NHL. 

2. Connor Bunnaman
There's not much about Bunnaman's game that really jumps out and grabs your attention, but he's the type of player and personality that makes an NHL locker room better. The Flyers' fourth-round selection in 2016 captained the Kitchener Rangers to a deep run in the OHL playoffs before losing to Morgan Frost and Sault Ste. Marie in double overtime of Game 7 of the Western Conference Finals.  Bunnaman has the frame to transition to wing coupled with a strong net-front presence. He wasn't a prolific scorer in four years with Kitchener, so a role as a bottom-six forward could be his ticket to the NHL.

3. Reece Willcox
If you recall last season, there was a stretch of games in November when the Flyers were so decimated by injuries on the blue line they had to call up Will O'Neill from Lehigh Valley just to have six healthy bodies on defense. It was an unusual situation and one you don't expect to repeat itself, but in a similar event, I can see Willcox earning a potential call-up. He just signed a two-year extension and the right-handed defenseman, 24, now has two full seasons with the Phantoms under his belt after four years at Cornell. If the Flyers are pressed for a last-minute replacement, Willcox is a veteran presence who can handle the responsibilities.


1. Tanner Laczynski
The 2016 sixth-round pick has turned heads at Ohio State and was in the Hobey Baker conversation last season. Perhaps he's not so much "under the radar." He's on it now. That could turn into a problem when trying to sign him, but it appears like Laczynski could be on his way from a late-round pick to a legitimate NHL prospect.

2. Wyatt Kalynuk
Another late-round draft pick with a chance to turn into something. Kalynuk had a breakout campaign at Wisconsin in his freshman season. Given his situation at Wisconsin - the coaching staff, etc. - I think Kalynuk has a very real chance at developing into an NHL defenseman some day.

3. Mark Friedman
I don't think Friedman has a high NHL ceiling. Probably projects as a sixth/seventh defenseman. But I always liked his game, his skating and the fact that he's a righty. Had a pretty strong college career at Bowling Green. Seemed to get it as his first professional campaign progressed. I wouldn't put high expectations on him, but a quality depth defenseman is fair.


1. Noah Cates
The 19-year-old is a skilled winger with nice size (6-1/180) and some razzle-dazzle to his game. He was taken in the fifth round of the 2017 draft at 165 pounds out of Stillwater High School, so not much was made of the pick. People are starting to know his name, though. He competed in the World Junior Summer Showcase and is headed to the national champs this upcoming season.

2. Maksim Sushko
The Belarusian plays with speed and a pursuit of the puck. His 2017-18 featured a four-goal game with the Owen Sound Attack in the OHL, where he put 60 points (31 goals, 29 assists) and a plus-13 rating in 60 regular-season contests. The 2017 fourth-round pick also had a strong World Junior Championships. Other wingers in the Flyers' system have garnered a bit more attention, but keep an eye on Sushko.

3. James De Haas
De Haas did not come to the Flyers' organization with a lot of hype. He was signed by AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley last summer. The 24-year-old is a 6-foot-4 defenseman who had an impressive development camp this summer and drew high praise from Hextall. "He's a big, strong, mature guy out there," the general manager said. "His leadership in some of the days, in some of the activities we had, was off the charts. It's kind of one of the things we look at. The steps he's taken the last 12 months, you go, 'Whoa.'"

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