With the Christmas break upon us and the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships getting underway Tuesday, welcome to a special edition of our Future Flyers Report.
Similar to what we did in this space last season, we'll look at the biggest surprise and disappointment on the prospect front, as well provide a primer for the WJCs.
Biggest surprise: Cooper Marody
This title could go to any one of the Flyers' three collegiate prospects who are in the top-12 of the nation in scoring, but we're handing it to Marody, a junior at Michigan.
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Marody, after missing parts of his freshman season with mono and then sitting out the first semester of his sophomore campaign because of academic ineligibility, has been the epitome of consistency, as he's among the best playmakers in college hockey.
The centerman leads Michigan with 20 assists and 24 points in 16 games. Marody's 20 helpers are second to only Notre Dame senior Jake Evans' 21 assists, and his 1.5 points per game average are second to only Canisius junior Dylan McLaughlin's 1.67.
He has nine multi-point games - five two-point contests and four three-point matches. In conference play, Marody has dominated too. His 18 points, 10 assists, and 1.8 points per game average leads the Big Ten. He should be in the Hobey Baker conversation.
As smooth as this season has gone for Marody, it hasn't exactly been without bumps. According to The Michigan Daily, Marody's early-season practice habits did not meet the standard of Michigan head coach Mel Pearson. So Pearson and Marody met. That meeting helped spark Marody, who had just one point in the first four games. After Pearson sat him down, Marody has exploded for 23 points in 12 games.
With Marody breaking out, the Flyers have excitement brewing at the collegiate ranks. Marody joins Western Michigan sophomore Wade Allison (14 goals, 25 points) and Ohio State sophomore Tanner Laczynski (15 assists, 23 points) as college prospects worth watching going forward. If there is anything the Penguins have proven over the past two seasons, it's that college players can be integral pieces to a Cup team.
Biggest disappointment: Alex Lyon
With Anthony Stolarz out with a torn left meniscus and no return in sight, Lyon had a prime opportunity to separate himself from Stolarz on the Flyers' depth chart this year.
So far, not so good for Lyon, who is actually with the Flyers backing up Brian Elliott while Michal Neuvirth recovers from a lower-body injury. All signs point to Neuvirth returning after the holiday break, which means Lyon should return to the Phantoms this week.
Lyon has struggled mightily in his second professional season, despite having a solid showing with the Flyers during the preseason. In 16 games, Lyon has a .894 save percentage and a 3.31 goals-against average with no shutouts. He does have an 8-6-1 record, but judging goaltenders on wins and losses doesn't do justice for evaluation purposes.
The numbers are an eyesore. He's allowed fewer than three goals just six times. With injuries ravaging the Phantoms' blue line, it might be unfair to pinpoint all of this on Lyon. There have been games in which he's stood on his head or made the saves when it counted most. But for a goalie with a ton to play for, we can write this up as a missed opportunity.
With both Lyon and Stolarz on one-year contracts and at least one of the Flyers' younger goalie prospects turning pro or coming overseas next season, Lyon must establish himself again post-Christmas.
2018 IIHF World Junior Championships
Flyers prospects: Carter Hart, Team Canada; German Rubtsov, Team Russia; Linus Högberg, Team Sweden; and Maksim Sushko, Team Belarus.
Player to watch: Carter Hart, Team Canada
The Flyers have just four prospects competing in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, which begin Tuesday in Buffalo, New York. Compared to last year's tournament when the Flyers had nine prospects competing, the tourney might not be as exciting to Flyers fans. But there is still plenty reason to tune in and here's why.
Hart very well may be the best junior goaltender of this decade, and when it's all said and done, the 19-year-old could finish his WHL career as one of the best junior goalies ever. While no goalie has ever won the CHL Goaltender of the Year award twice, if Hart misses out on the honor again this season, it would be highway robbery. He should have won it for the second time last season, but the award went elsewhere.
Now, Hart goaltends for Team Canada for the second straight year. This time around, the net appears Hart's to lose. Sure, we might see Colton Point in a game or two, but when it matters most, expect Hart to be the goalie of record. It's a great opportunity to watch Hart, who may be the Flyers' best goalie prospect ever.
Where and how to watch
We'll provide the preliminary round schedule and how to watch. If you're in Canada, you can stream the games on TSN GO, but TSN's streaming service only works in Canada.
Dec. 26: vs. Finland, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Slovakia, 7 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. United States, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Denmark, 8 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 26: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 29 at 6 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Belarus, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Sweden, 8 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 26: vs. Belarus, airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Czech Republic, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 31 at 7 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Russia, 8 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 26: vs. Sweden; airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Russia, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network