Before this week begins, it's time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers' prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.
In this week's report, we check in on a few Phantoms prospects with some insight from Lehigh Valley captain Colin McDonald, who was called up to the Flyers last Saturday.
Travis Sanheim, D, 21, 6-4/202, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
It took Sanheim a little while to fully adapt to the professional game, but he has consistently honed his two-way game at Lehigh Valley over the course of his first season. The 21-year-old's rookie season in the AHL finds him second among Phantoms defensemen in scoring with 33 points and goals, with 10, behind T.J. Brennan and third in assists with 23.
Last week, Sanheim picked up one assist in three games for the Phantoms, coming last Wednesday night in a 3-1 loss to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Sanheim, a rare blend of size, speed, and skill, flashed his tremendous vision and ability against the Sound Tigers, banking a stretch pass off the wall onto the stick blade of McDonald, who then ripped a shot past Bridgeport goalie and Penn State product Eamon McAdam. Before the Flyers' 3-0 win over the Devils on Saturday, McDonald sang high praise of Sanheim's progression this season.
"It's taken him some time to adjust and that's normal," McDonald told reporters after Saturday's morning skate at the Wells Fargo Center. "But the second half, he's really coming into his own. You can see the confidence he's playing with, skating with the puck, moving with the puck, controlling that power play, where he wasn't taking that initiative early on. He really is controlling that. It's certainly nice to see. He's got a great future."
As pointed out by ESPN.com's Corey Pronman, Sanheim has generated more shots from the blue line during March, finishing the month with 49 shots on target in 14 games. Last week, he was credited with just four shots on goal. On the season, he has 157 shots. When a fan asked Pronman on Twitter if Sanheim reminds him of Chris Pronger, the ESPN writer said, "I think Sanheim is a mix between the next Chris Pronger and Shea Weber."
Sam Morin, D, 21, 6-7/227, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Morin, who has spent most of this season paired with Sanheim but has since been moved onto a pair with Mark Alt, makes most of his noise off the stat sheet. His fights go viral among Flyers Twitter and his game is of the stay-at-home nature, but the 6-foot-7 blueliner does skate well for a player his size, something he works at vigilantly, McDonald said.
"I'm sure that's something people always tell him he needs to work on and he does," McDonald said. "He spends the extra time after practice. He works with the development coaches, the assistant coaches. He's doing everything he needs to to get a chance."
The 2013 first-round pick plays with a lot of snarl and nastiness. In mid-February, he was suspended for an unnecessary cross-check that injured Wilkes/Barre-Scranton's Garrett Wilson. He's already surpassed his penalty minute total from last season (118) through 68 games, with 120 this season. While McDonald's role with the Flyers is far different than his role in Lehigh Valley -- he'll be asked to provide energy from the fourth line with the orange and black -- the veteran described Morin as intensity player for the Phantoms with a lot of drive to make it as an NHL player, which some believe Morin will be a Flyer next season.
"He's just a high-energy guy," McDonald said of Morin. "He plays with a lot of emotion, a lot of energy. He'll stand up against anyone for anyone and I love that kid. Just wants to get better every day; he's just dying to make it and he will make it."
Scott Laughton, C, 22, 6-1/190, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
Flyers fans are no stranger to Laughton, a 2012 first-round pick with 109 games in the NHL already under his belt. It seems like Laughton has been around forever, but he's still a young player trying to find out where his game fits in the professional game.
If Laughton's role with the Phantoms is any indicator into how the Flyers now view him long-term, the 22-year-old could be being groomed for a third- or fourth-line role, which shouldn't come as much of a shock because he fits more in that spot than a top-six role.
Laughton has enjoyed a solid season with Lehigh Valley as he tries to regain his confidence, potting 16 goals and 33 points in 54 games. He leads the Phantoms with a plus-15 rating and has centered McDonald and usually either Taylor Leier or Cole Bardreau. He's currently on a five-game pointless streak. In three games last week, Laughton fired five shots on net and finished as a minus-1.
"Scott's been my centerman all year and he's been phenomenal," McDonald said. "He's just a solid, all-around player. This is my first time really playing with him and to see it in person, to see it on a nightly basis, to be able to talk with him in practice about the way we want to play, the way we want to do things, he's got a high hockey IQ."
Carter Hart, G, 6-1/181, Everett (WHL)
On the same night the Flyers were officially eliminated from playoff contention, Hart again reaffirmed why the future remains bright in Philadelphia with an astonishing performance in net for Everett, which dispatched Victoria, 3-2, in five overtimes -- the longest game in CHL playoff history -- to win its playoff series, 4-2. Hart stopped 64 shots in 151:36 against the Royals, allowing both goals in the second period. Think about that. From 3:56 left in the second period until the end of the game, Hart didn't allow another goal. That's over another full game's worth of minutes -- almost two full games. That's incredible. Hart was excellent -- as he's been all season long -- in the entire series. In six games, Hart has a 1.58 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
• Flyers developmental coach Kjell Samuelsson told Chuck Gormley last week that Phantoms defenseman Robert Hagg is "ready for the NHL."
• Sarnia forward Anthony Salinitri's season has come to an end, as the Sting were swept by the Erie Otters in the OHL playoffs. Salinitri had one assist and a minus-6 in four games.
• Connor Bunnaman's season, too, is over, as Kitchener lost its series, 4-1, to Owen Sound. Bunnaman, who was suspended for Game 1, had four goals and a minus-8 in three games.
• With Victoriaville being swept out of the playoffs by Chicoutimi, Pascal Laberge's season is over. Laberge scored two goals and was a minus-three in the four playoff games.
• Philippe Myers added two assists in Rouyn-Noranda's 6-5 triple-overtime win over Halifax in Game 5 on Friday night. Myers has six points in five games. Rouyn-Noranda can win its best-of-seven series with Halifax in Game 6 on Monday night.
• Saint John's swept Rimouski last week, winning, 5-2, on Tuesday and, 4-3, on Wednesday. Samuel Dove-McFalls added an assist in Tuesday's win. In four games, Dove-McFalls has one point, a plus-two rating and has won 61.2 percent of his faceoffs.
• Kelowna's Carsen Twarynski recorded an assist in the Rockets' 1-0 win over Kamloops in Game 4 last Wednesday. With Sunday's Game 6 win, Kelowna won the series, 4-2.
• Brynäs IF began its second-round playoff series on Sunday with a 4-3 win over Frolunda. Felix Sandstrom made his first start of the postseason, stopping 34 of 37 shots in the win.
• Oskar Lindblom registered a goal and assist in Brynäs IF's 6-0 Game 6 win over Linkoping last Wednesday. He was pointless in the 4-3 win in Game 1 vs. Frolunda Sunday.