ALLENTOWN, Pa. - A rookie game is far from a preseason game.
However, there's always eyes on a game.
"A lot of these kids are coming in, they want to make an impression and games are the best way to evaluate players," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Tuesday.
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"It's a great opportunity to make a first impression, particularly with our coaching staff."
Plenty of Flyers prospects did positive things Wednesday night at PPL Center, home of the AHL affiliate Phantoms, in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Islanders' prospects.
The Flyers received goals from German Rubtsov (two), David Kase and Sean Comrie. Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Rubtsov were denied in the skills competition.
Let's get into some observations:
• During the summer, Fletcher said the team was "bullish" on Philippe Myers' upside and why wouldn't they be?
When you see Myers up close, he looks like an adult, not a 22-year-old prospect. The defenseman is built like an NHLer now at 6-foot-5, 218 pounds, and moves like one, too.
In the first period, he completely deked a defender, took advantage of space and found Rubtsov for a one-timer.
Right after Rubtsov buried the shot, he pointed at Myers as if to say that was you.
It would be surprising if he's not in the Oct. 4 season-opening lineup for the Flyers, who reworked their defense this offseason in large part because of Myers (see story). Everything is improved and then he does what he did Wednesday, which is an added bonus.
• One way to describe Rubtsov is steady. He might not jump off the page in a specific area but he does so many things well, which is why he could slide into a bottom-six role and fit in.
He scored a goal at even strength and on the power play. His offense is an underrated part of his game and a focus of his entering training camp (see story).
• Farabee was excellent. Not only is he offensively dynamic, but coaches have raved about his motor and it was evident Wednesday.
His puck pursuit stands out and that's where is wiriness benefits him because he skates hard and stays low to outrace the opposition. He worked his butt off in overtime and nearly won the game but nailed iron on a shot.
It's understandable why his current size (6-1/175 pounds) might be a concern at the NHL level over an 82-game season. There are times when he gets pushed off the puck around the boards, then there are moments when he outsmarts a defender with his quickness to avoid a hit or turnover (see story).
The Flyers definitely have options for their third-line vacancy (see story).
• The linemates of Farabee, Frost and Isaac Ratcliffe, were also impressive.
Both tallied assists on Comrie's first period goal.
Frost is a treat to watch with the puck on his stick and will make his case for the Flyers during the exhibition games (see story). Ratcliffe, Frost and Farabee created chances and showed what they can do with space on the power play.
Ratcliffe also has a nasty side to him, which should endear him to Flyers fans.
Isaac Ratcliffe is much more calm with a stinky glove in his face than I would be in the same situation.#Flyers heading to power play as a result. pic.twitter.com/EuryH5p8Oz— Tony Androckitis (@TonyAndrock) September 12, 2019
If all three start the 2019-20 season in the AHL, traveling to Allentown for Phantoms games will be worth the trip.
• The Flyers' decision to play Mikhail Vorobyev on the penalty kill but not the first-unit power play was notable.
The front office and coaching staff likely want to see his effort in that type of setting. Vorobyev was the preseason darling last year and won the Flyers' third-line center job out of camp. He then quickly lost it just 11 games into the regular season.
The vision and size (6-2/215) are there, but can he consistently play the hard minutes? Bottom-six players need to make an impact when they're not scoring and the Flyers will evaluate that with Vorobyev (and many other roster hopefuls) throughout the preseason.
• Felix Sandstrom and Kirill Ustimenko split the goaltending duties, with Sandstrom playing a little more than half the game.
He performed well with 24 saves and one goal allowed.
Goaltender Felix Sandstrom makes his 23rd save of the game on a chance in front of the @NHLFlyers net during the second period. pic.twitter.com/7GyVzKdaSH— LehighValleyPhantoms (@LVPhantoms) September 12, 2019
The 2015 first-round pick will see playing time behind Alex Lyon with the Phantoms. If the Flyers endure health issues in net, Sandstrom could see a ton of playing time during his first AHL season.
Ustimenko, a 2017 third-round pick turning pro this season, had a rough outing.
• Carsen Twarynski and Connor Bunnaman, two Phantoms to not overlook, did not play as the Flyers wanted to offer some of the non-pro prospects an opportunity.
• A quick note on a defenseman: Keep tabs on Mason Millman this season. The 2019 fourth-round pick should make big strides with the OHL's Saginaw Spirit and both Fletcher and assistant general manager Brent Flahr have spoken highly about the 18-year-old.
• Gritty was in attendance and got away with a penalty ... because of course he did.
• The Flyers hold media day Thursday and Day 1 of training camp Friday (see details).
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