Scouting the four Flyers prospects playing at this month’s World Juniors
Emil Andrae (Sweden), Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers (Canada), and Brian Zanetti (Switzerland) will be participating in the rescheduled tournament that begins Tuesday in Edmonton.
Missing hockey during these even steamier-than-usual dog days of summer? Well, you’re in luck.
The return of the NHL may still be two months away, but for those looking for their hockey fix, the rescheduled 2022 Men’s World Junior Ice Hockey Championship begins Tuesday and will run through Aug. 20. The annual international tournament, which features the best under-20 players in the world, is traditionally held around Christmas but was disrupted and later halted altogether after a series of COVID-19 outbreaks among the competing teams last December.
This month’s rescheduled tournament in Edmonton will feature 10 nations -- Russia was disqualified due to the invasion of Ukraine and replaced by Latvia -- and provide an opportunity for fans to get an early look at some of the top prospects in hockey on a major stage. For Flyers fans, this means a glimpse at four players who could be key to the team’s future, including three we ranked among the team’s top 10 prospects.
Here’s what you need to know about Emil Andrae (Sweden), Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers (Canada), and Brian Zanetti (Switzerland), who will all be participating in the rescheduled tournament beginning this week:
Emil Andrae, D, Sweden
Andrae has played exclusively in Sweden, so this year’s World Juniors will give Flyers fans a closer look at the defenseman, who will serve as captain.
Andrae may be undersized at 5-foot-9, 176 pounds, but the 2020 second-round pick brings a lot of attractive attributes to the table when you think of the modern NHL defenseman. He is a smooth skater and an excellent puck mover who thinks the game one step ahead. FloHockey analyst and prospect expert Chris Peters praised his “ferocity” for a player of his size. Meanwhile, Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr called him “a really intelligent player on both sides of the puck” when speaking with The Inquirer in December.
The 20-year-old Andrae is fresh off a career season in Sweden with HV71, scoring 12 goals and tallying 44 points in 51 games (including playoffs) and helping the team earn promotion to Sweden’s top league.
A natural leader, he will be appearing in his second World Juniors and will be a key player for Sweden, which has designs on a medal in Edmonton.
Tyson Foerster, RW, Canada
No one will be happier that the World Juniors were rescheduled than Foerster, who would have missed the previous iteration with a shoulder injury.
Foerster recently appeared at Flyers development camp, where he looked noticeably bigger and said that the extended time out actually provided him an opportunity to work on his skating — long the biggest knock against him as a prospect. The World Juniors will provide the first opportunity to see if there has been improvement in that regard. If so, there’s a real chance he could be a player who sees action this season with the Flyers.
Blessed with a lethal shot and with a reputation as a pure goal scorer, Foerster, 20, should be primed to have a big tournament as he figures to play a top-six role on what is by far the most talented team in the tournament. In Team Canada practices leading up to the tournament, the 2020 first-round pick has played on the second line alongside Kent Johnson (the fifth overall pick in 2021) and Logan Stankoven, a 2021 second-rounder.
Two seasons ago, after an impressive spell with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, Foerster seemed to be on the fast track to the NHL. But after a mostly lost season and shoulder surgery, it will be interesting to gauge where he’s at development-wise ahead of NHL training camp.
Elliot Desnoyers, C, Canada
Maybe the biggest sign of Desnoyers’ continued development is the fact that he is on this roster in the first place as a former fifth-round pick.
A breakout 2021-22 season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League saw him score 42 goals and collect 88 points in 61 games. His 1.44 points per game ranked 14th in the league, not bad for a player primarily known for his defensive play and work away from the puck.
With Team Canada, defending is what Desnoyers will be mostly asked to do. Also capable of playing wing, he is expected to center the team’s fourth line, where he will be tasked with getting in on the forecheck and neutralizing opposing lines. This would seem a perfect role for a player who models his game after Selke winners Sean Couturier and Patrice Bergeron (Boston).
The 20-year-old, who will make the jump to professional hockey this season with the Phantoms, might not have the highest ceiling as a prospect but likely has a future in the NHL because of his responsible all-around game.
Desnoyers likely won’t be put in too many positions to put up points this month, but watch for his competitiveness and defensive work hounding opponents. Team Canada is the favorite to win gold and Desnoyers’ checking role will be an important one in the latter stages of the tournament.
Brian Zanetti, D, Switzerland
Switzerland is not expected to contend for a medal, but Flyers fans should be excited to watch Zanetti.
The 19-year-old defenseman impressed during his first Flyers training camp last season and did fairly well adjusting to North America in his first season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League.
While still a project, Zanetti is a good defender and at 6-foot-2 has the height and long stick you look for in a defenseman. While he still needs to get stronger and put on weight at just 183 pounds, Zanetti moves really well for his size and can deliver an outlet pass. Flahr was also pleasantly surprised by the “jam” in his game and said, “He’s a guy that we expect to get better and better.”
Zanetti, a fourth-round pick in 2021, is expected to play key minutes for Switzerland and is sure to be tested against some of the better teams and better players in this tournament.