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Home-grown players Joel Farabee, Cam York, and Tyson Foerster give the Flyers hope | On the Fly

The Flyers need their draft picks to blossom before they can even think of getting to Tampa Bay's level.

Flyers  prospect Tyson Foerster (52), a big right winger, went after the puck in an intrasquad game on Jan. 10.
Flyers prospect Tyson Foerster (52), a big right winger, went after the puck in an intrasquad game on Jan. 10.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Good morning, Flyers fans. If you are watching the Stanley Cup playoffs, you probably know that finalists Tampa Bay and Montreal were built differently. The defending-champion Lightning are loaded with players they drafted, while the Canadiens have relied more on trades.

Ten of the 21 Tampa players who have played in this year’s playoffs were drafted by the Lightning. Montreal, on the other hand, leans heavily on 12 players it acquired via trades.

It should also be mentioned that the quality of the Lightning’s draft selections is eye-opening.

The Lightning drafted game-changing players Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos and all-world goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the first round. They also stole Nikita Kucherov in the second round; Brayden Point, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn in the third round; Central Jersey’s Ross Colton and Mathieu Joseph in the fourth round; and Ondrej Palat in the seventh round.

Teams can’t afford to swing and miss in the early rounds and expect to make it far in future playoff rounds. The Lightning not only have connected, but they also have hit grand slams — and uncovered gems later in the draft.

As for the Flyers, the jury is still out on some recent players selected in the first round, such as German Rubtsov in 2016 and Nolan Patrick in 2017. The good news is that their last three No. 1 picks could turn into dominating players: Joel Farabee, Cam York, and Tyson Foerster.

Farabee, a left winger, was picked 14th overall in 2018, and he has the third-most goals scored (28) in that draft class, behind only Brady Tkachuk (60) and Andrei Svechnikov (59), players chosen No. 4 and No. 2, respectively.

York is only 20, but after two stellar seasons at the University of Michigan and impressive short stints with the Phantoms and Flyers last season, he has a good chance to crack Philadelphia’s defense in 2021-22. He was chosen 14th overall in the 2019 draft.

Foerster was selected 23rd overall last year and, based on what he did last season, he would be chosen a lot higher if there was a draft redo. Only four players have reached the NHL so far from the 2020 draft, including the Rangers’ Alexis Lafreniere and Ottawa’s Tim Stutzle, who were regulars last season and had 12 goals apiece.

Foerster, a 19-year-old right winger, hasn’t reached the NHL yet, but he made a name for himself in the AHL by collecting 10 goals in 24 games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season.

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Impressive debut

If this was a normal season, Foerster would have played in the Ontario Hockey League and probably would have been dominant.

But the OHL season was wiped out by the pandemic, and underage players such as Foerster were given a chance to play in the AHL, where he didn’t look out of place while facing mostly older, more-seasoned players.

Foerster, who missed a month because he suffered a small fracture in his right shinbone in the Feb. 6 opener, made the most of his unexpected opportunity. He was the Phantoms’ No. 2 scorer despite being limited to 24 games.

“I think I proved myself that I can play at that level,” he said the other day. “I know there’s another step to get to the NHL, but I think I proved myself.”

Unless the AHL allows underage player to remain in its league next season, Foerster will head back to the OHL.

“If I do go back to the ‘O,’ I have to have the right mindset,” said Foerster, whose hard shot has been compared to (gulp) Alex Ovechkin’s. “I can’t think it’s going to be too easy. I have to play every game like I did in the AHL. I have to keep grinding, and hopefully I can put up numbers” wherever he plays.

Realistically, the 6-foot-2, 194-pound Foerster, who has recovered from separating his collarbone late in the season, won’t be in the NHL for a couple years. By then, the Flyers hope to have a draft-heavy roster like this year’s Lightning. But if they are ever to reach Tampa’s level, they need some of their high draft picks — such as Farabee, York, Foerster, Carter Hart, Patrick, Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny — to be more than good players.

They need several of them to turn into stars.

Things to know

  1. With Seattle, Dave Hakstol gets a chance to prove he wasn’t the problem with the Flyers, Mike Sielski writes.

  2. I caught up with Cam York, the 20-year-old defenseman who will battle for a roster spot at camp.

  3. Provorov needs a reliable partner on the Flyers’ top defensive pairing. A look at some of the top candidates.

  4. The Flyers and Penguins unite; they urge Congress to honor Willie O’Ree, the NHL’s first Black player.

  5. Tampa whips Montreal, 5-1, in Game 1 of the Final, giving Joe Biden the early advantage in his bet with Justin Trudeau.

Joining MacLeish?

I’ve always thought the late, great Rick MacLeish was one of the most underrated players of his generation, a borderline Hall of Famer. Besides his flashy numbers (349 goals, 759 points in 846 games) in the regular season, MacLeish stepped up in the playoffs.

Tampa’s Kucherov could become the sixth player in the post-expansion era (since 1967-68) to lead the NHL in points in consecutive playoffs.

Yes, MacLeish is one of the five, leading the league in 1974 and 1975. The others: Wayne Gretzky (three times, 1983-85, and again in 1987 and 1988); Guy Lafleur (three times, 1977-79); Mario Lemieux (1991 and 1992); and Phil Esposito (1969 and 1970). That’s pretty good company.

Bobby Clarke once told me MacLeish was “the most talented player” on the Flyers’ powerhouse teams in the 1970s.

Enough said.

Important dates

Wednesday: Montreal at Tampa Bay in Game 2 of the Final, 8 p.m. on NBCSN.

Friday: Tampa Bay at Montreal in Game 3, 8 p.m. on NBC.

Monday: Tampa Bay at Montreal, Game 4, 8 p.m. on NBC.

July 17: Deadline for clubs to submit protection lists for expansion draft, 5 p.m.

July 21: Seattle expansion draft, 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

July 23: NHL draft, Round 1 at 8 p.m. on ESPN2.

July 24: NHL draft, Rounds 2-7, 11 a.m. on the NHL Network.

July 28: Free-agent signings permitted, noon.

From the mailbag

Question: I know we are going after a top D-man, hopefully Seth Jones, but what are the chances we go after a big-time goal scorer, and are we gonna see some drastic changes to this team? — Brandon Shuey (@BrandonShuey10) via Twitter

Answer: Thanks for the question, Brandon. They better make some drastic changes or they will lose a bigger portion of a disillusioned fan base. Adding Jones or Buffalo center Jack Eichel in blockbuster deals would shake the Flyers to the core and, as we know, they need a lot of shaking.

But the reality is that, in a flat-cap era, it’s extra difficult making one mega-trade, let alone two.

So if the Flyers can’t land a Jones or an Eichel, here’s my Plan B: Sign a solid defensive defenseman such as Adam Larsson to play on the top pairing. That would save some money and enable them to go after UFA winger Brandon Saad, 28, a terrific all-around player who is a two-time Stanley Cup champion and who would give the Flyers some much-needed leadership. A hard-nosed player who goes to the net with urgency, the 6-1, 206-pound Saad can play either wing and would help the power play and penalty kill.

Send questions by email or on Twitter (@broadstbull), and they could be answered in a future edition.