General manager Ron Hextall says the IIHF World Junior Championships offer him more than a chance to see how some of the Flyers' top prospects perform on a huge international stage.
"For me, you get a lot out of it because you see the top players from other countries for a week. Even if it's just questions for your scouts down the road, there's a lot of education you get in a short period of time," Hextall said, explaining why he will attend the 10-country tournament, which runs from Saturday through Jan. 5 in Helsinki, Finland.
Hextall said it gives him an up-close opportunity to view potential draft picks, and form opinions on players who are with other NHL organizations but could be part of future trades.
"It's valuable information," he said.
The Flyers will have seven of their prospects competing: winger Travis Konecny and defenseman Travis Sanheim for defending champion Canada; defenseman Ivan Provorov and left winger Radel Fazleev for Russia; goalie Felix Sandstrom and forward Oskar Lindblom for Sweden; and forward David Kase for the Czech Republic.
"It's a good opportunity for the kids to see where their game is at," said Flyers scouting director Chris Pryor, whose organization has never had so many prospects competing in the tournament. "And it gives us a chance to see our guys in a situation playing against pretty good players."
"The stakes are high," Hextall said. "You're seeing kids at the pinnacle of their year, the highest competition they play all year, and the highest stakes."
Konecny, Provorov, and Sanheim are expected to contend for spots with the Flyers during training camp next year.
"It's a great experience for the kids," Hextall said of the tournament. "To play for Canada, you're not just playing for the jersey or the fans in one city. You're literally playing for the country. There's a lot of pressure on these kids, and if you can handle that, you can handle anything."
Hextall never played for Canada in the World Juniors.
"I didn't get picked," Hextall said. "Back then, it wasn't a big deal like it is now. Now the country shuts down for this."
Canada opens the tournament against the United States on Saturday at 1 p.m. (Eastern Standard Time). Russia meets the Czech Republic on Saturday at 7 a.m. in a game that will include three Flyers prospects.
Auston Matthews, expected to be the top selection in the 2016 draft, headlines Team USA. Playing against men, the 18-year-old forward is tearing up the Swiss league with 14 goals and 25 points in 22 games for Zurich.