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March 31, 2023

Flyers prospect check: Tyson Foerster, Ronnie Attard, and learning to win with the Phantoms

The names who are eventually going to help the Flyers get where they want to be have to do so with the Phantoms first.

Tyson Foerster got his call-up to the Flyers and looked like he belonged. 

The mid-March schedule had him thrown right into the fire – against playoff contenders in Carolina, Pittsburgh, and Vegas, while on a Philadelphia squad that was starved for any kind of offense – but he held his own. 

He kept up with the pace, created plays, and after a few games, started netting some goals too. 

The 21-year-old winger, and 23rd overall draft pick from the 2020 draft, looked like a clear-cut NHLer and someone who was going to be a pivotal part of the Flyers' lineup next season and beyond. 

But that's next season. We're still in the current one, and for head coach John Tortorella, there was never any doubt of where Foerster would finish the season. 

The NHL reps are important, but the Flyers aren't going anywhere this year. The Phantoms down in the AHL, however? They're making a playoff push, and with a number of other notable prospects on the minor-league roster, there's something valuable to be gained over in Lehigh Valley. They have the chance to start learning how to win. 

"It’s too important," Tortorella said of Foerster eventually going back to the Phantoms following the Flyers' 6-3 win over Florida on March 21. "It’s such a great process if they do win some rounds down there, for him to go there and go through that. That’s very important in his development."

And in the development of the others too – Emil Andrae, who just made his way over from Sweden, Ronnie Attard, Elliot Desnoyers, Olle Lycksell, Bobby Brink, and so on. 

If these are the names that are going to help eventually get the Flyers to where they want to be, they'll have to do it with the Phantoms first, and in the final stretch of the AHL season, he's where things stand so far:

• Lehigh Valley played three straight through the weekend, taking two of them – a 4-2 win over Wilkes-Barre/Scranton on Friday, a 5-1 loss to Hartford on Saturday, and then a 3-2 victory over Bridgeport on Sunday. At 35-26-3-3 for 76 points, the Phantoms hold the fifth spot in the AHL's Atlantic Division, and with five games left, need a magic number of at least seven more points to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup Playoffs. 

• Foerster picked up right where he left off in his loan back to the AHL, racking up five points in four games, including an equalizing goal in Friday night's win against the WBS Penguins and two primary assists in Sunday's victory against the Bridgeport Islanders. 

• The second of those assists on Sunday led to Olle Lycksell's power-play goal, which gave the Phantoms a 2-0 lead in the second period. Lycksell, who had a limited stint with the Flyers earlier this season, has continued to hold up well in Lehigh Valley during his first season in North America, now having put up 11 goals and 41 points through 48 AHL games. The 23-year-old Swedish winger will likely be competing for an NHL roster spot in camp by the time next season rolls around. 

• Also making a smooth transition over from Sweden is 21-year-old defenseman Emil Andrae, who has so far put up a point in four of five games since joining the Phantoms on a tryout basis. In Saturday's loss to Hartford, he scored his first and Lehigh Valley's lone goal of the day, on a play that exhibited the smooth skating, hockey sense, and hard shot that has helped him ascend up the ranks as one of the Flyers' top blueline prospects. 

Andrae signed his entry-level contract with the Flyers last week, a three-year deal that will kick in starting next season. 

• Since being returned to the Phantoms on March 12, fellow top forward prospect Elliott Desnoyers went a bit cold on the scoresheet, registering just a goal and an assist in his last eight games.

• Bobby Brink, who missed a huge chunk of the season recovering from offseason hip surgery, has been continuing to work his way back in Lehigh Valley. He has 10 goals and 13 assists in 36 games on the season, which included a two-goal performance (late insurance and an empty-netter) in the win over Wilkes-Barre Scranton. Signed out of the University of Denver late last season, the 21-year-old winger will likely be one of the names on next season's roster bubble. 

He also had this nasty shootout move against Hershey last week: 

• Also one of the college prospects signed toward the end of last year, defenseman Ronnie Attard didn't make the Flyers out of camp but has been plenty steady for the Phantoms with 11 goals, 19 assists (30 points) and a plus-9 rating through 64 games. And since Lehigh Valley won't be playing again until Friday night, he'll be getting a call-up and look with the Flyers over at least the next couple of games against St. Louis (Tuesday) and then Dallas (Saturday). 

Staying in school

The Flyers took Cutter Gauthier with the fifth overall pick in the draft last summer knowing he would at least play a freshman season for Boston College in the NCAA before considering a jump to the NHL. 

The commonly held belief for a while was that, once the Eagles' season was over, he would join the Flyers and get some late games in to set the stage for a full pro season in 2023-24. But following another losing season, Chuck Fletcher's firing as general manager, and the Flyers finally coming to grips with the fact that they need to rebuild, both parties seem to be pumping the brakes on an NHL jump, at least for now. 

Per Sporsnet's Elliotte Friedman last week:

Gauthier put up 16 goals and 37 points through 32 games for Boston College this season and did so with plenty of highlight reel plays in the process. 

The 19-year-old, at 6-foot-2, has size, a strong shot, and some good skating that is projected to hold up well in the NHL, but with the Flyers clearly needing time now, there's no harm in affording him a little extra in college rather than burning a year off his entry-level contract right away as the organization is only beginning to piece everything together again. 

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