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May 07, 2015

Flyers’ players, prospects still playing competitive hockey outside of Stanley Cup playoffs

Slightly off the radar, the Canadian junior playoffs and world championships are raging on elsewhere

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For a long time, TNT’s slogan for the NBA playoffs has been, “Win or Go Home.” Understandably, hockey doesn’t advertise its postseason tournament in those same terms because you don’t necessarily go home after being eliminated. In Sidney Crosby’s case, you fly to Europe and line up on the same power play unit as your bitter rival:

It would’ve been funnier if the two players excitedly embraced each other after that goal. The Flyers went through a trying season, which we’ve already spilled too much ink over. Many players in their system are still playing meaningful games, though, whether at the IIHF World Championship (NHL players) or the Canadian Hockey League Playoffs (prospects). Let’s do a quick run-through of how they’re all faring, starting with the older guys.

2015 IIHF World Championship

Canada
Flyers on roster: Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn

Surprise, surprise. The Canadians sit atop Group A with a 4-0 record. Giroux is centering the second line with two Tyler’s, Buffalo’s Ennis and Dallas’ Seguin, flanking him on the wings. Through four games, the Flyers captain has a goal, three assists, and one funny moment in a postgame interview. We only had him for a year in town, but I miss Jaromir’s Jagr’s (YAGS!) hijinks:

If there actually were anything to gain from the experience of playing for the national team, Couturier would be my pick as the Flyer with the best chance to do so. After getting buried in the defensive zone and saddled with ineffective teammates last season, the 22 year old is playing on the fourth line with Colorado’s Ryan O’Reilly and Los Angeles’ Tyler Toffoli. In Canada’s last two games, wins over the Czech Republic and Sweden respectively, Coots scored two pretty important goals. Take that, Berube! OK, not really. The one against the Swedes came on an excellent deflection:

Schenn has been a healthy scratch, but hey, at least he’s healthy!

Czech Republic
Flyers on roster: Jake Voracek

The host country is only 1-0-1-1 (don’t ask) through three games, and their captain has three assists and a goal so far in the tournament. If you ask me, it seems like the Czechs could use some LeadershipTM too! Voracek was the only Czech shooter to score in a shootout loss to Sweden (*insert bad joke about Flyers shootouts here*). Here’s the lone goal, which came on the power play. Voracek scored to break a 2-2 deadlock with Latvia from his office, his beloved right circle:

Austria
Flyers on roster: Michael Raffl

The Austrians only have two points to show from their first three games, which isn’t all that surprising because Raffl is the lone NHL player on the roster. On a positive note, the 26 year old gets the chance to play with his older brother Thomas, who captains the team. Here’s a nice goal that Raffl scored against Team USA in an exhibition game right before the tourney started:

Switzerland
Flyers on roster: Mark Streit

The Swiss have done well so far, collecting eight points in their four games and not losing in regulation yet. Streit has nine shots on goal but hasn’t found twine yet. He’s also a -2 for the tournament, even though that stat doesn’t really matter. I just didn’t have anything else of substance to write. Even a lame “Swiss Cheese” joke didn’t fit!

Denmark
Flyers on roster: Oliver Lauridsen

Also playing with a brother, Phantoms defenseman Lauridsen has one assist in four games, and yeah, let’s move on.

Canadian Hockey League Playoffs

Quebec Major Junior Hockey League

To steal a term from the Phillies beat writers, Sam Morin’s performance in Game 1 of the President’s Cup Final was “Woof City.” Top-seeded Rimouski Océanic only lost one game in its first three series of the QMJHL playoffs, but it appears they dropped the first game of the finals to the Quebec Remparts in major part because of the 6-foot-7 Flyers defenseman prospect. Morin’s team lost by a score of 7-4 — You can see the highlights here, in all of their French glory — and big number 55 looks to be on the ice for a bunch of those Quebec goals, often trailing the play.

I would say that Morin has to tighten up his game if Rimouski wants to advance to the Memorial Cup, but because Quebec is the host team, they already have the automatic berth. That means both teams will advance regardless of the outcome. Rimouski obviously still wants to win the QMJHL championship, though, and Connor McDavid’s Erie Otters could be waiting for them in the Memorial Cup.

The team that Morin’s squad swept (“bilayer” in the native tongue) in the semis was Val-d'Or Foreurs. They’re led offensively by last year’s Flyers second-round pick Nicolas Aube-Kubel. The winger finished the season 20th in the QMJHL scoring race with 38 goals and 80 points, really coming on strong in the second half. According to Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz, Aube-Kubel’s fun ended against the big man’s team:

In the President's Cup semifinals against the Rimouski Oceanic, Aube-Kubel's entire line was utterly shut down by Flyers 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin and co. in a resounding four-game sweep for Rimouski. Aube Kubel's best game was the elimination game, as he at least managed to generate three shots on goal and create a couple of scoring opportunities.

Western Hockey League

For the beginners (and trust me, I’m one of them), there are three leagues in the Canadian major junior hockey system. We already touched on the QMJHL. If you move a little bit west from Quebec, there’s the Ontario Hockey League. McDavid and Dylan Strome’s Erie team are currently playing in the OHL finals. Head all the way to other side of the country and you’ll find the Western Hockey League.

Within the Flyers system, Travis Sanheim of the Calgary Hitmen is the big fish over there. The team’s first-round pick (17th overall) last year, he led all WHL defensemen in scoring with 65 points in 67 games. Here are a bunch of Sanheim highlights from this year, which include a lot of wristers from the point that find the back of the net off the lefty’s stick. The general consensus is that he exceeded expectations this year:

Calgary made it all the way to the league’s semifinal round, but they eventually lost in five games to the Brandon Wheat Kings. Radel Fazleev, a Russian center that also played for Calgary, had 14 total points in 17 playoff games.

Tyrell Goulbourne, a 21-year-old (that’s pretty old for juniors) former third-round pick with the reputation of a fighter, is still alive with the Kelowna Rockets. Unfortunately, he likely won’t play against Brandon in the finals due to a calf injury. On the season, he had 45 points in 62 games. 

Follow Rich on Twitter: @rich_hofmann

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