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Winners and Losers from 2024 Flyers Development Camp

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(Photo: AP)

VOORHEES, N.J. — After getting their feet wet in the annual development camp, the young Philadelphia Flyers prospects can rest. For now, anyway.

In just over two months, on Sept. 18, training camp will open up, and some Flyers prospects will have the opportunity to fight for an NHL roster spot. Others will continue their junior hockey and NCAA careers until the spring and potentially get some time in the pro leagues after that.

Over the last week, a group of 37 Flyers prospects and development camp invitees flexed and improved their skills before putting it all together in Saturday’s scrimmage finale. Some players took full advantage of the opportunity, and others did not.

Let’s talk about what that means for the Flyers in greater detail.

Loser: Rasmus Ristolainen

Since his arrival in Philadelphia, Rasmus Ristolainen has often been the scapegoat for the Flyers’ failures. That comes with the size and length of his contract in addition to what Chuck Fletcher traded to Buffalo to acquire him.

Ristolainen actually had a great season for the Flyers in 2023-24 in a sheltered role before going down with a triceps injury. However, as rebuilders, the Flyers can’t afford to pay $5.1 million for a third-pairing defender, and they won’t have to for much longer.

London defenseman Oliver Bonk built off an impressive season of his own and showed well at the Flyers’ annual development camp, and though he did close to nothing in Team Briere’s heavily lopsided loss to Team Jones in the scrimmage finale, Bonk only improved his stock.

The 19-year-old defenseman is not the biggest, fastest, strongest, or most skilled blueliner in the Philadelphia system, but Bonk’s hockey IQ continues to take him where he needs to be. Bonk went into this camp with the mindset of making the NHL roster this year, and quite honestly, he’ll be living out that dream before long.

And because Ristolainen is signed for three more seasons, it’ll probably come at his expense.

Winners: Denver Barkey and Alex Bump

The Flyers don’t have many left-shot left wings on their roster; there’s only Joel Farabee, Noah Cates, and Nick Deslauriers.

Deslauriers has an established role on the roster and probably won’t be replaced in that regard, but Cates is a restricted free agent at the end of the season and Farabee is signed for four more years at a $5 million cap hit.

Those notes on the latter two players will prove problematic for different reasons. How much money should Cates receive on his contract? Is Farabee worth the $5 million as a middle-six forward who doesn’t kill penalties?

Denver Barkey and Alex Bump both impressed last week with their offensive play and puck skills, and Barkey’s size didn’t cause him any trouble in the scrimmage. As long as the London forward continues to bulk up and improve his leg strength and explosiveness, he should have no problems performing at the next level for the Flyers.

Bump still has at least one more season of college hockey left with the University of Western Michigan, but Assistant General Manager Brent Flahr sees the NHL in Bump’s near future. Flahr isn’t saying that just to blow smoke, either. Bump looked good in camp and produced well in college.

The Flyers have some tough decisions to make in the future, and one of these two left wings could end up pushing a player out of Philadelphia sooner than later.

Winners: Lehigh Valley Phantoms

For the fans clamoring about how the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, haven’t been any good and haven’t developed any players, this one is for you.

It’s no secret that the Phantoms were below average last season and barely snuck into the Calder Cup playoffs. The good news is that J.R. Avon, who had an awful 2023-24 campaign offensively, looked sharp in camp. 2022 sixth-round pick Hunter McDonald also had a remarkable week at camp.

If those two can live up to the hype, the Phantoms should be much improved in 2024-25.

There was also Massimo Rizzo who, despite still nursing an injury, will be joining the fold in Allentown, too.

Defenseman Ethan Samson, who appeared in 63 AHL games last season, had some nice moments in the scrimmage, and he should also be looking to nail down a permanent spot in Lehigh Valley this season.

Lastly, goalies Matteo Drobac and Arthur Smith both turned in strong performances rotating in and out as the shot-stoppers for Team Jones on Saturday night. Should Alexei Kolosov not return or should the Flyers need an injury replacement at some point, these two looked more than capable of holding down the fort, at least at the AHL level.

Loser: Carter Sotheran

It seems that the general public are bigger fans of Carter Sotheran than the Flyers are.

Nick Schultz, the Flyers’ Assistant Director of Player Development, wants to see more from the 2023 fifth-round pick, who turns 20 next summer. With Bonk and Samson having impressive weeks at camp, there just doesn’t seem to be a clear NHL path available to Sotheran at the moment. Factor in that the Flyers allocated another high draft pick–a second-round pick, to be exact–to Spencer Gill, and the competition at right defense got even tighter.

Even 2024 seventh-round pick Austin Moline has a chance here, and he was decidedly noticeable in the scrimmage. Sotheran, the Portland Winterhawks’ ace, will need to have a strong D+2 campaign at both ends of the ice to get himself back on the Flyers’ radar.

Honorable Mention: Heikki Ruohonen

Dishonorable Mentions: Matteo Mann, Ty Murchison

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