The Philadelphia Flyers are making a habit of turning prospects into the center of attention.
Last season, rookies Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier and Matt Read played gigantic roles in getting the Flyers into the playoffs and past the hated Penguins to the second round.
Only a year prior, unknown goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky wound up starting in net for the defending Eastern Conference champions, becoming a focal point of Flyers hockey for a tumultuous two seasons.
This season, Philadelphia’s depth on offense and defense makes it a bit harder for prospects to crack the starting lineup, especially those still playing in juniors, who would need to make the team in the first nine games of the season.
Nonetheless, Philadelphia prospects always possess the power to surprise. Here are five names to look out for in 2012-13.
The younger brother of Phil Kessel may have chosen to play defense, but according to Hockey’s Future, Blake didn’t let all of the offensive skills in the family pass him by.
Kessel models Washington’s Mike Green, capable of jumping into the play and putting pressure on opposing defenses.
With the team missing Matt Carle, while Kimmo Timonen begins to show his age, an offensive defenseman will have value for Philadelphia.
Of course, any contributions made by Blake will pale in comparison to those of his brother in Toronto. But this summer featured Toronto Schenn-ding Luke to play with Brayden, so another sibling connection would have fans in Toronto and Philly salivating.
Jason Akeson seems to be a natural to play on a team with Claude Giroux and Danny Briere, if for no other reason than his big offensive presence makes up for his small stature (5’10”, 190 lbs) like Giroux and Briere.
Akeson scored 14 goals and 55 points in his first season with the Adirondack Phantoms, putting him on the radar of a team that has been welcoming young scoring threats with open arms.
Assuming that Jakub Voracek re-signs with the Flyers, Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Matt Read will be ahead of Akeson on the depth chart at right wing.
Eric Wellwood and Zac Rinaldo will likely take the spot on the fourth line, but if the Flyers feel the need to bring an extra set of playmaking hands onto the roster, there is room for Akeson.
Don’t be surprised if Akeson is the go-to call-up when the Flyers offense suffers injuries or needs a shakeup, and don’t be surprised if Akeson makes a case to stay on the roster permanently when he gets the chance.
Jason Akeson might be Philly’s go-to guy during the season, if size becomes a concern for the Flyers' offense, don't be surprised if they turn to Tye McGinn.
The Flyers have some options at left wing in their bottom six in the form of Zac Rinaldo, Eric Wellwood and Ruslan Fedotenko, but McGinn, the younger brother of Colorado's Jamie McGinn, could bring some muscle to the lineup.
The absence of James van Riemsdyk leaves room for some shuffling on the left side.
Hockey's Future is not high on McGinn's offensive capabilities, but emphasizes his size and hockey smarts as McGinn's strengths.
With Philadelphia's offense still structured to be one of the best in the league, McGinn doesn't need to light the lamp to find himself on the ice in South Philly. Playing smart hockey at both ends of the ice will certainly suffice.
Brandon Manning is the only player on this list with NHL experience, and while he is moving quickly toward an NHL career, Philly’s depth at defense will pose an issue for Manning.
Players like Andreas Lilja, Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon are on the defensive depth chart with Manning, meaning that he will likely begin the season in the AHL and wait for his shot if injuries occur at the big league level.
Nonetheless, Manning impressed in both Philly and Adirondack in 2011-12, making it clear that, with Chris Pronger struggling to return to the game and Kimmo Timonen seeing his time in Philadelphia wind down, Manning should be a regular on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center sooner rather than later.
Goaltending in Philadelphia is, at best, complicated.
Starter Ilya Bryzgalov has a massive, unmovable contract, former backup Sergei Bobrovsky was traded in June, and Philly’s hero (and villain) from 2010 is now the team’s true backup.
However, by trading Bobrovsky and giving the backup job to a player who likely cannot function as a starter, the Flyers have little contingency plan if Bryzgalov falters.
Enter 6’7” Niko Hovinen. The Finnish goaltender is participating in camp this week, and like any goaltender in the Flyers system, he’s worth a second look.
Hovinen captured Philadelphia’s attention by combining his size with a surprisingly quick butterfly style, allowing him to cover more of the net than the average goaltender. His technique needs work, but you can never count out a netminder that Bryzgalov would have to describe as “humongous big.”