The Flyers entered the 2017-18 season with six notable young players on defense in the system.
Two were well established at the NHL already in their young careers. There was no question where Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov would be starting the season.
Two more had gotten a taste of the NHL at the end of the previous season. Both Sam Morin and Robert Hagg were clearly on the radar in training camp.
Two more were in camp for a long time, with one making the opening night roster. Travis Sanheim, the team’s 2014 first-round pick, had earned a spot on the roster at the start of the season. Phil Myers, an undrafted free-agent signing, got a long look but ultimately went back to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
Myers is sometimes the forgotten prospect on a blue line that now has five players with NHL experience, simply because he is marinating in the AHL at the moment. But his time is coming soon, and when it does, his potential could make him one of the Flyers top defensemen.
Right now, he is leading the way for the Phantoms, albeit in less than ideal circumstances, but his success in the Calder Cup Playoffs has him closing in on making the next step to the NHL.
The Phantoms were already without Sanheim for the game and Morin suffered an injury late in the first period of the eight-period game. Myers finished the marathon game with 66 minutes of ice time and essentially never stumbled.
Sanheim was out of the entire series against Charlotte following the injury in Game 1, but has since returned to practice and is certainly looking hopeful to play alongside Myers as his defensive partner. Morin’s season is over after a knee surgery.
That put Myers at center stage among the Flyers young defensive prospects still playing and he embraced the challenge. In addition to another sound game defensively in Game 5, Myers scored his second goal of the playoffs.
Myers isn’t going to light up the scoreboard -- he had just five goals and 21 points in 50 games this season. That said, much like Provorov, his all-around skill set has him poised to succeed in the NHL.
Myers has great awareness and is a tremendous skater. His stride is so fluid. His decisions with the puck are strong. His responsibility and awareness in his own zone is excellent.
Simply put, this might just be an undrafted gem the Flyers have.
Myers starred with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in the QMJHL for three seasons, turning heads with a 45-point season that resulted in a Memorial Cup appearance in 2015-16. Myers was back in the spotlight again as one of the top defensemen on Team Canada at the World Junior Championships in 2017 before a concussion from a vicious hit sidelined him for the remainder of the tournament and a big chunk of the rest of the regular season.
The current season, now entering the Eastern Conference Final for the Phantoms, is Myers first as a pro and he’s certainly making the most of it.
There was a belief that Myers could very well make the jump from juniors to the NHL, but as the preseason progressed, Myers started to become more noticeable for his mistakes against tougher competition. A trip to the minors became necessary.
That said, in embracing the No. 1 role with the Phantoms of late, Myers is certain to get another extended look at training camp this season. Whether he makes it or not out of camp, he’s on the radar next season for sure, just like Sanheim was last season and Gostisbehere was three seasons ago.
It’s hard to believe that there may be better things to come from the Flyers young defensive group that has already had a good deal of success, but Myers may just be the icing on the cake that helps put the group over the top. The more he plays at the AHL level, the more you see a player nearing his NHL debut.