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Flyers Deep with Junior Prospects Off to Strong Starts

By Chuck LaGrossa, Sports Talk Philly staff writer

There hasn't been much in terms of Flyers hockey this week, aside from the team's 3-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday night in return from a four-day break.

With that said, let's highlight a few Flyers prospects in their respected junior leagues off to good starts this season.

To start off lets talk about the hot start to Cooper Marody's season in Ann Arbor for the University of Michigan. The young junior forward leads Michigan with nine assists and 12 points.

This is the start I'm sure some of the Flyers' brass wanted to see, in part because of Marody's ineligibility last year due to academics. If he continues to produce like this, an entry-level deal with the Flyers could certainly be in the works soon enough.

Another prospect in the Flyers deep pool is highly-touted Russian center German Rubstov.

Rubstov had a weird start to the season. He could not play at the start of the QMJHL season due to a paperwork issue. That has since passed but as soon as he returned from Russia ready to play, he was traded from Chicoutimi to Acadie-Bathurst, where Sylvain Couturier -- father of Flyers center Sean Couturier -- is the general manager.

It did not take long for Rubstov to gel with his new teammates, as he recorded a goal and an assist in a 6-3 win over Cape Breton.

Rubstov is one of the most promising and dynamic prospects the Flyers have. He has been praised for his puck handling and playmaking and is strong on the puck. He has also been regarded as a shut-down defender. Rubtsov has the makings of a good two- way center.

Rubtsov had a strong camp in Philadelphia this year, and if he keeps trending upward in his development, he can expect to see some top minutes as a professional soon enough.

The next player we are going to highlight is Nolan Patrick's fellow 2017 first-round draft choice, Morgan Frost.

Frost was not drafted on size, but on a phenomenal ability to make plays and his great vision. Frost has a unique ability to know where other players are going to be on the ice before the play even happens. That's a rare gift which attracted Ron Hextall and his management team to trade Brayden Schenn in order to acquire the 27th overall pick from the St. Louis Blues and select him.

Frost has some attributes that remind me of Paul Kariya, the attitude that he is a "littler player playing like a big player." Frost has started off the season lighting up the stat sheet, with 22 points in 18 games with the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds of the OHL. 

Frost needs a little more time to grow into his body, but you cannot help but to rave over the potential of this kid. If he comes anywhere close to his ceiling, Frost will join the host of other prospects the Flyers have that could make the offense lethal on a level we haven't seen since the days of Eric Lindros and the Legion of Doom.

Lastly, let's take a look at Flyers' 2017 third-round pick, goaltender Kirill Ustimenko, of the Dynamo St. Petersburg in the MHL -- Russia's top junior hockey league. 

Ustimenko is an interesting prospect because of how hidden he is and how much flashes of potential he shows. In 20 games played, Ustimenko posted a 1.71 GAA and a .921 save percentage.

That's not too shabby for an 18-year-old goaltender under the radar in Russia's top junior league.

Reports on him are that he is a raw but solid goaltender who with maturity, and with more playing time could become one of the best prospects in the deep and talented Flyers farm system. He possesses the swift and fluid post-to-post speed and ability of a tiny goaltender but in a much larger frame. He flashes a quick glove hand and pretty decent stick ability in both playing the puck and manning the crease.

According to eliteprospects.com, Ustimenko has a chance to be a real diamond in the rough find for Hextall and the Flyers. Some experts and scouts have rated his skills to be comparable to Andrei Vasilevskiy of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Based on how Vasilevskiy's season is going, if Ustimenko turns out to be anything close that, it's a huge win for the Flyers.

With all that being said, the Flyers yet again show that they have one of the more deeper and talented prospect pools of any team in the NHL. There will be bumps in the road in a long season. But for now, the Flyers and fans will be watching to see the journey of these players, which will hopefully culminate in playing for the Orange and Black.

That's something all fans can get excited about, especially with the signs of promise and potential being shown now.

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