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Mikhail Vorobyev Has Potential to Be Solid Role Player for Flyers

By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer 

Throughout the past few seasons, Mikhail Vorobyev is quickly becoming a player to remember and making quite the name for himself.

The 21-year-old Russian center saw his first year of action in pro hockey when he played for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms last season, appearing in 58 games while netting 29 points, nine goals and 20 assists. Prior to the start of his pro career, Vorobyev has put in a magnificent amount of work in the Russian leagues.

In the MHL, Vorobyov scored a career 46 points, 14 goals and 32 assists, in 64 games. He also scored five goals and nine assists for 14 points in 72 games in the KHL.

Sure, the offensive numbers don't jump off the page, but the Russian leagues are premier leagues where Vorobyev was playing against men much older, stronger and more experienced that the Flyers prospect. He has plenty of work to do if he wants to crack the lineup for the Flyers, but with another year of training camp and preseason approaching within the next month, he may have what it takes.

In his first year in the Phantoms system, Vorobyev received time on the penalty kill in particular, and looked the part of a bottom-six forward. Vorobyev played tough on the PK, with a tenacity to his game, and made things very disruptive as one of the team's top penalty-killing forwards. His overall defensive game has come a long way in his developmental years and seeing that carry over to the AHL was encouraging.

Another reason that Vorobyev is so intriguing is because of his daring shot and his ability to perhaps fill in the third-line center role that was previously filled by Valtteri Filppula, who was not re-signed by the Flyers and signed with the New York Islanders as a free agent this offseason.

Imagine a third line that featured Vorobyev at center with Oskar Lindblom and Wayne Simmonds on the wing? That would be quite the line, and an incredible amount of depth for the Flyers.

Despite trade rumors this offseason, Simmonds is going to enter the 2018-19 season as a Flyer, and would most likely fit into the third line with the Flyers adding James van Riemsdyk to bolster the top six that includes Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Travis Konecny, Jake Voracek and Nolan Patrick.

In the World Junior Championships in 2017, Vorobyev led all forwards with 10 assists. He didn't score a goal in the tournament, but the 10 total points ranked third in the tournament. There is an offensive prowess to his game, even if defensive play is the focus.

"Vorobyev popped at the world juniors when he’s playing with his peers," GM Ron Hextall said during the Flyers development camp in 2017. "Our guys really liked him his draft year. We got him in the fourth round probably because he was in Russia. He was hidden a little bit."

"If you want to continue development,” Vorobyev said upon making the jump to play in North America, "this is a good opportunity to get better. In Russia, I think I reached up. That’s why I’m switching to North America to get better than I already am."

The Flyers have recently embraced the addition of Russian players in the system. Ivan Provorov was one of the team's first-round selections in 2015, the same year that Vorobyev was drafted in the fourth round. German Rubtsov was their first-round pick in 2016. The team also has Russian Radel Fazleev playing with the Phantoms. Maksim Sushko, though from Belarus, speak Russian and has also been an aid in the language barrier Vorobyev faces.

With the Flyers system having a lot of centers in place, Vorobyev has plenty of resources, both on the ice and off, to be able to reach the NHL and become a strong center in hockey's premier league as a member of the Orange and Black.

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