Hextall, Hakstol will face tough decisions with prospects

2015-07-14 10.33.27

Ron Hextall's plan for the Flyers, especially with a wealth of prospects budding with potential, has its origins based on patience and remains rooted in patience.

If patience is a virtue, it may take a lot of self-will from Hextall and new coach Dave Hakstol to exercise such patience.

The Flyers prospects are already making it difficult to be patient.

Development camp just came to a close for some of the Flyers top prospects in the organization. Right away, you can see how bright the future is. But how far off in the distance is the future?

That's for Hextall and Hakstol to decide.

The camp was led by Kjell Samuelsson and John Riley, so Hakstol has yet to truly get his hands on these prospects and see their skills in drills and practices under his leadership. That will be the case in training camp.

Realistically, the difficult task of choosing patience or determining if a prospect is ready for the NHL doesn't involve the forwards.

Scott Laughton has already played 31 NHL games. Travis Konecny seems to be the next highest on the list of esteemed forward prospects, but he likely has more time in juniors ahead of him. Taylor Leier continues to impress and after a solid season with the Phantoms, he is certainly a candidate to make an appearance with the Flyers.

But it is the group of young defensemen that will gather the headlines. And most of them are close. Very close.

At the start of next season, even if none of the five top defensive prospects make the Flyers, three of them will be playing one step below in the AHL.

Sam Morin spent the previous four seasons with Rimouski in the QMJHL. He'll make the transition to the pros this season.

Shayne Gostisbehere got a taste of pro hockey last year by playing two games with the Flyers and five with the Phantoms before suffering a season-ending ACL injury. He might not make the team out of camp for that reason, but if he starts to perform as expected in the AHL, a call to the NHL could be on the way.

Robert Hagg spent all of last season with the Phantoms, so he will once again be trying to make the jump. The Flyers did not call on Hagg for one-game emergency call-ups during the season, which featured Phantoms teammates Oliver Lauridsen and Mark Alt. But Hagg has consistently been improving his game while waiting for that call. This would be Hagg's second full season in the AHL. He's probably exhibit A when you discuss patience among the development of Flyers prospects.

Travis Sanheim will show improvement for sure after blossoming into one of the stars of the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen. That said, he's still a ways away from joining the Flyers, meaning he'll go back to juniors.

And then there is the case for Ivan Provorov. The Flyers top draft pick this season certainly appears to have an NHL-ready game. If anything, it may be the timing that plays more of a factor into this decision.

With prospects like Provorov, who could be sent back to the WHL to play for the Brandon Wheat Kings for another season, the Flyers are given the opportunity to have a 10-game window to decide whether or not to retain Provorov at the professional level. The Flyers may decide to use that window, but they would be on the NHL's time, not the Flyers time. You have to wonder if Hextall would have liked a 10-game window for players like Provorov or Morin – when he was a first-year player – later in the season, rather than the team's first 10 games.

That said, even if Provorov and Sanheim, arguably the two best defensive prospects the team has, go back to juniors, three of the prospects can be used on the Flyers time. With Gostisbehere, Hagg and Morin all likely to join the Phantoms, there's a good chance one of these players will make the jump to the NHL within the next season.

It all depends on when the Flyers, Hextall and Hakstol think the time is right. And these prospects are determined to show that the time is now.

Kevin Durso is managing editor for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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