Amidst a dark 2020-21 season for the Philadelphia Flyers, one very bright spot did appear. In just his second pro season, forward Joel Farabee emerged as one of the team’s most consistent offensive weapons. His 20 goals led the team and his terrific skating made him effective on both the power play and the penalty kill.
It was a giant leap forward for the 14th-overall pick from 2018, who still has one year to play on his entry-level contract. After being drafted out of the U.S. National Team Development Program, Farabee was named the top rookie in NCAA hockey as he put up 36 points in 37 games with Boston University in 2018-19. He turned pro at season’s end and became an NHL regular almost immediately, logging 52 games with the Flyers and just five with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in his rookie season.
No rookie became a Flyers regular last season, but the team did use 11 players who qualified as rookies for one game or more and made use of the late part of the season as an audition period.
Here are the three players from that group who could have a Farabee-like impact next season. And unlike Farabee, these three will all still technically be rookies, who can challenge for the Calder Trophy.
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Drafted in the second round, two years before Farabee, Allison completed four years at Western Michigan University before signing his entry-level contract with the Flyers after his senior year was cut short by the pandemic in March of 2020.
Allison started his first pro season on the shelf following ankle surgery, which kept him sidelined until March. From there, he spent 10 games in Lehigh Valley, where he put up nine points. He earned his call-up to the Flyers in mid-April.
Once he arrived in Philadelphia, Allison immediately showed fans his high-energy playing style and his impressive nose for the net. In his 14-game audition, he put up four goals and seven points, including a game-winner.
Allison turns 24 in October. He remains waiver exempt until he plays another 40 NHL games. If he comes into training camp healthy and showing the same determination we saw last season, Alain Vigneault might have a tough time leaving him off the opening-night roster.
It’s not unusual for centers like Frost to take longer to develop than wingers like Farabee, since their position is more physically demanding. Drafted in the first round, one year before Farabee, Frost put up some huge numbers in junior, with a pair of 100-plus point seasons with the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.
Like Farabee, he turned pro ahead of the 2019-20 season. But he only saw two relatively brief call-ups to the big club in his first year. He put up seven points in 20 games with the Flyers to go along with 29 points in 41 games with Lehigh Valley, where he was selected to play in the AHL All-Star Game.
Hopes were high at the beginning of last season. But Frost was scratched for the first two games of the season before drawing in after Sean Couturier was injured. Then, he suffered an injury of his own in just his second game, leading to season-ending shoulder surgery.
In late March, general manager Chuck Fletcher told the media that Frost’s recovery was going well and that he was hoping to be back on the ice before the season ended. If that timeline holds, he should have a full offseason to train and continue to get stronger before it’s time to take another crack at a full-time job with the big club next fall.
Working against him: Frost will be waiver exempt for all of next season. It will be easy to assign him to the minors. He turned 22 in May and, like Farabee and Allison, he’s heading into the final season of his entry-level contract.
He won’t turn 21 until next January. But after the Flyers allowed one more goal than the Buffalo Sabres and the San Jose Sharks to finish last in the league in that category in 2020-21, the team definitely needs a shakeup on defense. Cam York could help provide that.
Drafted in the first round in 2019, York had a strong sophomore season on a stacked University of Michigan Team. He also captained Team USA to a gold medal at the World Junior Championship. Though Covid stole both his opportunities to play in the Frozen Four, he turned pro at the end of March. In Lehigh Valley, he put up five points in eight games. Then he was called up to the Flyers for the last three games of the season.
He didn’t manage any points. But Vigneault quickly showed that he trusted York to be much more than an offensive specialist. His average ice time was 19:47 over his three-game audition.
New-school blueliner Adam Fox, listed at 5’11” and 181 pounds, just won the Norris Trophy at age 23. York is built similarly, listed at 5’11” and 185. He’s a better skater than Fox, and is known for his smart, cerebral play.
York’s NTDP and World Junior teammates dominated the first round of the 2019 draft. He has already watched players like Cole Caufield and Spencer Knight take star turns at the NHL level.
Don’t be surprised if York ends up as a key part of Philadelphia’s blue-line overhaul next season.