It’s been a grim summer for the Philadelphia Flyers. But strong performances from two of the team’s prospects at the World Junior Championship served up some hope to the franchise’s beleaguered fanbase.
Tyson Foerster picked up a gold medal as a top-six forward with Team Canada, while Sweden’s captain Emil Andrae earned bronze and was named to the media all-star team.
Healthy Tyson Foerster Makes An Impact
Injuries have dogged Foerster since the Flyers selected him 23rd overall in the 2020 draft. With his draft-plus-one season in the Ontario Hockey League shelved due to Covid-19, Foerster was in and out of the lineup for the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms during the 2020-21 season, appearing in 24 games. But he was productive when he did play, logging 10 goals and seven assists.
Last season, he returned to Lehigh Valley. Foerster had three points in nine games before dislocating his shoulder in early November. That injury put him on the shelf for four-and-a-half months. It also kept him out of Canada’s original selection camp for World Juniors, last December.
Once he got healthy, Foerster was returned to his junior team, the Barrie Colts, to finish out his season. His time back in Barrie was a success: he posted six goals and 11 points in 13 regular-season games, then added four points in six games in the postseason.
He also got back onto Hockey Canada’s radar. And when coach Dave Cameron set his lineup for this month’s tournament in Edmonton, he’d played himself into a second-line spot on right wing, with high-end prospects Kent Johnson (5th overall, 2021) and Logan Stankoven (47th overall, 2021).
That second line was the most consistent for the Canadians, who went undefeated on their march to gold. Foerster finished with three goals and six points in seven games, and his confidence seemed to grow as the tournament went on. His goals came in three consecutive games — rounding out the round robin against Czechia and Finland, and in the quarterfinal against Switzerland. He saw quality power-play time on a deep, talented roster. And he averaged 14:59 of ice time per game, including 18:02 in the gold-medal game.
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Taking The Next Step
Now 20, Foerster will officially make the jump to the pros this fall.
At the Flyers’ development camp in July, senior advisor to the general manager for player development Mike O’Connell was impressed by how the sharp scorer had developed physically since he completed his rehab.
“Totally different,” O’Connell said. “It’s a pro body now.
“You can tell he’s gained some weight. He looks stronger, he’s leaned out for me. He was never heavy, but … I see a huge difference in his physique and the way he carries himself. He’s eating properly. It’s very noticeable because I haven’t seen him in 3 or 4 months.”
As part of his rehab, Foerster spent a month working exclusively on his skating while he was unable to hold a stick. That had been an area of weakness for him, and he’s hoping the improvement will help him to push for an NHL roster spot in training camp.
“I think for sure you are always coming here and trying to make the big squad,” Foerster said in July. “That’s what I’m trying to do.”
“He’s going to get a look,” said special assistant to the general manager Danny Briere to Adam Kimelman of NHL.com. “We’re more concerned about him playing a lot of hockey games at the moment. If you put him in our lineup, is that the best thing for him, playing 12-16 minutes a night on the Flyers? Or would he get more out of playing every night, 18-20 minutes in Lehigh Valley? That’s the thing that we’re going to be very careful with.”
Emil Andrae Plays Big
Defenseman Emil Andrae is listed at just 5’9″. But his playing style and his impact pack a much bigger punch.
As the captain of Team Sweden, Andrae was the most impactful skater on his squad — with a nod to netminder Jesper Wallstedt, who was named best goaltender in the tournament by both the media and the IIHF Directorate.
Andrae led his team in goals (four), points (eight), plus-minus (plus-6) and total minutes played (154:47). His average ice time of 22:06 came in just below 6’4″ stud Simon Edvinsson (22:27), but it was Andrae who had to help fill the void when Edvinsson missed Sweden’s last round-robin game due to food poisoning.
It was also Andrae who spurred the Swedes into the medal round, breaking open a 1-1 tie with Latvia with his third-period game-winning goal.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) August 17, 2022
“I think he’s overall a real well-rounded player because he’s good on the offensive side, he can play the offensive side, but at the same time, he’s not afraid of playing the physical game and I believe he can be a good shutdown guy, too,” Latvian assistant coach Karlis Zirnis told Jordan Hall of NBC Sports Philadelphia.
Zirnis drew a comparison to a former Flyer defenseman who, at 5’10”, suited up for 1,108 career NHL games and retired after winning a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015.
“The biggest thing you notice right away is (Andrae) is just a competitor, like he’s not shy of the physical game and he plays with a lot of grit,” Zirnis told Hall. “If I have to compare to anybody in the NHL, I would say Kimmo Timonen, also played for the Flyers. That would be my comparison. Good with the hands, can see the ice very well, but not afraid to play the physical game.”
Taking The Next Step
Following his star turn on the world stage, Andrae will be returning to HV-71 in Jonkoping, Sweden. But he’ll be facing a tougher level of competition this fall. After winning the championship in the second-tier Allsvenskan last season, HV-71 has been promoted to Sweden’s top league this year.
Andrae had no trouble finding the scoresheet last season. He had nine goals and 33 points in 41 regular-season games. Then, he added another 11 points in 10 playoff games. If he can produces at that level again in the SHL while maintaining his competitive playing style, he could earn himself a ticket to training camp in Philly for the 2023-24 season.
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