In recent years the Philadelphia Flyers have shown the ability to find talent in the later rounds of the draft, especially in leagues outside of North America. While Oskar Lindblom, a fifth round draft selection in 2014 who has been a fancy stats darling since his debut, and Mikhail Vorobyev, a fourth round draft selection in 2015 lead the way, David Kase may be the next to make the proverbial jump.
Kase, who had 23 points in 44 games with Mora IK of the SHL last season, began his AHL career by scoring two goals and assisting on two others in his first four games, but it goes beyond point production with him. His speed through the neutral zone makes him a tough opponent for opposing defensemen to stop—and of course that leads to drawing penalties. Five in eight games to be exact, tying him for the early season team lead in minors drawn. So while that point-per-game pace has since slowed down, his play sure hasn’t.
He has been a healthy scratch in three of the team’s eleven games, but it has nothing to do with how he’s played, rather it’s the fact that the Phantoms have a plethora of forwards, including four rookies that they’ve been rotating in and out of the lineup. Well, except for German Rubtsov, the lone rookie skater to play in every game for the Phantoms thus far. Off-season shoulder surgery could be another contributing factor to him being eased into the lineup this season, and recently he’s seen an increase in his minutes.
Following Nicolas Aube-Kubel’s recall to Philadelphia, Scott Gordon was tasked with constructing a new top line. He had his left wing, Greg Carey, and center, Phil Varone, but his top line right wing through the first eight games of the season was now absent. The first to get the opportunity was Cole Bardreau, but that lasted just about two periods before Connor Bunnaman took over. Neither trio showed promise, as Varone and Carey went on the finish the game with a 5-on-5 CF% below 50, -5.12% rel and -8.52% rel respectively, and conceded a goal in their time together. So, going into Friday night’s game five days later, Gordon turned to the forward who was the team’s most effective player at 5-on-5 in their previous game—Kase.
Kase was promoted to the top line alongside Phil Varone and Greg Carey and the payoff was immediate. While Varone had gone for a line change and was not on the ice for the goal, it was Carey’s shot that Kase redirected into the net for his third goal of the season, and the Phantoms’ first goal of the night. While the score sheet shows all zeroes, his strong play would carry over into Saturday’s game where he contributed to a couple of chances on the power play and capped his night off with a diving block while the goaltender was pulled, just seconds prior to Varone’s game-tying goal.
When asked about the decision to bump Kase up to the Varone line, Gordon highlighted a specific element to Kase’s game that made him feel that they were a trio that could mesh well together—his speed.
“[with Aube-Kubel going up] you look at your roster, try to find out how you’re going to balance your lines and who’s going to fit well with who, and I think that Greg and Phil, in the time that I’ve been with them, they’ve seemed to excel when they have some speed on their line—David brings that.”
After two poor periods of play from the just about the whole team on Saturday, he was taken off of the line and played out the rest of the third period with Rubtsov and Vorobyev. While that trio seems unlikely to move forward, as it would push either Russian center to wing, the team’s performance in both games may have spelled the end of Kase on the Varone line for the time being. However, Gordon did acknowledge that the situation with the top line is still very fluid. “You know, it could be a short term thing, long term thing, we haven’t really thought too much about it, [beyond] this weekend,” he continued.
Whether Kase starts the team’s next game on the top line again is yet to be seen, but the fact that he’s already found himself there this early into his rookie season bodes well for future opportunities.