Flyers analysis

‘Receptive' and ‘resilient' Bonk backing up Flyers' pick

The Flyers drafted the defenseman at 22nd overall in 2023 after they selected Michkov at No. 7

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Oliver Bonk was one of the top prospects at this summer's Flyers development camp.

He was coming off a breakout season and an OHL title with London. He played for Team Canada at the 2024 IIHF World Junior Championship.

He could have treated the camp like he had all the answers.

But he didn't. In fact, he was the opposite.

"You know what I like about him — he's just a great kid, he just loves to be here, he's receptive," Flyers player development coach Samuel Morin said last Friday. "He reminds me a little bit of me, just like loves to be there and wants to ask a question every rep. That goes a long way. When you're young, you need to ask questions because you want to get better, so that's how you do it."

Morin's description matches Bonk's game. The 19-year-old is an intelligent, righty-shot defenseman who took significant strides last season after the Flyers used their second 2023 first-round pick on him. The Flyers liked Bonk so much that they passed on Gabe Perreault, a 132-point U.S. forward who is now at Boston College.

So far, the 6-foot-2, 179-pound Bonk has justified the Flyers' decision. He was a do-it-all guy for the Knights in 2023-24, putting up 67 points over 60 regular-season games. His 24 goals were second most among all OHL defensemen and his 43 assists were 10th.

"I think just the biggest part about me is smarts and using your IQ," Bonk said last Tuesday. "Not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest, but I think I can always use my head to outsmart guys and get better position. I think overall, just a smart, cerebral D that goes two ways."

He thrived in the bumper spot on the power play, leading all OHL defensemen with 15 man advantage goals. On the penalty kill, he was first among all defensemen in the league with five shorthanded assists.

Bonk added 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in 18 playoffs games. In the regular season and postseason combined, he had a plus-44 rating.

"Throughout the course of the year, he never put a teammate in a bad spot when he was breaking a puck out," Flyers director of player development Riley Armstrong said last Tuesday. "Then I think throughout the course of the year, 'Bumper Bonk' got put into play there and I think his confidence kind of grew being on the power play and scoring a lot of goals in that area. I just believe he knows who he is as a player. He's so smart, covers for teammates well, breaks pucks out well and he's rewarded with the offensive opportunity at the end of the day."

At the 2024 world juniors tournament, Bonk suffered a tough break in the quarterfinals when Czechia eliminated Canada with a goal that deflected off of his stick. But right as he returned to London, Bonk ripped off a prolific seven-game point streak in which he recorded eight goals and 11 assists.

"He's a pretty resilient kid," Flyers assistant director of player development Nick Schultz said last Wednesday. "Unfortunate plays, it's not anything you can control, unlucky things are going to happen. A good thing and a big thing for us is how he responds and I think he responded all season long."

Bonk is expected to be back with the Knights for his fourth and final season of junior hockey. He'll get a second shot at the world juniors with Team Canada. It'll be another important year for Bonk to develop his quickness, an area that is pivotal to defending at the pro level.

"That'll be the biggest thing is to continue to work on his speed, his foot speed, getting up ice," Schultz said. "The way the Flyers play here, their D are active, they're angling, checking forward, surfing. So we're going to work on that with these young D and getting them not retreating as much."

When Flyers training camp rolls around in September, Bonk won't have any problem with wanting to get better.

"You've got to come in and believe you're going to make the team," Bonk said. "It's probable that I'll go back. They didn't tell me for sure you're going back, they didn't tell me you're staying here, but I think you've just got to put in your head that you want to stay here, you've got to not lose any battles, you've got to out-battle every single guy and do your best. Because if you already think you're going back, you're probably going to end up back there."

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