Flyers prospects Oliver Bonk, Denver Barkey continue journey together: 'Like brothers now'

VOORHEES, N.J. — If nothing else, they are two sensational hockey names — particularly when used in succession, as they often are.

Barkey and Bonk. Bonk and Barkey.

That’s Oliver Bonk, the No. 22 pick in the draft by the Philadelphia Flyers last year, and Denver Barkey, selected shortly after in the third round (No. 95).

Go ahead, say their names out loud. It’s fun.

Fans of the London Knights sure enjoyed saying — and seeing — them as they helped lead the Knights to an OHL championship and a Memorial Cup final. Bonk, a defenseman, keyed the back end and the power play with 24 goals and 43 points in 67 games, while Barkey, a center, led the Knights in scoring with 102 points (35 goals, 64 assists) in 64 games — tied for fourth in the league.

It was the 19-year-olds’ third season as teammates in London and the first in which they were both property of the Flyers.

“We’re like brothers now,” Barkey said this week, as the Flyers held their annual prospect development camp at their training facility.

Both could potentially be key contributors in a couple of years. It’s nearly inevitable that they will return to London next season before turning pro in 2025-26, but they’ve both opened some eyes in the Flyers’ front office since they were plucked in the draft last year.

Bonk remains the higher-end prospect, with decent size (6-foot-2, 180 pounds) and a coveted right-handed shot. His offense took a huge — and some might say surprising — leap this season. Much of that was because of his power-play success, as he led the OHL in power-play goals by defensemen (15) and finished second in power-play points (33). Playing in the bumper position — where he earned the nickname “Bumper Bonk” — even he admitted that sometimes it was relatively effortless to get on the scoresheet on a man advantage.

“It’s easy when you get a one-timer from five feet away,” Bonk said. “That helps.”

Whether Bonk has a future on the Flyers power play is to be determined, but that’s probably not something the NHL staff is focused on at the moment. In fact, when asked about Bonk, Flyers player development director Riley Armstrong mentioned other parts of Bonk’s game as well as his overall maturity that he’s seen grow from a year ago.

“I think his confidence really shows out here. He looks like he’s played pro hockey already the way he just handles himself in the locker room and out on the ice,” Armstrong said. “Throughout the course of the year, he never put a teammate in a bad spot when he’s breaking a puck out. … I think his confidence grew being on the power play and scoring a lot of goals in that area.”

Armstrong continued: “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. Definitely looking for big things from him coming into training camp this year.”

Bonk does seem to have a keen self-awareness, probably stemming from his growing up in an NHL family as the son of former NHL forward Radek Bonk. To Oliver, it’s hockey sense and on-ice IQ that he views as his foundation.



Flyers pick Oliver Bonk gets scouted by his dad, Radek

“The biggest part about me is smarts and using your IQ. Not the biggest, not the fastest, not the strongest. But I think I can use my head to outsmart guys and get better position,” Bonk said.

“The year in London helped a lot. You get more comfortable with your game, you get more comfortable with yourself. You get to try more stuff. You’re an older guy so the coaches have you on a longer leash. It’s good for the confidence.”

As for Barkey, he knows his biggest obstacle to eventually making it to the NHL is his size. He’s listed as 5-foot-9 and 155 pounds, and wants to “continue to get bigger and stronger” as the next few years go by.

Barkey’s competitiveness and drive, though, do not appear to be an issue.

After Barkey was a bit of a surprise addition to Canada’s world junior selection camp, he eventually missed out on making the team. Instead, teammate and 2023 Toronto Maple Leafs draft pick Easton Cowan was chosen.

The result was that for a brief stretch, Barkey was the go-to guy in London, while Cowan (and Bonk) both represented Canada on the biggest stage for under-20 hockey players. It was then, according to Armstrong, that Barkey really took off.

“At that time he realized he was now the guy, and all these other players wanted to play with him,” Armstrong said. “He actually took the biggest strides during that time. … I felt that’s kind of where he turned the corner, big time. He kind of put the team on his back, and (London finished) up in the top of the standings there, and had a really good playoff run.”

Barkey admitted he used that world juniors snub as motivation.

“To not make it was heartbreaking, and a tough couple days for me,” Barkey said. “It stung a bit. You’ve got to move on, and my goal was to prove them wrong and use that to fuel the fire. After I got cut there I kind of used it as motivation for the rest of the season to prove them wrong, and just continue to grow as a player and a person.”

Flyers general manager Daniel Briere has already said he expects both Bonk and Barkey to return to London after Flyers training camp. The club will remain very careful with its young players — both draft picks and players in the AHL — so as to not bring them up too early. That means the pair will get a chance to defend their championship with London and Barkey will get another shot at making the world junior team, almost certainly with Bonk there, too.

Where they go from there will be up to them, but they’ll at least have each other to lean on as the journey continues.

“It’s been cool to watch each other grow,” Barkey said, “and hopefully we stay together throughout the long run.”

(Photo of Oliver Bonk with Flyers development coach Nick Schultz courtesy Philadelphia Flyers)

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top