The Philadelphia Flyers have never had a defensemen in team history has ever won a Norris Trophy. Only former Flyer Paul Coffey won the Norris, but he won the trophy as a member of the Edmonton Oilers. Coffey played in only 94 games for the Flyers.
Things are looking up in terms of overall depth at the defensive position. The position is easily the teams strongest in terms of overall quality prospects. It has been a long time coming for the Flyers to draft quality defensive prospects. What was once the worst positon in terms of depth is now the Flyers greatest strength.
Here is a look at what we consider to be the top five defensive prospects in the Flyers system (All stats are as of February 28, 2010).
1) Kevin Marshall – (AHL)
Last season Marshall was ranked fourth on our list. Since then Ryan Parent has been promoted off our list, Luca Sbisa was traded to Anaheim, and Michael Ratchuk was traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Marshall, taken in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft (second round), is a solid hitter who has shown a bit of an offensive side as well.
After playing in the QMJHL where he was a star defenseman, so far Marshall is adjusting to playing in the AHL where the players are older, stronger, and more physical. If his reputation continues to grow he could become one of the best hitters in the Flyers organization.
Outlook – As we mentioned last season when we did our rankings we said at the time to not look for Marshall to be ranked fourth on our list next season. Well, next season is here and he is our top rated defenseman but it is in part due to some defections. Still, Marshall is deserving of the ranking and could become a staple in the Flyers lineup for years to come.
2) Denis Bodrov – (AHL)
It took a while but the Flyers finally have Bodrov in the states.
So far, Bordov has only played in eight games for the Adirondack Phantoms but you can bet the Flyers will take a close look at him between now and the end of the season and into the summer camps. Keeping him here will be the trick. He has been touted to have NHL potential and he will be the most scrutinized prospect in their organization.
Outlook – The Flyers love his toughness. If he can continue to improve on his skating he just might make the big club next season. As of now he is still a dark horse to make the team.
3) Marc-Andre Bourdon – (AHL)
Bourdon was a solid defenseman in the QMJHL along with Marshall and is also having a hard time adjusting to a new league and way of playing. Still, Bourdon has an offensive upside and needs time to develop. If he can get his offensive game back on track he could become the top defensive prospect on the team.
Outlook – Patience is key when evaluating prospects and with Bourdon that is no different. He won’t be fast tracked to the NHL so look for him to be in the AHL for at least another two years.
4) Joonas Lehtivuori – (AHL)
The 6 foot 185 pound native of Finland can play a physical game and move the puck well. He was drafted in 2006 and has turned heads with his solid play. If Bourdon or Marshall fall in the rankings next season it will be because of Lehtivuori.
Outlook – Very promising. Now as much of a dark horse as you might think. Summer camp and training camp will prove interesting to see just how much the Flyers love his skill. If so don’t be surprised if he’s a first call-up next season.
5) Simon Bertilsson – (Sweden)
A 2009 draftee, Bertilsson is someone who has a ton of talent. He played on team Sweden’s top defensive unit with Victor Hedman at last year’s World Juniors. He is definitely one to keep your eye on in the coming years.
Outlook – Very promising. In fact we wouldn’t be a shock if he becomes a staple on the Flyers for years to come.