PHILADELPHIA, PA. – The Philadelphia Flyers went into this weekend’s NHL Entry draft in dire need of providing the organization with depth at all positions. No one position was off limits to the team that despite its Stanley Cup fun lacks blue chip talent in their farm system ravaged by trades in recent years, but especially by the Chris Pronger trade.
The most glaring need of course was for a blue chip goaltender. To show you just how much the team values the position the Flyers drafted none of the weekend. Despite the rumors that a tentative agreement is in place for the rights to negotiate with Evgeni Nabokov, the Flyers lack a future number one goalie. Some published reports suggested that the team went after the Kings’ Jonathan Bernier, but it would have taken Jeff Carter to do so.
As they did last season, the Flyers only drafted six players, two defensemen, two left wingers, one right winger, and one center. Let’s see who they drafted and what their future prospects are in a Flyers uniform.
Scott Laughton – 6’ 177, Shoots left
Center (Lewiston – Oshawa, OHL
First Round – 20th overall
If the Flyers were looking for an eventual replacement for Mike Richards Laughton is their guy. Two of his favorite players were Richards and Shane Doan. He is considered a shutdown center with an offensive upside scoring 21 goals and 32 assists for the Generals this past season. He has already spent two years in juniors so he will either go back to for one more season or start in the AHL with the Adirondack Phantoms.
If the Flyers make a move for Bobby Ryan it will bump up his timetable to make the big club sooner rather than later. He was a bit of a reach at 20 and the team could have had other more highly touted defenseman which would have filled a more immediate need, especially considering the Flyers passed on Bruins prospect Dougie Hamilton last season.
Analysis: A typical Flyers pick considering Philadelphia builds their teams down the middle of the ice. If Brayden Schenn is part of any deal for Ryan you can bet Laughton will make a strong push to make the Flyers roster out of training camp but might not be ready for the rigors of an 82 game season until he fills out a little more physically.
Anthony Stolarz – 6’ 5” 200, Shoots left
Goalie (Corpus Cristi – NAHL)
Second Round – 45th overall
The Flyers could have had all but one goaltender when they had their first round pick at 20. Instead, and once again in typical Flyers fashion, they passed on the top rated goalies to take a risk at 45. His size is his greatest asset but will be judged and compared to the goaltenders the Flyers could have had such as Malcolm Subban and Oscar Dansk. Still, he will be watched closely when he attends the University of Nebraska-Omaha which is now a part of the WCHA.
Analysis: General Manager Holmgren will be called on the carpet if Stolarz doesn’t pan out, especially since he passed on other higher rated prospects. Ilya Bryzgalov is the current Flyers starting goaltender but his future is up in the air if he has another bad season. Still, Stolarz is going to a quality hockey program and will be their most likely for the next two seasons before hitting the
Shayne Gostisbehre – 5’ 11” 160, Shoots left
Defenseman (Union College – ECAC)
Third Round – 78th overall
Gostisbehre was part of a Union team that finished the season ranked third in the nation and finished the regular season as the ECAC (Eastern College Athletic Conference) champions. The defensive core not only topped the ECAC in goals allowed but was the top defense (1.83 GAA) in the nation. Union won in the first two rounds of the 2012 Frozen Four tournament but lost to Ferris State in the final four.
Gostisbehre is build more along the lines of Kimmo Timonen so it’s no surprise that a team like the Flyers selected him. He will most likely stay at Union for one more season before turning pro where he should also begin his pro career at the AHL level.
Analysis: He will turn 20 in April so expect him in a Flyers uniform in 2-3 years and could become the eventual replacement for the Timonen role in the lineup.
Fredric Larsson – 6’ 3” 172, Shoots left
Fourth Round – 111th overall
He has spent one season of hockey in Sweden with Brynas JR. his size makes him attractive and will need some time to develop. His size makes him tempting to be rushed through the system but don’t expect him to challenge for a roster spot for at least the next 3 seasons until he comes overseas.
Analysis: Because of the impending retirement of Chris Pronger either this season or next adding a big defenseman with size is a must into the Flyers lineup, Still, don’t expect Larsson to be one of them until he can show he can play in North American somewhere.
Taylor Leier – 5’ 10” 174, Shoots left
Left Winger (Portland Winterhawks – WHL)
Fourth Round – 117th overall
Leier scored 13 goals and 24 assists for Portland and added 5 goals and 2 assists in the WHL playoffs. His size is more of a Danny Briere type of player but doesn’t have his skills. In time that might be the case, but if he wants to crack the Flyers lineup one day adding more of a scoring touch is a must.
Analysis: He will be in Portland for at least one more season before turning pro and will most likely start in the ECHL.
Reece Willcox – 6’ 3” 184, Shoots right
Defenseman (Kamloops – WHL)
Fifth Round – 141th overall
Like Larrson, size is main reason why he was drafted by the Flyers, but just as important is that he is a right handed shot which is something the Flyers badly need from the blueline. He will be attending another quality hockey program next season when he attends another member of the ECAC, Cornell University.
The Big Red was ranked 10 overall and will once again make a push to the national championship. Cornell defeated Michigan in the first round of the 2012 Frozen Four tournament but lost to Ferris State in the second round.
Analysis: He could become a darkhorse in making the Flyers roster in a couple of years. His time at Cornell will surely benefit him \
and his size and shooting style makes him one to watch.
Valeri Vasiliev – 6’ 1” 203, Shoots left
Defenseman (Kamloops – WHL)
Seventh Round – 201th overall
Played in only 18 games for Spartek JR’s with one goal and 24 PIM’s Philadelphia is not known for taking Russian players so the pick might have been a throwaway pick.
Analysis: No current data on him makes him tough to evaluate.
Overall Analysis: While the draft could have gone better for the Flyers they did address their blueline by taking four of them with their seven picks. Still, in a defense laden draft one has to wonder why they passed on a d-man in the first round with both Pronger and Timonen on the cusp of retirement within the next year or two and with very few blue chip prospects in the system. The same goes for taking a higher rated goaltender higher as well.
Overall I can’t give the Flyers an A for a grade, so a solid B will have to do.