The Philadelphia Flyers NHL Draft: Past, Present and Future
By Dustin Leed (@D_LEED)
The Philadelphia Flyers (12-14-1) currently sit in 11th place in the Eastern Conference standings with 25 points and currently have a 14.2% chance of making the playoffs.
And if Twitter is any indication, it’s never too early to start looking ahead to the 2013 NHL Draft in New Jersey.
But first, let’s take a look a the past.
There’s no doubting the Flyers up and down track record at drafts — some hits, some misses.
Below are the stats for the Flyers first, second and third round draft picks since the 2000 draft. Please note the totals are through the end of last season. The totals are not up to date as they do not include this year.
As you’ll see, the comparison between success with forwards and defensemen isn’t even in the same ballpark. And let’s not even bring up goaltending.
The Flyers are one of the better teams in the NHL at drafting forwards while they’re one of the worst at drafting and developing defensemen.
Entering this season, the group of Williams, Sharp, Carter, Richards, Downie, Giroux, Nodl, van Riemsdyk and Couturier have combined for over 3,300 NHL games. Ultimately, that’s what you want. That’s what makes NHL teams successful. Your homegrown picks, contributing and playing in NHL games.
The Flyers defense: They’ve only had seven players that were picked in the first, second or third round since 2000 appear in NHL games. They are: Woywitka, Pitkanen, Picard, Bartulis, Sbisa, Bourdon and Marshall, who’ve combined to play 1,360. (Pitkanen played 227 of 513 games as a Flyer and Picard played 72 of 253 games with Philadelphia).
Seems like the Flyers shy away from picking defensemen, and when they do, the team doesn’t develop them properly and they end up leaving town one way or another.
Because of their failed attempts, it’s been noted, including here, there’s a need for a young — specifically mobile — defenseman on the Flyers’ blueline. But the need doesn’t stop there. Moving forward, there doesn’t seem to be anyone waiting in the wings, slated to crack the Flyers top-6 unit. The Flyers are without any significant defensive prospects, but it’s gotten to the point where it seems like the Flyers almost like it that way.
They currently have three defensemen (Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn and Andrej Meszaros) on their roster who were first round picks by other teams and acquired via trades. Another defenseman who was an unrestricted free agent signing out of college (Erik Gustafsson) and another (Nick Grossmann) who was acquired for a couple draft picks. Kimmo Timonen, whose rights were acquired on June 18, 2007, for a first round draft pick and Bruno Gervais and Kurtis Foster, who were signed as a UFAs earlier this year. Their pipeline was hit hard from the risky Chris Pronger trade in 2009, where the Flyers moved their top defensive prospect along with two first round draft picks.
Now, young – specifically mobile — defenseman don’t grow on trees, but the NHL Draft is usually the best place to pluck one.
Unfortunately for the Philly faithful, it’s well noted the Flyers have had — trouble — with developing their own defensemen that they’ve plucked in drafts. In fact, dating back to the 1990 NHL Draft, there has only been one defenseman, who has played more than three full seasons in a Flyers uniform.
One defensemen in 23 years. Honest. Look it up.
Joni Pitkanen and Dennis Seidenberg played parts of three seasons with the Flyers and Dmitri Yushkevich played two and a half seasons. They’ve had some young ones: Luca Sbisa, Jeff Woywitka, Janne Niinimaa, but each only appeared in fractions of one or two seasons. Most were traded away.
And that’s been the MO; draft forwards, trade for defensemen. Their lack at developing NHL-caliber defensemen, let alone top-defensemen has been well noted. With that said, their ability to draft forwards, should also be noted. The Flyers have had a lot of hits when drafting forwards.
With the Flyers struggling to make the playoffs and currently on pace to miss the postseason, it’s never too early to start looking ahead.
Let’s take a closer look and discuss some options for the Flyers on June 30. All scouting reports courtesy of Todd Cordell.
D – Seth Jones (Portland – WHL) – This guy is an absolute horse on the backend. He’ll eat up minutes like a steak dinner and he’s so steady and reliable. He’s a huge body and while he’s willing to engage physically, he relies more on his big stick and strong positioning to defend opposing players. Jones is a good skater for his size, he has a good shot and he makes a good outlet pass. Simply put, Jones can do it all. He can play in every situation and he was instrumental in Team USA winning the Gold Medal at the 2013 World Juniors. Draft projection: top-3
LW – Jonathan Drouin (Halifax – QMJHL) – There’s only one word to describe Jonathan Drouin: Dynamic. The guy is an offensive dynamo and is a threat to score every time he’s on the ice. His vision is through the roof and in my opinion he has the best vision in this year’s draft class. He’s an excellent passer, his hands are ridiculous and overall he’s just an extremely skilled player. He can skate with the best of them, he’s not afraid to go to the net even though he’s not a big guy and he’s willing to work. I think he’s the most talented prospect we’ve seen in a few years. Draft projection: top-3 (Mr. Leed’s favorite prospect)
W/C – Aleksander Barkov (Finnish League) – Barkov is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. Barkov is an exceptional prospect who’s putting up big time numbers in the Finnish Elite League right now – something young players rarely do. He can skate, he has excellent vision and has very soft hands. Barkov has good size at 6’2″ and should only get bigger and stronger with age. While Barkov doesn’t get the attention Drouin, MacKinnon or Jones get, I believe the difference between them isn’t too big and that he belongs in the same conversation. Draft projection: top-5
C – Sean Monahan (Ottawa – OHL) – Sean Monahan is one of the best centermen in this draft. He has excellent vision, is a very good passer and really has a good feel for the game. He has size and uses it – but not in the way you’d expect. He’s not a physical player, so to speak, but he’ll use his size to create openings and space for himself to make a play. He has a good shot and is very effective in power play situations. His defensive game could use a bit of work, but there’s nothing good coaching can’t fix here. Draft projection: top-7
C/LW – Valeri Nichushkin (Russian League) – Overall, Valeri Nichushkin is one of the most talented players in the draft class. He has all the tools you need to become a star in the NHL. He’s a big kid at 6’3″ and almost 200lbs and as he gets older he’ll continue to grow and fill out. Nichushkin isn’t afraid to go to the dirty areas of the ice to score goals and he’ll do whatever it takes to win. He’s a very good skater and he can not only set teammates up with his excellent passing ability but score goals, too. The best way to summarize Nichushkin is that he plays a North American style of game and has a European type skill-set. Depending who you talk to he could go anywhere from 2nd or 3rd overall to close to 10th. NOTE: According to one scout, ‘he is a definite top five pick and could even be the best overall forward available in the draft.” Draft projection: top-8
D – Ryan Pulock (Brandon – WHL) – Pulock is one of the better two-way defenseman in the draft. He makes a good first pass, is a strong skater, and is good in his own end. Pulock has excellent vision and is well known by those that follow him as a strong leader who is potential Captain-like material down the road. Draft projection: top-15
D – Nikita Zadorov (London – OHL) – Zadorov is a big, strong, steady and reliable two-way defenseman. He makes a very good first pass out of the zone and always seems to be in perfect position. He can shut down opposition’s top players and isn’t out of place on the power play. I think Zadorov has some untapped offensive potential that we’ll start seeing in the next couple years. Draft projection: top-15
D – Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie – OHL) – Nurse has developed into a star in the OHL and is one of the best draft eligible defenseman in this year’s class. He’s a good passer, has a good shot, is very good defensively and he’s certainly not afraid to throw his weight around. He’s already 6’5″ and as he continues to develop into his body he’ll become even more of a physical force. Fun fact: Nurse is the nephew of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Draft projection: top-15
D – Josh Morrissey (Prince Albert – WHL) - Morrissey is a strong two-way defenseman who can play in all situations. His defense is getting better and better each game and he’s most effective when playing with an edge. He’s a good skater, as well. Draft projection: 15-20th overall
C – Max Domi (London – OHL) – Domi is one of the more intriguing prospects in this year’s draft. Unlike his father, Max likes to showcase his skill set more than his instigating abilities. Domi is an excellent skater – one of the best in this draft class – and can flat out fly when he gets going. He has great hands, excellent vision and a very high hockey IQ. He can score goals, but he’s as good or better at playmaking. Draft projection: 12-18th overall
LW – Kerby Rychel (Windsor – OHL) – Rychel is your typical power forward. He’s a big, strong kid who can hit, fight and score goals. He has good vision and is an underrated passer but if he has a chance to score, he’s going to take the shot. He also has a very strong work ethic and is willing to battle for the puck in the corners and for position in front of the net. Draft projection: 15-20th overall
LW – Anthony Mantha (Val d’Or – QMJHL) – Mantha is one of the biggest draft risers in this year’s class. Like Rychel, he’s your typical power forward. Mantha is a big kid at 6’4″ with a knack for scoring goals. He’s scored 45 this year for Val d’Or already and has a good chance of potting 50 before the end of the regular season. Mantha is a good hitter and isn’t afraid to drop the mitts, but he’s more focused on scoring goals than fighting people. Draft projection: 15-22nd overall
LW – Jason Dickinson (Guelph – OHL) – Dickinson is one of my favorite prospects in this year’s class. He’s a talented kid that can be used in all situations. Dickinson can kill penalties and isn’t afraid to sacrifice his body by blocking shots. He has very good hands, and always knows where to be on the ice. He can score, is an underrated playmaker and will even drop the mitts occasionally to stick up for a teammate. Draft projection: 20-25th overall
C – Ryan Hartman (Plymouth – OHL) – When you think of Ryan Hartman, you think of a scrappy guy who can do it all. He can go up against opposing teams top players and not only shut them down, but create offense and fill the net himself. He’s not a big guy, but he’ll come right at you. He’ll hit, he’ll fight and he’s not the least bit intimidated by anyone. He isn’t afraid to block shots and he’ll do whatever it takes to help his team win. He can play in all situations and is one of the more well-rounded players in the draft. Draft projection: 25-30th overall
D – Chris Bigras (Owen Sound – OHL) – Bigras is one of the more reliable defenseman in the draft. He makes a good first pass and can be effective on the power play, but if he’s playing well for the most part you won’t notice him. He’s very good in his own end and is almost always in perfect position. He’ll use his body but won’t put himself out of position to try and go for a big hit. What you’ll get with Bigras is a guy who can play big minutes and won’t make stupid plays. He understands the game, what needs to be done and he won’t force something that’s not there. He plays a simple, but highly effective game. Draft projection: 30-40th overall
D – Jordan Subban (Belleville – OHL) – Jordan Subban is a younger, less rambunctious version of his older brother. His style of play is very similar, though. He’s an excellent skater, makes a good first pass and knows how to quarterback a power play. He’s good defensively and takes care of his own end but is always willing to jump into the rush to make a play. He’s a good hitter and will occasionally drop the gloves, too. Subban also has very good hands and is very, very good when it comes to the shootout. Draft projection: 35-45th overall
RW – Zach Nastasiuk (Owen Sound – OHL) – You won’t get flash and huge offensive numbers with Nastasiuk, but what you will get is a solid-two way player who will give it his all each and every night to help his team win. Unlike most players in this age group, winning is Nastasiuk’s top priority. He’s not bad offensively and will chip in here and there, but his top qualities are on the defensive side of the puck. Nastasiuk is a very strong penalty killer and is one of the better defensive forwards in the draft class. He’ll block shots, dive to get the puck out or do whatever he possibly can to make a play for his team. He’s not overly physical, but he’s not afraid to use his body and is very strong on and off the puck. Nastasiuk is very good along the boards, too, and very rarely do you see a guy on the ice work harder than him. Draft projection: 45-60th overall
So, what do you say?
Does the lack of successful homegrown defensemen worry you? Still taking a defenseman in the first round?
Who do you want in the orange and black?