Grant Sonier, a former NHL scout, wrote a piece for ESPN Insider ranking the top 20 prospects most likely to have an impact for their NHL squads this season. The Flyers Matt Read and Sean Couturier made the list while Brayden Schenn appears in the bonus section. The interesting this is the only team that had more prospects mentioned than the Flyers is the Ottawa Senators with four which can be seen as both as a good and bad thing. It’s good because just a year ago the Flyers had little to get excited about in their system, but some might say it’s bad that a contender is relying on some many rookies in their lineup.
10. Matt Read, F, Philadelphia Flyers
Read is a bit of a surprise on this list, considering he lacks the draft pedigree of these other players. He signed as a free agent out of Bemidji State last year. After his college season, he scored seven goals in 11 games with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in Adirondack. He’s undersized, but full of speed and offensive ability. It’s been said by many that he was one of the best forwards in camp, which was borne out when it was announced that the highly touted Brayden Schenn would start the season in the minors.
The Flyers may have to do some juggling, as they have lots of new faces, including young prospects such as Sean Couturier. And Schenn will certainly push for a full-time roster spot early and often (more on him later). The suspension to Jody Shelley will help them balance the roster for the first few games and that might be all Read needs to show his stuff and stick.
It’s interesting seeing a 25 year old prospect ranked with so many highly touted draft picks. I agree with Sonier that the Flyers may have to do some juggling, but I don’t see Read going anywhere unless he flat out plays himself off the roster. I see them sending Couturier back to junior before they send down Read if it came to that. I actually think Read might make a bigger impact than some of the prospects ranked ahead of him because his age is an advantage.
12. Sean Couturier, F, Philadelphia Flyers
Couturier is good enough to stay with the big club, but contract issues combined with Read’s surprising play and Schenn knocking on the door may not allow this to happen for the full season. Couturier is very smart without the puck and he uses his size extremely well, both with defensive positioning and protecting the puck. Andreas Nodl and Blair Betts will be surpassed by this player.
I think the Flyers will find a way to fit in all three of their rookies and Couturier will remain with the big club all season. I think he can have an impact similar to the one Jordan Staal did as a rookie. He won’t produce offensively like Staal as that was a total fluke, but I think he will be used in a defensive role like Staal was. As we all know Betts has already been surpassed by Couturier.
Brayden Schenn, F, Philadelphia Flyers
It wasn’t too long ago that we dubbed Schenn the top prospect in hockey. News has now come out, however, that Schenn will start this season in the minors. But I want to include him anyway. Why? Because he is ready to start the season at the No. 3 center position, and the assignment to Adirondack appears to have been made due to financial reasons. It’s also a possibility that the Flyers are simply giving Sean Couturier a nine-game audition before deciding his future. If Couturier proves he belongs, the Flyers could shuffle things up, but they won’t forget about Schenn for long.
Schenn is proving to be solid both offensively and defensively, though he was injured and did not perform his best during training camp. He needs to realize he must work and play with a high level of desire to be most effective. I still expect we’ll see Schenn sooner rather than later.
I still think Schenn is still the best (drafted) prospect in hockey. His assignment to the AHL is merely a cap move. I’d be surprised if he doesn’t spend most of the season with the Flyers. I think he will have a bigger impact than most of the players on his list, but he may not see as many minutes and PP time as some of the others due to the Flyers depth.