Welcome to the newest edition of “Point/Counterpoint,” where a pair of Flyers Faithful scribes present both sides of one particular issue with their own unique view and flair.
This week, Kevin C and Eden N are looking ahead toward the NHL draft and projecting what the Flyers should (and shouldn’t) do.
Point from Eden N: DEFENSE
The Flyers have a first round pick at #20, and while it’s not nearly as exciting as the #8 spot, it’s nothing to sneeze at. I don’t claim to have even a sliver of the skills NHL scouts have accumulated over years evaluating talent across the globe, but if the Flyers don’t go for a solid defenseman (in trades as well as free agency), I have no clue what they are thinking.
In watching the draft last season, I assumed they’d be going for a young, big blueliner in the Chris Pronger mold, and although pleased with Sean Couturier’s performance this past year, I think we could have used one. The Hockey News most recent issue projected that the Flyers would pick Oscar Dansk, a goalie in the 20th slot.
There are still the ever-present goaltender issues. It wouldn’t be the Flyers if there wasn’t an issue every offseason. But with Niko Hovinen expressing his desire to play in North America this upcoming season (have you seen his stats?!), why draft a first round pick goalie? The twentieth pick sure isn’t #1 and is the issue really the goaltender anymore?
And why on earth as deep as the centers (and in general, forwards) are, would the Flyers need more forwards? No, no, no.
A couple of defensemen in that top 30: Ryan Murray (probably not going to get this kid, too high up), Morgan Rielly, Jacob Trouba (big kid), Olli Maatta, Matt Finn (can play physical), Cody Ceci (used against other team’s top lines), and probably others. The Phantoms haven’t been horrible impressive of late. Even if the kid isn’t immediately ready for NHL, wouldn’t it be nice to have a few young D’s on the farm team, growing and developing?
Memo to the Flyers’ front office in charge of personnel: this team needs better defense going forward. Please get on that.
Counterpoint from Kevin C: Best Player Available!
With Pronger’s career very likely over, and Kimmo Timonen aging and hurting with only one year remaining on his contract, the need for defensemen is obvious. However, drafting for need is rarely a good idea; especially when you’re looking at the drafting resume of the Flyers in recent times.
The Flyers historically struggle at drafting and developing defenseman and goaltenders, while they struggle to not hit on forwards in the first round. Colin Suellentrop, Ricard Blidstrand, Nick Luukko, Oliver Lauridsen, Simon Bertilsson, Marc-AndreBourdon, Luca Sbisa, Kevin Marshall, Denis Bodrov, Michael Ratchuk, Flatters, and Oskars Bartulis are all of the rearguards taken by the Flyers in the past six years.
Bourdon was almost considered to be a flop of a prospect before a rash of injuries gave him an opportunity and he proved himself capable. Bartulis had his 15 minutes of fame and has dwindled since. Lauridsen has a shot at becoming an NHLer but his ceiling isn’t very high.
Sbisa, who was the only first rounder of the group, made the club as an 18-year-old. Then after 39 games he was sent back to juniors. That doesn’t exactly seem like the typical development plan for a defenseman. After he was traded to Anaheim he had a brief call-up (eight games) for the Ducks before he spent essentially the entire season back with his peers. They certainly felt he needed more development.
Not to mention that during last year’s draft, many fans were calling for the Flyers to pick Doug Hamilton (before Couturier fell to them), however, it’s been reported that the Flyers were leaning towards taking Duncan Siemens over Hamilton. Hamilton has since won the Max Kaminsky trophy for Most Outstanding Defenseman in the Ontario Hockey League. I frankly, am not sure I trust the Flyers’ eye for scouting d-men.
Meanwhile, the Flyers continually hit on forwards in the 1st round: Couturier, James van Riemsdyk (who, whether you like him or not – I lean towards “not” – is still a quality NHL player), Claude Giroux, Steve Downie, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Justin Williams, and Simon Gagne. That is every first-round forward over the past 14 drafts…and they haven’t missed on a forward yet.
Do we even need to discuss goalies? Maxime Ouellet and Brian Boucher. While Boucher has had a solid NHL career, he was never the type of goalie that Philadelphia Flyers fans covet. Not to mention, barring some dramatic change, Ilya Bryzgalov is here for a long, long time.
So while the need for a presence on the defense is obvious, and this draft is actually quite heavy in defense prospects, the Flyers need to stick to their guns and take the best player available. They can always acquire a defenseman through some other means if need be.