Flyers Faithful’s 10 top Flyers prospects

Photo courtesy of flyers.nhl.com

I’ve decided to take a more traditional look  prospects this year instead of grading them with the help of NHLE because goalies and defenders are undervalued with NHLE.

I decided to evaluate them mainly on three criteria:
1) NHL ceiling
2) Likelihood of reaching ceiling
3) Proximity to NHL

“NHL ceiling” is essentially a prospect’s maximum potential, but not everyone reaches their ceiling. I tend to prefer younger, higher ceiling prospects, but it’s important to factor in whether they are likely to reach that ceiling or not. So a player with a low ceiling — but a higher potential — to make it could be valued higher than a high ceiling player, with a lower chance of making it.

I also don’t believe in using NHL games played as a criteria in determining when a player loses their prospect status because it is too arbitrary. If I used the Calder Trophy criteria of fewer than 25 games it creates a situation where someone like Erik Gustafsson is no longer considered a prospect despite the fact that he will likely be an Adirondack Phantom next season. He is very much a prospect in my mind. If I used a larger number of games played it could create a situation where someone like Brayden Schenn is still considered a prospect because he missed games due to injury.  So I mainly go by if a player has locked down a spot with a defined role on the NHL roster.

————————————–

1. Nick Cousins
Cousins is a player in a similar mold in to the Bruins “little ball of hate,” Brad Marchand. He is a smallish agitator that lives to get under the skin of his opponents. More importantly, he possesses an above average offensive skill set. He followed up an impressive draft year of 68 points in 68 games by finishing sixth in the Ontario Hockey League by increasing his point totals by 20 points in three fewer games. Still, he has a ways to go before he is effective as Marchand in the NHL. He is undersized and needs to work on his skating. His defensive play is an issue which could see him move to to the wing at the next level.
NHL ceiling: Second-line forward.

2. Scott Laughton
The Flyers top pick is a jack of all trades of sorts. He is strong two-way center that can kill penalties, win faceoffs, and play on the power play. He earned a reputation of being one of the most competitive and hard working players in the 2012 draft due to his hard-nosed and determined style of play. If he could be described in three words they would be character, intelligence, and grit. Laughton’s offensive production is a little underwhelming for a first round pick (53 points in 64 games), but he may have untapped potential. After a slow start to the season, Laughton finished with 41 points during his final 39 games. He also scored at a point per game clip for team Canada at the World U18 Championships.  Even if his offense doesn’t come around his versatility makes him a decent bet to make it.
NHL ceiling: Shut-down center

3. Eric Wellwood
After a rather disappointing 2010-11 season, Wellwood emerged as the most NHL ready candidate on the list. He proved to be one of the Phantoms more effective weapons as he was top-three in points per game prior to seeing action with the Flyers. With the Flyers, he looked like he belonged.
NHL ceiling: Third-line forward.

4. Erik Gustafsson
Gustafsson is an offensive defenseman that didn’t really get to show off his skills as he received virtually no power-play time with the Flyers. He played solidly for the Flyers  in a sheltered third pairing role, but his size and defensive play may hinder him from playing more of a role. He should start the season with the Phantoms due to the number of NHL defenseman the Flyers have under contract.
NHL ceiling: Third pairing defenseman.

5. Niko Hovinen
As a true late bloomer, this former 2006 draft pick of the Minnesota Wild didn’t emerge as a top goaltending prospect until five years after his draft. He finally put it all together in 2010-11 to become Finland’s most dominant goalie in the SM-Liiga over the past two seasons posting save percentages of .921 and .920, respectively.
NHL ceiling: Starting goalie.

6. Shayne Gostisbehere
Gostisbehere is the Flyers most intriguing prospect on defense. He was bypassed in the draft after his first year of draft eligibility despite a dominating performance (36 points in 24 games)  playing prep hockey. Scouts finally began to take notice with his performance as a true 18-year-old freshman playing for 2012 Frozen Four entrant Union College. He scored five goals and 17 assists in 41 games, earning him a selection to the ECAC All-Rookie Team. Gostibehere is a puck moving blueliner that sees the ice very well. He possesses a strong hockey sense and knows when to jump into the play. He has the raw skill to be a very good defender at the NHL level, but his size at 5-foot-11 and 160 pounds is currently a hindrance. He must get stronger to have a shot at the NHL. As a prospect drafted out of the NCAA, he has plenty of time to grow into his body.
NHL ceiling: Second pairing defenseman.

7. Jason Akeson
There were some doubts about Akeson’s ability when he was signed as an overager, but he proved he can produce in the pros with his debut season with the Phantoms. He was the Phantoms second-most productive forward and their best overall rookie. While he has proven to be an excellent passer with 41 assists, his goal-scoring ability is questionable for the next level. His play at even strength is also a concern. Akeson is the type of forward that will have a hard time sticking if his offense doesn’t translate at the next level. He is not the ideal candidate for the bottom six.
NHL ceiling:  Second-line forward.

8. Brandon Manning:
As a possible late bloomer, Manning is one of the Flyers more interesting free agent signings. Despite missing significant time with injury, Manning was the Phantoms top point producing defender. He did not look out of place in the NHL when he earned a four-game stint last season.
NHL ceiling: Third pairing defender.

9. Marc-Andre Bourdon
His offense has never really translated in the pros despite being one of the QMJHL’s better offensive defenders when the Flyers selected him. His value at the next level is limited. His skating will never be considered an asset and his play in his own end is questionable at times.  He’s not overly large, but he is built like a tank and plays a physical game.
NHL ceiling: Third pairing defender.

10. Ben Holmstrom:
The captain of the Phantoms remains one of the Flyers most unheralded prospects. He is never going to be a star, but he does a lot of things well enough to be a cheap role player for the Flyers going forward. He’s a versatile center that has a good defensive awareness, kills penalties, and wins faceoffs all while being able to chip in offensively.
NHL ceiling: Fourth line center.

  • CupofNodl

    this list is absolutely terrifying until you take a step back and remember how young are NHL roster is right now.

    • http://www.flyersfaithful.com/ Kevin Christmann

      So true. If you could put Schenn, Couturier, and Read on it it would look infinitely better. That said, definitely not much top end talent there.

  • http://flyersfaithful.com Marcello

    I’m adding Lauridsen and and Placek as honorable mentions. I think Placek is going to be a late bloomer. Thoughts on Ranford and Manning?