Five Questions: Diamonds in the rough

Taylor Leier, giver of teabags

Flyers Faithful revisited a former recurring feature, Five Questions, to address some current hot and important topics, including the draft, prospects, and the future of the Flyers. For this edition of Five Questions, we asked John Saquella, Jim Butler, James Centifonti, Joshua Janet, and our very own Jared Abbott to participate. Below, you will find their answers to today’s question.

Tye McGinn has been a pleasant surprise this season, as Matt Read was last year. Which of the current Flyers prospects do you think could make the leap and become the next dark horse NHLer?

John Saquella: I like Taylor Leier as a darkhorse. He’s played well for the Portland Winterhawks, and while he’s not likely to have Read’s success, he’s an intriguing kid. One really off the board one is Reece Willcox, who is with Cornell. He was a 2012 fifth rounder. Good size(6-foot-3, 185 pounds) and has been very solid as a freshman. He was part of the WHL trade that saw Seth Jones land with the Winterhawks.

James Centifonti: I’m not sure they’ve signed him yet but I like the strides Taylor Leier has made with Portland of the WHL this season.  Didn’t get much time last year due to the depth they had but had done well with more ice time this year.

Jim Butler: That’s a tough call but d-man Oliver Lauridsen seems to making a name for himself in the few games he’s played so far. Kyle Flanagan that they just signed out of college looks like a Matt Read clone so far so you have to think he’ll get a shot as well. This is actually something the Flyers need to work on badly. They need to re-stock the entire farm system and have numerous candidates to make the team, right now they’re not even close to having a good feeder system in place.

Joshua Janet: I’m going to cheat a little bit on this one.

The prospect that I suspect will see ample playing time next season with the big club is Marcel Noebels. The Flyers organization signed him to an entry level contract just 23 days after drafting him in the fourth round in 2011. Either they’re just really bad at managing contracts (hah!) or they immediately viewed him as a player with a high talent ceiling.

Noebels earned a lot of trust from the organization when they sent him to the ECHL to start the 2012-13 season. The lockout created a surplus of young forwards for the Adirondack Phantoms to juggle and Noebels earned top six minutes playing with the Trenton Titans. He didn’t complain about it, scoring 30 points in 31 games. Once he was eventually recalled to Glens Falls, his production rate dipped, but he’s been a solid player at that level (11G, 18 pts. in 34 games).

I don’t think he qualifies as a true “dark horse,” though, as much as a “realistic guess.” For a wild, “just tossing it out there” guess? Mark Alt.

Jared Abbott: When a depth draft pick or undrafted free agent makes a contribution to the big club the front office has to be pleased. Although the Flyers are pretty bare in the cupboard there have been a couple recent successful surprises. Tye McGinn’s transformation into a serviceable tough, grinding power forward has been a solid addition this year. In last year’s draft Philly passed early on defensemen, but spent four of its last five picks on blueliners. Shayne Gostisbehere of Union College is a legitimate NHL prospect, Fredric Larsson is a big, nasty Swedish kid, and Reece Wilcox stands 6’4” and just finished his first year at Cornell University. But it’s the 207th overall pick in the draft that interests me quite a bit.

Valeri Vasiliev shares the name with the former physical CCCP defenseman during the Red Army era. The 18-year old is an exciting European prospect in an organization with little interest in players outside of North America. Vasiliev uses his 6’2” 207 pound frame well earning a reputation similar to the former great Soviet. After sustaining a shoulder injury last season while playing for MHC Spartak in the MHL, Vasiliev saw his draft stock plummet. He was the 16th rated European skater in Central Scouting’s final rankings leading up to the draft but fell to the Flyers in the 7th round. Looking for a bounce back season Vasiliev played solid for MHC Spartak in 33 games, which was well enough to earn him an 11-game stint with Spartak Moskva in the KHL. Although the point totals don’t sparkle, the young Russian is a developing defensive defenseman and if he can regain his form that resembled his pre-draft ranking the Flyers will have found a big-time steal.