Flyers Faithful is pleased to have Adam Kimelman from NHL.com, Mark Edwards from HockeyProspect.com, Chris Shafer from Hockey’s Future, Todd Cordell from The Hockey Guys and HockeyBuzz and our very own Jared Abbott participate in the current iteration of Five Questions. This is the first of a five part series focusing on the upcoming draft.
The Flyers have little patience with developing young defensemen and little success at drafting high caliber goalies. Are there any players in this upcoming draft that would be a surefire bet to succeed in one of those positions? If so, is it worth it for the Flyers to move up in the draft to make such a pick?
Adam Kimelman: I think where the Flyers are picking at No. 11, they’ll have a strong choice of candidates on defense, so I don’t think there really is a need to move up. Among the players that could be available, I think Rasmus Ristolainen, a big, strong, skilled Finnish prospect, could be the best choice. And while he already has NHL size, there’s room for him to get stronger, and he could be NHL ready right away. Other options are Ryan Pulock of the Brandon Wheat Kings, Shea Theodore of the Seattle Thunderbirds, Swedish blueliner Robert Hagg, Mirco Mueller of the Everett Silvertips and Chris Bigras of the Owen Sound Attack. It’s a very deep draft for defensemen.
Mark Edwards: An obvious choice from would be Seth Jones, but I would be shocked if Philly could move up to pick 1st or 2nd overall. More realistic options who could actually be available when the Flyers pick would be Rasmus Ristolainen and Nikita Zadorov. Both players are very good at both ends of the ice, and trust me when I tell you that Philly fans will like the way this Rasmus plays. While Nikita is a very big hitter and fans will enjoy them, Ristolainen is a nasty SOB. We like both players, Rasmus is probably more ready now but we ranked Nikita slightly higher because we think his ceiling may be higher.
Chris Shafer: I feel as though this patience term gets thrown around a little too much, when in reality the Flyers are probably overly patient with their defensive prospects. The team tends to throw their high-end forwards to the wolves while leaving a lot of their blueliners without quality opportunities until worst case scenarios pop up. That said, these defensemen we are discussing are all lesser players in general than the forwards you see tossed into the lineup.
The real problem behind the Flyers’ defensive prospect development is the lack of commitment to obtaining high-end defensive prospects via the draft. The organization always goes for the best player available, and quite often, that pick ends up being a forward. So when you trade away a high number of 1st and 2nd round draft selections while using the rest on forwards, you cannot realistically expect great results even if you find some gems in the later rounds or pick up some free-agent prospects like Gustafsson. The drop off from the 1st round to the 2nd in terms of the production of significant talent is incredible. The drop off to the 3rd and so on is continuous. If you do not commit to drafting 1st or 2nd round talent-level defensemen, odds are you will not develop quality NHL defensemen regardless of what developmental approach you take.
Hopefully, with a number of forwards likely going in the top 10, the Flyers might be choosing a blueliner as the BPA at 11. Then again, they passed on Dougie Hamilton in 2011 and Olli Maata last year. The Flyers could just as easily draft another center as they could trade the pick away for blueline help, which seems far more like their usual game plan.
Any move up to secure a draft pick would probably be a move to snag Darnell Nurse. That being said, there is no real reason for that. The draft class is incredible, and if anything, the Flyers should be open to moving back into the late teens where there is still a wealth of talent. Guys like Rasmus Ristolainen, Ryan Pulock, Josh Morrissey, Sam Morin, Nikita Zadorov, Ian McCoshen, Robert Haag, and Shea Theodore will all be available in that 10 to 30 range. They all have different skill sets, but any one of those guys would be an exciting addition to the prospect pool.
As far as goalies go, there is rarely ever a reasonable explanation for taking one in the 1st round. The entire position is a veritable developmental crapshoot. There will be guys in later rounds with just as good an opportunity to develop into something great.
Todd Cordell: In scouting, you come to realize that there are never sure fire bets. Even players selected in the top-3 don’t always pan out whether it be because of pressure, off ice issues, an injury, etc. That said, there are certainly some good defenseman and goaltenders in this draft class who project to be solid players.
The Flyers pick 11th overall and should they keep that pick, they’ll have a nice crop of defenseman to select from, should they decide to go that route. Nikita Zadorov of the London Knights is a guy I really like who could be available. I also think Ryan Pulock would be a good fit in Philadelphia because of his offensive talents and ability to quarterback a power play. Darnell Nurse might also be available, though I’m not as high on him as others.
The great thing about this draft is you can get very good players beyond the 1st round of the draft. For example, should the Flyers take a forward, move the pick, or anything else and want a defenseman 41st overall, there will be some good players available. Jordan Subban, who reminds me a lot of PK, comes to mind. Chris Bigras is another impressive defenseman who’s mobile, can move the puck and is good defensively.
Overall, regardless of which pick the Flyers use to draft a defenseman, there will be plenty of talent available to them. They just have to make the right pick.
As for goaltenders, there are a lot of guys beyond Zach Fucale that have potential. Obviously Fucale is the cream of the crop, but Mississauga Steelheads goaltender Spencer Martin is a guy I really like. He could likely be had in the 2nd or 3rd round. There are some other good one’s like Tristan Jarry, too, and even some late round sleepers such as Charlie Graham of the Belleville Bulls or Alex Fotinos of the Barrie Colts.
Jared Abbott: With the latest reports coming out of Denver a lot of buzz has stirred regarding the Avalanche possibly passing on Seth Jones. I have thought all season and continue to believe Jones is the number one prospect in the 2013 NHL draft class. If Colorado really does pass on the Portland Winterhawks defenseman and still keeps the first overall pick, the demand for Jones will heighten further.
Crazier decisions have been made come draft day and if Jones were to fall for any unknown reason the Flyers should consider trading up for his services. With a draft class so deep it is difficult to justify trading multiple picks to move up for just one. But with a prospect like Jones, who I believe is the most complete and well-rounded defenseman to come out in years, the thought of him locking down the blueline for a decade in Philly may be too tempting.
At the goaltending position there is not one prospect in this draft class worth the 11th overall selection or higher. But a couple goalies Philly should eye later on are Spencer Martin and Tristan Jarry. Martin is a big-framed technical netminder from the Mississauga Steelheads. He needs to work on his consistency, but has the angles and post-to-post range to develop into an NHL starter.
He would be a strong second round selection for the Flyers. Jarry has been overlooked all season while silently dominating the WHL for the Edmonton Oil Kings. If Jarry had played enough minutes to qualify this season, he would’ve had the second lowest goals-against-average in WHL history. He could be a mid-to-late round steal before the rest of the league realizes what they passed up on.
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