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 fourth of a five part series focusing on the upcoming draft.
The Flyers have a habit of not taking Europeans in the first round except for Peter Forsberg (sixth overall ’91), Dainius Zubrus (15th overall ’96), Joni Pitkanen (fourth overall ’02) and Luca Sbisa (19th overall ’08). Do you think it would be beneficial if the Flyers start looking overseas more?
Adam Kimelman: I think the addition of Antero Niittymaki as a scout working in Europe will add to their depth of prospect knowledge, but I think the Flyers have done a decent job of finding European players — Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t drafted, but they did discover him.
Mark Edwards: Well this is an easy short answer. Yes. If scouted properly, I think there is a better chance to get some steals. There are lots of talent overseas and quite a number of “hidden gems” come from Europe.
Chris Shafer: I think for the most part the Flyers are very comfortable with their developmental niche in the CHL. They have a very hands-on approach, and I think this is beneficial for both parties. Overseas players are less available to the organization at crucial times. Think about it for a second. Of those four players mentioned, only Forsberg and Pitkanen were taken directly out of overseas play. I do not buy too much into the idea that the Flyers avoid Europeans, but the organization certainly loves the North American developmental process.
Todd Cordell: I don’t know that they necessarily need to look overseas to get a European. The CHL is pumping out European players as well as they ever have right now. Potential top-15 picks Nikita Zadorov and Valentin Zykov are perfect examples of that. I don’t know how much scouting they do overseas and how many European based scouts they have, but I’m sure if they were really high on someone from Europe they’d take him. The Flyers recent draft history suggests they like North American forwards, centers in particular, and they have a pretty good track record when it comes to that so I’m not sure they’re going to change.
Jared Abbott: First off, of those names listed above none lasted long in a Flyers uniform before being traded elsewhere to flourish in the NHL. That is the first problem. Second, the Flyers have neglected European forwards in general throughout the years. Whether the scouting department is focused solely on North American talent or they just don’t value Euros highly, their recipe has led to stale drafting and a sour aftertaste. Of course there are more questions regarding European prospects, given the wider ice surface and finesse-style over physicality.
Then, there is the issue of Russians and other Euros who may choose to remain overseas instead of coming over to play in North America. These worries have scared many teams away, not just Philadelphia, but based off of draft history Europe has never been a desired scouting location for the Flyers. As the game continues to evolve and develop into a faster pace of play with a premium on gifted abilities, the old ways of the Flyers’ draft strategy has remained stuck in its failing philosophy. It is long overdue for Philly to expand its search overseas for talented young prospects.
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