The Philadelphia Flyers prospect pool is considered one of the weakest in all of the NHL mainly because of their lack of an NHL top 50 prospect. Personally, I was not impressed with their draft back in June and I honestly think they missed out on some players who will be stars at the next level. Despite that, Philadelphia does possess an abundance of gritty and physical forwards. Players like Jason Akeson, Petr Straka, and Tye McGinn come to mind. However, they lack elite/top tier talent at forward. Scott Laughton and Tye McGinn are the most NHL ready prospects in my opinion with defenseman Oliver Lauridsen and Brandon Manning on the fringe.
Philadelphia does have depth on defense in the NCAA and overseas, which is nice to see. The Flyers do have fairly decent depth all-around and they have drafted some players with high potential such as Samuel Morin, Anthony Stolarz and Fredric Larsson. Today begins part one of a three part series in which I will rank the Flyers’ top 10 forward prospects as I see it. Make sure to check back next Monday as I rank the defense.
1. Scott Laughton, C
The Flyers drafted Laughton with the 20th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Draft. In 49 games played last year with the Oshawa Generals, Laughton registered 23 goals and 33 assists for 56 points. He’s was an above-average OHLer in my opinion and proved to be valuable commodity in the defensive zone. I also thought he looked good in his brief five game stint with the Flyers last season. Laughton is just a solid overall forward.
His above-average speed and hands make him a threat to score anytime he has the puck but Laughton truly excels in the defensive zone. His hockey awareness and defensive game is outstanding for a 19-year old. He works hard in corners and has the knack for delivering some big hits. I would like to see Laughton add some weight to his 190 pound frame. He projects to be a solid second line player and it remains to be seen if he’ll make the squad this year. Before the signing of Vincent Lecavalier I thought Laughton was a sure lock. Now, I’m not so sure. He would look good between Max Talbot/Adam Hall and Zac Rinaldo on the fourth line. If he doesn’t make the team out of camp, I expect Laughton to return to Oshawa and have a chance to play for Canada’s 2014 World Junior squad.
2. Tye McGinn, LW
A fourth round pick by the Flyers in 2010, Tye McGinn has turned some heads in the Flyers organization. Last year with Adirondack, McGinn put up solid numbers in 42 games played. He accumulated 14 goals and 12 assists. In 18 games with the Flyers last season, McGinn had 3 goals and 2 assists. Tye is a good-sized forward standing at 6’2, 195 pounds. I like his offensive instincts and his awareness with the puck. He has an underrated shot and an incredible work ethic. His skating is an issue though. His top speed in lackluster and his first couple of steps are average at best. However, his willingness to compete and his knack for winning battles very well could earn him a spot with the big club this year. He projects as a third line winger and I could see him on a line this year with Sean Couturier and Matt Read.
3. Nick Cousins, C
Cousins was drafted by the Flyers in third round, 68th overall, back in 2011. It’s well documented that Cousins had some off-ice issues this past season, but despite that he finished the 2012-13 campaign third overall in scoring in the OHL. In 64 games, Cousins posted 27 goals, 76 assists for 103 points. Nick has pin point accuracy when it comes to passing. Offensively, he’s gifted. What I like best about Cousins is that he’s a hard worker who battles and has a Brad Marchand edge to his game. He needs to work on his skating and must get bigger to succeed at the next level. I would also like to see him improve his defensive game. I expect Cousins to play in the AHL this upcoming season. He has the potential to be a top six forward in the NHL.
4. Petr Straka, RW
The Flyers signed the 6’0, 194 pound Straka as free agent on April 11 to a three-year entry level contract. He was an unsigned second round pick of the Blue Jackets in 2010. He had 41 goals and 41 assists last season with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar of the QMJHL. The crafty Czech winger is the Flyers most offensively talented and gifted prospect in my opinion. Straka routinely makes plays out of nothing and his stick handling skills are world class. His skating is a plus as he possesses an excellent first couple of steps and his overall top speed is good. He’s also deadly on the power-play. He’s not a tough guy when it comes to physical play as he tends to shy away from the rough stuff. Defense is not his best area and I would like to see him improve there. I’ll be intrigued to see how he fairs in the AHL this season.
5. Taylor Leier, LW
Leier was selected by the Flyers in the fourth round (117th overall) in 2012 and has gone from a relative unknown to a legitimate prospect. I believe him playing of the powerhouse Portland Winterhawks of the WHL had a reason for his blossoming. Last season, Leier scored 27 goals and added 35 assists for 62 points in 64 regular season games for Portland. He also added 16 points in 21 playoff games as Portland won the WHL title. He does a lot of things well. He skates good, works hard, and plays solid in his own zone. He’s one player Flyers fans should be excited about. With Ty Rattie and Seth Jones off playing pro hockey I expect Leier to be one of Portland’s top scorers and leaders next season.
6. Marcel Noebels, LW
Noebels is a big-bodied German winger who is dedicated to playing two-way hockey. He’s not the most creative player offensively, but his heavy shot is effective and it has the tendency of wrecking havoc for goalies. His size and strength are NHL ready in my opinion. (Noebels stands at 6’3, 195 pounds). What I like about him is his willingness to compete, back check, and block shots. He’ll need to develop more offensively to make the NHL, but the Flyers did get a high-value pick for a fourth rounder. Noebels has all the tools to be an effective power forward in the NHL.
7. Jason Akeson, RW
Akeson started the 2012-13 season with the now defunct Trenton Titans of the ECHL. After posting 10 points in 14 games with Trenton, Akeson got called up to the Phantoms and he never looked back from there. The 5’10, 190 pound forward led Adirondack with 20 goals and 53 points in 62 games. He also scored 11 power-play goals. He has good offensive instincts and is creative with the puck. I would classify him as a good playmaker. His skating is below-average for a player his size, and his defensive game could use polishing. Akeson could one of the first call ups if an injury occurs.
8. Kyle Flanagan, C
Flanagan reminds me of current Flyer Matt Read. I’m not saying he’s going to have the immediate impact Read had, but the two are similar players. Flanagan is smaller in stature and he relies on his speed and skill. He’s responsible defensively and he was a Hobey Baker finalist last season at St. Lawrence University. There is no pressure for Flanagan to perform and he’s out of the direct spotlight by the Philadelphia media. Just like Read, Flanagan headed to the AHL after college and had an immediate impact with the Phantoms scoring 7 points in 13 games. He’s definitely a guy to watch this season. Do not be surprised if we see him in a Flyers uniform at some point this season.
9. Brandon Alderson, RW
Alderson was signed by the Flyers as free agent out of juniors back on March 1. He played on a line with Nick Cousins this past season in Sault Ste. Marie. I believe Alderson’s presence will help ease Cousins’ transition to the pro game. Last season with the Greyhounds, Alderson had 28 goals, 36 assists for 64 points in 67 games played. It remains to be seen what Alderson can do at the pro level. Maybe him and Cousins can reignite their chemistry they had in the OHL last season with the Phantoms this year.
10. Michael Raffl, LW
The Flyers inked the 24-year old Austrian winger after seeing him play for Austria in this past year’s World Championships. He had a goal and an assist against a talented Russian squad. Raffl scored 24 goals with 46 points in 49 games this past season with Leksands IF in the Allsvenskan. Raffl needs at least a year of playing in the AHL to get acclimated to the smaller ice surface. He has never played in North America. He’s a third line winger at best comparable to former Flyer Andreas Nodl. He’s a player to watch at training camp this year.