There’s snow and ice on the ground and the temperatures outside are frigid, but that shouldn’t stop us from thinking about the month of June. I’m not talking about sunny days and the beach, although, that would be nice. I’m talking about the 2014 NHL draft right here in Philadelphia.
It’s not the most talented draft class I’ve seen as it’s probably one of the weaker classes in recent memory, however, there is one player in the 2014 class who has caught my attention that the Philadelphia Flyers should have their eye on.
I introduce to everybody Red Deer Rebels defenseman Haydn Fleury.
The 6’3, 204 pound rearguard is a physical, good skating defender who has excelled and received more and more ice time for Brent Sutter this season in Red Deer. For a 17-year old, Fleury draws the opponent’s top assignment on nightly basis and quickly he’s becoming one of the WHL’s top defenseman and top draft eligible players for 2014.
In 31 games this season, Fleury has posted five goals and 16 assists for 21 points. Offensively, Fleury is not afraid to carry the puck out of his own zone and can be used as weapon on the rush. He has an okay shot from the point that I think needs some improvement as he struggles with getting the puck through traffic at times. His vision and puck handling skills are pretty good overall.
Fleury’s bread and butter is his skating. He has exceptional speed and his footwork in close areas is excellent. Fleury is a real pain to play against as he’s one of the more physical defenseman in the WHL. It’s not that Fleury goes out seeking big hits like a Matthew Dumba or Ryan Pulock, but Fleury excels at wearing down a player over the course of 60 minutes. He’s strong along the boards and because he’s so fast and strong, he rarely takes any penalties preventing a player from a scoring chance. He’s a very smart and disciplined player.
It’s hard to compare and project where any of these draft eligible players will go, but Fleury reminds me of a more offensive Jay Bouwmeester. He has the size and speed of Bouwmeester, but Fleury brings more offensive upside than Bouwmeester ever has. He has all the tools to be an NHL player someday. He still has improvements to be made but that will come with more experience and playing time. Look for Fleury to be member of Canada’s 2015 World Junior squad.
I see the Regina, SK native a a top four shutdown defender in the NHL. Right now, he’s my number three overall WHL prospect for 2014 behind Kootenay’s Sam Reinhart and Prince Albert’s Leon Draisaitl. He’s the second best defenseman in the draft behind Barrie’s Aaron Ekblad.
Finding a guy with Fleury’s size and puck moving skills is rare so I wouldn’t be surprised if he’ll be in contention for a top 10 spot. However, with the way this draft is shaping up I could see him going as high as number five overall.
The Flyers are probably going to be hovering around that 6-12 range for the draft so Fleury will be right there if they want to address their defense with their pick. In my opinion, it would be wise to checkout Fleury given that’s the Flyers most pressing need. He’s got everything the Flyers want. Speed, size, and physical toughness. A potential top four of Morin, Haag, Gostisbehere, and Fleury sounds pretty good to me.