A look at the Philadelphia Flyers top 10 prospects heading into the 2015-16 season.
As GM Ron Hextall continues to remake this team in his vision, placing an emphasis on drafting and developing players. The team he inherited was littered with aging players with restrictive contracts and large cap hits.
The one area of concern was the defence. There are seven defencemen under contract taking up just under $24 million in cap, and not one is a top pairing player. The Flyers have long been seeking a top pair defenceman since they lost Chris Pronger to injury. They failed to lure Ryan Suter and Shea Weber successfully as free agents and don’t have the pieces or cap space to land one via trade.
The answer is to develop their own, and with a prospect pool brimming with potential number one defencemen, the solution is on the way.
1. Ivan Provorov: Defence – 6’1” / 202 lbs
Drafted: seventh overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Philadelphia
I see Ivan as the best and most complete defenceman in the draft. His command of all the situations in the game allows him to contribute and make an impact regardless of what’s confronting him. Ivan can make the game look effortless with a brilliant understanding of what’s unfolding in front of him either from a defensive or offensive standpoint. His skating, quickness and balance, pinpoint passing, poise under pressure and a great competitive determination align to make him a defenceman who can influence the play and the outcomes in a consistent and positive manner. – Craig Button, TSN
2. Travis Sanheim: Defence – 6’3” / 190 lbs
Drafted: 17th overall in the first round of the 2014 draft by Philadelphia
Sanheim is an elite skater compared to his immediate contemporaries. He’s extremely fluid, light on his feet, moves laterally exceptionally well and always seems to be on his toes. He has multiple gears to match his opponents and never seems out of position or flat-footed…Sanheim possesses a firm, low slapshot and is able to get it off very quickly. He keeps his head up when he shoots and is able to find the net with ease. His shots aren’t particularly dangerous and he doesn’t pick corners, but he finds the net or sticks for deflections…Sanheim is very productive with the puck on his stick. He rushes with confidence and consistently enters the zone cleanly resulting in long periods of sustained pressure. When he enters the zone he’s capable of slowing the pace right down and smartly distributes the puck. Has a knack for finding open forwards who generate scoring chances. He’s certainly more of a playmaking defensemen capable of QBing a power play…Plays an intelligent and reliable defensive game. He plays right to the opposition, meets them at the blue line but doesn’t overcommit. He defends blade to blade and never seems to be more than a stick-length away from his opponent. He doesn’t bite and is excellent at stifling forwards, forcing them to the outside or cause turnovers. He has a knack for being in passing and shooting lanes. – Hockey Prospectus
3. Travis Konecny: Centre – 5’10” / 175 lbs
Drafted: 24th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft by Philadelphia
A talented scoring forward that can play either as a center or on the wing; plays with the bite and intensity of a guy who is willing to do anything to win a game. Possesses dynamic skating ability that allows him to accelerate rapidly with each step, incredible hockey sense, electrifying puckhandling skills, and a lightning release on his shot; when you put this skillset together with hard-nosed determination, proactiveness in all three zones, and a physical willingness to grind and persevere, you get a game-changer who can be extremely difficult to play against. – Elite Prospects
4. Sam Morin: Defence – 6’7” / 207 lbs
Drafted: 11th overall in the first round of the 2013 draft by Philadelphia
He plays a strong defensive game, using his size and physicality in his own zone. Morin throws big hits and battles hard in front of the net and along the boards. He plays a strong positional game and uses his size and his long stick to cut down passing and shooting lanes. Morin has even got a bit of a mean streak, he plays very physical, and is often right on the border (and sometimes even over it) on what is legal. His high penalty minute totals can attest that he does have a tendency to sometimes cross that line. Morin is not afraid to drop the gloves either and with his size, its no surprise that he has been very successful when doing so. Morin’s size literally makes him a man amongst boys in the junior ranks and while he’s increased his weight from 207 when drafted to 225 last season, there is still room on his frame to add even more muscle mass which will help him to continue to play this style in the pros. – Last Word on Sports
5. Shayne Gostisbehere: Defence – 5’11” / 160 lbs
Drafted: 78th overall in the third round of the 2012 draft by Philadelphia
gained 15 pounds during his rehabilitation, but still an unimposing 5-11, 175-pound defenceman who makes his impact on a game with speed and guile .. talented skater .. slick footwork moving backwards and transitioning to forward .. soft hands, skilled puckhandler and distributor .. shows teammates where he wants the pass via his stick placement .. elite peripheral vision .. senses/spots teammates coming into play from behind or beside him and gets them the puck .. thrives in up-tempo games with his transition and skating skills .. economical shooting technique – receives a pass and swiftly releases off his stick .. knee injury may set back his NHL timetable, but expected to fill a top-four NHL role soon. – McKeens Hockey
6. Robert Hagg: Defence – 6’2” / 204 lbs
Drafted: 41st overall in the second round of the 2013 draft by Philadelphia
“He has a tendency to be a little casual, and it shows. The speed (of the pro game) comes to him too quick sometimes. He can recognize it a little sooner and give himself an edge by just moving his feet quicker to go get a loose puck. I don’t think he’ll ever become a highly competitive guy like (Claude) Giroux, but if we can get him more intense and maybe take some of that casual play out of his game, I think he’s going to make that step. But right now it’s a process. We’ll see where it takes him. This is a big year. Next year is a big year. We’ll see where it all goes.” – Lehigh Valley Head Coach Terry Murray, nj.com
7. Taylor Leier: Left Wing – 5’10” / 174 lbs
Drafted: 117th overall in the fourth round of the 2012 draft by Philadelphia
He does all the work. He does a tremendous job on the ice recovering pucks. He’s got speed. He’s got quickness. He’s very strong on the stick. He comes out with pucks in areas along the boards where you’re not supposed to as a young kid. – Lehigh Valley Head Coach Terry Murray, nj.com
8. Nicolas Aube-Kubel: Right Wing – 5’11” / 196 lbs
Drafted: 48th overall in the second round of the 2014 draft by Philadelphia
With great wheels and a motor that doesn’t quit, Aube-Kubel’s hard-working and high-energy style of play makes him a versatile addition to any lineup. Whether it is driving the net to create scoring chances or back-checking to prevent them, Aube-Kubel fits the blueprint of a player who can slot into many roles and situations at the next level. With his offensive talents still blossoming, it is hard to say what sort of player he will finally develop into, but he is sure to be the type of player that coaches love. – Hockeys Future
9. Oskar Lindblom: Left Wing – 6’1” / 191 lbs
Drafted: 138th overall in the fifth round of the 2014 draft by Philadelphia
Lindblom is a powerful skater with a strong, two-way game. He isn’t shy to do the dirty work and is a pain to move out from in front of the net. He gets himself open to create offensive chances but isn’t overly flashy. – Future Considerations
10. Felix Sandstrom: Goalie – 6’2” / 191 lbs
Drafted: 70th overall in the third round of the 2015 draft by Philadelphia
Sandstrom was considered by some to be the best goalie in the 2015 draft, but injuries and Mono limited him to just 16 games. He ended up slipping to the third round and was the third goalie picked after Ilya Samsonov and Mackenzie Blackwood. With Steve Mason holding fort in the Flyers crease for the next few years, the Flyers can be patient with Sandstrom, allowing him to continue to develop in Sweden before he makes his North American debut. He has starting goalie potential.
I think Felix Sandstrom is the best goalie in the class. Sandstrom, if it weren’t for injuries and a bout of mononucleosis, would likely be more on the radar, but he plays an extremely sound style that projects easily. When you’re evaluating younger goalies, you’re looking for tools that can translate with technique that already exists. It’s easier to develop a goalie with a conventional style than it is to train one whose talented but has quirks in his technique. Sandstrom plays a hybrid style with strong mechanics and his athleticism for a 6-2 goalie can’t be taught. – Scott Wheeler, SBNation
Recent Roster Graduations: Scott Laughton, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
Honorable Mentions: Petr Straka, Anthony Stolarz, Mark Alt, Mark Friedman, Nick Cousins, Mikhail Vorobyev
Players under 25 years old and with less than 25 career NHL games played qualify as a prospect for purpose of this list.
Written by Peter Harling, who can be found on twitter @pharling