Great FanPost here. Bumped to the front page. - Travis
The Flyers have a first round draft pick! And we know about it more than a few days in advance! The Flyers will pick at #20 in the draft.
To mark this momentous occasion, it may be worthwhile looking at some of the options in the draft. In particular, I think it's reasonable to explore the options in defense, considering we're nicely stacked up forward at the moment. Usually, in the NHL draft, going BPA is a solid option. However, the Flyers have young forward depth that not many other teams can boast of, and have a weakness on D that needs addressing. Matt Carle and Braydon Coburn are going to get their paydays, so we no longer have cheap but strong performing defensemen on our team. Given this, I'd really want to see the Flyers draft a defenseman.
It helps that there are plenty of really good defensemen available in this draft. And when I say plenty, I mean a lot. This draft will be remembered for the D-men that come out of it just as much as it will be remembered for the likes of Filip Forsberg and Nail Yakupov.
Disclaimer: not a draft expert nor an amazing scout. However, all you need is a bit of interest and the Internet.
First of all, how about a list of prospects who we could keep our eye on. The list was derived from looking at the TSN Rankings, the Copper & Blue consensus list, NHL.com mock drafts, NHLnumbers mock draft, Craig's List on TSN, the HockeyWriters, ISS April Rankings and CSS Rankings. Somehow I decided to split them into four groups, acknowledging that these groups may be completely wrong and teams may regard these players in completely different lights, but also acknowledging that people are less likely to read a long long list that isn't split into groups.
The elite - guys who most people regard to be pretty good, and Top 15 standard if not Top 10
- Ryan Murray
- Matthew Dumba
- Jacob Trouba
- Griffin Reinhart
- Morgan Reilly
I'll leave these names here and not expand any further, because we aren't getting them at #20.
The highly touted - guys who may go Top 15, some of whom may fall to us. Some people may consider some of these to be elite, but these are arbitrary categories anyway.
- Cody Ceci
- Olli Maatta
- Slater Koekkoek
- Matthew Finn
- Derrick Pouliot
The next tier - guys who may well slip down into the second half of the first round (where the Flyers will be drafting unless we trade) or may even fall into the early second round. Again, you can argue that there is overlap between the above category and the below category and this one.
- Hampus Lindholm
- Ludvig Bystrom
- Michael Matheson
- Brady Skjei
- Jordan Schmaltz
- Patrick Sieloff
- Mikko Vainonen
- Ville Pokka
- Dalton Thrower
- Damon Severson
The reaches - guys who will probably be second round acquisitions or later
- Adam Pelech
- Esa Lindell
- Dillon Fournier
- Nicklas Tikkinen
- Calle Anderson
- Valeri Vasiliev
- Patrick Sieloff
- Gianluca Curcuruto
- Nick Ebert
Looking at the options
Now put your hands up if you think the Flyers are going to somehow wheel and deal and end up drafting a guy like Murray or Dumba or Reilly? Yeah that's what I thought. No, put your hand back down reaper. It was a rhetorical question you weren't meant to...Anyway, my point is let's focus on the realistic possibilities, and there are plenty of them.
Considering I listed 5 players as 'elite' (i.e. too good for us to draft), and considering guys like Yakupov, Forsberg, Grigorenko and Galchenyuk exist too, I would hope that at least one of the 5 players I categorized as 'highly touted' will fall to us in the draft. That's not a guarantee, because a lot of mock drafts see the 10-20 range being crowded by good defensemen, but hopefully we get a chance at one of these guys. So without further ado, let's have a look at some of them.
The basic numbers
6'2, 198 lbs
Craig Button Rankings: below #60
Kimelman at NHL.com: #12
NHL 2012 Entry Draft Profile: Olli Määttä (via TheHockeyVidz)
So he's from Finland, he's played pro and is almost 200 lbs, he's played two World Junior Championships including one at age 16, he led the OHL in scoring for defensemen. In fact, he's scored 23 points in 18 playoff games this season for the London Knights including 6 goals.
Comparable: Ryan Suter
Not only that, he's not unwilling to make his mark on the game in other ways.
Olli Maatta vs Tyler Bertuzzi (via JimKorn20)
A defenceman with a good frame. Very good overall skills, though better defensively. A very patient player who positions himself well. Excellent hockey sense. Doesn't usually go for big hits, but likes to play the body enough to steal the puck.
Maatta is a solid, two-way defenseman who does not possess any significant deficiencies. His excellent feet and agility allow him to stay with even the speediest of forwards, resulting in quality one-on-one defensive coverage and giving Maatta shutdown capabilities. Maatta is an aggressive defender, as he successfully takes away time and space from the opposing puck carrier by consistently closing the gap. Though he is not the type to stand up a player at the blue line, his strong frame and physical play make Maatta a tenacious defender along the boards. His attack mentality and ability to push opponents off the puck both lead to continuous success in the defensive end. Maatta is also unwavering in his decision making. He rapidly takes action whether he is in possession of the puck or pursuing it, though some might consider his getting rid of the puck so hastily at times a sign of impatience. There is no shortfall in Maatta’s offensive game either. He can make a clean first pass out of his end to initiate the counterattack, join the rush, or carry the puck into the attacking zone himself. Maatta’s sufficient point shot and and valuable passing skills provide him with key power play resources as well.
But some areas of improvement are listed by London Knights Assistant Coach Misha Donkov:
Still, as a young kid, there are certain aspects of the game that he needs to develop. From the strength and the release of his shot from the point to being in the right position to take and deliver big, physical hits, it takes time ... still, I believe that Olli is willing to do all the work to excel.
Ideal Fits: Teams who'd benefit from a safe, solid selection on the blueline in the second half of the first round.
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because, for a kid who won't turn eighteen until the NHL Rookie Camps - he's got a surprising amount of polish in his game and perhaps some understated upside.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because many are looking for more offensive potential from the back-end than he's credited with.
Strengths: Size, Hockey IQ, Defensive Game, Puck-Moving
Weaknesses/Concerns: Shooting, Creativity, Explosiveness, Physical ‘Edge'
Projection: Middle-Pairing Two-Way Defenseman (10g, 45p potential)
Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round (12-25)
If Olli Maatta is available at #20, which is unlikely, then the Flyers should jump on him. Not only could he excel under the tutelage of Kimmo Timonen, but he could also potentially make an impact on the team out of training camp, which isn't what we should expect out of a defenseman but would do wonders in shoring up our defensive options as we head into the next season. Everything I read says high hockey IQ which should set him up well for a steep learning curve in the transition to the NHL. Over the long term, we can hope that his offensive potential develops and that he makes his way into the Top 4.
However, you shouldn't be surprised to see him go much higher than 20. Not only has he become more visible as the season has gone on, he has added a pretty impressive playoff campaign to his resume, which will no doubt shoot him further higher in the draft rankings.
The basic numbers
6'2, 180 lbs
Kimelman at NHL.com: #29
OK, let's cut to the chase, Koekkoek only played 26 games this season prior to having season ending shoulder surgery. He had a fair bit of hype coming into the season, and 6 months ago was right in the conversation with Maatta, Reinhart, Ceci and Reilly as a potential Top 10 pick. Then a torn labrum happened. Koekkoek has lost a year of development and at the moment he's a bit of a risk.
Margann Laurissa prior to this season:
In only his first season in the OHL, he became the team's most reliable defenceman. The Petes are a young team and, even for a 1994-born player, he surely brought leadership and drive. His work ethic is exemplary and he has veteran savvy. Koekkoek has a heavy and accurate shot; it would not be out of the question to see him score double-digit goal totals in the OHL, even by next season. His passes are crisp and quick. He has a fluid skating stride that allows for him to jump into the rush. Additionally, Koekkoek can also play physical, making him a great all-around defenceman. He has potential to be a powerplay quarterback in Peterborough. His leadership was evident at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2010 where he helped Team Ontario win gold; he also won gold at the 2011 Memorial Tournament of Ivan Hlinka for Canada as an alternate captain. He plays the game with passion and tenacity; he is an exciting player to watch.
If you want to see some video, here you go:
Slater Koekkoek (via TVCogecoOntario)
"tremendous power and speed and vision...his skill level speaks for itself...wants to be the best...play in every situation" etc. etc.
Koekkoek has a tremendous package of size, skill, and potential which could be a home-run in a few years. Currently out for the season with a torn labrum, Koekkoek was playing 30+ minutes a night with the Petes before the injury. Koekkoek is a great skater and does a good job of moving the puck and making good decisions. His skating ability allows him to lead rushes and his offensive zone play is very good. He's still in the progress of filling out his frame and improving his defensive zone play, but the skill-set that Koekkoek brings to the table cannot be overlooked as his ceiling could be as high as any of the defensemen in this draft.
NHL Potential Upside: Potential top pairing, big minutes defenceman
Strengths: Skating, Stamina (plays big minutes), Shot, Physical play, Hockey IQ
Flaws/Aspects He Needs to Work On: Defensive zone play, Fill out frame/add strength
His injury (and extremely varying estimations of his value) have him as a wild-card in 2012. He could be off the board by 12 (and has solid value there) or still sitting around come 25. If he falls beyond 20, he represents a huge value selection for whoever gobbles him up.
Ideal Fits: Mid-round teams looking to take a risk on a potential blue-chip blueliner.
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because his upside might be as high (or higher) as some of the elite-five defensemen in the draft.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because the book is still out on his potential and losing much of a year of development will cost him; because he's a project; because there are safer options with similar upsides (Ceci, Trouba, Skjei).
Strengths: Size, Skating, Hockey IQ, Playmaking, Shooting, Puck-Moving, Hands
Weaknesses/Concerns: Overall Physicality, Strength, Defensive Game, Consistency
Projection: Number Two/Three Two-Way Defenseman (15g, 50p potential)
Predicted 2012 NHL Draft Range: First Round (10-25)
He's also got a twitter account.
Here's your classic risk-reward scenario where we could either be stuck waiting for Koekkoek to make the jump in 3 years only to feel disappointed by his ability to play physically in the NHL and keep up with the speed and skill of NHL offenses, or we could find that we've got a genuine top pairing D-man to develop over the years.
The question is: can the Flyers take the risk? Sure if you're a team like Boston you can feel completely comfortable bolstering your defense with a project like Koekkoek, but with the Flyers questions on D in the absence of Chris Pronger, can the Flyers afford to add another question mark? In particular, a question mark who really needs to focus on the defensive aspect of his game?
I think Koekkoek could have a bright future. Drafting him would also do absolutely nothing to alleviate any Flyers-related stress I may have. There's a chance it goes great, but there's also a chance that it doesn't. Hopefully a safer option will be available.
The basic numbers
6'0, 197 lbs
Kimelman at NHL.com: #15
Matt Finn is a guy who, if you rewind a year, wasn't on many radars. Even on his own team, there were those questioning his conditioning and his ability to keep up with the OHL. But now you can see that Craig Button of TSN is obviously very high on him, and he's not the only one. Finn is coming off a season in which he scored 47 points in 61 games for the Guelph Storm, and has seen that performance lead to a very significant jump up the rankings. Finn's name isn't getting a whole lot of hype, and some aspects of his game clearly need improvement, but other aspects are seemingly earning him success. He's fit and strong and very well conditioned now, and everything you read about him probably includes some mention of "Hockey IQ". The guy just knows how to play the game.
Matthew Finn.mov (via theohlchannel)
He acknowledges that he's got to work on the physical aspect of the game, but even despite that he seems to be able to do the job. He seems to aspire to being a Scott Niedermayer type of guy.
Says Bob Mand:
In the defensive zone his impressive hockey IQ and solid mobility give him the capacity to defend in all situations - even against larger forwards. Finn manages gaps commendably and has sound positioning.
Finn might have good mobility, but there are concerns that his lack of true ‘recovery' speed at his size could be a problem at the next level. Some would like to see him develop a bigger physical element, despite his proportions. Additional worries also surround his modest size and ability to withstand punishment.
Without an attention-grabbing flashy dimension, Finn may have to be content to go in the middle of the first round. However, he's proved the doubters wrong so far in his rapid climb up the draft rankings and earned a spot just outside the de facto top-five defensive prospects
Mike Kelly, Guelph GM and former Hurricanes scout:
Matt Finn is 17 (turned 18 on February 24) going on 27. He is well above the maturity level of any kid that I have ever come across.
NHL Potential: Top pairing, intelligent 2 way defenceman
Strengths: Hockey IQ, Poise, Maturity, Positional play, Gap control, Good outlet passer
Aspects He Needs to Work On: Mobility, Strength - to be able to handle players at the next level, Physical play
And back to Mand, whose profiles are quite interesting to read:
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because the biggest impediment for young defensemen in getting to the NHL is processing the speed of the game - and that likely won't be a problem for the hockey-sense-laden Finn.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because he's not dynamic as many of his counterparts and doesn't have the physical tools desired from many ‘safe' first-round defensemen.
Strengths: Hockey IQ, Puck-Moving, Mobility, Playmaking, Leadership, Intangibles
Weaknesses/Concerns: Size, Physicality
Projection: Middle-Pairing Two-Way, Puck-Moving Defenseman (10g, 45p potential)
Matt Finn has gone nowhere but up over the course of this season. That says a lot about his work ethic and his approach to hockey as his career. However, will he continue to trend upwards or will he end up hitting a ceiling at some point soon? His hockey smarts suggest he could earn himself a long career in the NHL, but would it be an elite one?
I personally like what I read about the guy, and think that the Flyers should seriously consider picking him up. He seems to be hard working and smart, and that will help him be a solid addition to the team. But if you're looking for the defensive cornerstone for the next 15 years, look elsewhere.
The basic numbers
6'2, 203 lbs
Kimelman at NHL.com: #10
Look, this guy's a good hockey player. The reason I didn't list him as 'elite' was because I don't see people adding him into their Top 5s. Nonetheless, he should be gone by the time #20 roll around.
You want to know more just to whet your appetite in case he starts falling? Cody Ceci is fast, he's smart, he's got a great shot, he's got a solid breakout. He's got all the assets to be a top pairing defender in the league for a long time. With 60 points in 64 OHL games, he's definitely one of the top defenders in the juniors. He's not just your typical offensive defenseman who chips in on the powerplay though, he's got the ability to shut down other teams' top players in his own end and then contribute in the offensive end.
NHL 2012 Entry Draft Profile: Cody Ceci (via TheHockeyVidz)
I could link to a lot of positive reviews, but will just quote some interesting comments:
Todd Coddrell of TheHockeyGuys
Career Projection - First pairing (#2) defenseman - While Ceci has very good offensive tools; great hockey IQ and size, I don't think he will ever become a true number one defenseman on a good hockey team. If he starts playing with more edge and improves his game from a physical stand point that could change, but right now he projects to be a solid two-way number two defenseman who can quarter back a powerplay.
Ceci is aware of what separates him from being a truly elite prospect
"I often hear [scouts] want to see me to play more physical," says Ceci, which is not surprising given his size. There's no questioning that, if he wanted to, he could be a dominating physical presence, and if he wants to make a splash in the NHL, he'll need to work on that aspect of his game.
"I just need to use my size to my advantage and have good body position as well as finish that big hit every once in awhile."
And Bob Mand on what might cause Ceci to fall
Even with his improvement to-date many scouts worry about his fit at the next level. Some see his playmaking and puck-moving capabilities as merely good enough for the OHL level of play while not being satisfactory at a professional level. Some put forth similar arguments regarding his attacking zone performances - in particular that he doesn't have the skill to QB a powerplay in the NHL.
Furthermore, many recognize that Ceci isn't an overtly physical player despite his impressive dimensions and point to his production this season as a product of his increased development time (as it is his third season in the "O") inferring he might be close to his peak potential upside.
Like Olli Maatta, if Cody Ceci is available at #20 in the draft, there is no way you don't take him. Yes there are those who think his upside isn't that high, and perhaps think a guy like Slater Koekkoek could eventually achieve more in the league, but it's justification like that which causes players like Sean Couturier to drop to #8 in the draft.
Oh, did I mention the very well developed right handed shot? The Flyers should definitely jump on Ceci if they get a chance, but they likely won't.
The basic numbers
6'2, 180 lbs
Kimelman at NHL.com: not first round
Cool name, and the rankings seem to have him all over the place, although most place him below the Flyers mark in the draft. It looks like he's had a fair bit of experience playing against bigger guys in Europe in the Swedish second league, and in all likelihood he'll stay there and play in the Elitserien when he's drafted. He was ranked 4th amongst European skaters.
Lindholm's assets are clearly his skating ability and his shot. He projects as someone who could appear on an NHL powerplay and not look out of place in a few years. His weaknesses are his decision-making in the defensive zone. He could become a solid Top 4 two-way defenseman if he fixes aspects of his defensive game and continues to build on his offensive potential, or he could be nothing.
There's not much writing on Lindholm, but I did find a scouting report from a scout who watched one of Lindholm's games. If you're interested, this is definitely worth a read. I've only included the main conclusion below:
....Needs to be more decisive and less aggressive in the defensive zone overall. Too tense. Too lax in front of his net. Got knocked fully off his feet at least five times on the night. Again, could be an adjustment to the competition. Whatever the case, he was a little too late in getting rid of the puck on multiple occasions and paid for it. Was apt at carrying the puck up the ice but his breakout passes were hit-or-miss. On multiple occasions he made the right pass, but sometimes without enough zip, setting up his forwards to get hit. Showed a good ability to keep the puck in at the point with his skates. Lines up very wide off faceoffs, near the middle of the zone. Illustrated a willingness to go below the dots in the offensive zone and was generally good about picking his spots. Showed determination in getting the puck deep to allow for a change, though he followed it a little too heavily, got crushed, and allowed the opposition numbers the other way. Did not play on the PK or PP. Did not get a shift in the third period after his team tied the game (around the 11 minute mark). Shorted many of his shifts, especially after getting hit hard. Looked like a boy amongst men, but his skating ability alone makes him an interesting prospect. Couple that with some offensive prowess, and he could develop into a nice depth defenseman, but there was no visible star potential.
There's also a blog post that gave some idea of what we're looking at (some highlights below):
Lindholm's primary use to an NHL team will be as a puck-moving, offensively-minded defenseman. As noted before, his skating ability is elite. He also possesses an accurate shot from the point, and is equally comfortable using a wrister or a slapper from the back end.
Draft Range: Could go as high as 20th; should not be there after the 50th pick. Makes sense as a second-round defense project for a team drafting a talented, NHL-ready player (especially a forward) in the first round.
Some are high on him:
Lindholm is a bit of a project as he still needs time to fill out his frame as well as to further refine his defensive game. However we do feel that these issues will be able to be corrected with some time. Lindholm has a very high ceiling and that contributes to our first round ranking. We think that if he can reach his potential, he'll be similar to Nicklas Kronwall of the Detroit Red Wings.
He has a twitter if you are from Sweden.
Craig Button ranks him at #10, but I'm not entirely sure why. Lindholm seems to be a solid early second round choice, with a high ceiling, but I personally am not too keen on the guy. He may well be a solid Top 4 D-man in some time, but it would probably take a lot of development, a major turnaround in some of his play in Sweden, and a lot of anguish on behalf of the Flyers fans. Pass.
The basic numbers
5'11, 192 lbs
Kimelman at NHL.com: #18
A former first overall pick in the WHL Bantam Draft, people seem to know whereabouts Pouliot ranks in this draft. And that rank is just about where the Flyers will pick.
Pouliot's strengths lies in the offense he can add to a team. He's happy to contribute to the rush and help set up on the powerplay, and he's a strong skater to boot.
#51 Derrick Pouliot 2 goals vs Kelowna (2011-11-05) (via TVhockeyprospect)
His weaknesses lie in his defensive game. From what I've read, there's a lot to work on. He's not the type of guy who's going to shut down the opposition's top line, and he'll be prone to defensive lapses. If you're happy to take the good with the bad and appreciate the offense, then that's fine, but he may have to spend a lot more time with the coaches before he can deal with NHL forwards. He's also not very big compared to some of the other defensemen in the draft.
Why Your Team Will Take Him: Because he might be the best purely offensive defenseman in the draft.
Why Your Team Will Pass on Him: Because it's doubtful his two-way game will ever be more than ‘adequate'.
Strengths: Offensive Acumen, Playmaking, Shooting, Skating, Hands, Puck-Moving
Weaknesses/Concerns: Physicality, Defensive Game, Consistency, Size, Strength
Projection: Middle-Pairing Puck-Moving Defenseman and Powerplay QB (15g, 50p potential)
The Scouting Report
Pouliot is an effortless skater, able to effectively transition from either offense to defense, or defense to offense, in a hurry. He has strong offensive instincts, and can join the rush effectively using his skating ability to keep pace with attacking forwards. Pouliot has a good shot that he is able to get to the net frequently, though his shot velocity could use some work. Defensively, Pouliot has to be considered a bit of a project at this point, as the undersized defenseman found himself out-matched by larger WHL forwards, and also occasionally out of position
Pouliot is a good player, and perhaps he's treated harshly because there are so many other really good defensemen available in this draft who also have the ability to chip in on offense. If he falls to the Flyers, which may well happen, we'll be left with an interesting conundrum. Pouliot is very likely to develop into an offensive threat in the NHL, but do we trust ourselves with the task of developing him into someone who doesn't get burnt in his own end? Particularly when there are other two-way options who may not have as much offensive upside but may also be more secure defensively?
Some of the others
Just really quickly including some others, in case the 6 above are all gone by #20.
Bystrom is an experienced player who has played with the men in the Swedish leagues and also contributed in international tournaments. Similar to Lindholm, Bystrom has a fair offensive upside and decent skating talent. He's a good skater and seems to be a great passer who is decent positionally although he's lacking in the physical side of things. What I read suggests he's not much of a shooter, but a good puck mover.
Matheson is a defensive defenseman with strong skating skills. He's happy to block shots, cut off the passing lanes, battle along the boards and throw the occasional check. That combined with speed probably set him up for a decent NHL career. He's not a PP contributor, but he can log some minutes and keep the opposition's forwards quiet. Might be someone for the Flyers to have a look at. Committed to Boston College.
Once again, a good two-way defenseman with decent puck moving skills, although he's perhaps not as dominant in the offensive zone as some others in the draft. Speed and size are his strengths (apparently he grew two inches this season), but he could use the body more. Not a huge upside but the skill to hold down a Top 4 defensive position is there. The reason a team drafts Skjei is because of his raw skills, and the hope that they can develop him into a real threat. Skjei is committed to the University of Minnesota.
great skater for his size, likes to support the play from the back end, above-average puck mover, can lug the puck if needed, good hockey sense, gets point shots on the net, passing skills are okay, can play on the power play. Has improved quite a bit in last few months, hasn't reached his full potential yet. Not a hard-nosed kid, won't play a physical style despite his size and needs to add some muscle. Not an overly creative player and his offensive production may not be great - he needs work on his consistency
Schmaltz is worth including here because he's taken a bit of a nosedive in the rankings. Word is that scouts have discovered a lot of deficiencies that they weren't hoping to discover. Those who like him speak of a high IQ, good instinctive puck moving skills, good size and increasing reliability in his own end to go with his established offensive game which includes a highly touted shot. The detractors point out to a lack of physicality, including a perceived inability to take hits, as well as some concerns with speed. He'll be drafted for his offense, he will fall because he's got flaws even despite three USHL seasons. Committed to the University of North Dakota.
A brief look at Thrower tells the story of a much improved defenseman gaining the attention of teams who may have previously been ignoring him. He's one of the guys in this draft who is happy to take the body, happy to play on the PK and the PP and against top competition, and still be a contributor offensively. He's got a good shot, he plays with an edge, and he's willing to drop the gloves against opponents who are bigger than him. His downside is perhaps just a lack of upside, but he would be an OK pick.
Dalton Thrower vs Tom Wilson (via JimKorn20)
Good positionally, a smart hockey player, but not as impressive in the offensive zone. Has some concerns with the skating. Would certainly appear to be a reach at #20.
AND of course they could take other prospects too, and perhaps I even missed some better prospects who they have a greater chance of taking. If so, let me know and I'll add them to the post, because I'm keen to learn about the possibilities before heading into June's draft.
So, a long post, but I'm keen to hear your thoughts. Who impressed you? Who do you see falling and how do you see the Flyers taking? Ignoring the elite 5 that we won't get to see, what is the order you'd look at drafting them in from a Flyers perspective?