I read an article on Pension Plan Puppets (Toronto’s SBN site) and they did a feature called “Top-25 Under 25.” It details their top 25 players under 25 years old. Simple. Here’s my version of that for this year’s Flyers:
- Claude Giroux, C, 24- He turns 25 on January 12, 2013. January 12th should be a holiday in Philadelphia. He’s really good at hockey.
- Sean Couturier, C, 19- He doesn’t turn 20 until next August. Last year I’d have had Brayden Schenn over Coots, but the Malkin shut-down plus a hat-trick in the playoffs bumped him over Brayden.
- Brayden Schenn, C, 20- Another August birthday, so he’ll be 20 all year. He had a disappointing season last year, but his 9 points in 11 playoff games were more than enough to restore confidence in the kid. His physicality was more than advertised, which is scary. On top of his offensive prowess, watching this kid throw his weight around like he’s done has been sheer fun to watch. Having these three centers, all under 25, guarantees us success for as long as these guys are in orange and black.
- Jakub Voracek, RW, 22- Another August birthday, and as a birthday gift this year he received a shiny new contract worth 17-million over the next four years. He’s the heir to Jagr’s vacant wing, and that should give him a significant point increase. His career high is 50 points and 18 goals, I’m expecting highs in both of those categories this coming season.
- Luke Schenn, D, 22- He’s already played in the NHL for four years and he’s only 22 years old. His potential is sky high. His nickname is the Human Eraser. Having the Schenn bros on the squad should benefit all three parties: each brother and the team. “Schenn finds Schenn on a great outlet and Schenn puts it in the back of the net!”
- Wayne Simmonds, RW, 23- Up to now, Simmer has had a better career and is probably a better player than Schenn, but Wayne lacks true top-line upside. Wayne’s 49 points and 28 goals were career highs, and if he continues to be a net presence on the top PP unit, 20-25 goals from here on out should be the norm.
- Erik Gustafsson, D, 23- After an all-star year with the Phantoms in 2010-11 (49 points in 72 games) where he appeared in three regular season games, “Gus” played in 30 NHL regular season games (scoring a goal and tallying four assists) and seven playoff games (1G, 1A). He’s poised to win a spot on the blue line this year for the big club, but will have to compete with Bruno Gervais (27 y.o.) and Andres Lilja (100 y.o.) to do so. If he fails to make the Flyers out of camp, he’ll headline a very solid blue line in the AHL with the help of Danny Syvrett (25 y.o.) who’s been a 2-time AHL All-Star.
- Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 22- Like Gus, MAB is in the fight for the 6th defender spot. In his first stint in the NHL this past year, Bourdon tallied 4 goals and 3 assists in 45 games with 52 PIMs. He has a better physical game then Gus, really throwing his 225 lb. frame around. He handles the puck at a proficient NHL-level, can shoot the puck decent, and he’s a willing combatant if necessary. Other than Giroux (22 overall in 2006) and Couturier (8 overall in 2011), no one else has been drafted by the Flyers in my top-8 other than Bourdon---67th overall in 2008.
- Eric Wellwood, W, 22- We all saw this playoffs that Wellwood simply does not have an off button. He skates and skates and hustles and skates and kills penalties and hustles a little bit more. Someone who’s been a part of the Flyers organization since the late 1990’s told me Wellwood has the quickest first step he’s ever seen. Ever. The intriguing thing about Wellwood is that he elevates his game to that of his line mates. He played with Taylor Hall (2010 first overall pick) in juniors and in his first 3 game NHL stint in 2010-11, he was showcased on a line with Mike Richards. His 28 points in 73 games two years ago for the Phantoms was a little underwhelming, but the 21 in 33 he put up this past year was along the lines of what was expected. He had 9 points in 24 NHL games this past year, suiting up for all 11 playoff games, although he didn’t tally a point. Wellwood can be a third line player on a lot of teams in the NHL although he might be relegated to fourth line duty for us due to our depth. If he doesn’t make the squad, its only because our front office wants him to log more minutes in the AHL opposed to fourth line minutes in the NHL. “Fun to watch” is how I’d describe Wellwood in a sentence.
- Nick Cousins, C, 19- Agitator. That’s all he was supposed to be when he put up 68 in 68 in the OHL two years ago. Then he went off for 88 in 65 last year bumping his potential from third line agitator to potential second line pest. He’s described as a Brad Marchand-type. He’s got another year in juniors, so I’m looking for him to break the century mark---that would be a great sign for his continued development.
- Brandon Manning, D, 22- If you ask someone who the top Flyer defensive prospect is, 95% of those people will say Gus or Bourdon. The other 5%? Manning. He got his first call up to the Flyers last year, playing in four games. I didn’t notice him much---which I took as a good thing. Coming into the NHL and playing a mistake-free game is impressive as a 21-year-old. He improved every year of juniors: 29 points in 72 games as an 18, 54 in 69 the following year, and was point-per-game in his final year with 53 points in 53 games including an astonishing 21 goals. He had 19 points in 46 games for the Phantoms last year, and should be able to take advantage of being only the 4th defender in ADK (Syvret, Gus, MAB). This kid has a bright future; don’t forget about him when talking Philly D-prospects.
- Scott Laughton, C, 18- Our most recent first pick at 20th overall in this past draft. Laughton comes from the “Richards” mold of character, two-way centers. He improved his scoring from 23 points in 63 games to 53 points in 64 games. He was a secondary scorer for the Oshawa Generals, but that will change this year. He will be counted on to paint up the stat sheet as Oshawa lost multiple key guys to graduation and the NHL.
- Zac Rinaldo, W, 22- While Zac may never play above the Flyers fourth line, he’s certainly not going anywhere. Zac is already one of the best hitters in the league. His crushing hit on Drew Doughty (that ended in a Doughty concussion) in the home-opener was a message to the coaches that he belongs. He may not be a great hockey player, or even a very good one, but the energy he brings to the ice every time he hops over the boards is undeniable. After Anton Volchenkov destroyed Brayden Schenn in the playoffs last year, it was Rinaldo that returned the favor with the hit of the year. I was calling for a JVR benching to keep Rinaldo in the line-up for the would be game six of that Devil series.
- Harry Zolnierczyk, F, 24- Harry netted a highlight real goal in his first NHL game for the Flyers last year, announcing his presence with authority. The former BrownUniversity captain plays an aggressive 2-way game with emphasis on the aggression. Like Wellwood, “Harry Z” has a serious motor on him. He was roughly point per game in his last two years at brown, which translated to 21 points in 39 games in the AHL. He should be able to improve on that AHL scoring rate while contributing in the NHL when he’s called upon (he had 6 points in 37 games last year).
- Niko Hovinen, G, 24- He turns 25 on 3/16/13, so he can only be here for a little while. Niko played in the SM-Liiga (top league in Finland) for the past four years, starting for the last two. As a back up in 21 games as a rookie and 19 the following year he had a pedestrian 2.92/.896 and then a 2.99/.914. He was then given the keys to the Pelicans in 2010-11 and in 49 games he improved to a 2.59/.921 only to best that with a 2.26/.920 in 41 games this past year. In three games at the EHT (not 100% sure what that is---I think it’s a national tourney in Europe), he represented his native Finland very well with a .41/.979--- good for the second best numbers in the tourney behind former NHLer Kari Lehtonen (.5/.983). He bested Semyon Varlamov (1.51/.927) and former Flyer prospect Joacim Eriksson (4.11/.867). The 6’7” Finn will battle in the AHL this year against…
- Cal Heeter, G, 23- The 6’4” native of St. Louis, Missouri graduated from Ohio St. after four years of good hockey. His first two years (averaged): 3.24/.899. His last two years: 2.38/.920. Heeter and Hovinen will trade starts until one emerges as the clear #1 in Adirondack---until then, it should be a great goalie battle.
- Jason Akeson, W, 22- Akeson is an interesting prospect. He went undrafted and signed by the Flyers last summer where he went on to put up an impressive 55 points in 76 games as an AHL rookie. He underperformed in his draft year by only tallying 64 points in 56 games, but put up an 80 point clip as a 19-year-old and topped that by leading the OHL with 108 points in his final year. How did he go undrafted? The masses thought his success was due to his line mates as he played with Calder trophy winners Jeff Skinner and Gabriel Landeskog in back to back years. He’s a pass-first guy that’s a little on the smaller side (5-10, 190 lb), but if he improves his AHL numbers this year, he could be the first in line for a top-9 call up.
- Oliver Lauridsen, D, 23- He’s a big 6-6, 220 pound defender that has made vast improvements over the past year or so. Some have mentioned he’d be a call up candidate along with the other few ranking above him. Either way, he’s due to have a very good year facing some weaker AHL competition due to the depth we have there now. He was drafted in the 7th round in 2009 and if he continues to develop, he could wind up being a great pick.
- Marcel Noebels, F, 20- was traded to Seattle half way through the year from Portland and it sparked his offense. He tallied 24 in his first 31 and after the trade had 34 in his next 31. He’s decent sized at 6-2 and was considered a steal at the 2011 draft being picked in the 4th round.
- Anthony Stolarz, G, 19- Drafted in the second round by the Flyers this year at 45 overall, the 6-5 goalie adds some depth to our goalie situation. With Bryz, Leighton, Heeter, Hovinen, Kovar, and now Stolarz; where the Flyers were once the laughing stock of the league with their goalie situation, not so much anymore.
- Shane Gostisbehere, D, 19- As a freshmen, Shane was a huge factor in UnionCollege’s Frozen Four appearance. He partnered with 24-year-old Greg Coburn, which is probably how he got discovered by the Flyers. He’s a 5-11 puck mover that should be a part of a very solid Union team for the next year to three years.
- Colin Sullentrop, D, 20- Colin is a defensive defender at 6-1, 190 pounds getting ready to suit up along Scott Laughton for his last season as an Oshawa General. Picked in the fourth round last year, he should add some depth to the Phantoms next year, but is a wild card as far as the rest of his development. I haven’t heard much of his name at all over the past year since he was drafted.
- Fredrik Larsson, D- He was our 4th pick this past year out of Sweden, but he isn’t your typical European. He tallied over a hundred PIM’s last year due to his very physical nature. He fought five times---good for 25 PIM’s a fight, and loves the physical side of the game. He’s going to get a Rocky quote tattooed to his side, which is sure to make him a fan favorite if and when he comes across the pond from Europe.
- Tye McGinn, F, 21- Brother of Jamie McGinn, Tye had an underwhelming 18 points in 63 games in his rookie year for the Phantoms. At 6-2, 195 lbs, he’s a big kid that does have some potential (64 points in 42 games in his last junior season), but he’s most likely never going to crack the NHL.
- Taylor Leier, LW, 18- After netting 37 points in 72 games in his first WHL action, it’s the comparison to Eric Wellwood that intrigues me. I’ve seen the comparison a few times over the blogosphere, and he’s got an interesting year coming up. He’ll go from secondary scorer to primary scorer for the Winterhawks this year and if he can top the 60 point mark, we could be on to something here. If not, he’s still a fast skater and a hard worker---there’s never too many of those guys floating around.
Conclusion: The Flyers “prospect pool” may be the weakest in the league with no true blue-chip guys. However, you can see we are loaded with U-25 talent if you include what we already have on the roster. G, Coots, both Schenns, Simmer, and Jake compose our young core. There are pieces in the farm system that project to be pieces to the puzzle, but the middle of the puzzle is already completed. We need some of these kids to step up into roles, but the core of the Flyers is set for the next few years. What do you guys think? Where do you disagree with me? Who did I miss? Who do I have up here that shouldn’t be?
This item was written by a member of this community and is not necessarily endorsed by Broad Street Hockey.