At this point in the season, it’s become evident that the Flyers will no longer be competing for the playoffs. Thanks to a span of 5 games in which we received 9 points a week or so ago, it’s also pretty clear that we wont be getting the number 1 pick. That means no Seth Jones (the current consensus number one pick in the draft; he’s a 6-4 two-way defender capable of making an instant NHL impact). We all know how desperately the Flyers need a stud defender, and we know just how easily it is to find one of them on the open market. We can speculate all we want about what the Flyers may do, but there is one move that we can be pretty sure that they will make: selecting a player in the first round of the NHL draft in late June. Lets take a look at the next best defensive prospects in this year’s draft, the ones not named Seth Jones. I took a look at seven recent mock drafts (http://www.mynhldraft.com/2013-nhl-draft-prospect-rankings there are the rankings for each expert) and took an average to see where these players wind up. The mock drafts were done by Craig Button, Future Considerations, The Hockey Guys, the International Scouting Service, Mckeen’s Hockey, Hockey Prospectus (my favorite), and TSN.
|Craig Button||Future Considerations||The Hockey Guys||I.S.S.||McKeen's||Hockey Prospectus||TSN||Avg||St-D|
Darnell Nurse, 6’5”, OHL- High: 6 (Craig Button 4/12), Low: 12 (International Scouting Service 3/15), Average: 9th overall. Darnell is the son of Donovan McNabb [insert joke here]. He’s a two-way defender with some questions about his hockey IQ and his offensive upside. Nurse will be an NHL player, there’s pretty much no doubt about that, but what kind of player will he be and how quickly can he reach the show? His floor is probably that of a 6th defender due to the fact that he skates well and he is very physical. His point total has tripled from last year from 10 to 30+, and he’s got 10 goals. If he can round out an offensive game there’s no doubt his ceiling is that of a top-pair player.
Rasmus Ristolainen, 6’3”, SM-Liiga (Top professional league in Finland)- High 7 (I.S.S. 3/15 and TSN 1/30), Low 20 (Craig Button 4/12), Average: 11th overall. In his second full season in Finland’s top league, he’s put up 15 points in 52 games. That’s a nice bump from his 16-year-old rookie year where he put up 8 in 40. He’s competed in 2 World Junior Classics already (that’s a U-20 tournament, he competed at 16 and 17) and has impressed with 9 points in 13 games over the two years (6 in 6 this year). According to Corey Pronman’s mid-season rankings (he’s ranked 9th) “Ristolainen has logged really tough minutes this season, displaying significant two-way ability. He does everything really well, as he can skate, move the puck, and make plays in his own end.” I tend to think of Pronman as the best that there is if that counts for anything.
Nikita Zadarov, 6’5”, OHL- High 9 (I.S.S. 3/15), Low 17 (Mckeen’s 2/28), Average 12th overall. After a mere 6 points in 41 games in the Russian MHL (MHL:KHL::AHL:NHL) he has come to the OHL and score 25 points in 63 games. Pronman describes him as “an elite physical player who is big, strong, and consistently lays out bone-crunching hits. He skates well—very well for a big man—and can be a decent puck mover.” Eliteprospects.com lists him as 229 pounds. I read a bio like that and think ‘…Coburn, Luke, Grossmann…’. The Flyers like big, strong, defenders, but with the dyer need for a puck mover, I don’t think Zadarov is too high up on the Flyers list.
Ryan Pulock, 6’0, WHL- High 6 (McKeen’s 2/28), Low 25 (Button 4/12), Average 15. The captain of the Brandon Wheat Kings this year (B. Schenn’s teammate for part of Pulock’s rookie year) has put up 42 points in each of his three WHL seasons. Pronman’s take: “Pulock is an offensive weapon from the blue line with good puck skills, vision, and a bullet shot. I hear conflicting reports on his skating and defense.” From a team needs stand point, he fits like a T. Most of the rankings listed above were mid-term rankings and with a lot having happened since then, I’m sure a lot of questions about his defense and skating will be answered.
Josh Morrissey, 6’0, WHL- High 8 (Prospectus 2/15), Low 23 (McKeen’s 2/28), Average 17. After a great second year in the WHL, where Morrissey put up 38 points in 68 games, he topped that with 47 in 70 this year. His goal scoring jumped from 10 to 15 as well. Cory Pronman describes him as “a really fun player to watch due to his skating and offensive ability. His only real issue is that his physical game is just okay, leading to questions whether he can be a really effective defender.” The Flyers obviously need a #1 defender---someone capable of shutting down top players and capable of quarterbacking a powerplay. Morrissey may not be that guy, but he could certainly be a middle-pair offensive defender with #1 power play upside.
Conclusion: Seth Jones is not the only defender in this year’s draft. Our chances of getting Jones fall off dramatically if we pick fourth or later. There is a consensus top-3 consisting of Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin (winger) and Nathan MacKinnon (center). That’s not to say we can’t get in the top three if we try. I think that we could move up in this draft if we fall in the top 5. Our first, second, Matt Read, and maybe a few more players could get us Seth Jones. If we can’t move up, I would be opened to moving down as well. After the consensus top-3 there are a few forwards slated to go right after. Alexander Barkov (Finland), Elias Lindholm (Sweden), Sean Monahan (OHL), and Valeri Nichushkin (KHL) are all predicted to go higher than the second defender. If the Flyers pick at 6 they could be looking at another situation similar to the Couturier pick. Couturier was picked one pick prior to Dougie Hamilton (this was before Pronger’s injury) but I’d be that this year we’d reach for a defender before we picked a forward. If a team wants to move up from 6 to 9, I would seriously consider that. While Nurse and Risto could be the potential #1 guy, they also have questions about their puck moving ability---which is a quality the Flyers really need. Morrissey and Pulock are both great puck movers, with questions about their defensive ability. You probably have to pick in the 5-10 range to guaruntee yourself a shot at Nurse/Risto when a 10-15 pick could safely land you Pulock or Morrissey.