NHL free agency: Getting to know Christian Folin, a possible Flyers target

Justin K. Aller

The Flyers are reportedly interested in Christian Folin, a UMass Lowell defenseman many are calling this year's top NCAA free agent. Let's get to know the guy a little more.

Christian Folin will lead the UML River Hawks into the NCAA tournament this weekend, and the No. 2 seed in the Northeast Region has a fair shot to advance to their second-straight Frozen Four. Folin is a big part of their success, and once the season ends for his team, he's likely to sign with an NHL club. The Flyers hope he chooses them.

We chatted with Jeff Cox from SB Nation College Hockey about Folin's game. Cox has seen Folin play upwards of 20 times over the last two years, and is well-versed on the defenseman's game.

BSH: Can you briefly summarize Folin's game? His strengths and weaknesses? Could you compare him to an NHL player?

Cox: Christian Folin was an older freshman who transitioned well to the college game last season, but really became a strong presence in all three zones towards the end of the year. He has a rocket of a shot, is fairly mobile for such a big defender and is fundamentally sound in his own zone.

He is a heavy hitter at times, but not a player that is always looking for the big hit. His one weakness is he tends to get flat-footed from time to time. He compares favorably to Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson. The two are similar in size and style of play.

Is he NHL-ready right now or does he need some AHL seasoning?

Folin would most likely need a year in the AHL to become more acquainted with the professional game. The one thing that has really stood out in UMass Lowell's success over the past three seasons is Norm Bazin's game plan and style that emulates the NHL more so than it does the typical NCAA brand.

What role does Folin play in Lowell, and what type of role should we expect him to play in the NHL?

Folin plays in all situations for UMass Lowell. Head coach Norm Bazin focuses on structure and definitely has a defensive mindset, but Folin can be an impact player in all three zones. He has a booming shot from the point on the power play, but his defensive game needs to be noted. Like a lot of Lowell defensemen, he's good at forcing players wide and staying in lanes and blocking shots.

He's a big player, weighing in at 6'3, 210. How much does he use his size, and will that translate well to the pro game?

Folin is certainly big and plays a big game. He's every bit of that 6'3", too. He uses his size some and has delivered some bone crunching hits, but he's not the type of player looking to make the big hit. He stays in position and is very sound defensively unlike some bigger college blue liners who run around looking for the big hit at the expense of positioning.

What are the chances Folin signs with a team this spring? What team do you think might have an edge, if any?

Folin's family advisor was shopping him around last winter and it is a near certainty that he signs as soon as UMass Lowell's season comes to an end. Tampa Bay Lightning GM Steve Yzerman was at a Lowell home game recently and other teams rumored to be interested and in contention for landing Folin are Boston, Los Angeles, Chicago and Philadelphia.

***

The issue with all college free agents, especially the top guys, is that they can choose from any team in the league. In the case of a guy like Folin, who is bound to get plenty of NHL offers, he might demand the chance to play in the NHL this year.

Can the Flyers offer that? Should they, even if they decide they can? Can they convince him to finish the year in Adirondack and shoot for a job in Philadelphia next year? It gums up the works considerably when it comes to these college free agent situations, but Paul Holmgren hasn't been afraid to go after these guys in the past (hi, Matt Read!), so he'll likely be in the mix for Folin as soon as UMass Lowell's season ends. It might even end right here in Philly.

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