Getting to know Mark Friedman, the Flyers' 2014 third-round draft pick

Bruce Bennett

The Flyers' third-round draft pick will head to Bowling Green State University this season after being one of the USHL's best defensemen in 2013-14.

Flyers third-round draft pick Mark Friedman is the next in our series of profiles of the team's 2014 draft class. As a player in the oft-overlooked USHL, information on Friedman was a bit harder to come across than it was and/or will be for any of the Flyers' other draft picks this year, so we'll try to get a bit creative.

Background

Date of Birth: December 25, 1995
Primary Team, 2013-14: Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL
Nationality: Canadian (Toronto, ON)
Height: 5'10.5"
Weight: 185

Statistical Profile

Fancystats are unfortunately not available for the USHL, but some additional context on the numbers we have above:

  • Friedman was fourth in the USHL in overall points from defensemen this season, and second in points per game for defensemen behind only his Waterloo teammate, Brandon Montour. The three players with more points than Friedman were each 20 or older -- in terms of 2014 first-time draft-eligibles, Friedman was by far the most prolific scorer.
  • If you only look at even-strength points, Friedman's resume holds up and even improves slightly. His 23 even-strength points were third-best in the USHL, and his 0.45 ES points per game were second.
  • He put 142 shots on goal, second among all defensemen.
  • He kept his penalty minutes relatively low -- of the league's 108 defensemen who played in at least 30 games, Friedman's 0.59 PIM per game were 33rd-best, placing him in the top third (or bottom-third, in terms of minutes taken) of the league's defensemen.

Rankings and Opinions (and other information)

Central Scouting Services: 124 (43rd among defensemen)

Corey Pronman at ESPN ranked Friedman at 206 and didn't have a profile for him, but left the following notes in his Flyers draft review (Insider, $):

Mark Friedman was a top defender in the USHL this year. He's a really smart player and while small at 5-foot-10, he competes as hard as anyone. His offense comes from his IQ, so I'm not sure he makes it unless his skating hits the top-end level.

There's not a ton of literature out there about Friedman, but here's a really good feature on him from last April by Jim Nelson of the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier. A quick snippet:

"He plays bigger than what he is," Black Hawk associate head coach Shane Fukushima added. "He is one of the better two-way defensemen we've had here. He is extremely mobile and competitive and can add offensive punch. He's also very tenacious when he defends ... it's a deadly combination."

Some other interesting nuggets of info from that piece include:

  • Friedman, a Bowling Green commit who will begin college there next season, was originally planning to spend last year there. Due to a paperwork issue, that fell through, and instead he spent the year with Waterloo. If you believe his quotes in that piece, he says that it ultimately worked out for the best.
  • His coach at Waterloo said that he plays "22-23 minutes a game", including key defensive situations. That's solid top-pair minutes -- to put that in context, Braydon Coburn played 22:27 per game for the Flyers this year.
  • Friedman jumped up a bit in Central Scouting's rankings over the course of the year, from 133rd mid-season to 124th at the end of it.
  • He missed eight games in the middle of the season due to a bout of mononucleosis.

Finally, he likens his style of play to that of current Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya.

Summary

Compared to most of the other guys in the NHL draft, who played in the highly-touted CHL or the USNTDP or European junior leagues, there's not a ton of in-depth scouting that's readily available, so Mark Friedman's a little bit of an enigma in that sense. But based on what we do have, it looks like a combination of aspects of Friedman's play -- speed, smarts, offensive prowess, high-end work ethic -- are working in his favor, and they all contributed to a fantastic year in the USHL.

Still, as there typically are with third-round picks, there are a lot of questions surrounding him and the development curve ahead of him. The most important of which, of course: is the skill there? Pronman implied that his offense is more a product of his intelligence and compete level than anything else, so that leaves open some questions on how high his ceiling and floor as a player project out to be.

It's feasible to imagine a relatively small player dominating in the USHL based on speed, smarts, work ethic, and even physicality. That can probably work to an extent in college as well. But can that translate to the pros -- where the players are bigger, faster, smarter, and more skilled -- without Friedman taking a big step forward in his game? It's tough to say.

Of course, the Flyers obviously drafted him hoping that he would, in fact, take a big step forward in his game over the next four years, so maybe that's a moot point. Friedman should get a step up in competition playing in the WCHA with Bowling Green, and during his time in college he'll look to improve his skating and all-around game even further.

Fit with the Flyers

Two years ago, the Flyers went a little bit off the board with their third round pick and chose Shayne Gostisbehere, a smallish offensive defenseman who was playing in the NCAA. They caught lightning in a bottle on that pick, and Gostisbehere -- college hockey's best defenseman last year -- is one of the franchise's most exciting prospects as he heads into his first full year at the pro level (likely with the Adirondack Phantoms).

In selecting Friedman, it seems like the Flyers are trying to duplicate that pick's success. Friedman is a tiny bit bigger than Gostisbehere and maybe isn't as quick or purely talented offensively as he is, but it sounds like Friedman's probably more of a two-way defenseman and a bit more physical of a player. Regardless, the similarities are pretty clearly there between the two, and the same way Gostisbehere was intriguing as a sort of long-shot in 2012, the same can be said about Friedman now.

With the Flyers' draft clearly focused at least to an extent on getting speedy players, you can see how they found themselves wanting Friedman in the third round. He'll slot in somewhere in the next tier down from the team's "Big 3 (or 4)" defensive prospects, and what he shows this upcoming year -- his first in college, facing off with NCAA competition as a freshman -- will be huge in his development.

No particularly recent highlight videos for Friedman are out there, so here's his draft-day interview:

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