A good number of young, impact players is an absolute necessity in the NHL.
It's a necessity borne out of the salary cap era, and teams that can draft well and consistently add quality talent on entry-level contracts have a big leg up on teams that have historically relied on expensive old talent through free agency. The Flyers, of course, have perennially been one of those teams, which is why general manager Ron Hextall's desire to reverse those 45 years of history is so refreshing.
A reminder, though: the work isn't anywhere near finished yet.
If you're at the top of this list and you have a good team now, you're in excellent shape (Islanders, Lightning). If you're at the bottom of this list and have a good team, you're doing OK but might want to be a little concerned (Pittsburgh, Vancouver, Washington). If you're at the top of this list and have a bad team, maybe you're just awful at managing a hockey team (Edmonton!) ... or you're just in the very early stages of what could be a very prosperous stretch (Florida).
if you're at the bottom of this list and have a bad team .... well .... uhh, crap.
The only regulars on the Flyers roster age 24 and under are Michael Del Zotto, Brayden Schenn, Zac Rinaldo and Sean Couturier. That's ... it. There is a bunch of age 25 and 26 talent in guys like Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux, and they are not near over the hill just yet, but it's clear that there's not enough youth on this team.
You just can't build a good team that's within the rules of the salary cap without young talent. Not for more than a season or two at a time, at least.
This is why Hextall's rebuild strategy, focusing on drafting and development, is so important. The Flyers are no doubt in better shape than a team like Pittsburgh, who have basically no depth in their system at all after years of trading away draft picks and prospects in an attempt to Win Now. And the Flyers' number should rise to around league average when the defense gets much younger next season. Travis Sanheim, Samuel Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg ... all of these guys are very promising and at least one or two of them will be huge pieces on the team for the next decade-plus, if all goes according to plan.
But if the Flyers don't add prospect depth at the forward positions, a young defense isn't going to matter when the forward group is old. It's just shifting the problem from the defense now to the forwards later.
Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins are basically the only skilled, NHL-bound forward prospects the team has right now, unless somebody like Danick Martel, Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Michael Parks or Taylor Leier really impress in the next year or two. Right now those guys don't look like top-six NHL players, although you never know. Oskar Lindblom is somebody to keep an eye on, but he's still in Europe so it's really pretty hard to judge.
While there's so much promise on the back end, there's not much of it at the forward positions. That really needs to be a focus for the Flyers in the draft as they go forward. Otherwise an old, bad team is just going to get older, just at a different position than they struggle with currently.
There's still a ton of work to be done with this Flyers rebuild.