With 34 players taken in his first four years as the team’s general manager, Ron Hextall had done a pretty good job of restocking the pipeline with plenty of talent before this year’s Entry Draft. Outside of Samuel Morin, however, the Philadelphia Flyers didn’t have many stay-at-home defensemen in the prospect pool. David Drake is still a part of the organization, as he has an AHL deal with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, but it isn’t a guarantee he ever sees NHL action. After taking a pair of forwards in the first round of the 2018 NHL Entry Draft, Hextall addressed this issue by taking Adam Ginning, a Swedish left-handed d-man.
Not only did Hextall help to fill an organizational need by drafting Ginning, they may have gotten value for the 6’4”, 205-pound rearguard taken with the 50th overall pick, as DraftSite projected him to go 35th overall. He may not fit the popular mold of an offensive-minded blue liner that often succeeds in today’s NHL, but Ginning does possess several attributes that could make him an NHL d-man in the future. To go along with the usual capabilities of a stay-at-home guy (uses his size effectively, great outlet passes, kills penalties), he is also great at defending the rush and has a strong hockey IQ. As Bill Placzek of DraftSite also points out, Ginning did show improvement in his skating and overall agility throughout the 2017-18 season, so it’s easy to see why Hextall selected him to help fill a need.
Thanks to the aforementioned skill set, Ginning was named the captain of Sweden’s most recent U-18 World Junior Championship team. Unfortunately, while at the U-18 WJC, Ginning’s flaws were on display, as illustrated by SB Nation’s Eyes on the Prize:
“The problem is what comes with the change of ice hockey in general, to the pace of the new role of the defenceman as a play driver, something that Ginning isn’t standing out as. Ginning played last season’s World U18 Championship and was paired with Timothy Liljegren, but it was apparent that he was out of his element in that role. He has to be very good as a defensive defender to earn a roster spot. While his skating isn’t bad for someone his size, especially in terms of speed, he needs to improve it to become an NHL player, especially his acceleration and lateral mobility. He can offset those problems with his great reach, but he should also be able to utilize his strong legs better.”
EotP also thinks Ginning will need another season or two in the SHL and probably a season in the AHL before potentially reaching the NHL.
If Ginning does reach the NHL, it will definitely be for his defensive play, as he has never really produced points at any point in his career. In 58 regular season and playoff games in 2016-17 between the SHL, SuperElit, U-18 Allsvenskan, and U-18 Elit, Ginning totaled two goals and 19 points.
During the 2017-18 regular season, Ginning split time between Linkoping HC’s U-20 SuperElit team and their SHL squad. He posted one goal and five assists for six points in 17 SuperElit games, while his SHL stats weren’t as pretty (which is to be expected for an 18-year-old). To go along with his one goal (a pretty nice goal, for what it’s worth) and one assist, Ginning only posted 15 shots on goal and 15 hits in 28 SHL games during the 2017-18 campaign. After he saw 15:00 of ice time or more in seven of his first nine games for Linkoping HC, Ginning didn’t play more than 9:56 in a game for any of the team’s 26 games from November 17 to February 10. The Flyers’ second-round pick only played in 16 of those 26 contests and failed to see 5:00 of playing time in five of those tilts.
Again, not the prettiest SHL numbers, but he is only 18 years old and already plenty experience Playing Against Men. Physical stay-at-home defensemen may not be ideal in today’s NHL, but the selection of Ginning does help fill an organizational need (especially if Morin ends up not panning out) and he does seem to show more potential than other physical prospects on the blue line over recent years.