A part of an impressive 2014 Flyers’ draft class, Mark Friedman began his journey into professional hockey with his first full season and started to make a name for himself in the American Hockey League. Coming out of college Friedman was billed as a puck moving defenseman with a bit of a physical edge - and really, that description couldn’t have been put any better. That’s exactly who he is.
What makes Friedman an exciting prospect to watch is the fact that his play style is entirely different than any other Flyers’ defenseman, both on the current roster and when compared to their other defensive prospects. Sure, he doesn’t have the offensive instincts of Shayne Gostisbehere or Travis Sanheim - few do - but what he does bring is a unique combination of puck skills, speed, and physicality. For an NHL comparable, think Michael Del Zotto.
Prior to the arrival of Ivan Provorov, there was a time where Del Zotto was the Flyers’ number one defenseman. During the 2015-16 season he averaged over 23 minutes a night and, like Friedman, used his quickness to avoid opposing forecheckers while consistently making successful breakout passes. In today’s NHL it’s vital for a defenseman to have the ability to exit the defensive zone with control, whether it’s by making a pass to an exiting forward or skating the puck out themselves. Friedman has shown that he can do just that.
No. 24: Mark Friedman
Age: 22 (12/25/1995)
Size: 5’10”, 191 (via)
Acquired Via: 2014 NHL Draft -- Round 3, Pick 86 (Pick acquired from Boston in exchange for Andrej Meszaros on March 5, 2014)
2017-18 League/Team/Statistics: Lehigh Valley (AHL) - 2 G, 14 A in 65 GP
Ranking in BSH Winter 2018 25 Under 25: Unranked (did not make top 25)
As previously noted, 2017-18 was Friedman’s first full season of professional hockey (he had played in one game with the Phantoms towards the end of their 2016-17 season) and with a stacked roster in Lehigh Valley, his role was kept pretty minimal throughout the majority of the season. He went from being an all situations player for Bowling Green State University to seeing primarily only even strength hockey in the AHL, with just a few shifts on the second power play and penalty kill units here and there.
His limited role may not have been without good reason, as he himself said that it felt like he was “chasing the game“ throughout the first thirty or so games of the season and it was clear that he had a bit of an adjustment period to work through. Interestingly enough, his underlying numbers were overwhelmingly positive despite the fact that he was posting some of the worst goal-based results on the team during that stretch of games. While he was over-committing at times and made a few defensive gaffes along the way, it takes a fair bit of bad luck to wind up a -14 rating through 30 games on a team as good as the Phantoms were.
Statistically speaking, Friedman may have had one of the more underrated seasons among Flyers’ prospects. From December 9th until the end of the regular season, Friedman led all Phantoms’ defensemen in high danger Corsi for percent at 5-on-5 with a 57.23%, second to only Nicolas Aube-Kubel among skaters. While his offensive production may have left more to be desired, it did take him 45 games to score his first goal, he was driving play in the right direction. Oh, and that physical edge that keeps getting brought up?
Hello, Mark Friedman pic.twitter.com/4BqCST8FDg— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) January 27, 2018
Yeah, he’s pretty good at the whole hitting thing.
What goes hand-in-hand with his physicality is just how aggravating he can be. No, it’s not that he’s not aggravating to watch, that’s quite the opposite really, rather how aggravating he is to play against. He’s able to elicit some pretty strong reactions out of the opposition which allows him to draw a ton of penalties, with twenty-one of them last season to be exact. That was good enough for third on the team, first among blueliners, and his own discipline led to him only taking seven minors all season long. That combination led to him leading the Phantoms in penalty differential with a +14, two figures higher than second place Oskar Lindblom.
All of this, combined with increased opportunities due to the departures of a few Phantoms’ defensemen, namely Will O’Neill and Mark Alt, give reason to believe that Friedman is on the verge of having an awfully strong sophomore season at the AHL level. Towards the end of the regular season he began to play alongside T.J. Brennan, serving as his defensively reliable partner while also allowing him to play in more offensive situations himself. It’s easy to imagine a scenario where that partnership would continue into next season, as Brennan never found himself a consistent partner all throughout his 2017-18 campaign, and Friedman’s most common linemate, O’Neill, has since returned to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
Further down the road, Friedman currently projects to be a third pairing defenseman at the NHL level whose strong presence in the neutral zone and transition game allows him to push play in his team’s direction more often than not. It’s no guarantee that he’ll actually make the NHL one day, but there’s a ton of positive signs that he’ll be looking to build upon as he enters his sophomore season to make his case even stronger.
How We Voted For Mark Friedman
How We Voted At No. 24
|Danick Martel||Linus Hogberg||Mark Friedman||Wyatt Kalynuk||Linus Hogberg||Linus Hogberg||Adam Ginning||Matthew Strome||Pascal Laberge||Jay O'Brien||Pascal Laberge||John St. Ivany||Carsen Twarynski||Connor Bunnaman||Pascal Laberge|
How The Community Voted For Mark Friedman
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Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Summer 2018 Top 25 Under 25: