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2019-20 Philadelphia Flyers prospect review: Mark Friedman

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Pivoting to defense!

Heather Barry / SB Nation

We’ve just about hit the midpoint of this prospect season review series, which means it feels like it’s time for us to pause from talking about All Of The Forwards to cover our lone defenseman prospect still hanging out in the AHL. Let’s talk about Mark Friedman!

By all accounts, it was a very solid season for Friedman, there’s really no other way to put it. He came into his third season with the Phantoms already looking pretty close to NHL ready, but as a victim of the numbers game with the logjam of defensemen ahead of him on the depth chart, he was more or less slated to spend the whole of this season with the Phantoms. It was a chance for him to work to iron out the finer points of his game and make that next step towards dominating the AHL, as we saw prospects Travis Sanheim and Philippe Myers do before him. And on that expectation, as we’ll break down herein, he absolutely delivered.

By the numbers

Basic Stats

Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM SOG SH%
Games Played Goals Assists Points PIM SOG SH%
45 3 15 18 30 96 3.1

The scoring numbers, to kick things off, are pretty solid! His 18 points on the season are good for 11th on the team, and third among defensemen, just four points behind Tyler Wotherspoon and three behind Andy Welinski (who both played more games), and this is a a respectable total for a defenseman who, mind you, wasn’t getting top power play time. He scored fewer goals than he did last season, but he also played 30 fewer games, his season abbreviated between a couple of injuries, a few brief call ups to the NHL, and of course, the season being cancelled. His pace, assuming he played a full 78 game season, was closer to five goals and 31 points, which would have matched his goal scoring total from the previous season, and exceeded his points total, which certainly isn’t too shabby. Friedman doesn’t have the same explosive offensive game that we’ve seen from some of the other defensemen who came up through the Phantoms, but he does still have some strong offensive instincts and the ability to chip in offensively when the chance arises, so given where his skillset lies, this is a stat line to be pleased with.

5v5 On-Ice Stats

Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi For% Corsi For% Relative Scoring Chances For% Goals For Goals Against Goals For%
Corsi For Corsi Against Corsi For% Corsi For% Relative Scoring Chances For% Goals For Goals Against Goals For%
561 543 50.82 2.77 51.87 22 22 50

But we’re diving into some of the underlying numbers now, and this is where things get really good. It’s no secret that the Phantoms as a whole struggled to drive play this season, and it was a somewhat small group that were able to post strong overall shot impacts, and Friedman was comfortably within that group. Both of his Corsi-For and Scoring Chances-For differentials are above 50 percent, and and those and the High Danger Chances-For differentials are all well above the team average. And this is all just to say that, in short, the Phantoms were in a better position territorially when Friedman was on the ice. The numbers on their own may not be dominant, but they are, relative to what most of his teammates were doing, and that’s pretty remarkable.

5v5 Neutral Zone Stats

Entry Attempts Entries Controlled Entry% Possession Entry% Exit Attempts Exits Controlled Exit%
Entry Attempts Entries Controlled Entry% Possession Entry% Exit Attempts Exits Controlled Exit%
126 121 25.62 47.11 258 221 51.13

And we’ve got even more to like in these transition numbers! The Controlled Exit% is what immediately stands out, as Friedman proved to be one of the team’s most consistent generators of breakouts with possession—he’s third among regular defensemen in this metric, behind Chris Bigras and Reece Wilcox. Also worth noting is how he seems to often try to be something of a one man rush machine, as his 121 individual entries is the most among defensemen and third among all skaters (please note though that the number of games tracked varies from player to player). And, that considered, the 25.62 Controlled Entry%, while above the average for defensemen, is well below the team average, so if he’s going to be the one leading the rush, we might like to see him either carrying the puck into the offensive zone or moving it over to a forward better on entries, to help the team maintain possession on more of his entries. But this does show a confidence to his game, that he’s comfortable running so many of these breakouts and trying to get the puck up the length of the ice, and that’s certainly notable.

Three burning questions

1. Did Friedman live up to our expectations this season?

It’s going to be a pretty hard yes on this one. We expected to see him take a step forward, iron out some of the details that needed working on, and look more dominant in his third AHL season, and that’s what he did. We’ve likely shared this sentiment before, but it bears repeating that Friedman was pretty easily the Phantoms’ most consistent defenseman this season, and by a pretty comfortable margin. The defensive side of his game was sound, and his offensive contributions solid, in short, Friedman brought probably the most complete game of any member of the defense corps. No other defenseman posted positive relative shot metrics (CF%, SCF%, HDCF%), as well as a Controlled Exit% above 50 percent. That’s a lot of overall positive impact. So, while there may not have been one thing that he was positively dominant at, he proved to be solid in just about everything, and that’s really what the team needed from him.

2. What do we expect from Friedman next season?

A lot of this hinges on what happens with the Flyers and if and how they clear up some space and how they decide to rotate players on their third pair, but ideally we’d see Friedman make the team out of camp and finally get a longer look with the big club, Based on how he’s seemingly mastered playing at the AHL level, and based on the flashes he’s showed us in brief looks with the Flyers, I feel confident saying that he’s NHL ready, There are a lot of moving pieces, but the point remains that I do expect him to make the jump to the NHL, and I expect to see him perform pretty well there. The adjustment to playing at the NHL level isn’t immediate, and I won’t expect it to be for him, but he’s done just about all he could have been expected to do to round out his game. Now he just needs to chance to show that he is indeed ready.

3. What would we like to see Friedman to improve on?

In terms of his game at the AHL level, there really isn’t much. If we really want to nitpick, I could say that I still feel like there’s a bit more untapped offensive potential than we’d seen already, and maybe he would have benefited from some time on the first power play unit, or opting to activate a bit more in the offensive zone, but like I said, that would be a nitpick. It’s pretty clear that he’s just about worked out all that he needed to work out at the AHL level. We’re not here to quibble over the details. What he’ll need to work on and adapt to at the NHL level is still an open question, we’ll need to see a bit more of him there to know for sure, but as it stands, he’s in a very good position to make the jump.