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Keith Jones has Unveiled his Vision for the Flyers to Become a Defensive Juggernaut; now, how might he go about getting that done?
Since being given the job and title of the Philadelphia Flyers’ latest President of Hockey Operations, former Flyer Keith Jones has been busy finishing out his contract with TNT covering an immense amount of playoff hockey games. Along with that, Jones has been running the gambit of late as he has been seen on every media circuit out there that covers this great sport; we all know and love trying to ensure the Flyers fanbase that he has a plan on how to bring this once great franchise back to contention.
Jones’s vision on how he will go about getting that done is revamping the team’s blue line. With the idea of trying to build a strong defensive core like his friend and longtime Nashville Predators General Manager David Poile was able to maintain throughout his career down in Music City. Whether it be the early 2000s when the Predators’ core consisted of Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Kimmo Timonen, and Dan Hamhuis. Or right up to this season where his blue line consisted of players such as Roman Josi (two-time Stanley Cup Champion) Ryan McDonagh, Mattias Ekholm, Tyson Barrie, and Dante Fabbro. Poile’s Preds. were always viewed as the league’s benchmark regarding the defensive side of things. And therefore, other teams like the Carolina Hurricanes have tried to mimic their success by following the blueprint Poile laid out for them.
So, I guess now the question becomes, how might Jones go about getting that done here in Philadelphia?
Well, as I see it, he must start by using the Subtraction method. The Flyers’ current defensive core consisting of Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Rasmus Ristolainen, Tony DeAngelo, Nick Seeler, and Cam York, was atrocious again this past season. They finished among the leagues’ worst in penalty killing, with the Flyers only managing to stop their opponents’ advances 74.7% of the time this year. Wonder why? Well, this unit was a combined -53 on the season (with Seeler being the only D-man finishing the season as a plus player, and even that was only a measly +1 average). Not to mention that they are a collective -264 for their career. To put that into perspective, the previously mentioned Predators’ defenseman Ryan McDonagh is a career +227.
After reading that, hopefully, you realize that the Flyers are in a world of hurt right now. So much so that if management doesn’t make any off-season moves, they are due to have to shell out over $30 million to this futile defense next season, that is, if you add in the fact that they are still on the hook for $6.25 million (for the next four years) for the injured Ryan Ellis. Remember, though, this is all before the team comes to an agreement with their restricted free agent Cam York who I imagine will be due quite the hefty raise as he is coming off his rookie deal that only paid him $880,833. That’s a lot of cap space to waste on a group that does their job so poorly.
To right this, Keith Jones and Danny Briere must re-evaluate how they determine what makes a good defenseman. My theory, or at least what I always tell the kids I coach. “It doesn’t matter if you score 50 goals in a season; if you are out on the ice when your opponent scores 51, you’re ineffective.”
Who should/could the Flyers get rid of?
The obvious choice would be to try and trade the dead contract of Ryan Ellis (who Philadelphia has all but said will never play again) to a team like the Arizona Coyotes. But honestly, look how that has worked out for them in the past. The Coyotes have been kicked out of one town for not paying their bills, had to be bailed out by the league multiple times, and are currently playing in a college stadium that only holds roughly 5,000 fans. They just had another town turn down a multi-billion-dollar proposal to build them a new stadium and had their top three pick from last year, Logan Cooley, refuse to sign with them out of pure embarrassment. So, I think that pipe dream is all but shot.
They could try and trade hometown boy Anthony DeAngelo seeing that he only has one year left on a contract that pays him a ridiculous five million dollars. But the Flyers would most likely half to be willing to eat half of his salary in which to do so, and the team does not have cap space to spare because they are due to pay the second-highest cap penalty of any NHL club, $1.1 million next year because of players reaching their contractual bonuses this past season.
I’ve seen recent tweets by fans suggesting Philadelphia should try and trade Ristolainen this off-season. But he, too, is overpaid at a rate of $5.1 million and is signed to that deal for the next four seasons. Good luck finding another team dumb enough to trade a first for a former 1st round-pick defenseman who is a career -176.
No, instead, I think the most logical choice of any to try and move this off-season is Ivan Provorov. Now I did a whole article on this before that you can read below:
But the brief synopsis of that article is I think the Flyers should try and trade him to the LA Kings, a team loaded down with right-hand shot defenders who desperately need a left-hander. Although he has been a very dependable minute eater for Philadelphia over the last seven seasons, Ivan has not yet proven to live up to the hype that came with him being taken seventh overall back in the 2015 Entry Draft. Moreover, I think he has been used and abused by the Flyers, who, at times, have played him entirely too much. For years now, Philadelphia has depended on him to play top-line minutes as well as obligating him to play on both the power play and penalty-killing units. The way I see it, Provorov is not a number-one defender, as the Flyers have been forced to utilize him because they have nothing else. He is (and would be if traded to the Kings and got the chance to play with Drew Doughty) a solid number-two guy.
What should the Flyers ask in return for Provy?
A second-round pick would be nice, but the Flyers would be hard-pressed to get that out of the Kings seeing that they already traded their 1st to Columbus this year in a move that sent longtime Kings netminder Jonathan Quick packing. Therefore, they should instead ask for one of their many proven right-hand shot defender prospects.
A heads-up trade for the Kings’ 2021 8th-overall pick defenseman Brandt Clarke would be ideal. This 20-year-old blueliner who stands at 6’2 and around 185 pounds is exactly the partner they need to pair with their future 1st line pairing left hand shot defender Cam York. Is it feasible, though? Possibly. This season, while playing in 31 games for the Ontario Hockey Leagues’ (OHL) Barrie Colts, Brandt scored 23 goals and 38 assists for a total of 61 points in the regular season while maintaining a +40 average. In the OHL Playoffs, Clarke netted seven goals and 16 assists for 23 points in only 12 games played. He was able to average a +10 in the postseason as well. But Brandt not only showed out in Juniors, he also spent time this season with both the Kings and their American Hockey League affiliate the Ontario Regin. And if all that wasn’t enough, he somehow found time to play in the recent World Junior Championships, where he totaled eight points in seven games for Team Canada.
Now, back to the debatable fact of whether the Kings would do an even swap or not. Provorov is still only 26 years old and is signed to a reasonable deal for the next two seasons. And if the Kings (who made the playoffs this year only to get bounced by Edmonton in the first round) wish to ever win again with either of their aging stars, Anze Kopitar (who is 35) or Drew Doughty (who is 33) they had best make a power move quick. If the Kings declined a heads-up move, the Flyers could spice up the deal by sending one of their multiple 3rd or 4th round picks this year to get the deal done.
The next thing the Flyers’ Keith Jones and his newly appointed general manager Daniel Briere will need to try and do on June 28th and 29th down in Nashville to help overhaul their blue line is to draft some defensively responsible defenders. For far too long now, NHL executives have viewed guys like the Sharks’ defenseman Erik Karlsson who scored 25 goals and 76 assists this year for a total of 101 points on the season, as the league’s best defensemen. I mean, hell, why not, right? He’s a two-time James Norris Memorial Trophy winner (the award given to a defensive player who the league views has demonstrated throughout the season to be the greatest all-around in the position.) But hold on, if you look up the definition of an ice hockey defenseman, it states that it is a player position-whose primary responsibility is to prevent the opposing team from scoring. Well, that’s funny because Karlsson was on the ice this season when (an NHL League Leading) 126 EVEN STRENGTH goals were scored against him! That means even with all those points that he achieved and was on the ice for when his team scored, he still ended the season as a -26 player. And if you dive even deeper into his career stats, you’ll find he is a career -103. Now, there are plenty of people out there that will defend him, saying that plus-minus is more of a team stat but call me crazy; I think if Karlsson would focus less on scoring goals and more on his primary job of preventing them, his team may have won more games this season and thus not be drafting fourth overall this summer.
No, when I think of a Norris Trophy winner, I think of a guy like Nicklas Lidstrom, who played on the same team for an incredible 20 seasons where he won the Stanley Cup four times, was a seven-time Norris Trophy recipient, and was a player who kept up a career plus-minus average of +450. Yes, this is a blueliner who every kid playing the game should idolize, a true master of his craft who the Flyers should be aspiring to find a young player who plays a similar style. Not some guy who shows little to no desire to get back and defend, leaving his goalie hung out to dry.
That’s why I say if Keith and Danny were smart, they would try and package a deal of their extra 3rd or 4th round picks to move up into the second round to take a guy like Etienne Morin from the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. Morin is an 18-year-old defender who stands at 6’0 and 183 pounds. Morin can contribute offensively and defend with the best of them. Etienne has shown this season that he possesses a strong outlet pass and can finish from the point when needed. He scored 21 goals and 51 assists for 72 points this year in only 67 games played and, in doing so, maintained a +29 average. When you watch Morin, it is like you stepped back in time, about 20 years. Defensively he loves to stand up the opposition at the blue line and administers some of the brutal open ice checks since maybe the great Scott Stevens himself. On top of all that, Etienne is more than willing to block a shot, get involved in board battles, and clear out his opponents from in front of his net. Morin is a complete player on the backend who is destined to have a very long NHL career ahead of him if he keeps this up.
With the Flyers in a full-on rebuild mode, they shouldn’t be focusing on signing any big-name free agents any time soon. But suppose they manage to trade away a guy like Ivan Provorov or Travis Sanheim for both salary cap relief as well as draft capital. In that case, they may be in the market for a stop-gap guy who can fill in until prospects like Egor Zamula, Ronnie Attard, Emil Andre, and Ethan Samson prove to Head Coach John Tortorella that they are ready to take on a full-time role in the NHL.
And one of those players that could fill that gap in time who will be available come July 1st, when the NHL’s free agent market is set to commence, is the New Jersey Devils’ unrestricted free agent defensemen Ryan Graves. Graves, who stands at 6’5 and 220 pounds, is only 28 years old and therefore is still in the prime of his career. Ryan finished the season with eight goals and 18 assists for 26 points. As you can see by his stats, Graves is not a flashy player. In fact, you may not even notice him much during the telecast if you have never played the game yourself. But that’s not because Ryan is not doing anything; quite the contrary, that means he does his job so well that he is rarely out of position and, therefore, never has to take any drastic actions to make up for his blunders. I don’t know about you, but this old goalie, turned coach and writer will take a defenseman who plays mistake-free hockey over some flashy egocentric point-driven guy any day.
If you haven’t heard of Graves before, his claim to fame was that he used to be Cale Makar’s defensive partner in Colorado. While Makar was up on the rush, Graves would be that rock on the defense that would stay back and allow Cale to work his magic. The pair had so much success that Graves finished the 2019-2020 season as the league leader in plus-minus with a +40 average. But as with any cup-contending team, the Avalanche had to move Graves to afford to keep others. Lucky for the Devils, they had someone smart enough in management to know his true worth, so they ended up trading for him. And in just his second season playing for them this year, Ryan was able to play a big part in the Devils going from drafting in the lottery last summer to qualifying for the playoffs this year after finishing this season with an astonishing 112 points.
This year Ryan again concluded the season amongst the best in plus-minus, with him maintaining a +34 average for the year. This proves that plus players promote success and help develop a winning culture.
Graves is coming off a contract in which he was paid just over three million a season and could probably be had for something similar, considering the NHL currently only views a players worth by their point production. So, if the Flyers are able to move a contract or two this offseason, it would be in their best interest to try and finally solidify their defense by signing this now veteran defenseman to a similar deal that would bridge them to the point when their own blue line prospects are ready to take over.
For far to long the Flyers have prided themselves on overusing one particular skilled defenseman on their roster. Via: Mark Howe, Gary Galley, Eric Desjardins, Kimmo Timonen, and now Ivan Provorov. Philadelphia commonly forces them to play 25-27 mins a night ultimately leaving them too tired to be effective. Playing their stars on the top pairing, on the power play and the penalty kill the Flyers simply demands to much for their best defenders. To go with that year after year they expect them to carry a defensive core filled with slugs and/or players well past their prime like Kjell Samuelsson, Chris Therien, Mike Rathje, Joni Pitkanen, Braydon Coburn, Andrew MacDonald, and Keith Yandle. If Keith Jones and Danny Briere want this team to be contenders again, they will need to first stop this habit and develop a core of defensively responsible players by the means laid out above that will solidify this defense and thus help rebuild a winning culture here in Philadelphia. Only then will this team return back to their winning ways.
Let’s just hope this “new” regime made up of former Flyers have the wherewithal to follow this blueprint by first tearing it all down to the foundation only to build it back up right.
Green’s Annual Seven-Round Mock Draft for the Philadelphia Flyers
With the NHL Draft Lottery now being a thing of the past, and the Philadelphia Flyers faithful having to come to grips with the fact that all their previous hopes and dreams of possibly moving up to select the young phenom Connor Bedard or Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli have been crushed; they are now forced to sit and wait to see whom their teams’ newly appointed management of Keith Jones (President of Hockey OPS) and Danny Briere (General Manager) will be picking at the league’s 61st NHL Entry Draft down in Nashville come June 28th and 29th.
We all know that this team and its fans have suffered multiple losing seasons in a row. Ownership has come out and said they are set to commence a complete rebuild this offseason. Probably, because they currently have no franchise player on the roster. They have little to no cap space to bring anyone new in. The team is loaded with a roster full of albatross like contracts that are going to be impossible to move. And to boot their 2022 top five draft pick (Cutter Gauthier) is unwilling to sign with them for the upcoming season. Therefore, it is imperative that the previously mentioned latest crop of good old boy hiring’s from Flyers past get this year’s seven overall selection right.
Lucky for them, this draft is chalked full of high-end talent, so even with Philadelphia not making their selection until seventh overall, they should still be able to acquire a future NHL star. The only question that remains is, just who should they select with their first pick? If the Flyers brass wishes to draft from a position of need, landing a center would be the way to go.
Especially since Sean Couturier should now be labeled as injury prone after missing most of the past three seasons; moreover, the Flyers also have a very inconsistent Kevin Hayes lining up at center. If you paid attention, he is a player who went goalless for a stretch of 23 games after making the All-Star Game this season. That said, you would think the Flyers would look to draft a player like one of the many great Team USA centers, Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, or Oliver Moore. But Smith (the World Junior Championships reigning MVP) will most likely be gone by the time Philadelphia makes their way to the podium. Then there’s Moore, who has excellent speed and playmaking ability but cannot finish at the rate a player drafted in the top ten should. As for Ryan Leonard, everyone seems to favor him as the teams’ pick, especially since he is due to attend Boston College and will play alongside Cutter Gauthier next season. Still, I fear his numbers may have been a bit inflated from getting to play on one of the best lines in hockey (outside of the NHL) this season. Think about it, he had two 2023 future first-round picks in Will Smith and Gabe Perreault, feeding him the puck all season long. Both players finished the season scoring at a rate of over two points per game! Now, ask yourself, if drafted by the Flyers, are you confident that Ryan is still going to be capable of producing at that level without the help of his former linemates when he gets to South Broad Street?
Andrew Cristall- Kelowna Rockets
That’s why if it were up to me, I would select Andrew Cristall from the Western Hockey Leagues Kelowna Rockets. Cristall is one of the most dynamic offensive talents in this draft class. So much so that he managed to score 39 goals and 56 assists for 95 points in just 54 games played this year. Those numbers were good enough for him to rank second to only the great Connor Bedard (for draft-eligible players coming out of the WHL this season) in points per game average, with Andrew scoring at a rate of 1.76 P.P.G. When you look at his totals from this season you will see that Cristall basically did it all himself when you factor in that the mean (or average) of the other 29 players point totals on the roster that dressed for the Rockets this year only came out to them scoring an average of just 16.5 points on the season.
Throughout this long season, Cristall has proven that he can be counted on time and time again to carry his team single-handily to victory. I mean, come on, Cristall even scored more goals this season than the overhyped Zach Benson who played for a very stacked Winnipeg Ice team. That’s why I say the Flyers have to get out of the same old mind set of drafting quality two-way players who do a little bit of everything well and nothing extraordinary. They instead should go after an elite offensive talent (like Andrew) who possesses star qualities like his ability to stick handle through all five players on the ice from the opposition just to finish by deking the goalie right out of his pads for a goal. Now, doesn’t that sound more like the superstar player we need to help bring the Flyers back to contention?
Here’s a look at some of his highlights
Still can’t get enough of Cristall? Here’s an article I did on him
much earlier in the season.
Now I know what you’re thinking, BUT LANCE, THE FLYERS DON’T HAVE A SECOND ROUND PICK! My answer to that would be you are correct, FOR NOW! For weeks Briere has been rumored to want to move some potential big-name Flyers to regain some salary cap space. Names like Provorov, Hayes, Konecny, and yes, even Hart have been rumored to be available for the right bounty. So, it is feasible that the Flyers could acquire a 2nd round pick in this upcoming draft.
Etienne Morin- Moncton Wildcats
So just in case they can pull that off, here is a viable option for them to consider. And that player is Etienne Morin from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leagues Moncton Wildcats. Morin is a 6’0 183, pound left-hand shot defender who offensively doubled his point production from last season when he was able to average over a point per game this year, totaling 21 goals, and 51 assists for 72 points in just 67 regular season games. Etienne was also among the league leaders this year in plus-minus when he finished the season with a + 29 average—proving that Morin is one of the most well-rounded defensemen available in this draft. Offensively, Morin can make the nice long outlet passes that spring his wingers on a breakaway. Also, if a pass is not there, he has no problem jumping up into the zone and scoring a goal himself. Defensively Etienne is a rare breed in today’s game. He takes pride in maintaining a stronghold at the blue line where he administers some of the most bone-rattling open ice hits I’ve seen since maybe Scott Stevens was patrolling the Devils blueline.
If you like what you read about Morin. Come check out both the article I just wrote about him and the latest episode of Prospect Watch, where he found time to join us to answer some questions.
Nick Lardis- Hamilton Bulldogs
Now to the third round, where the Philadelphia Flyers will get to make two selections. Knowing this, I believe the first of the two should be used on Nick Lardis, a 5’11 winger who spent time playing for two teams this year, seeing that he was traded mid-way through the OHL season. Lardis, who has elite speed with the puck on his stick, finished the year playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs, where his combined totals from the two teams equated to him scoring 37 goals, and 28 assists for a total of 65 points in 69 games played. Although still a work in progress defensively, Nick’s offensive talents easily compensate for his backend shortcomings. As they did for Team Canada at the recent World Junior U18 Championships, where Nick was able to net four goals in seven games.
Scott Ratzlaff- Seattle Thunderbirds
With their second pick of the 3rd round, I believe the Flyers should look to acquire a goaltender. Let’s face it, the Flyers’ goaltending depth has been a problem for the team for some time. And one could argue that it still should be considered a problem today. Carter Hart was the first goalie taken off the board in the 2016 Entry Draft, and despite his fantastic pedigree before turning pro, these last five years have been anything but impressive. To date, Hart has only averaged winning .41% of the games he’s played in. His career goals-against-average is a less-than-respectable 2.96 G.A.A., and his career save percentage is barely hanging above .900% right now. Folks, those kinds of numbers will get you fired if you’re a backup in this league, let alone a starter. So, if Hart does not improve upon those numbers next season, the club could look to move him by the trade deadline to acquire more picks because his contract is set to expire. Not to mention that their star Russian goalie prospect Ivan Fedotov has come out and said upon completing his military service in the Red Army, he will return to play in the KHL for the foreseeable future.
So, the Flyers should look to draft a guy like Scott Ratzlaff, who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Scott, who stands at 6’1 and 172 pounds, is a butterfly goalie who is very calm and poised in the net, and because of that, Scott is always in an excellent position to stop the puck. The 17-year-old Ratzlaff won 25 regular season games this season and, on top of that, led the entire WHL this year in shutouts despite having to share the crease with the Thunderbirds’ 20-year netminder Thomas Milic. More impressive still is that Scott was able to total all of these wins and shuts outs despite having to play so many future 1st round picks on a nightly basis: Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats, Zach Benson of the Winnipeg Ice, Andrew Cristall of the Kelowna Rockets, Riley Heidt of the Prince George Cougars, and Brayden Yager of the Moose Jaw Warriors. So, just think what kind of totals he will be able to come up with next season when he has the net all to himself.
Here is a video of his play and an Article I featured him in earlier this season.
Zach Nehring- Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep Team
Moving on to the fourth round of the draft, the Flyers are again due to pick twice. So, why not look to bring an immense physical power forward like Zach Nehring? When you look back to the Flyers’ history, some of their most successful years have come when they have had a legitimate power forward on their roster. When the team had guys like Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, Mike Knuble, John LeClair, Tim Kerr, and/or Rick Tocchet on their roster, they were considered a force to be reckoned with. So why not go and try and recreate that success with a guy like Nehring, who played this season for the Shattuck St. Mary’s U18 Prep Team? Zach stands at an impressive 6’3 and weighs 179 pounds. If you watched any tape on him, you would have seen that he never passes up the opportunity to complete a check. To go with that, Nehring loves to get into board battles and often takes up residency in front of the oppositions net so that he can ensure that he will be in the best position possible to either redirect a shot from the point or knock home a nice juicy rebound left in the goal mouth. In saying that, Zach’s hard work and gritty play simply embody what used to be a requirement from a player who dons a Flyers sweater. Zach has committed to play for Western Michigan University next season, where Wade Allison, Ronnie Attard, and the team’s newly appointed President of Hockey Ops, Keith Jones, all are considered alums.
Don’t believe me on how forceful this player can be, then watch this game tape I provided.
Aiden Fink- Brooks Bandits
With the second of their fourth-round picks, I would urge Danny to draft a player whose game reminds me a lot of his. That player is none other than the 5’9 Aiden Fink from the Alberta Junior Hockey Leagues Brooks Bandits. If you know anything about the Bandits, you would probably agree that they are an AJHL powerhouse that gave the NHL and NCAA such players as the great Cale Makar, Ryan McAllister, TJ Hughes, and Zach Bookman. All players that Fink must have been taking notes from because he just got done helping the franchise win their seventh AJHL Championship, as well as being named the league’s MVP after he finished the season scoring 41 goals and 56 assists for a league-leading 97 points in only 54 games played (which averages out to him scoring 1.80 points-per-game). What’s better still is with nothing else to prove in the AJHL, Aiden has decided to bring his talents to our own backyard next season (better known as State College, PA) as he will be playing for the Penn State Nitty Lions.
As you watch some highlight reels and a video of him joining us earlier this year on Prospect Watch, you’ll see that the Flyers should not pass him up.
As we begin to get into the later rounds of the draft, it is critical that this club continue to land players that will be a vital part of their future like Philadelphia did with Alexis Gendron, who the Flyers took last year in the 7th round.
Zaccharya Wisdom- Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
A player left on the big board at this time that I believe still possesses that kind of potential is Zaccharya Wisdom from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League (USHL). And before we get too far, I’m sure a few of you are wondering, Wisdom? Is that the Flyers 2020 4th round pick Zayde Wisdom’s brother? The answer is yes, but I’m not just suggesting the Flyers draft him simply from the point of nepotism. Zaccharya is an outstanding young player in his own right. He just turned 19 back at the end of April and scored 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points this season. Like his brother, Zac is a solid player who laid some of the biggest hits this season that the USHL has ever seen. Although their games are very similar, playing with a good mix of passion and fearlessness, they differ in one way. Zaccharya stands at 6’1 and 172 pounds, whereas his brother (the bulldog that he is) is lucky if he reaches 5’11 with skates on. Zaccharya commonly uses his size to knock people off the puck, win board battles, and establish body position in front of the net. Therefore, Wisdom would make a solid prospect for the Flyers to add to their depth chart. One that would surely continue to grow his game over the next couple of seasons.
If you find this player intriguing, feel free to click on the links, I provided below with an article I wrote about him in the past and an interview myself and Steel had with him earlier in the year.
In the sixth round, the Flyers will again be able to make multiple selections. With the first, I believe the Flyers should try and obtain something their club has been lacking for some time: a little European flare.
Andrei Loshko- Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Ergo, one of Belarus’ top prospects this year Andrei Loshko, an 18-year-old winger who stands at 6’1 and currently weighs in at 170 pounds. Andrei is already comfortable playing the North American-style game after spending the last two seasons playing for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. While playing in 67 games this year, Loshko utilized his great on-ice awareness to score 22 goals and 48 assists for 70 points. And I think if the Flyers could get a dynamic player who averages over a point-per-game in the 6th round, their time spent on the current rebuild will significantly drop.
Sam Court- Brooks Bandits
The second player I think the Flyers should draft in the 6th round is another Brooks Bandit. This time a defenseman who goes by the name Sam Court. Sam is a 5’10 190, pound right-hand-shot defender who, before joining the Bandits this year, spent time playing for the prospective Power Plant Avon Old Farms School that so many NHL players have attended and played for in the past. I don’t know if that’s where the Bandits’ scouts found this player, but folks, there is a reason why this team just won their third consecutive Centennial Cup. They simply go out and find exceptional players everyone else has overlooked. Example: I did not think that after losing a record-breaking blueliner like Zach Bookman to the NCAA this past season, the Bandits would be able to find an equal and adequate replacement for him. I was wrong! Sam came into the Bandits this year and simply took over the blueline. But he did not only solidify their defense; he also managed to be a significant factor in their offense. With him scoring 13 regular-season goals and dishing out 59 assists for 72 points in only 52 games this season, Sam’s impressive 1.38 points-per-game average has helped his stock rise immensely as of late, as well as allowed him to play for the University of New Hampshire next season.
Sam is the kind of player who would check off a lot of boxes that the Flyers need right now, and at this late in the draft is a low-risk, high-reward type player that should not pass up on.
As I indicated, the Flyers need to do in the final round of my mock draft back in 2020, where I suggested they take a little-known goalie I was very high on named Devon Levi from the CCHL. I am suggesting they do so again, only this time they should use that pick on a Netminder with a Hockey Hall of Fame pedigree.
Calvin Vachon- Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep
That player is none other than Calvin Vachon, who is the grandson of the great LA Kings goalie Rogie Vachon. Calvin was classically trained by Rogie, and it shows. At just 17 years of age, Calvin was able to go undefeated this season for the Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep team. Where this 6’0 goaltender was able to win 22 games (six being by way of a shutout) while somehow being able to maintain a 2.00 goals-against-average (G.A.A.) and a .929 save percentage (SV%). And let me tell you, these numbers are no fluke. An example of this would be his 18-19 season where playing in 57 games for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings he was able maintain a GAA of just 0.59! Calvin has been dominant in the blue paint since he first strapped on the pads.
That’s why, with such a depressing goalie depth chart as the Flyers have, it would be wise for them to draft and develop a proven winner in Vachon.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Unlike most writers that cover this team, I do not simply look to the many mock draft sites a couple of weeks before the draft to put this type of article out every year. I study hundreds of hours of game tape and interview prospects year-round to bring you the most informed opinion I can. Thanks for the read! Go Flyers!
Prospect Watch: Etienne Morin
If an NHL team is looking for a defenseman in this upcoming entry draft, they will probably be enticed by Sweden’s Axel Sandin Pellikka’s offensive abilities. They may favor a guy like Austrian-born blue liner David Reinbacher for his size and patience on the back end. Or perhaps they may desire a player like Canadian-born defender Lukas Dragicevic for his long outlet passes that often allows his teammates to be off to the races. But my question is, why not draft a player who possesses all those skills and so much more?
A player like Etienne Morin, who at just 18 years of age already stands at 6’0 and 183 pounds. Etienne, who is a native of Valleyfield, Quebec, Canada, played for the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season, where like the highly touted Axel Sandin Pellikka, he was able to show off his offensive talents, scoring 21 goals, and 51 assists for 72 points in just 67 regular season games played. If you do, the math that equates to this left-hand shot defenseman averaging over a point per game (1.07). Now to the postseason, where Morin would prove to be able to not only sustain his point production but improve upon it, where over the course of twelve postseason games, Etienne was able to net two goals and 15 assists for 17 points (for an average of 1.41 P.P.G.) this, of course, coming before his team was defeated by the Halifax Moose Heads who have now managed to advance to the Gilles-Courteau Trophy Finals where they will be taking on the Quebec Remparts.
Morin managed to gather all of these points by using his High hockey IQ to wait for traffic in front of the net to be at its heaviest (leaving the opposing team’s goalie utterly unaware of when or where his blistering shot would be coming from). And if a shot was not there, Etienne was more than happy just to utilize his innate on-ice vision to dump the puck off to a teammate who was wide open and just awaiting his chance to put one in the back of the net.
But like, previously stated, Morin is not solely one-dimensional; he is also more than capable of handling things on the back end. Like both Reinbacher and Dragicevic (who are projected to go much earlier in the draft than him), Etienne can also be depended on to bring up the puck and make wise outlet passes to his wingers during a breakout. But what sets him apart from the rest of the field is Morins’ ability to stand up to the opposition at the blue line. This is a trait that has become rare in this day and age, seeing that the NHL has become increasingly less physical over the years. Think about it, even the best players cannot score if they are busy asking if anyone back on the bench happened to get the plate number of the truck that hit them once they crossed into their offensive zone. Not since the likes of Scott Stevens or a young Dion Phaneuf have I seen a defenseman who can lay such mind-erasing open ice hits/hip checks along the board that send their opponent’s ass over teakettle. Furthermore because he has perfected this lost art form, Etienne managed to maintain a very respectable +29 average this season. These kinds of results prove that Morin can be counted on not only to help lead the rush offensively but manages to get back and defend with the best of them as well.
Lastly, if you still are not convinced why NHL clubs should be looking to select this impressive two-way defender (who is projected to go in the second round of this summers draft), you need to look no further than what he was able to do at the IIHFs under 18 World Championship that were played in Switzerland just a few weeks ago. Showing up fashionably late due to the Wildcats still playing in the QMJHL’s playoffs, Etienne was able to immediately step in and sure up Canada’s defense. So much so that the red and black went from being embarrassed by teams like Sweden, who beat them 8-0 on April 20th. To upon his arrival, Canada then being able to battle all the way back to defeat Slovakia in the bronze medal game.
While Morin may not be as flashy as some of the other aforementioned defenders in this article that team so desperately desire, rest assured he is the player they need most. Etienne is not a one-trick pony who, after being figured out, will fizzle out of the league in a few years. He is (in my mind) the best overall defender in this draft, and whichever team is wise enough to select him will surely prosper for the next decade.