(Photo Credit: Twitter@WHLHitmen)

According to reports, the Philadelphia Flyers and their General Manager, Danny Briere, appear to be very enamored by the high-scoring Calgary Hitman defenseman Carter Yakemchuk. The only question is, should they be?

Don’t get me wrong; there is no denying that Carter, who stands at an impressive 6’3 and weighs in at 194 pounds, is an exceptional young talent with a very high ceiling—especially with him scoring 30 goals and 41 assists for 71 points in only 66 regular season games played this year.

However, as tantalizing a prospect as he might be, should the Flyers really be prioritizing drafting another offensive defenseman right now? I mean, the current roster is already filled with them, take for example, guys like Travis Sanheim, who is signed until 2031. A 23-year-old Cam York who is now considered a mainstay on the Flyers blueline, which the team took with their first-round pick back in 2019. Not to mention, they just traded for the former 6th overall pick in the 2020 draft, Jamie Drysdale. All of these players are offensive-minded and have been known to take off down the ice to join the rush.

Still, while their point production (of 293 combined career points) may be nice, does it really add any value when their shared career plus-minus average is -134? Think about that for a minute. That means while Travis, Cam, and Jamie were on the ice playing in the NHL and focusing on putting up points in the offensive zone, collectively, they were on the ice when their team allowed 427 goals!

To add to that, let’s not forget that the team also has Swedish-born 22-year-old offensive defenseman Emil Andrae in the system, which they took in the second round of the 2022 draft and had playing with the Phantoms last year. Then if that wasn’t enough they went out and utilized a 1st round pick last summer on the over a point-per-game defenseman Oliver Bonk who just won an OHL Championship with the London Knights this season.

Call me crazy, but I would go ahead and say we are good as far as that type of player goes.

Instead, I would think they would try to replace the kind of prospect that they lost when their 2022 fifth-overall pick, forward Cutter Gauthier, requested a trade. Because as of right now, the forward with the highest point totals this year was Travis Konecny. Who even with his 33 goals scored this year, he only averaged out to be the 27th highest-ranked player in that category, making him 36 goals off the pace of the league leader Austen Matthews’ total of 69. And if we look at points, Konecny only scored 68 points on the season, ranking him 59th in the league, which fails in comparison once again to the league leader Nikita Kucherov’s 144 points, which means in this category, he was a mere 76 points off the pace.

This harsh dose of reality is why I feel the team needs to focus on drafting an elite-level talent to pair with Matvei Michkov, who they took with their seventh overall pick in last year’s draft.

An example of a player who could meet this requirement would be a guy like Berkly Catton, who scored 54 goals and 116 points for the Spokane Chiefs this season.

Or how about Cole Eiserman, who broke Cole Caufield’s all-time goal record for the USA Hockey National Team Development Program by finishing his career with 127 lamplighters?

Both of these prospects are elite performers who would make a proper partner for Michkov for years to come, not to mention the fact that they would make an immediate impact on the team’s league-worst power play unit with Berkly Catton racking up 13 PPG this season and Cole scoring 25 goals this year while on the man advantage.

So, in saying that, the Flyers should draft with a mindset of need over want early in the draft. And wait until the second or third round to pick a still-quality defenseman.

If they should come to their senses, I would suggest a more stay-at-home type guy who could prove to one day pair well with the likes of either Sanheim, York, Drysdale, or Bonk.

Charlie Elick

Early in the second round, a blueliner the Flyers could look to nab would be Charlie Elick from the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings. Charlie, in my mind, is one of the most underrated defenders of this draft class. At 6’3, 198 pounds, he already possesses the size and strength he would need to compete at the NHL level. To go with that Elick has shown that he has a physical edge to his game as well.

And while his point production won’t necessarily blow you away, with him netting just 27 points in 65 games played this year. This plus players skating will! Charlie is THE BEST backward skater of any defenseman in this draft. His ability to transition from a forward motion on the rush to a full-on retreat appears effortless as the pure strength in his legs allows him to match stride for stride with some of the best players in the world as they come rushing into his zone only, he is doing it in reverse.

Don’t believe me? Well, to prove his worth, all you have to do is check his family’s mantel, where I’m sure both the Gold Medals he won while playing for Team Canada currently sit. One was the one he earned from playing in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, and the other was the one he won while playing in the U-18 World Junior Championships this year.

Stian Solberg

If they, by chance, are looking for a clear-the-porch type of guy, then they should look to draft Norwegian-born defenseman Stian Solberg. Stian is an absolute defensive force. The joy he gets out of playing the body is unmatched by anyone else who is available in this draft class. So much so that this 6’2 201-pound blueline will even stop what he’s doing with the puck just to repel opposing players off of him that dare try to attempt to knock him off balance. In doing so, he is able to totally take them out of the play and then resume what he was doing in the first place.

The most surprising thing teams have found out about him, though, is the fact that this behemoth of a man-child can skate. So well, in fact, that he frequently is able to bring up the puck from well within his own zone to the point where he sometimes will have to wait for his forwards to catch up to him before they can begin to cycle the puck in the offensive zone.

Ben Danford

A traditional old-school defenseman who could prove worth their wild in the third round would be Ben Danford from the OHL’s Oshawa Generals. Ben will not light up the stat sheet; hell, if he’s playing his game, you might not even notice him on the telecast at all, and that’s ok with him because that just means he is doing his job!

Danford is a shutdown defender. A stay-at-home guy who is a leader both on and off the ice and whose only contribution to the offensive will be a well-thought outlet pass that sends a winger off to the races.

Now, while Ben may not have the kind of offensive skill some other so-called “defensive prospects” have in this draft, he does have the ability to outthink them. And seeing that Danford is always playing two steps ahead of everyone on the ice, you would think that this player, who was able to retain a +27 average this season, would have been regarded as one of the best defenders in this draft class. However, despite his reminding me of a young Ryan McDonagh, he will find himself falling to the middle rounds just because he is loyal to his first responsibility of stopping the opposition from scoring. Sad, isn’t it?

That’s why I think that any one of the three prospects I mentioned above would be a better choice for the Flyers this summer. I have nothing against Yakemchuk because he is a fantastic player in his own right. But I think it’s high time the team starts to be able to rely on their offense to score goals and their defense to be able to prevent them! And that just won’t happen if they add yet another guy who managed to score 1.07 points per game this season from the back end and still somehow managed to be a minus player.