"With the 11th Overall pick in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers select...."

by Michael DeNicola

Tuesday, April 30, 2013 --

Do you hear that? Listen..... it's the sound of every Philadelphia Flyers media site and blogger typing furiously away at their keyboards, creating an article on who we'll be choosing 11th Overall in this year's Entry Draft. It's an anxious clicking sound, like the snapping of an empty butane lighter in an addict's hand; so much racing through our minds that our fingers are unable to keep up. 

Who we picking? Should the Flyers trade up? Should we trade down!? Are we picking defense or offense? Should the Flyers trade the pick for an already well-established NHL defenseman?

All acceptable questions that will contribute to the snowballing speculation until June 30. 

At 8:00 ET Monday night, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly drew fourteen team cards from their envelopes, exposing only one as the righteous owner of the coveted 1st Overall choice; aka, the Winner of the Seth Jones Sweepstakes. Even with less than a 2 per cent chance of getting it, the orange and black empire still sat with their fingers crossed and hopes fed healthily. 

Unfortunately, my brethren, our names came and went almost as quickly as this shortened season. The Philadelphia Flyers will stay at the 11th position, choosing before Phoenix and just after Dallas. The Colorado Avalanche -- finishing with the Leagues second-worst record -- managed to steal the 1st Overall pick out of the starving hands of the Florida Panthers. 

We feel your pain, Florida. 

What irks me the most is the reaction I'm seeing from a small sample size of our fanbase. Capping off a frustrating season, the Flyers ended their schedule on a four-game winning streak which bumped them down two more spots in the League standings -- thus chewing more off our chances of winning the 1st pick in the Draft Lottery, and out of a Top 10 pick. 

This lit a fire under a number of our fans' asses. 

"We suck too much to be good, and we suck too much to suck," implying we're not good enough to be Cup contenders this year, but just good enough to screw ourselves out of a Top 10 choice. As if the 11th Overall pick has little value. 

I beg to differ.

Before we begin tackling a number of available prospects for our picking, let's take a look at some past 11th Overall Draft choices and factoids to give us perspective....

I know a number of Flyers fans are obsessed with the possibility of Paul Holmgren chasing Los Angeles Kings backup netminder Jonathan Bernier. I have news for you.... Bernier was chosen 11th Overall in 2006 by LA. 

Another King taken at that spot the year prior was (C) Anze Kopitar; an outstanding forward who's scored 25-or-more goals a year (sans 2013) since his sophomore season, and 20-goals in his rookie year. 

Former Philadelphia Flyer, Jeff Carter, heard his name called in 2003 at that 11-spot, and despite all the "lazy eye, lazy play" jokes we've grown accustom to, Jeff's nothing short of pure-goal scoring pedigree. 

Centerman Brandon Sutter, who's prospered on the Penguins ever since being dealt to Pittsburgh over last summer, went 11th Overall in 2007.

Have you ever heard of a forward named Jarome Iginla? In 1995 the Dallas Stars chose the future Hall of Famer 11th Overall, after names like Wade Redden, Aki-Petteri Berg, Steve Kelly, Terry Ryan and Chad Kilger.

Now, I know those were mainly forwards and one goalie I highlighted. Since the Flyers are primarily missing key defensive skaters, which blue liners have been chosen 11th Overall?

D-men like Sylvian Cote, Mike Ramsey, Michel Petit and Dan Ellis.

The Colorado Avalanche in 2011, sitting at 11th choice, picked defensive prospect Duncan Siemans who is currently developing in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades. Duncan's recorded 32-points and a plus-31 rating in 70-games this 2012-13 season.

Every 11th Overall pick between 1980 and 1993 (with the exception of one) played ten-or-more seasons in the National Hockey League. About a dozen 11th Overall picks have registered 1,000-or-more games in their careers. 

Legendary defenseman, Brad Marsh, chosen 11th Overall in the 1978 Entry Draft by the Atlanta Flames, skated fifteen seasons in the NHL -- seven of which with the Philadelphia Flyers (1981 through 1988) -- and played 1,086 games. 

So, the 11th pick in the first-round has little value? Once again, I beg to differ. 

Now, my opinion of which position the Flyers ought to draft may clash with the majority out there. I'm very well aware that this Club needs promising blue liners, however I am an avid believer in drafting the best available player, no matter what position. 

"We don't need another center."

Sit this one out, chief. Adults are talking. 

A team can never -- and I stress "NEVER" -- be to too deep at any one position, especially center. So, if a Sean Monahan or Hunter Shinkaruk magically fall past the Top 10 on June 30 and are available at 11th Overall, it'd behoove Paul Holmgren & Co. to snatch them up immediately. 

Keep in mind, the heavily touted Seth Jones appears to be (according to scouts) the only defenseman in his draft class who is 'NHL ready'. Defensemen and goaltenders traditionally take a little longer to develop than forwards, thus penetrating their primes a little later in their NHL careers; helping to develop and nurture the skills of advanced players can mean the difference between winning and losing. [NHL.com]

Where am I going with this?

Nowhere in particular. I'm just laying a bit of groundwork for you, the reader, so you're aware that should Holmgren choose a defenseman at 11th Overall, we're more than likely not going to see this young skater playing in a Flyers sweater for another 2 - 4 years. But if the player's potential is there, then the choice is more than worth it down the long haul. 

For a second, let's assume Seth Jones, Jonathan Drouin and Nathan MacKinnon all go first, second, third-overall in the Draft; not a stretch in imagination by any means. 

Now we're rounding off the Top 5; Nashville and Carolina scoop up players like Elias Lindholm, Sean Monahan, Aleksander Barkov or Darnell Nurse. If it's not the Predators or 'Canes raking these kids into The Show, it'll certainly be one of the next five Clubs before attentions turn to the Philadelphia Flyers. 

At 11th Overall, it's safe to assume that the following prospects may be available:

"With the 11th Overall pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers select...."

(D) Nikita Zadorov

This 6'5", 230-pound behemoth currently skates in the OHL with the London Knights. Imported from Russia, the defenseman holds the blue line like a feminist rally outside a Pro-Life convention. The best part about Nikita's game is how well it has adapted from European to the North American style of hockey. His hockey intelligence and potential have an incredibly high ceiling, and improve weekly at the CHL level. 

Though his defensive skills (size, mobility) are everything the blue line needs, his offensive abilities are far behind and most certainly need developing before skating for any NHL team. 

(D) Rasmus Ristolainen

Considered to go earlier than 11th by a number of professional insiders, Rasmus is just what the Flyers need in their defensive wheelhouse. The 6'4", 205-pound Finnish blue liner has notable puck-moving skills, and has been described as very mature for his late '94 birthdate as he knows how to turn the play up ice quickly by making the outlet pass or carrying the biscuit himself. [MyNHLDraft.com]

Another bodacious aspect of his game is Ristolainen's shot -- it's a bomb. This kid winds up and torpedoes the puck faster than Patrick Kane texts a picture of his bearded burglar. 

Not NHL ready yet, but given the proper time to get acclimated with the North American style, Ristolainen could become the next Sergei Gonchar. 

(D) Ryan Pulock

Yep, another defenseman. You surprised? Formerly ranked 6th at midterm (now ranked 12th) it's unclear why some scouts have this kid dropping in the ranks, but it's funny how it is reminding me of a similar road to the Draft taken by Sean Couturier.

"Pulock is a cerebral, smooth skating, offensive minded blueliner with outstanding mobility and agility. He has the ability to consistently produce offensive chances from the backend. He makes strong reads and reacts quickly in transition whether defensively or offensively. Pulock likes to rush the puck up the ice, makes strong and accurate passes that are typically well timed. He has nice vision that allows him to read the play and see his options. He can also generate second and third chances for his forwards off rebounds from his strong point shot. He is an excellent power play QB." ~ Aaron Vickers, FutureConsiderations.ca

I want to touch on this sentence one more time; "He has the ability to consistently produce offensive chances from the backend."

One of the reasons the Flyers struggled in the 2012-13 season was due to their inability to generate offense from their defense in their own zone. It no doubt contributed to our 5-on-5 woes, and Pulock, though small for any physical defenseman, possesses all the key facets needed to berth an effective attack on the opposition. 

And as for him being "an excellent power play QB" -- this Flyers team will more than likely be shaking hands with a retiring Kimmo Timonen after next season. We currently have NO ONE within the organization who is being groomed to fill the role of #44. You could argue Erik Gustafsson, but he's only shown a small sample size at the NHL level. This team needs its insurance policy. 

Pulock could wind up being the sleeper that escaped the Top 10, much like Couturier was the 2011 sleeper who escaped the Top 5. 

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