Over the last couple weeks I've discussed some defensive matters. I made a suggestion to trade for CBJ (D) Marc Methot, and I stated the obvious when I said the Flyers need a right-handed blue liner. My cowriter, Tim March, gave a report on potential Draft pick, (D) Slater KoekKoek.
Today I turn the key to our inventory room and checkout what Philadelphia already has on their shelves, most notably.....defensemen.
Oliver "the Great Dane" Lauridsen is a 6'6", 220-pound defensive defenseman who the Flyers have tied down for one more season on his 2yr/$1.3m entry level contract. He was chosen 196th Overall by Philly in the 2009 Entry Draft. The Danish skater is extremely aggressive and physical, which is great considering guys his height have issues learning how to use their size.
Last season he skated 65-games with the Adirondack Phantoms, scoring 3-goals and assisting on 4 others. But it isn't his offensive figures that attract me to the 23yr old monster --
Perfecting his stay-at-home style of defense will mean Oliver will have to work on his mobility: in terms of skating, agility and acceleration [needing] improvement.
As far as his strengths (besides pancaking his attacking opposition), Lauridsen's reach is comparable to a boat ore and he uses it effectively which is an immensely important feature for a sizable, defensive blue liner. And the kid's work ethic is said to be excellent.
Flyers’ Director of Hockey Operations, Chris Pryor, states "Defensemen tend to take a little bit longer than other players, but one thing Oliver has going for him is that he’s got great strides, obviously his size is something you can’t teach [but] his work ethic and his attitude - he’s got all of those things going for him ... He just needs to play. He works his tail off day-in and day-out, he’s only going to get better and those guys that are 6'6" are going to get a chance to play because of those attributes."
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Late last offseason, September 14, Philadelphia handed an entry level, 2yr/$1.85m contract to defenseman Blake Kessel (younger brother to Toronto star forward, Phil Kessel). Unlike the towering left-shot Oliver Lauridsen, Blake shoots right-handed and stands at 6'2", 210-pounds.
Drafted 166th overall in 2007 by the New York Islanders, the 23yr old blue liner never shies away from joining the offensive rush. In the 2007-08 season with the USHL's Waterloo Black Hawks, Blake won Defenseman of the Year by scoring 57-points which led all skaters at the position. Since then, Kessel's skated three years in the NCAA for UNH, potting 21-goals and totaling 78-points in 114-games played.
2011-12 was his first season playing in the AHL, and did so with Adirondack where he played 56-games and scored a total of 18-points.
Aside from having a Prospect Profile photo that makes him look like a credited extra on the '80s tv show Growing Pains, Blake made his name known among fans when he scored a goal and racked an assist in the Flyers Rookie Game back on September 15, 2011.
I happened to attend that 3 - 2 victory, and noticed how well Kessel moved the puck up ice and contained it in the offensive zone.
What attracts me most about Blake's game is his transition. He's an incredibly versatile player and is basically a threat all over the ice. He can switch from offensive to defensive mode in an instant which would more than pay itself off through the neutral zone. And an attribute you need to be a force in the neutral zone is speed; Blake's got it.
The Flyers are missing their key right-handed stick on the blue line. And with Kimmo Timonen coming up on his final season under contract with Philadelphia, it's crucial we begin planning to fill that role of puck-moving-defenseman. Especially if our 37yr old veteran d-man decides to hang his skates up.
This is the week of the 2012 NHL Draft (June 23, 24). Between today and Friday night, who knows WHAT deals are going to go down between Clubs. It's said that this Draft class is littered defensively, but otherwise it's the shallowest it's been in awhile. Even though Philadelphia's got the 20th Overall pick, it wouldn't surprise me if that 1st Rounder becomes part of a big time splash to get a top tier defenseman in Orange & Black.
On top of James van Riemsdyk, Andrej Meszaros and Marc-Andre Bourdon are two Flyers speculated to being trade bait if the arrangement(s) is worth the return. This could open doors of opportunity to some of our existing defensive prospects skating in the lower league, most notably....Blake Kessel and/or Oliver Lauridsen.
Both of these skaters will receive high consideration this offseason, and for good reason.
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