The skates have been hung up, the ice melted down, and the last seconds of the 2011-12 season forgotten. The time to look ahead is upon us. A bright future awaits the City of Brotherly Love, but before the Flyers lace ‘em up in the 2012-13 season, a myriad of questions await Paul Holmgren and the front office.
Jaromir Jagr, Jake Voracek, Matt Carle, Harry Scrabble, Tom Sestito, and of course Chris Pronger’s return. But before anything happens on that front, the Flyers will look ahead to the 2012 NHL entry draft.
The upcoming draft, set in Pittsburgh this year, is a chance for the Flyers to add to an already dynamic stable of young talent. Many experts think the draft pool is a bit more shallow than years past. That may be true as far as NHL ready talent goes, but there are several players that can be molded into the superstars of the future for the orange and black.
Although the final draft order will not be determined until the 2011-12 season concludes, one thing is for certain; the Flyers have picks in the 1st, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, and 7th rounds. Holmgren dealt the second round picks to obtain Nicklas Grossmann and Pavel Kubina. Due to where the Flyers finished the season, they are more than likely going to be making their selections somewhere around the 25th pick.
So what kind of talent should the Flyers expect mid-first round?
With the Phantoms somewhat light on defense after a trade that sent Kevin Marshall to Washington for RW Matt Ford, I would expect the Flyers head brass to look for a steady blue-liner that can step into a role with Adirondack. The Phantoms are in need of a puck moving skater to compliment Blake Kessel, who is solid defensively as well. And eventually, the Big Club will need one too.
Enter Slater KoekKoek. No, not Zack Morris’ best bud on Saved By the Bell --
That is pronounced (Kuh-Kook). Better enter that into your vocabulary, Flyers fans. The 6’2” 185lb Mountain, Ontario native has been compared to the likes of Alexander Edler of the Vancouver Canucks. KoekKoek is a very mobile defenseman with speed, skill, and tremendous hockey sense. Slater can start a rush, jump in on one, or just plain shut one down. He is the total package.
Why, you may ask, would a defenseman with all of this upside not be a top ten pick in the upcoming draft?
Most importantly, he needs to work on that moustache.
But in all seriousness, it’s development, plain and simple. The Peterborough Pete’s blue liner suffered a season ending shoulder injury in Novemeber. A torn labrum cost him an entire year of development, and that tends to drop draft stocks quicker than Enron.
Koekkoek has been projected anywhere from top 10 (pre-injury) to early second round. If the Flyers can nab him at 25 that, to me, would be a Couturier-like steal. Chances of him dropping that far are pretty good with similar defenseman being a bit more NHL ready. However, Slater has more upside than some of those other picks (i.e Ceci). Once Koekkoek fills out his frame and fine tunes his defensive game, there is no limit to how far the young Canadian can go.
After the first round has concluded, the Flyers will begin the painstaking wait until the third round when they get to choose again. Let’s delve into the later rounds and see what diamonds Holmgren might be able to find.
With the Phantoms lacking in secondary scoring, I would look for Holmgren to try and set up his third round pick to grab a scorer. Now you aren’t going to grab an elite prospect that can light up the scoreboard in the third round, but you can definitely find someone who can provide secondary scoring while working on their game in the amateur ranks. Hey, we could draft Tomas Hyka, again…
Players to watch..
Tim Bozon LW – The St. Louis, MO native was a point per game producer (36G, 35A 71 games) with Kamloops in the WHL. A strong skater with a lightning release on his wrist shot, Bozon could potentially secure a roster spot in a few years. At 6’1” 178 the young American will need to fill out his slender frame to become NHL ready. He has the intangibles and work ethic, now he just needs the size.
Robbie Baillargeon C- The Brewster MA native was nearly a point per game producer (14G, 34A 54 games) with the Indiana Ice of the USHL. At 6’0” 178 the Massachusetts native has committed to play with Boston University in 2013. Look for him to go later in the draft and become a viable option in a few years.
Gemel Smith C - The Toronto, ON, Canada native put up impressive numbers (21G, 39A 68 games) with the Owen Sound Attack of the OHL. Smith has been labled “The hardest working player in Ontario”. However, Size could be a bit of a problem. At 5’10” 160lbs, Gemel finds himself losing puck battles to larger defensemen. Although, Smith has been watching someone on the current Flyers roster, and considers himself to be a similar style of player --
Whom in the NHL do you watch and think, "He does things I can blend into my game" or "I need to play more like him?"
"I'd have to say [Philadelphia Flyers centre] Daniel Briere. He's a smaller guy, he's fast, he's feisty, he takes pucks to the net and he's good in both zones, offensively and defensively."
Interview via Yahoo’s “Buzzing the Net”
Gemel would be a solid addition to any roster, and could challenge for a roster spot in a year or two. The main knock on his game is the defensive aspect. If Smith improves this, he will become a solid prospect. Let’s just hope he doesn’t try to model his defensive play after Briere…yikes..
Henri Ikonen C - Hailing from Savolinna, FIN, the 6’0” 194lb center spent last season with KalPa’s Under 20 team in Finland. Ikonen posted 17 goals and 28 assists for 45 points in 37 games. Henri’s size is there, and he has solid hockey sense. If he improves the minor aspects of his game he will become a viable checking line center.
It is nearly impossible to tell how the draft will pan out. Players go sooner than thought, players go later, and some players go never. But with all the organized chaos that is the draft, there are sure to be a few players that slip to the later rounds, only to become NHL superstars.
See: Datsyuk, Pavel
Time will tell what the Flyers decide to do come draft day. It certainly is exciting to look ahead and dream who the next superstar to wear orange and black may be hiding. See you in June, Flyer fans.
Until next time…
LET'S GO FLYERS!!!!
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