June 22, 2012; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; Scott Laughton is selected as the number twenty overall draft pick to the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2012 NHL Draft at CONSOL Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

For Philadelphia Flyers, Toughness More Than A Core Value

Barring a trade, it would appear to be a foregone conclusion that, despite their need to replenish organizational depth on their blue line, the Philadelphia Flyers will choose the “best player available” on their draft board when making their first round draft selection (no. 11 overall) at the 2013 NHL Entry Draft this weekend.

Whether you are a well-connected hockey scribe or a fan boy blogging from the depths of his Mother’s basement (Hi Mom!), “best player available” is an easy and safe pronouncement to make, simply by virtue of the fact that as a perennial playoff contender that rarely sees draft position in the top half of the first round, selecting the best player available has often been Philadelphia’s default draft strategy for what is now approaching two decades.

But what about the players that will be selected beyond the first round? The NHL Draft has seven rounds, and the Flyers hold five other selections (no. 41, 72, 132, 162, 192) after their initial pick at no. 11.

It may be folly to make any attempt at examining the Flyers intentions among the hundreds, nay, thousands of draft eligible prospects that will be available to the team in the second round and beyond during Sunday’s NHL draft, but that’s precisely what I intend to do anyway.

It is an indisputable truth that the Flyers value toughness in their organization. But if you spend enough time nerding out on sites like HockeyDB.com and EliteProspects.com, it’s easy to come to the conclusion that toughness is not only a core value for the Philadelphia Flyers, but quite possibly a draft philosophy for the team when looking beyond the first round.

Case in point: in the ten previous drafts dating back to 2003, Philadelphia selected 75 players after the first round. Of those 75 players, the Flyers selected 54 skaters.

Of those skaters selected, eight of them were among the PIM leaders in their respective leagues in the season leading up to their selection by the Flyers:

  • Derek Mathers led the OHL in 2011 with  171 PIMS.
  • Zac Rinaldo was 5th in the OHL during the 2007-08 season with 191 PIMS.
  • Jon Kalinski was 8th in the WCHA in 2006-07 with 74 PIMS.
  • Patrick Maroon was 9th in the NAHL with 152 PIMS in 2006-07.
  • Matt Clackson was 2nd in the USHL with 270 PIMS in 2004-05.
  • Rob Bellamy was third in the EJHL with 120 PIMS in 2003-04.
  • Gino Pisellini was 6th in the OHL during the 2003-04 season with 214 PIMS, 6th OHL.
  • Triston Grant was 2nd in the WHL with 267 PIMS during the 2003-04 season.

Within that same time frame, the Flyers also selected other players who fit into that company, though were not among the Top 10 penalty minute leaders in their respective  leagues.

Take Fredric Larsson for instance, who was selected in the 4th round of the 2012 draft, and piled up 109 PIM in just 19 games playing in Sweden’s Elit-18 in 2011-12.

There was also Colin Fraser, who racked up 192 PIM in the WHL in 2002-03.

Or how about Rick Kozak (2003) who accumulated 186 PIM splitting his time between the WHL and MJHL in 2002-03?

Oliver Lauridsen’s paltry 38 PIM at Cloud State prior to his selection by the Flyers in 2009 would not put him amongst this company. However, he caused enough mayhem in the 2007-2008 SuperElit season, prior to his trip across the pond en route to the WCHA, finishing 2nd among PIM leaders that year with 159 PIM.

And these players are just the most extreme examples of this premise.

The Flyers have also spent a considerable amount of their draft choices selecting other rough and tumble types, with 100 or more PIM in the seasons leading up to their names being called by the Philadelphia Flyers on draft day.

  • Marc-Andre Bourdon in 2008  (114 PIMS, QMJHL 2007-08)
  • Kevin Marshall (141 PIMS, QMJHL 2006-07)
  • Garrett Klotz (107 PIMS, WHL 2006-07)
  • Josh Beauleiu (159 PIMS, OHL 2004-05)
  • John Flatters (217 PIM, WHL 2004-05)
  • Ladislav Scurko (109 PIMS, Slovakia U20 2003-04)

So, doing the rough math here leads one to the conclusion that over the last ten years, 18 of the last 54 skaters drafted by the Flyers beyond the first round (33% overall) have fit into this mold of a player whose game involves a certain amount of, let’s call it…“grit.”

Is this by coincidence? Or is it by design?

Could it really be that the Flyers scouting department begins its talent evaluation simply by sorting league leaders by the PIM column?

I’ll never know, that much is sure. But it’s fun to connect the dots anyway.

Based on this premise, I have compiled a list of players who, based on the Flyers previous tendencies in the later rounds over these last 10 years, might conceivably find their way onto the Flyers draft board on Sunday.

WHL Prospects

If the Flyers are intent on selecting tough defensemen in this year’s draft, the WHL has several candidates that will likely be available in later rounds, and fit into the Flyers past drafting tendencies; the most imposing among them being Keegan Kanzig of the Victoria Royals.

At just 18 years of age, Kanzig is a towering 6’7 240 lbs. He was 4th among WHL penalty minute leaders in 2012-13 with 159 PIM.

According to Red Line Report, Keegan’s skating and shot are a work in progress, but pointed to his value in using his size and strength to clear opponents away from the net, adding that he often matches up against opponents top lines.

Another observation from Red Line Report which may intrigue the Flyers:”We have yet to see him (Kanzig) lose a fight in two seasons. He’s a rough customer will fight the Western Hockey League’s toughest over-agers and shows no fear and tremendous balance for a big man.”

Kanzig is ranked no. 112 among North American skaters by Central Scouting.

Mason Geertsen is another big-bodied WHL defenseman who would seem to fit into the Flyers past drafting pattern.

At 6’3 201 lbs., Geertsen is an imposing specimen that Central Scouting has ranked at no. 59 among North American skaters in their final rankings, though he is not believed to be as willing to throw down with opponents as readily as Kanzig.

Geertsen accumulated 130 PIMs in 2012-13, splitting time between the Edmonton Oil Kings and the Vancouver Giants.

Rounding out tough WHL defensemen that may interest the Flyers is Ayrton Nikkel.

At 6’1 190, Nikkel isn’t quite as large as Kanzig and Geertsen…yet. Nikkel will not turn 18 years old until August 30. As a 17 year-old, Nikkel tied for 14th in fighting majors and racked up 117 PIM in 2012-13.

Central Scouting has Nikkel ranked at no. 149 among North American skaters.

QMJHL Prospects

Ranked no. 37 among North American skaters by Central Scouting, Jonathan Diaby is the second highest ranked QMJHL defenseman entering the 2013 NHL Entry Draft this weekend.

Diaby has considerable size at 6’4 225 lbs. as an 18 year-old. His physicality translated into 117 PIM in 2012-13 with the Victoriaville Tigers.

Among the hard-nosed forwards from The Q that may interest the Flyers are Emile Poirier and Jeremy Gregoire (ranked no. 39 and no. 79 among North American skaters). Both players are in the 100+ PIM club, accumulating 100 & 101 PIM respectively in 2012-13.

Or perhaps Tommy Veilleux, who finished 10th among PIM leaders in 2012-13. Veilluex is ranked no. 171 among North American skaters.

BCHL Prospect

Kevin Guiltinan: the Harvard-bound defenseman was 4th among PIM leaders in the BCHL with 100 PIM in 2012-13 while splitting time with the Prince George Spruce Kings and Vernon Vipers. Guiltinan is ranked no. 162 among North American skaters by Central Scouting.

OHL Prospect

Brody Silk: ranked no. 161 among North American skaters by Central Scouting, Silk posted 102 PIM with the Sudsbury Wolves of the OHL, where he was named an alternate captain.

End Note: while the premise of this article was to  contrast past Flyers drafting tendencies in the later rounds of the NHL draft against the current crop of prospects, were the Flyers to display these tendencies in the first round of Sunday’s NHL Entry Draft, the players that would fit into this criteria would be Darnell Nurse, Ryan Hartman, and Samuel Morin (ranked no. 4, 16, and 23 among North American skaters by Central Scouting).

For additional thoughts on Philadelphia Flyers Hockey, please follow me @RonnybrookHKY

 

 

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