Come summer 2014, the Taylor Leier will officially join the professional ranks.
The Flyers fourth-round pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, just wrapped up his final season with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League.
Leier, 20, will make the jump to the pros once camp opens in the summer. He will likely need some time with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms before he gets a real shot at making the NHL.
The Flyers organization and fans have much to be excited about with Leier’s ascension to the professional level. When a player is drafted, it is important to look at his improvement on a year-to-year basis. Leier has increased his point production during his three seasons in Portland. His first year, Leier scored just 13 goals and had 37 points in 72 games. This season, he scored 37 goals and registered 79 points. While this increase could be competition against younger and less mature players, it is still a promising sign for the Flyers.
Leier’s offensive production will likely not be seen with the Phantoms. Depending on how he adapts to the AHL, he may be able to put up respectable numbers. His size – 5’11”, 177 lbs – is similar to Flyers prospect Nick Cousins who had a tough rookie season, but managed to salvage the final stretch of games. How Leier plays during his first season with the Phantoms will all depend on adapting to a faster and stronger game.
Bill Meltzer of HockeyBuzz.com thinks Leier has a great future as a professional. Several days ago, Meltzer gave his breakdown to fans who asked for some insight on Leier:
Yes… very solid two-way forward. May be more of a defensive fwd in pros, actually.
I think he can become a Matt Read type if all goes well.
Leier also has some interesting possession numbers. One person on Twitter compiled a small sample of Leier’s zone entries through the first nine regular season games and the first four games of the championship series. Through the first nine games, Leier had a 65 percent success rate when choosing to carry the puck into the zone. When he did, he averaged close to a shot on goal. During the playoffs, his success-rate dipped to 53 percent, but he still averaged nearly shot per successful carry-in. The full stats are here.
Since being selected by the Flyers, Leier has put together an incredible season. He was named team captain of the Winterhawks, raised his production by 27 percent – 62 points in his second season to 79 points this season – and played on the Canadian World Junior Championship team. Although he played on the fourth line, consider the wealth of talent the Canadians have to choose from and they selected Leier.
Once he rejoined his team, the Winterhawks advanced to the championship round but lost to the Edmonton Oil Kings in seven games. Leier scored five points during the series, including four in the final three games. He placed fifth in scoring in the WHL playoffs with 26 points in 21 games.
If Leier continues his development at the same pace he has been going during the last three years, the Flyers may have found a late-round gem, which they have had little success with in the past. The fans and media will have to keep an eye on Leier and how the Flyers better him as a player.