Mark Friedman hasn’t been as highly regarded as the Philadelphia Flyers’ other defensive prospects, but maybe he should be.
The Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp this year, for the first time in possibly the whole of recorded history, is flush with talented young defenseman prospects who have the potential to form one of the best defensive cores in the league. You know the names: Samuel Morin, Robert Hagg, Travis Sanheim, Philippe Myers. And that’s before getting to Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere, who have already proven themselves at the NHL level.
But if you’ve been paying attention to the Flyers’ prospects, you probably know there’s another name who’s been lighting the ice on fire every chance he’s gotten. His name is Mark Friedman, and if he isn’t on your radar yet, there’s only one reason why.
Friedman scored 68 points (16 G, 52 A) in 121 games played at Bowling Green State University, good for a .562 points per game rate. Those numbers are hardly eye-catching; for comparison, Gostisbehere posted .810 PPG in his final collegiate season, with 34 points in 42 games. Friedman also showed little improvement in point production over the course of his career, going from 19 points in his first season to 26 in his third.
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Friedman continues to be one of the top defensemen in the WCHA. He’s effective in all three zones, and plays in all situations. He doesn’t project as a big offensive point producer at the next level, but should be a capable puck-moving defenseman that plays with a nasty, physical edge.
The natural comparison people tend to make with Friedman, as a slightly smaller defenseman coming out of the NCAA is to current Flyer Shayne Gostisbehere, though that isn’t entirely accurate. Friedman lacks the explosive quickness and offensive abilities that Gostisbehere has, but makes up for it by playing a much more physical game. Friedman projects as a tough defensive defenseman at the pro level, but one whose skating, especially his lateral quickness, allows him to not be a liability in getting the puck out of the zone and up the ice.
That sounds like a good player to me. A player’s raw stat totals couldn’t be farther from a complete picture of a player, yet the prospects who put up big numbers will always find themselves at the tops of rankings list. While smart, well-rounded players tend to be overlooked, they can be incredibly valuable to a team. Friedman seems like one of those players who slipped under the radar.
Friedman was selected by the Flyers in the third round of the 2014 Draft, with the pick acquired in the Andrej Meszaros trade. He signed an entry-level contract with the Flyers earlier this year, forgoing his senior season at Bowling Green to spend a year at the AHL with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
It’s very unlikely that Mark Friedman spends time with the Flyers this season, but he has the perfect opportunity to make a name for himself in the AHL. With yet another strong year, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to hear his name mentioned in the same breath as the Morins and Sanheims of the Flyers organization.