This is a very deep draft when it comes to forwards. As a result, some defenders who might have typically gone in the top 10 may drift further down. It’s possible Briere could choose to go with defense with the seventh pick. But with the draft so top heavy at forward, it seems likely that Philly will go that route as well. However, the Provorov trade, and other upcoming ones, could change a lot of perspectives in the board room.
If and when the run on defenders go, some of these guys may be gone at 22, but some of them should still be around. If that’s the case, here are some blueliners the Flyers could select with their second first round pick.
Mikhail Gulyayev: He’s not a big guy; just 5’10” and 170 lbs. He’s one of the top Russian prospects in this draft, which does add to some complications of how he can get over here. He is praised as an offensive minded defensive player who can skate, handle the puck, and lead the power play. In many ways, he’d be like replacing Provorov. Playing for Omskie Yastreby of the Russian Junior MHL, he scored two goals with 27 points. Teams may shy away from him because he is in Russia, but he could be one of the more complete defensive prospects in the draft.
Lukas Dragicevic: Dragicevic is the top ranked defensive prospect from North America. Playing for the Tri-City Americans of the WHL, he scored 15 goals with 60 assists. He’s 6’2″ and 180 lbs. He is bursting with confidence. If anything, that seems to be his one weakness. Many scouts worry that he handles things too much by himself as his offensive abilities are that good. He may decide to focus on that instead of staying on defense. But, if he can balance that out, he could be one of the great defensive players in the league.
Dmitri Simashev: Another Russian defender with the same sort of problems in being Russian. However, he is a big boy. Simashev stands at 6’4″ and 200 lbs. He’s not going to put up points and score. His job is to smash and defend. As a 17 year old, he was called up from the MHL to the KHL and played in 18 games. Scouts are worried about him because he can’t score. However, Zdeno Chara couldn’t score and he was around the NHL for 24 years being a smash and defend guy. Simashev could be someone the Flyers could pair with one of the more offensively talented defenders, like Cam York, to stay at home and defend.
Tanner Molendyk: Molendyk played on the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades and is one of the best scoring blueliners out there. He scored nine goals with 28 points in the regular season adding three goals and five assists in the playoffs. He also starred in international competition scoring four points in five games at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. He’s got a lot of speed and is great on the transitional play. But, unlike many offensive defenders, he is not reckless. He is a very intelligent player who could be a great star in Philly.
Luca Cagnoni: Here’s a guy who is starting to rise up the draft boards. In the high scoring WHL, he scored 17 goals for the Portland Winterhawks. Because of his size, 5’10” and 170 lbs, he’s been compared a lot to Adam Fox. He’s not going to provide the earth shattering hits that Simashev will provide, but he can light the lamp with the best of them. He could really help to jump start the power play by feeding players with one-timers. Considering how anemic the Flyers’ power play over the last few seasons, we could use someone to help out.
Etienne Morin: Much like Gauthier up above, he is not related to former Flyer Sam Morin. His is a great two-way defender. Morin starred for the Moncton Wildcats, scoring 21 goals with 51 assists. He is a guy who can eat up minutes, averaging 24 minutes two years ago as a 16 year old. He can hit, score, and play a lot. This is a guy who could be a foundational piece of any team’s defense for a long time.
Hunter Brzustewicz: Brzustewicz is another top two-day defensive prospect. He played for the U.S. National U18 Team before signing on with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL. This past season, he scored six goals with 51 assists in the OHL. Because of the forward depth, he could fall into the second round as well. He is an intriguing prospect the Flyers could consider.
When you get to the later picks, it’s harder to figure out what a team may do. They may even look to goaltending, and there’s a few good names out there. The international scope of hockey, the differences in playing styles in Europe vs North America, and the level of maturity in players make it hard to see what team scouts see. Either way, the Flyers have a lot of options. And even the players listed above are just the tip of the iceberg of what is available. All of these guys could be selected before the Flyers get a chance to. Likewise, all of these could still be on the board.
Whatever Briere is planning, we’ll find out soon enough. First, we’ll have to see if any other trades come that will further shake things up.