Philadelphia Flyers' 5 Best Prospects at Defenseman
The Philadelphia Flyers so desperately wanted to bolster their defensive depth last summer that they did something they hadn't done in 33 years.
For the first time since 1980, the Orange and Black used both their first and second round draft choices on blueliners.
And defense should be a priority for Philadelphia.
Kimmo Timonen, Andrej Meszaros and Hal Gill are all in the midst of the final year of their respective pacts with the Flyers. Meanwhile, Braydon Coburn, Luke Schenn and Nicklas Grossmann have just two years remaining following this season.
The best way to define any team's defense corps is from within. With that, here's a look at Philly's five best prospects on defense.
A hulking 6'3", 205-pound defender, Alt is a pure athlete having excelled as a two-sport star in both hockey and football at Cretin-Derham High School. In fact, the son of former Kansas City Chiefs offensive lineman Jon Alt was entertaining offers to play football in college before he committed to playing hockey at the University of Minnesota.
In three seasons with the Golden Gophers from 2010 to 2013, the St. Paul, Minnesota native notched seven goals, 39 points and 85 penalty minutes in 117 games. Now a full-time member of the Adirondack Phantoms, Alt has recorded two goals, 13 points, 19 minutes in penalties and a minus-11 rating through 49 games this year.
Despite his size, Alt is still a fluid skater with decent speed, balance and agility. Having only played at a high level for a few years now, the 22-year-old defenseman is still quite raw and needs time to improve his positioning and overall hockey sense.
He doesn't project as a robust offensive contributor but should provide the Flyers with a solid two-way presence on the back end down the road.
Shayne Gostisbehere was originally tabbed by the Flyers with 78th overall selection (third round) in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
In the midst of his junior year at Union College, Gostisbehere is having his strongest season at the college level.
In just 30 games this year, the Margate, Florida native has already produced seven goals and 16 assists. With 23 points, Gostisbehere is currently second among all Union defenders and fifth among all Union skaters overall in scoring.
In nearly three full seasons with the Dutchmen, the 5'11", 170-pound blueliner has recorded 20 goals, 71 points and just 75 penalty minutes in 107 games.
An above-average skater, Gostisbehere is a mobile blueliner who can produce offense without eschewing his defensive responsibilities. He finished both his freshman and sophomore campaigns with a plus-18 rating and has notched 10 career power play goals with the Dutchmen.
Gostisbehere already possesses NHL size and foot work and could easily find himself as a full time member of the Orange and Black before any other defenseman on this list.
Samuel Morin was one of nine defensemen chosen in the first round of the 2013 NHL entry draft and became the fourth blueliner tabbed in that draft's opening round when Philadelphia claimed him with the 11th overall pick.
Currently just 18 years old, Morin still needs a lot of development but could project as a monster on the back end.
In his third season with Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL), Morin is having his strongest campaign at the junior level. Through 43 games, the St. Henri, Quebec native has already registered career highs in goals (seven), assists (18) and points (25).
What's more, his production in each of those three departments has increased from year to year over his three-year tenure in Rimouski. All told, Morin has notched 11 goals, 38 assists and 49 points in 151 games with the Oceanic.
But the hulking 6'6", 205-pound Morin provides so much more than just offensive contributions.
He routinely lines up against the opposition's top offensive units and isn't afraid to be physical in his own end. A strong skater, Morin's frame provides him with a natural long stride and continued reps on the blue line will continue to develop his defensive positioning and tactical play.
As previously noted, the Flyers didn't turn away from continuing to bolster their defense even after claiming Morin.
Robert Hagg became the 12th blueliner claimed overall in last summer's draft when Philadelphia snagged him in the second round with the 41st selection.
A native of Uppsala, Sweden, Hagg is currently in the midst of his second season with Modo Hockey Ornskoldsvik and has managed one goal, six points and 20 points through 46 games this year. All told, the 6'2", 200-pound defender has recorded just one goal and seven points in 73 career games with Modo.
Far from an offensive dynamo, Hagg is generally sound in most aspects of the game. At present, he won't dominate in any one area. Rather, he'll provide a solid, steady effort night after night.
Generally, Hagg keeps things simple. He won't be found leading jaw-dropping rushes up the ice but is often responsible for sound breakout passes from the defensive zone. Finally, Hagg isn't afraid to use his size to his advantage and possesses a bit of a mean streak which should fit in perfectly on Broad Street.
Garnered by the Flyers in the seventh round (196th overall) of the 2009 NHL entry draft, Oliver Lauridsen is a hulking presence who projects as a prototypical stay-at-home NHL defenseman.
After he was plucked by Philadelphia, Lauridsen spent two more seasons at St. Cloud State University before becoming a fixture on the blue line for the Adirondack Phantoms. Currently in the midst of his third season in Adirondack, Lauridsen has tallied a goal, eight points and 133 penalty minutes in 50 games this year and has managed five goals, 21 points and 325 penalty minutes in 176 career games with the Phantoms.
A native of Denmark, he dipped his feet in NHL waters last season when he enjoyed 15 games with the Flyers. During that time, Lauridsen contributed two goals, an assist and 34 penalty minutes.
At 6'6" and 230 pounds, he's a physical behemoth with outstanding size and reach. Lauridsen is physical, aggressive and isn't afraid to use his stature to intimidate the opposition. Because of his overall size, his skating, agility and balance still need work but Lauridsen should still prove to be a valuable long term depth defenseman.
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