Ranking the Top 5 Under-the-Radar Prospects for the Philadelphia Flyers
It's taken a few years, but the Philadelphia Flyers have slowly stockpiled one of the more encouraging prospect pools in the Eastern Conference.
The Flyers aren't overloaded with high-end prospect talent but instead, feature a deep core of solid up-and-comers at virtually every position.
Some names are already familiar to fans in Philadelphia.
Forwards such as Scott Laughton and Jason Akeson have already made their NHL debuts and figure to be in the hunt for regular minutes in the upcoming 2014-15 season.
Meanwhile, defenders Shayne Gostisbehere, Samuel Morin and the recently drafted Travis Sanheim still need a little seasoning but all project as effective NHL contributors down the road.
But the Flyers' prospect pool goes even deeper.
Here's a look at Philly's top five under-the-radar prospects.
5. Mark Friedman, D
At 5'11", 185 pounds, Mark Friedman may be a bit undersized by defensive NHL standards but his offensive potential more than makes up for any stature concerns.
Philadelphia's third-round pick (86th overall) in this past June's NHL Entry Draft, Friedman is a smooth skater on the back end with tremendous offensive instincts.
In two seasons with the Waterloo Black Hawks of the United States Hockey League (USHL), the Toronto native amassed 18 goals, 57 assists and 75 points in 115 games. With 40 points in just 51 games last season, Friedman finished fourth among all USHL blueliners in scoring while posting his second consecutive plus-22 rating at the junior level.
A freshman at Bowling Green State University in the fall, Friedman is still several years away from competing for a spot on an NHL roster. He has time to develop though and if the offensive-minded defenseman can make the kind of strides in college that fellow former third-round pick Shayne Gostisbehere made, the Flyers will have another gem on their hands.
4. Oskar Lindblom, F
Oskar Lindblom is another in a long line of solid two-way forward prospects for the Flyers.
Selected 138th overall (Round 5) by Philadelphia in June's draft, Lindblom produced 13 goals and 33 points in 43 games with Brynas J20 of Sweden's SuperElit league last season. Chosen as a member of Sweden's Under-18 team at the World Junior Under-18 Championships, the 6'1", 192-forward contributed another three goals and six points in just seven outings.
According to Elite Prospects, Lindblom "is a power skater with a strong two-way game. He isn't shy to do the dirty work and is a pain to move out from in front of the net. He gets himself open to create offensive chances but isn't overly flashy."
All in all, sounds like a typical Flyers power forward doesn't it?
Lindblom's greatest assets are his skating and overall hockey sense, but he needs to continue to enhance his offensive game if he hopes to don the orange and black full time.
3. Taylor Leier, F
Like many of Philadelphia's forward prospects, Taylor Leier doesn't project as a flashy offensive talent at the next level. Rather, it's his work ethic and leadership abilities that make him special.
A 5'11", 177-pound winger, Leier was originally selected in the fourth round (117th overall) by the Flyers in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. Since then, the Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, native has spent the past two seasons with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League (WHL) where he registered 64 goals and 141 points in 126 games.
Beyond the surface statistics, what's most encouraging about Leier is the fact his goal, assist and point totals all increased from one year to the next while in Portland as did his leadership abilities leading him to be named captain of the 2013-14 edition of the Winterhawks.
Set to join the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the fall, Leier will look to continue to develop his offensive game but not at the expense of his overall two-way game. His tenacious work ethic and 200-foot style of play is what's made him successful to this point and is what will continue to set him apart.
2. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, F
Stop me when this sounds familiar.
Nicolas Aube-Kubel is a gritty, two-way forward with a strong motor and tenacious work ethic but with an offensive game that needs development and improvement.
Selected 48th overall (Round 2) by the Flyers in June's draft, the 5'11", 190-pound forward is all part of Philadelphia's plan to secure hard-working players with above-average hockey sense.
Over the past two seasons, the Sorel, Quebec, native has produced 32 goals and 80 points in 129 games with the Val-d'Or Foreurs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL). But Aube-Kubel's greatest strengths can't be quantified with statistics.
He's a versatile forward capable of playing in all situations. What's more, he's a fast skater who plays with a ton of energy meaning eventually there will be a spot for him at the NHL level even if his offensive development doesn't progress far beyond its current state.
1. Robert Hagg, D
Robert Hagg is one of Philadelphia's strongest defensive prospects, but he just isn't in the same class as Gostisbehere, Morin or Sanheim.
Selected 41st overall (Round 2) by the Flyers in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, he's a solid two-way defender who doesn't excel in any one aspect of the game yet.
At 6'2", 207 pounds, Hagg possesses NHL size and isn't afraid to use that size to his advantage when engaging the opposition. Still, the Uppsala, Sweden, native wouldn't qualify as a bruiser and doesn't instantly strike fear into his opponents.
Offensively, Hagg is an above-average skater with good vision and a heavy release on his shot. That said, the 19-year-old defender amassed just two goals and 10 points last season over 60 combined games between MODO of the Swedish Elite League (SHL) and Lehigh Valley.
Still, Hagg remains one of the smartest and steadiest defensive prospects in Philadelphia's system. He keeps the game simple, possesses a strong outlet pass from the defensive zone and can be trusted at both ends of the frozen surface.
He may not be as flashy as some of the Flyers' high-end prospects but there's absolutely a place at the NHL level for Hagg. He’ll likely start the coming season with the Phantoms but could be in Philadelphia sooner than later.