Since Ron Hextall’s tenure as General Manager, Philadelphia Flyers fans learned to keep close watch on the organizations prospects. During hard-to-watch moments with the NHL club, they provided hope for the years ahead.
Although players such as Carter Hart, Joel Farabee, and Phil Myers have graduated from prospect status, Philadelphia still boasts a deep farm system. Of course, depth is never a bad thing. A franchise can never go wrong with stocking its prospect pool with young talent that might fill an NHL roster spot one day. However, depth does not always reflect quality. Just because an organization possesses a deep farm system, it does not necessarily translate to possessing one of the best in the league.
It is time to dive deep into Philadelphia’s stock of prospects and assess the potential that truly inhabits it. We continue our journey with the defensemen, looking at those that can potentially fill top-pairing, top-four, and bottom-pairing roles in the future. From that, a better picture is painted, determining the true state of the Flyers farm system regarding defensemen.
Top Pairing Defensemen
These are the cream of the crop defensemen. The ones you rely on to eat minutes, provide offense, and hold their own defensively. A blueliner can be on the top pair without actually deserving the title of a top-two guy. This category is not for those prospects.
No Flyers prospect currently holds this level of potential. Yes, a few might be able to survive on the top pair. However, that would reflect more on the lack of depth on an NHL blueline than display their actual skill level. The key is not to alter the criteria of a true top two defensemen to fit the current stock of prospects.
Top Four Defensemen
These defensemen typically inhabit the second pairing, are counted on to provide some offense and might contribute to a team’s power play. They are incredibly skilled players that do not quite reach the level of great or elite.
Cam York displays the skill set of an all-around solid defenseman. He’s offensively-skilled but not incredibly creative. He is defensively sound but not at a shutdown level. Likely, York’s numbers this season will be high. Still, one has to keep in mind the level of talent he takes the ice with every game. Expect him making the middle-pairing a permanent home while possibly contributing to a second unit powerplay or penalty kill.
Yegor Zamula possesses everything you want in a young defenseman. There’s size, skill, creativity, and a willingness to put in the work defensively. The big question surrounding Zamula is whether everything will translate to the NHL level and how effective he will be. Offensively, there are certain things he does that will not work as well. For that reason, slotting him as a future top-four guy is the safer bet.
Emil Andrae is an offensively-gifted prospect with a lot of flash to his game. That said, there are still a lot of kinks he needs to work out. If the Flyers remain patient and Andrae improves upon his weaknesses, he provides Philadelphia with some serious top-four potential down the road.
Linus Hogberg falls into that funny fourth or fifth defensemen category. The possibility of his offensive capabilities not translating to North America exists. If that is the case, he will slide into that bottom-pairing category. However, for now, there is enough offensive upside to keep him as a potential top-four guy.
Bottom Pairing Defensemen
This group of defensemen are typically reliable in their end but are not known for contributing much defensively. Also, they benefit from a slightly lighter amount of ice-time and can hopefully contribute to a team’s penalty kill.
Mason Millman possesses very few flaws. At the same time, nothing stands out as a dangerous weapon either. He likely will become someone the Flyers can count on the man the bottom-pair and occasionally provide a little offense.
Mark Friedman is more of a borderline sixth option that is more likely a solid seventh defensemen. Still, if need be, he could hold his own on the bottom pair for an extended period of time.
Adam Ginning epitomizes the bottom pair of a blueline. He is incredibly solid defensively with very little to provide offensively. Still he is an option the Flyers can eventually rely on to do what is asked with no risk involved.
Wyatte Wylie proved to be quite the offensive weapon in the WHL. Only time will tell if that translates to the next level. For now, he is a potential five or sixth defenseman with the potential to add a little more offense than typically expected from someone in that role.
AHL or Other
These are the players that do not possess enough upside to become a mainstay on an NHL roster.
Jack St. Ivany
Jack St. Ivany possesses raw talent but still needs to improve quite a bit. The question surrounds whether he can make those improvements before an organization simply looks past him.
Ronnie Attard’s final year in the USHL will throw many people for a loop. Yes, he completely took the league by storm. Still there is so much to his game that will not translate to success at the professional level.
Philadelphia lacks a prospect on defense that falls into that “potentially elite” category. They can join the club. Prospects of this caliber do not come around every day. York and Zamula provide two solid top-four options in the future. Of course, outperforming these expectations is not out of the question for either of them.
Like their forward prospects, the Flyers possess a bounty of “bottom of the depth chart” defensemen. Not all these young men have a future in Philadelphia due to the lack of space on a bottom pair. Overall, when you combine the team’s current crop of young NHL defensemen with what is coming down the pipe, the Flyers are in a good place.
Mandatory Credit: Devin Manky/Icon Sportswire