Thursday, July 31, 2014
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Breaking down the Flyers' draft picks

Despite a total regime change from Paul Holmgren to Ron Hextall, the NHL draft operated about the same as it has in past years for the Flyers.

Breaking down the Flyers' draft picks

(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
(Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Despite a total regime change from Paul Holmgren to Ron Hextall, the NHL draft operated about the same as it has in past years for the Flyers.

That’s because director of scouting, Chris Pryor, remained at the helm. Perhaps the only difference was the major emphasis the Flyers put internally on making their picks in rounds 2-7 count.

The NHL draft, unlike some other sports, is usually such a hit or miss event that teams are statistically doing well if any pick after the second round actually skates a game in the NHL. Other organizations, like Detroit for instance, seem to hit more than they miss.

Two years ago, the Flyers dug up a diamond in the rough when they grabbed Union College defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere in the third round. This year, they were looking for more finds like him - spurred by the confidence of individual scouts to step up and speak up for candidates they believe in.

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There have been a few successes over the history of the franchise: Rick Tocchet (6th round 1983), Gord Murphy (9th round 1985), Pelle Eklund (8th round 1983), Hextall (6th round 1982). Holmgren himself was a 6th rounder in 1975.

But there have come far and few between after the third round over the last 15 years: Dennis Seidenberg (6th round 2001), Roman Cechmanek (6th round 2000), Pat Maroon (6th round 2007), Zac Rinaldo (6th round 2008), Eric Wellwood (6th round 2009).

“You go through the draft book and you see teams that have guys they get in the fifth, sixth, seventh rounds that are productive players in our league and I think it is something we need to look at and we need to do a better job,” president Holmgren said. “That’s where your (regional) guys have to really hone in on a guy they like and then step up and be excited about that guy.

“We’ve made some changes in our scouting staff over the last couple of years and that’s kind of a work in progress, too.”

With that, here is a peek at inside the Flyers’ 2014 draft:

TRAVIS SANHEIM
1st round (17th overall)
Position: Defense
Height: 6-3 | Weight: 181
Born: March 29, 1996 (18 years old)
Birthplace: Elkhorn, Manitoba
Team: Calgary (WHL)
Stats
2013-14 67 GP, 5 G, 24 A, 29 pts, 14 PIM, plus-25.
Notes: One calendar year ago, Sanheim wrapped up his season in Manitoba midget hockey, praying for a shot to make the Calgary Hitmen roster … Finished ranked 53rd among North American-born skaters according to NHL Central Scouting … Interviewed with all 30 NHL teams … Ranked 8th overall by TSN analyst Craig Button, the Mel Kiper of NHL drafts … Hometown of Elkhorn, Manitoba has a population of 461 … Says he models his game after St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester … Has a twin brother, Taylor, who plays junior hockey in Manitoba. Taylor Sanheim never sprouted past 5-foot-10 … Went from being a healthy scratch at the beginning of Calgary’s season to Canada’s top defenseman at the Under-18 World Championships in Finland.

Sanheim says: “It’s kind of crazy, the last year. I was playing midget hockey and not even thinking about the draft. I was just trying to crack the Calgary roster. Then I started to get my confidence. I started to see my name in the rankings and I felt good about myself, I knew I was doing stuff right.”

Ron Hextall says: “We feel we got the best player with the most upside. His path is one that is very intriguing. (Player development coach) Kjell Samuelsson might as well get a place in Calgary this year.”

Mike Moore says: “The Flyers are getting a guy who is taking off. He’s very intelligent. He has terrific vision. He’s very good in his own end. He finished high school by Christmas last season so he could focus on hockey - and you could see what that did for his second half of the year.” - Moore is the Calgary Hitmen general manager.

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NICOLAS AUBE-KUBEL
2nd round (48th overall)
Position: Right wing
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 190
Born: May 10, 1996 (18 years old)
Birthplace: Sorel, Quebec
Team: Val d’Or (QMJHL)
Stats:
2012-13 64 GP, 10 G, 17 A, 27 pts, 26 PIM, minus-4
2013-14 65 GP 22 G, 31 A, 53 pts, 61 PIM, minus-1
Notes: Picked up 13 points in 24 playoff games, as Val d’Or represented the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League in this year’s Memorial Cup … His agent is Phil Lecavalier, the brother of Flyers forward Vinny Lecavalier … Said he had not spoken yet to Vinny Lecavalier about the Flyers … Hails from Sorel, a suburb of Montreal … His favorite movie is “Step Brothers” … Says he patterns his game a little after Ottawa’s Kyle Turris with his skating ability and size … Plays primarily wing, but says he can also play center. Has played wing exclusively the last four years … Finished ranked 40th among North American skaters by NHL Central Scouting after being ranked 45th at the midpoint of the season.

Aube-Kubel says: “When I put the jersey on, it was very special. To hear the screams in the stands, it was amazing. I know they draft some Quebec guys (often). I know Philadelphia fans are loud. It was awesome just to hear them screaming for the Flyers when they made their pick. I have a good hockey sense, defensively, and my skating ability is really good. This year, I’ll work hard at being better defensively and my consistency.”

Scout says: “He reminds me a little of Jason Pominville, only a little stronger at the same age. He’s very involved and shoots the puck really well. He plays in all situations.” - NHL Central Scouting’s Chris Bordeleau.

Chris Pryor says: “He’s another guy that is probably a little bit under the radar because the big line there got a lot of the minutes. We’re excited because I think next year we’re going to see big things from him with the quality ice time that the big line got this year. He brings speed. He’s a good hockey player. He plays both sides (of the ice) and he’s competitive.” - Flyers’ director of scouting.

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MARK FRIEDMAN
3rd round (86th overall)
Position: Defense
Height: 5-11 | Weight: 185
Born: Dec. 25, 1995 (18 years old)
Birthplace: Toronto, Ontario
Team: Waterloo (USHL)
Stats: 
2012-13 64 GP, 8 G, 27 A, 35 pts, 44 PIM, plus-22
2013-14 51 GP, 10 G, 30 A, 40 pts, 30 PIM, plus-22
Notes: Flyers scout Nick Pryor, who covers primarily the USHL, had a big impact on the Flyers targeting Friedman … Will attend Bowling Green State University in the fall … Was originally supposed to enroll at Bowling Green before the 2013-14 season, but ended up back in Waterloo after a mix-up in class registration with the NCAA clearinghouse … Ranked 124th among North American skaters in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings after coming in at 133rd on the midpoint list.

Friedman says: “I’m a two-way defenseman. I can skate the puck, but I really rely on my defense more than my offense. I compare my game kind of to Johnny Oduya of the Chicago Blackhawks. I had a screw-up in my courses and I saw Waterloo had a few guys drafted, so I wanted to come back. I think it absolutely helped me. I didn’t think I was mature enough as a person and a player and the extra year helped me out. To be drafted in Philly, by the Flyers, it’s a dream come true.”

Pryor says: “He’s a competitive, skilled defenseman. He’s got some skill, he can run the power play, he’s mobile and he competes. He’s going to a good situation in Bowling Green where he will get a lot of ice time. He committed early and stuck with his commitment in Bowling Green.”

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OSKAR LINDBLOM
5th round (138th overall)
Position: Winger
Height: 6-1 | Weight: 192
Born: Aug. 15, 1996 (17 years old)
Birthplace: Gavle, Sweden
Team: Brynas (Swedish Hockey League)
Stats:
2013-14 (Swedish Elite League) 4 GP, 0 G, 0 A, 0 pts, 0 PIM, minus-2
2013-14 (Swedish Under 20) 43 GP, 13 G, 20 A, 33 pts, 28 PIM, plus-2
2014 Under 18 World Champs 7 GP, 3 G, 3 A, 6 pts, 2 PIM, plus-5
Notes: After skating in 4 games with Brynas in the Swedish Elite League last season as a 17-year-old, Lindblom has already signed to play with the big club next season … He was impressive in 7 games at the Under-18 World Championships for Sweden, registering 6 points in 7 games … His father, Johan Lindblom, played professionally in Sweden … Oskar Lindblom outscored his older brother, Marcus, on the same Brynas junior team last season … Finished ranked 23rd among European skaters according to NHL Central Scouting.

Gunderson says: “I would say he is a good pick for a late round. He has decent size. He can still fill out more. He seemed smart with the puck. He could be really good when he develops physically.” - Ryan Gunderson, Philadelphia native, who was the leading scorer for Brynas in the Swedish Elite League last season and played 4 games with Lindblom. Gunderson has signed to play for Jokerit in Finland next season when they move to Russia’s KHL.

Scout says: “Lindblom is a powerful skater with a strong, two-way game. He isn’t shy to do the dirty work and is a pain to move out in front from the net. He gets himself open to create offensive chances but isn’t overly flashy.” -FutureConsiderations.ca

Pryor says: “If you would have looked at our projections late last summer, he could have been a late first or early second round pick. For whatever reason, it happens, he slipped a little this year. We were on him from Day 1. He’s a big body. From the blue line in, he’s really good. He could have easily been an early second pick. We didn’t think he would be there when we picked him.”

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RADEL FAZLEEV
6th round (168th overall)
Position: Left wing
Height: 6-0 | Weight: 178
Born: Jan. 7, 1996 (18 years ago)
Birthplace: Kazan, Russia
Team: Calgary (WHL)
Stats: 
2013-14 38 GP, 5 G, 20 A, 25 pts, 12 PIM, plus-1
Notes: Suffered a broken wrist in Calgary in January that kept him out of the lineup until the start of the WHL playoffs … Actually finished ahead of Flyers’ third round pick, Mark Friedman, in the final NHL Central Scouting rankings. He ranked 121st among North American skaters, Friedman … This was Fazleev’s first season in North America. He skated in Kazan in the Russian junior league prior to joining Calgary … Represented Russia in the 2013 Under 18 Ivan Hlinka tournament.

Pryor says: “One thing about Radel, he plays a North American game. I don’t want to say that’s atypical of a Russian style of game, but this guys plays both ends, a hard working game. He got hurt this year so he was a little under the radar, but if you look at his playoff numbers, he had really good numbers. They’re both on the upward trend. Right now, he’s got a really good chance of making that Russian Under-20 world junior team next year.”

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JESPER PETTERSSON
7th round (198th overall)
Position: Defense
Height: 5-8 | Weight: 187
Born: July 16, 1994 (19 years old)
Birthplace: Stockholm, Sweden
Team: Linkoping (Swedish Hockey League)
Stats:
2013-14 48 GP, 0 G, 1 A, 1 pt, 30 PIM, minus-8
Notes: Lacking in size at just 5-foot-8 … Listed as a good two-way defenseman who likes to join the rush but doesn’t have a hefty shot … Helped Sweden capture a gold medal at the Under-18 World Championships.

Pryor says: “He’s a little bit of an older guy, he’s been through the draft a couple times. We’ve seen a lot in the last couple years, scouting at tournaments. He’s not an overly flashy guy, he just plays the game the right way. He’s not big, but he’s really thick. He’s competitive. He’s got a good stick, a good head for the game. He’s a big leader with the Swedes. I don’t know if you remember Freddy Meyer, but there are a lot of similarities. He’s not real big but he’s good on his feet and he’s competitive.”

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SCENE AND HEARD

> Ottawa GM Bryan Murray revealed center Jason Spezza turned down a trade to Nashville, one of the teams on his limited no-trade list. Frustrated Nashville GM David Poile said he doesn't feel he needs to sell his team with “what we have going on the ice, what we have off the ice, no state taxes. I get it. That’s the way the world is right now. There’s a lot of entitlement.”

> Islanders GM Garth Snow stole the show Friday night with his comments about first round pick Joshua Ho-Sang, a player blacklisted by many teams for his cocky personality, who said he’d draft himself at No. 1 overall: “He’ll fit right in. They s*** on me, too. I don’t care. We get players we feel can help win us a championship, and we don’t give a s*** what anyone else thinks - except our fans.”

> A total of 210 players were selected over two days at the Wells Fargo Center, including 67 Americans (32 percent). That is the highest percentage of American-born players ever taken.

Draft selections by birthplace:
Canada 77
United States 67
Sweden 27
Russia 13
Finland 9
Czech Republic 8
Latvia 2
Switzerland 2
United Kingdom 2
Denmark 1
Slovakia 1
Germany 1

> No goaltenders were taken in the first round, but five were selected in the second round - including a run of four goalies over a span of five picks.

> There were few exciting trades this weekend, but quite a few players did find new homes: James Neal (Nashville), Roman Polak (Toronto), Brandon Bollig (Calgary), Carl Gunarsson (St. Louis) and Patric Hornqvist (Pittsburgh).

> Ron Hextall said the Flyers have extended qualifying offers to restricted free agents Jason Akeson and Tye McGinn. The team is still debating what to do about restricted free agent goaltender Cal Heeter, who appeared in the last game of the regular season for the Flyers - and have not yet extended the qualifying offer.

For the latest updates, follow Frank Seravalli on Twitter: @DNFlyers

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