Laughton and Morin lead Philadelphia Flyers Spring Top 20

By Jashvina Shah

Scott Laughton - Philadelphia Flyers

Photo: Forward Scott Laughton has been one of the top scorers in the OHL all season and currently has 40 goals and 47 assists through 54 games. Laughton was selected 20th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers have several prospects who have demonstrated leadership, scoring ability, physicality, and good overall potential. The prospect talent is spread across the CHL, Europe, the AHL, and the NCAA.

Players like Scott Laughton, Samuel Morin, and Robert Hagg have continued to show their upside, while others like Michael Raffl and Michael Parks have turned in strong seasons to move up in the rankings. Several players have also experienced shortened seasons due to injury, including Eric Wellwood who dropped out of the top 20.

1. (1) Scott Laughton, C, 7.5B
Drafted 1st round, 20th overall, 2012

Laughton remains at the top spot because he's only improved this season and is very close to being NHL ready. The center, who's with the Oshawa Generals this season, plays a strong two-way game. That was highlighted at the World Junior Championship, where he captained Team Canada and showed he can play wherever he is needed. The center is not extremely skilled, but he can still score and is a hard-working player who puts the team ahead of him. He will do whatever is needed of him and play any role without complaining. He is pretty competitive, and has turned in a good season for the Oshawa Generals, even after the disappointment of not making the Flyers this season.

2. (3) Samuel Morin, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 11th overall, 2013

Morin, who can still improve his size, is Philadelphia's best defensive prospect. He is a promising prospect already and has potential to grow. Not only is Morin, standing at 6'7, a big skater, but he has also very physical, something that has improved this season. He also makes smart decisions in his own zone.

While he is not very offensive-minded, Morin has set career highs in points this season, with seven goals and 24 assists through 54 games. He has missed playing time with injuries and he has also been suspended several times this season, including an incident where he threw his stick into the stands. Of all of Philadelphia's defensive prospects, Morin has consistently improved and could help Philadelphia's blue line, especially if he works on his offense a little bit more.

3. (6) Robert Hagg, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2013

Hagg moved up to the third spot after a strong showing in the World Junior Championship with Team Sweden. As one of the team's top defensemen, he faced some of the best young talent in the world and held his own. He brought home a silver medal and showed aggressiveness and composure while on the blue line. Hagg, who has played with Modo in the SHL this season, has been inconsistent. It is a big jump for Hagg, and even though he is a physical player, he has struggled to carry that over to the elite league.

4. (4) Shayne Gostisbehere, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2012

Gostisbehere is by far one of the best defensemen in college hockey, and he has playing for one of the best teams in Union. There's no question about the offensive potential he brings, as he is very fast and skilled and has been a huge contribution to Union's offense this season. His defense has been a question mark, but there is no doubt it has improved this season. Gostisbehere was named a finalist for the league's best defensive defenseman award. But at 5'11, he is small for a defenseman and may take more time to adapt to the pros. There is no certainty whether or not Gostisbehere, a junior, will stay for his senior season at Union.

5. (2) Nick Cousins, C, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 58th overall, 2011

Cousins dropped in the rankings because has been one of several Philadelphia prospects struggling in Adirondack this season. He has not met expectations yet, but his struggles are a byproduct of a more defensive-minded system implemented by Phantoms coach Terry Murray. Still, the Flyers still see a lot of potential from Cousins. He entered the season as a competitive, playmaking forward, but Cousins, who is 5'10 and 170 pounds, still has room to grow physically. He was a healthy scratch on February 15th because he – along with frequent linemates Petr Straka and Brandon Alderson – were not playing well.

6. (5) Anthony Stolarz, G, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2012

Stolarz is by far the best goalkeeping prospect in Philadelphia's system. Unfortunately, an injury where he was cut by a skate dug into his playing time this season – something he searched for when leaving Nebraska-Omaha last year. He is a big goalkeeper at 6'6, but moves well for his size. His numbers have been good and he has succeeded in the OHL, but there are technical areas where Stolarz needs to improve. He also appeared in the World Junior Championship for Team USA, playing in one game and dressing as a backup in the other four.

7. (7) Mark Alt, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2013

Alt is in his rookie campaign with the Phantoms, and has been adjusting better than some of his fellow first-year skaters. The Phantoms have used him in power play and penalty kill situations. Despite this being his first season out of the NCAA, Alt has become one of the go-to defensemen in Adirondack due to the number of injuries. He has played on the Phantoms' second defensive pairing this season. Alt missed one game earlier in the season because of a concussion during the rookie game against the Washington Capitals. The 6'4 defenseman has also improved play in his own zone.

8. (8) Tye McGinn, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 119th overall, 2010

McGinn is one of Philadelphia's prospects who is close to being NHL ready. This season McGinn has again spent time in the NHL, and he has looked comfortable with the big club. He has put up some points with the Flyers, but his biggest asset is that he makes good decisions with the puck. Through eight games with the Flyers this season, he scored three goals. McGinn, who has been a top-six forward with Adirondack this season, was one of several Phantoms suspended for being involved in a brawl against Portland.

9. (18) Michael Parks, RW, 6.5C
Drafted 5th found, 149th overall, 2010

A fairly big skater at 6'0 and 196 pounds, Parks moves up in the ranking because he has excelled at North Dakota this season and demonstrated good offensive skills. He is a pretty good skater with the ability to open up the ice for his linemates, and he likes scoring wraparound goals. A big question mark for Parks this season was consistency, especially after an injury-filled sophomore season. But he has rebounded with a huge offensive year for North Dakota, and his 28 points this season are a career high and second on the team.

10. (NR) Michael Raffl, LW, 6.5B
Signed as a free agent, May 31st, 2013

Raffl made the jump to the NHL and has not had trouble adjusting to the Flyers. He has played in a variety of different situations with Philadelphia, including center, and has played the first line and the fourth line. After spending time with Philadelphia's top unit, Raffl has had a chance to prove his production on the fourth line. He plays well defensively without the puck and in his own end, and has spent time on the penalty kill. His offense could use work though, particularly in how quickly he moves the puck. Raffl also played for Austria in the Olympics.

11. (9) Jason Akeson, RW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, March 2nd, 2011

Akeson has continued to produce offensively in the AHL, taking advantage of his playmaking skills and good vision. But Akeson, who is in the last year of his NHL contract, has not been called up by the Flyers yet. He is not considered a two-way forward and his defensive play has been questioned. He has a good work ethic, but at 5'10 he is not very big. Akeson has put up quite a few points in an Adirondack system that emphasizes defense, and the team's system should make him work on his play in the back end. But time might be running out for the skilled forward.

12. (10) Brandon Manning, D, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, November 23rd, 2010

Manning, in his third year with Adirondack, has taken on a role in the team's top defensive pairing. He has also excelled offensively this season. While his defensive play in his own zone has been questioned at times, especially his positioning, he should benefit from Adirondack's defense-first system. He is also a very physical player and likes to fight. He was involved in the team's brawl against Portland, but he was one of the players who did not get suspended. While Manning has potential, there are better defensive prospects in Philadelphia's system who rank higher than him.

13. (NR) Reece Willcox, D, 6.5C
Drafted 5th round, 141st overall, 2012

This season Willcox has continued to grow, and now spends most of his time on Cornell's top defensive pairing with Joakim Ryan. Willcox might not score a lot, but he has embraced a stronger defensive role. He has played in every game for Cornell this season and has started nearly every game. He is a strong defenseman with a long reach and he takes up a lot of space. The Big Red have been a strong program consistently with a strong blue line, and he has continued to mature after taking a top-four spot with Cornell's defense his freshman year.

14. (19) Valeri Vasiliev, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 201st overall, 2012

Vasiliev has played well in Spartak Moscow of the KHL this year against some elite players. He is a physical defenseman who played well with Team Russia in the World Junior Championships. The biggest question – and the biggest one affecting his grade – is whether or not he plans on coming to North American next season. It is unclear whether Vasiliev will make the jump, although his contract with Spartak Moscow will be up at the end of this season. If Vasiliev chooses to come to North America, his physical game should fit in well with the Flyers organization.

15. (12) Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2008

Bourdon drops in the rankings because of injuries. He could have been one of Philadelphia's best prospects, but concussions have severely hampered his progress this season. He returned from post-concussion symptoms on January 25th and played in seven straight games, but after February 8th, his post-concussion symptoms returned. There is no timetable for his recovery.

There is a chance if Bourdon had not suffered these injuries, he would have graduated to the pro ranks. He was an offensive defenseman in the QMJHL and still retains some of that offensive power, and if he plays in Adirondack could benefit from the defensive system.

16. (13) Taylor Leier, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2012

Leier has put up many points with the Portland Winterhawks in the WHL, but there is no guarantee he can replicate his scoring ability at the professional level. He is on the smaller side at 5'11, but his play was good enough this season that it helped him make Team Canada's World Junior Championship roster – even though, because of a concussion – Leier did not attend Canada's U20 summer camp. Leier, who is a skilled and aggressive player, is the captain of the Winterhawks this season. But if he will make an impact at the professional level, he will need to add more size and strength.

17. (15) Petr Straka, RW, 6.0C
Signed as free agent, April 11th, 2013

Straka was one of Philadelphia's prospects who was expected to produce a lot offensively, but that has not yet translated into the AHL. Like his rookie teammates Cousins and Alderson, Straka has struggled with the Phantoms and has not been able to play consistently. But under coach Terry Murray's defensive-minded system, Straka will have the chance to improve the defensive side of his game. After being scratched, Straka was promoted to the team's second line.

18. (11) Marcel Noebels, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 4th round, 118th overall, 2011

Noebels has not been putting up many points for the Phantoms this season, but he has been solid in his own end. He has minimal offensive upside, but is very defensive minded – something that should grow in Adirondack's defense-first system. Noebels has also seen time on the penalty kill this season. But concussion problems been an issue for Noebels, who missed playing time in December. He has spent time as a bottom-six forward in Adirondack and should leave the system as a better defensive forward.

19. (14) Oliver Lauridsen, D, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 196th overall, 2009

Like Alt, Lauridsen has been relied upon in Adirondack because of some of the injuries on the team. He has become stronger than he was last year, adding to an already extremely hard shot. The 6'6 defenseman weighs 229 pounds, is physical, and has a long reach. While nothing else may stand out about Lauridsen, he has been pretty consistent since leaving St. Cloud State in 2011. The defenseman, who appeared in 15 games with the Flyers last season, was sent back down to the Phantoms just one weekend before the Flyers' season started. He has not been called up this season.

20. (20) Brandon Alderson, RW, 6.0C
Signed as a free agent, March 1st, 2013

Alderson rounds out the trio of rookie Phantoms who have struggled this season in Adirondack and are trying to adapt to coach Murray's defensive system. At 6'4, Alderson is a big, physical forward, but he can also skate well. He has spent time on the power play in Adirondack this season and hasn't been afraid to fight for the puck along the boards or spend time in front of the net. But as with Cousins and Straka, Alderson has been inconsistent this year, spending a game as a healthy scratch in February.