Philadelphia Flyers have good crop of defensive prospects in NCAA and Europe

By Jashvina Shah

Nick Luukko - Philadelphia Flyers

Photo: Defenseman Nick Luukko is one of several Philadelphia Flyers prospects who will be competing for an NCAA championship this year. The Flyers selected Luukko in the sixth round of the 2010 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Richard T Gagnon/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers have several prospects, mostly defensemen, who have turned in strong seasons in Europe and the NCAA this year.

At the NCAA level, Shayne Gostisbehere, Michael Parks, and Nick Luukko will play for a national championship. They are just three of Philadelphia's prospects who turned in strong NCAA seasons, as Cornell's Reece Willcox also used his second collegiate season to develop.

Robert Hagg and Valeri Vasiliev are two Flyers prospects who found significant playing time in European pro leagues.

NCAA

Michael Parks, RW, North Dakota (NCHC)
Drafted 5th round, 149th overall, 2010

After missing a portion of last year's season with an injury, Parks rebounded in his junior season and played in every game for North Dakota. He scored 28 points (11 goals and 17 assists), which ranks second in team scoring.

Parks and North Dakota will head back to the NCAA Tournament this year. After struggling earlier in the season, they won 16 of the last 21 games of the regular season. North Dakota fell to Miami in the NCHC semifinals but earned an NCAA Tournament spot after winning the consolation game and a Wisconsin Big Ten tournament win over Ohio State.

Petr Placek, RW, Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
Drafted 6th round, 176th overall, 2011

Petr Placek is no longer with the Harvard Crimson. While Placek was with Harvard this season, injuries limited him to one game on November 15th, a 3-2 loss to Quinnipiac.

Prior to this season, Placek had not developed as hoped, neither growing into his body nor developing much offensive upside. There is no doubt injuries this season have further slowed Placek's progress, and it is doubtful he will play a part with the Flyers organization after his departure.

Shayne Gostisbehere, D, Union Dutchmen (ECAC)
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2012

Gostisbehere has been a force for a strong Union team this season. He played in every game this season and led the Dutchmen to their – and his – third-straight ECAC Championship with a win over Colgate at Lake Placid. The Dutchmen are the top seed at the East Regional, and will face Vermont in the NCAA Tournament.

One of the best players in the country, Gostisbehere was named the ECAC Co-Player of the Year and the Co-Defensive Defensemen of the Year. He finished with 29 points, tied for sixth national amongst defensemen. Gostisbehere, known for his offensive upside, also improved the defensive side of his game this season.

Nick Luukko, D, Vermont Catamounts (Hockey East)
Drafted 6th round, 179th overall, 2010

While Luukko is not a flashy player, he has been a solid defensemen for a Vermont team that allows 2.27 goals per game – tied for eighth in the nation. The Catamounts earned an at-large bid, making it back to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009-10. They will face Union in the East Regional.

Lukko played in every game but one, and finished with eight points (three goals, five assists) in 36 games. He spent a good portion of the season on one of Vermont's top-two defensive pairs, and he started a few games – including the last eight contests of the season.

Reece Willcox, D, Cornell Big Red (ECAC)
Drafted 5th round, 141st overall, 2012

Reece Willcox stepped up into an expanded role in his second season with Cornell, and his improved play has shown. He helped the Big Red to another spot at Lake Placid for the ECAC Tournament, where Cornell fell to Union in the semifinal. This is the second year in a row Cornell will miss the NCAA Tournament.

He may not be a high-scoring defenseman, but he has been part of a solid blue line for Cornell. He is one of five Big Red defensemen who played in every game this season, and he finished with seven points (two goals, five assists). He made up Cornell's top defensive pairing with Joakim Ryan (SJ).

Europe

Robert Hagg, D, MODO (SHL)
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2013

Robert Hagg recently signed with the Flyers and will report to the Phantoms for the rest of this year. Prior to signing, Hagg played 50 games in Sweden for MODO, where he recorded six pints (one goal, five assists). While Hagg had been inconsistent at times in the SHL, it is impressive he played in so many games as a 19-year-old.

Hagg also played for Sweden in the World Junior Championship, where he played in every game. He was solid in the tournament, finished with a goal and helped Sweden to a silver medal.

Valeri Vasiliev, D, Spartak Moscow (KHL)
Drafted 7th Round, 201st Overall, 2012

Vasiliev is another one of Philadelphia's top defensive prospects. Like Hagg, Vasiliev has seen a lot of playing time in a difficult league. In the KHL this year, he has played in 36 games and recorded three points. That is a good amount of playing time for a 19-year-old. Vasiliev also played in the World Junior Championship for Russia and scored one goal in seven games for Russia.

His KHL team, Spartak Moscow is in disarray, and the team is having major money issues. While there is no official word on whether or not Vasiliev will join the Flyers organization next year, it seems likely give Spartak's problems this season.