Philadelphia Flyers’ collegiate prospect pool still strong on defense

By Jashvina Shah
Photo: Mark Friedman is enjoying a standout freshman season on the blueline with Bowling Green State University. (Courtesy of Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

Photo: Mark Friedman is enjoying a standout freshman season on the blueline with Bowling Green State University. (Courtesy of Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire)

 

Despite Shayne Gostisbehere’s departure to the professional ranks, the Philadelphia Flyers still possess a number of solid defensive prospects at the collegiate level, including Nick Luukko, Reece Willcox and Mark Friedman.

Senior Michael Parks is the best prospect at the NCAA level, and is leading a North Dakota team that is poised to make an NCAA tournament run. Although Parks is one of several upperclassmen, the Flyers system features a crop of freshmen.

In Europe, Philadelphia has just two prospects—Oskar Lindblom and Valeri Vasiliev. Lindblom is in his first full season at the SHL level, while Vasiliev is still playing in the KHL.

NCAA

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

Parks is by far the best prospect in Philadelphia’s NCAA pool. Parks has a few good attributes, although his size makes him a question mark for the NHL level. He is known for his speed and wraparound shots, and he has worked on his shooting this season. Parks leads a North Dakota program that is one of the best teams in the country right now and will compete in the NCAA tournament. Parks has played in 37 games this season, and has 32 points (12 goals and 20 assists)—a career high.

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

Also in his senior season, Luukko is trying to help Vermont earn another NCAA bid. There is nothing flashy about his game, but he is known for being a solid defender in his own end. The Catamounts have a good blueline, and Luukko is one of three Vermont defensemen who has played in every game this season. The senior also has 14 points this season—a career high.

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

Willcox embraced a larger role on the team last season, but he has suffered setbacks this year—missing 10 games. As a result, Cornell—who also lost blueliner Joakim Ryan for eight games—has struggled at times. Despite that, the team has allowed just 2.19 goals per game thanks in part to Willcox’s defensive prowess.

Merrick Madsen, G, Harvard Crimson (ECAC)
Drafted 6th round, 162nd overall, 2013

Although Madsen joined Harvard for his freshman season this year, he is low on the depth chart. He appeared in just one game, recording a .846 save percentage. While current backup Peter Traber will be starting next season, the NTDP’s Michael Lackey will also be joining the team—so Madsen will have to fight for his playing time.

Mark Friedman, D, Bowling Green Falcons (WCHA)
Drafted 3rd round, 86th overall, 2014

Of all of Philadelphia’s defensive prospects at the NCAA level, Friedman is the one expected to produce offensively. He has been likened to former Dutchman Shayne Gostisbehere, and has shown some of his offensive prowess already. For freshmen, adjusting to the collegiate level is difficult. But Friedman has earned a lot of playing time on a good Bowling Green team, and has appeared in all 38 games. His 19 points are tied for sixth amongst a talented crop of freshmen defensemen.

Terrance Amorosa, D, Clarkson Knights (ECAC)
Drafted 5th round, 132nd overall, 2013

Amorosa just completed his freshman season, dressing in 18 games for Clarkson. He has a long way to develop, but could potentially advance to the NHL in the future. He projects to be more of a two-way defenseman, differing from some of Philadelphia’s other NCAA defensive prospects. He finished with five points (one goal, four assists).

David Drake, D, UConn Huskies
Drafted 7th round, 192nd overall, 2013

A big defenseman, Drake has played in 32 games for the Huskies, appearing in almost every contest. That is big playing time for a freshman, and Drake has five points in his first campaign. He is a big defenseman, and his size puts him on the inside track to the next level. He still has a long way to develop, and needs to be more consistent.

Europe

Valeri Vasiliev, D, Torpedo Nizhny Novgorod (KHL)
Drafted 7th round, 201st overall, 2012

Vasiliev decided to stay in the KHL for another season, after his Spartak Moscow folded last season. He started with the Avangard Omsk, before ending up with Torpedo. He held his own with a struggling Spartak Moscow team last season, and has seen more playing time with his current club. Vasiliev is known as a physical stay-at-home defender, but he can chip in offensively on occasion.

Oskar Lindblom, LW, Brynas (SHL)
Drafted 5th round, 138th overall, 2014

With Robert Hagg’s departure to the AHL this season, Lindblom is Philadelphia’s only prospect playing in Sweden. This is his first full season in the SHL, which is a difficult task for any player—especially an eighteen-year-old. While Lindblom is not a very skilled forward, he plays a very physical style game and likes driving to the net.

Prospect of the Month – Nick Cousins

Nick Cousins - Philadelphia FlyersQuietly, Nick Cousins is having a great season. He just earned the AHL’s Player of the Week award after netting six points (four goals, two assists) over three games. He currently leads the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in scoring with 55 points (21 goals, 34 assists) over 60 games. This is Cousins’ second full season in professional hockey, and it earned the center a callup to the Flyers—where he made his NHL debut.