With their goaltending prospect core looking better than ever and their defensive depth established, it should not be all that much of a shock that the Flyers went forward-heavy in 2010. Four out of their six selections went toward adding some depth to a group that was noticeably thin after the graduations of James vanRiemsdyk, Claude Giroux, and Ville Leino.
Free-agent additions to the pool like Mike Testwuide, Luke Pither, Shane Harper, and Ben Holmstrom were only the precursor for general manager Paul Holmgren’s draft exploits. When added to other forwards that have been developing for a few years within the Flyers’ system as well as the 2010 draft class, there is definitely a positive difference in the position.
Michael Chaput, C – Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL)
3rd Round, 89th Overall
6’1, 180 lbs
With their first pick, the Flyers selected a steady two-way forward from the QMJHL‘s Lewiston MAINEiacs. Chaput finished second on his team in scoring despite putting up only 55 total points off of 28 goals and 27 assists in 68 games played. For the traditionally high-octane offensive style of the league, that number seems fairly low, but Chaput makes up for it in other ways.
The 18-year-old is a bit more offensively gifted than his older brother Stefan Chaput, who the Hurricanes selected in 2006, but he is not as tenacious a forechecker. He will have to get stronger even though he already possesses a solid skill-set from which to base his development.
He can force or sneak his way through traffic and is a strong skater. He can even win face-offs. He will add center depth to the Flyers organization.
QMJHL forward Tye McGinn had actually started his career in the OHL like his older brother but found his way to the Gatineau Olympiques after just one season of CHL competition. The Olympiques stuck with him, and he turned out to be a helpful addition. It was not until this past year though that he broke out scoring 27 goals and adding another 35 assists for 62 points in only 50 games.
Though the 19-year-old is another older player like a few the Flyers have selected in recent years, he brings a ton of energy on every shift. He does not have a particularly dynamic offensive skill-set, but he knows how to find the right areas of the ice. He is a very smart hockey player who works well without the puck, and with his strength and hands, has the ability to work the crease.
With his size, McGinn has the upside to be an effective crease bully getting his points around the net, but in order for it to come to that point, his offensive game will have to translate to the next level.
The 5’10 St. Louis native Michael Parks grew up watching Patrick Maroon, another Flyers’ forward prospect who comes from the same region, but they are in no way similar players. The quiet Parks is a small, soft-spoken forward who always plays the game at full speed. Unlike the much bigger Maroon, who is not the best skater, the 18-year-old Parks uses his speed and skating to bring a steady offensive attack and keep opposing defenders uncomfortable.
Parks enjoys driving the net in order to spark offense as well, and though he did not have the most dominant performance of his career during his season with the RoughRiders, he managed 11 goals and another 11 assists.
He has already suited up for team USA on a number of occasions and will be headed to college for next season. In February of 2009, Parks committed to the University of North Dakota on a full scholarship where he will play hockey as a freshman for the 2010-11 season.
Nicholas Luukko , D – The Gunnery (USHS)
6th Round, 179th Overall
6’2, 181 lbs
With their sixth round pick, the Flyers decided to keep it in the family with Nicholas Luukko. The son of the President of Comcast-Spectacor, Peter Luuko, the family has deep ties to the organization. In fact, the elder Luukko even requested that the Flyers’ not go out of their way to select his son.
It turns out that Luukko’s selection was not just to appease their boss. The front office did their homework on the big, hometown defenseman, who at first could not believe he had been selected by the team he had grown up around. Holmgren mentioned that the scouts had Luukko in the 90’s and that he was "too good to pass up" that late. In the end, it was reported that his staff made the final decision to take the 6’2 18-year-old blueliner.
Other than his size, Luukko has strong skating, a great shot, and the willingness to work hard on and off the ice. He was a dominating force on the blueline for Gunnery Prep in Connecticut where he finished his senior year with two goals and 21 assists in 31 games.
Next year he will play junior hockey with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the USHL before attending the University of Vermont.
Ricard Blidstrand, D – AIK (SWE-J20)
7th Round, 206th Overall
6’2, 201 lbs
The Flyers acquired their first selection in the seventh round from the Carolina Hurricanes by moving center prospect Jonathan Matsumoto. With that pick, the Flyers took another big defenseman in 18-year-old Ricard Blidstrand who played this past season with AIK of the Swedish junior league. In 33 games, he notched two goals and another six assists.
He has the strength to play physical, but needs to do so more consistently. Right now he can move the puck well, and he possesses a strong shot from the point. Blidstrand’s biggest issue is his decision-making, which tends to show in his passing game. He needs to work on his decisiveness both with and without the puck.
Next season he will journey to the Regina Pats of the WHL in order to continue his development.
Based on his numbers, you might wonder why a talented, young forward like Brendan Ranford fell all the way to the Flyers at the second to last selection in the 2010 draft. In 72 games with the Kamloops Blazers of the WHL, he scored 29 goals and 36 assists as a 17-year-old. He finished second in the team in scoring and was one of the few players on the roster to have a positive plus-minus rating.
He is a heavy forechecker, which fits right into the Flyers’ system, and he chases the puck hard. All of his puck-sharking is no good at higher levels though if he cannot keep up with other players. Despite his small stature and low center of gravity, Ranford is a sloppy skater. While that does not always guarantee a bust, it is a hard problem to counter even with a great work ethic. On top of that, he lacks in strength and cannot easily battle defenders. His offensive skills cannot help him if he is constantly getting pushed off the puck.
For now, the 18-year-old Ranford will continue his development with the Kamloops Blazers with a strong emphasis on strength and conditioning.