While the 2012 NHL Draft was far quieter for the Philadelphia Flyers than previous ones, the organization still got the job done. Though no major trades occurred, General Manager Paul Holmgren addressed his prospect pool perfectly. The organization went with the best available in the first round, answered some goaltending concerns in the second, and eventually secured some defensive depth to compete with current prospects.
While the biggest need was on the blue line, the Flyers did not reach into taking a player they did not feel comfortable with early. Instead they took four defensemen in later rounds.
When asked at the draft what he thought he could bring to the Flyers organization, Scott Laughton responded with words like, two-way hockey, teammates, hard work, and leadership. For those that knew about Laughton from juniors, it was like watching the same movie all over again. This movie, of course, originally aired in 2003, the year the Flyers took Mike Richards 24th overall.
"[Mike Richards and Shane Doan] are huge for me, and I like to model myself after them," Laughton said. "They're just really good players who are always there for their teams in the playoffs. They're heart and soul type of guys."
His offensive potential may not be as high as Richards', but Laughton has all of the character that the Flyers' organization covets. It would not be shocking to see the comparison-hungry fanbase in Philadelphia proclaiming him the next reincarnation of any number of elite two-way centers. Laughton may be flattered by these boasts, but if his heroes have any say in how he handles himself, his play will do all of the talking for him.
Anthony Stolarz, G – Corpus Christi IceRays (NAHL)
2nd round, 45th overall
Height: 6'5 Weight: 201 lbs
There is little question the Flyers like size in their goaltenders, with several in the organization standing at 6'3 or taller. Now added to the mix is 6'5 Anthony Stolarz. A product of Jackson, NJ, Stolarz grew up a fan of the New Jersey Devils and Martin Brodeur.
"Martin Brodeur was a fantastic goalie and, in my opinion, the greatest goalie of all time," Stolarz said when asked about his position and his history watching the Devils, "I just tried to learn as much as I could from him."
But now Stolarz, who lives far closer to the Flyers' practice facility in Voorhees than the Devils' arena in Newark, is the latest goaltender with aspirations of winning over the Philadelphia fanbase.
"I'm a Flyers' fan now," Stolarz proclaimed to reporters on the day of his selection, but his first stop is the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
This also marks only the fifth time since 1998 that the Flyers have made a selection in the second round with their only real NHL success story from that window being Andreas Nodl.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D – Union College Dutchmen (ECAC)
3rd round, 78th overall
Height: 5'11 Weight: 161 lbs
So far, Shayne Gostisbehere is having an exciting year. The freshman was a major contributor on a Union College squad that made it to the Frozen Four for the first time in school history, and he had an assist on the game-winning goal that gave the Dutchmen the chance to take part in the tournament.
His team also won the ECAC Championship, and Gostisbehere was named to the ECAC All-Rookie Team. His 22 points on the season were also good enough to finish second on the roster among blue line scoring behind sophomore Mat Bodie.
While Gostisbehere fell through the draft in 2011, the Flyers were willing to take him in the third round this year showing just how strong a freshman season he had for Union.
Fredric Larsson, D – Brynas Jrs (J18 Elit)
4th round, 111th overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 190 lbs
Just how Fredric Larsson managed to rack up 109 penalty minutes in 19 games with the Brynas J18 team this season is still a bit fuzzy; even to those who witnessed it first hand. That said, Larsson has a 6'3 build and a warrior mentality, both of which should endear him to the City of Brotherly Love.
He could stand to put on more strength, but that will come with his development over time. For a defenseman whose game is predicated around hitting, Larsson controls the puck well and makes smart decisions; making his development curve slighter than other defensemen with similar skill-sets.
For now he will continue with the Brynas program in Sweden, likely by joining the J20 team for more than just 14 games next season.
Looking at Taylor Leier's 5'10 stature and 0.51 point-per-game average with the Portland Winterhawks in 2011-12, it does not immediately standout as to why the Flyers selected him in the fourth. The organization probably noticed him when Portland traded for Flyers prospect Marcel Noebels, and liked the potential they saw.
Leier had flashes that helped him stand out from some of his peers as well as an understanding of what two-way hockey brings to a team. All things considered, this pick seems eerily similar to the one used on Eric Wellwood in 2009.
Many in the world of hockey as well as the Flyers' organization believe a breakout year for Leier could be on the horizon. If all he needs is opportunity, it will certainly come next season. High-production forwards Ty Rattie (STL), Sven Baertschi (CAL), Brad Ross (TOR), and Noebels, could all find themselves far away from Portland in 2012-13, giving Leier a shot to be a producer for the Winterhawks. The only question now is whether or not he can show that these offensive blips are more than just flashes in the pan.
Reece Willcox, D – Merritt Centennials (BCHL)
5th round, 141st overall
Height: 6'3 Weight: 185 lbs
With their fifth round selection in the 2012 Draft, the Flyers opted for a fabled right-handed defenseman. Reece Willcox makes the draft a defense-heavy one for the organization that clearly needed to boost its blue line, both immediately and down the road.
Scheduled to attend Cornell in the fall, Willcox was a member of the gold medal winning Canada West U19 team. He also comes with size and a list of All-Star nominations from the BCHL.
This also makes three Flyers prospects currently playing in the ECAC including Petr Placek at Harvard University, Shayne Gostisbehere at Union College, and Willcox. Three more also play or will start playing in the NCAA ranks next season including Michael Parks, Nicholas Luukko, and Anthony Stolarz. What may be even more incredible is the 10 other current Flyers' prospects that were former NCAA players which easily makes the college ranks the organization's new go-to for prospect development.
Valeri Vasiliev, D – MHC Spartak (MHL)
7th round, 201st overall
Height: 6'1 Weight: 203 lbs
Valeri Vasiliev completed the Flyers 2012 draft class and marked the first time General Manager Paul Holmgren drafted a Russian-born player since Denis Bodrov and Andrei Popov were both taken in 2006.
While there is no apparent relation, Valeri Vasiliev also shares his name with a famous Russian defenseman known in Philadelphia for throwing heavy checks at many Flyers' players, including Bobby Clarke, during the '76 Super Series. The 18-year-old Vasiliev has size on his older counterpart and has been paired with a game-style similar to Douglas Murray.
Vasiliev was also the 16th ranked European Skater in the Draft according to NHL Central Scouting, but a shoulder injury had devastating effects on his draft stock. Like most of the Flyers' prospects there is absolutely no reason to rush with him either. He will take his time to develop in Russia.