Philadelphia Flyers own tough, hard working group at CHL level

By Chris Shafer

Nick Cousins - Philadelphia Flyers

Photo: Nick Cousins is one of several hard working forwards the Flyers have at the CHL level. (Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers have five players currently playing in Canadian Major Juniors, led by 2012 first round pick Scott Laughton. Four of the five prospects are forwards, with Colin Suellentrop being the only defenseman of the group.

WHL

Taylor Leier, LW, Portland Winterhawks
Acquired: 4th Round (117th Overall) in 2012

Despite a slight lower body affecting his season, Taylor Leier has been fairly productive offensively. While he is still stuck behind a few junior offensive heavyweights, it is clear the forward has the offensive skill-set to produce in a major role. The question now is when his real opportunity to have a lead scoring role will come. An NHL lockout certainly has not helped matters for the young forward, but there are plenty of CHL years left ahead of him.

It also helps Leier that his team is perennially one of the best in the WHL. They have lost only five games and can boast a ridiculous .823 win percentage for the current head of the league. While more opportunities would be great for his development, Leier is doing just fine with the stacked Winterhawks lineup.

OHL

Scott Laughton, C, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 1st Round (20th Overall) in 2012

With all of the recent graduations, the 18-year-old Scott Laughton has found himself at the current head of the "future" of the Philadelphia Flyers. There is little doubt that there are some more talented athletes on the NHL roster that are right around Laughton's age group, but that does not necessarily mean they are harder workers. The young, hardnosed Laughton has, like so many before him, been compared both in style and locker room demeanor to the great Bobby Clarke. Thus, by association, he has also become the next Mike Richards.

It is important to note the differences despite how easy it may be to throw around comparisons. Laughton is not coming with as strong a playmaking aspect to his game as both Clarke and Richards. He provides the leadership, aggressiveness, and hard work on the ice though. He is the kind of player who likes to tear walls down on his way to the puck, and that will only endear him to the city of Philadelphia. With so much depth in front of him, it may be a while before Philadelphia gets their first taste of Laughton on the ice at the Wells Fargo Center, but it will be well worth the wait. He has been a Flyer only since June, and he has already been tagged by an "A" on his chest, a point-per-game pace, and a 10 game suspension.

Nick Cousins, C, Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds
Acquired: 3rd Round (68th Overall) in 2011

While Laughton is getting into trouble on the ice, Nick Cousins is having issues off it. Despite his off-ice troubles though, the young center has remained with his team through the season so far, and that has only been of help to Greyhound offensive front. He leads the team in scoring by a significant margin and is even currently in the top-10 in OHL scoring.

The Flyers have been pleasantly surprised by Cousins' development thus far, and should his off-ice issues get settled, then there is no question that the Flyers will look to push him towards the NHL. His offense may not entirely translate, but he plays an effective game despite his small stature. His ability to get under opponents skin helps as well, and there is always room on the team for a player who works hard in the corners. Cousins represents a tough scorer who is difficult to play against. There is nothing more that the Flyers could ask for out of a former third round selection.

Colin Suellentrop, D, Oshawa Generals
Acquired: 4th Round (116th Overall) in 2011

With the Flyers' top prospect and Generals' top defensive forward Scott Laughton missing a number of games due to suspension, there was more pressure on the Oshawa defensemen to perform. Colin Suellentrop was one of the players counted to elevate his game during the suspension. Through the off-season and the beginnings of the 2012-13 season he has continued to develop steadily, and he is in a role that suits him. It also helps his cause that a number of other defensive prospects for the Flyers stumbled out of the gate.

Even so, with four new blueliners added in the 2012 draft alone, it is fairly obvious that the Flyers are trying to upgrade the position. Suellentrop will have to perform at the top of his game to earn a chance to play with Philadelphia after juniors. If he can demonstrate another dimension to his game, it will only help him in the long run.

Derek Mathers, RW, Peterborough Petes
Acquired: 7th Round (206th Overall) in 2011

Mathers' leadership role on the Peterborough Petes has continued into the 2012-13 season, and he brings with him newly acquired experience in professional hockey after a brief stint with the Adirondack Phantoms. Throwing punches is not all he is capable of doing either, and he is starting to show signs that he has figured out how to use his size to do more than intimidate opponents. Because of this, Mathers is slowly becoming a well-rounded hockey player. While that will not be enough to earn him an NHL job outright, these are very positive steps for a young enforcer in the modern world of hockey.

The Petes right now though are having problems scoring. While Mathers does his part on the ice, it is usually not a good sign when only two players have substantially more points than him. Peterborough has only won eight of their 33 games so far, and should the season end without playoffs for Mathers, another trip to Glens Falls would not be out of the question.