Scott Laughton remains top prospect for Philadelphia Flyers

By Chris Roberts

Scott Laughton - Philadelphia Flyers

Photo: Forward Scott Laughton remains the top prospect for the Philadelphia Flyers. Laughton was selected 20th overall in the 2012 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Bill Streicher/Icon SMI)

The Philadelphia Flyers are an organization in disarray. Just weeks into the 2013-14 NHL season, the organization has already fired head coach Peter Laviolette and owns a record of 1-7.

The Flyers NHL roster is loaded with talent, but recent results have been mixed. They boast a number of promising, young forwards like Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, and Jakub Voracek, but the defense remains old, and many of the Flyers defensive prospects are still years away from making an impact.

1. (1) Scott Laughton, C, 7.5B
Drafted 1st round, 20th overall, 2012

Scott Laughton is a 6'1 center who has a strong mind for the defensive side of the game, as evidenced by his making the Flyers opening night roster the past two seasons. Last year the rookie played his first five NHL games before being sent back to Oshawa of the OHL, but this year failed to get in a single game before being returned to the Generals.

While it was odd for general manager Paul Holmgren to name Laughton to the opening night roster and send him back without getting a chance to earn his keep, it may be what is best for the Oakville, Ontario native. Not that he is void of offensive skill (he had 109 points in 113 games the past two seasons with Oshawa) but in returning to the OHL he has a chance to gain confidence offensively as a 19-year-old. Of course, he should also be a front runner to make the Canadian World Junior team, which is always a tremendous opportunity for young prospects.

2. (2) Nick Cousins, C, 7.0B
Drafted 3rd round, 68th overall, 2011

Along with 23-year-old Jason Akeson, rookie Nick Cousins may be expected to do a lot of the heavy lifting offensively for the Adirondack Phantoms this season. The former Sault Ste. Marie Greyhound was third in OHL scoring last season with 103 points in just 64 games and second in assists with 76. What is most impressive about the 76 assists is the fact that no Greyhound had more than 30 goals, meaning Cousins' numbers were not aided by a single elite-level player.

Cousins did have chemistry with 20-year-old forward Brandon Alderson in Sault Ste. Marie last season, and perhaps to help ease the OHL to AHL transition for Cousins, and to build off their chemistry, the Flyers signed Alderson last March. Cousins has a willingness to get to the tough areas of the ice to collect the puck, and his vision from the half wall is certainly above average. He has the makeup of a gritty third-line playmaking winger, but could develop into a top-six forward if he continues to round out his game.

3. (NR) Samuel Morin, D, 7.5C
Drafted 1st round, 11th overall, 2013

It is not hard to see why the Flyers were excited to grab defenseman Samuel Morin with the 11th overall selection in last June's NHL Draft. At 6'6 and 203 pounds, the defenseman already has the height to be an imposing NHL rearguard.

Though not a physically punishing player, Morin has tremendous reach, is tough to beat one-on-one, and can skate quite admirably for his size. At this point in his career, his offense is limited, but seems to be on the rise as he ended last season with seven points in six playoff games for the Rimouski Oceanic and collected two assists for the gold medal winning U18 Canadian team in Sochi, Russia. Should he add an offensive element to his game, Morin could project as a top-pairing NHL defenseman, and he will get the next year or two in Rimouski to do so. At worst, he becomes a bottom pairing shutdown defender.

4. (3) Shayne Gostisbehere, D, 7.0C
Drafted 3rd round, 78th overall, 2012

There have only been four players from the state of Florida to reach the NHL, but defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere is hoping to become the fifth. A native of Margate, Florida, he played his youth hockey in the Florida Junior Panthers program before enrolling at South Kent School in Connecticut, where he played high school hockey. Now in his third season at Union College, he has become a well-rounded defender with an improving offensive game.

Through two seasons, he has recorded 48 points and received attention on a national level, representing the United States at the 2013 World Junior Championships. With Union losing Greg Coburn and Mathew Bodie to graduation, Gostisbehere will undoubtedly be the team's top defenseman this season.

5. (4) Anthony Stolarz, G, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 45th overall, 2012  

Without question, Stolarz's greatest asset is his size. At 6'5 and over 200 pounds, the Edison, New Jersey native strikes an imposing figure between the pipes. There is very little space available when he gets to the edge of the crease to challenge shooters, but his quickness sliding post-to-post could still be improved. His physical tools make him an attractive prospect, and his decision to leave the University of Nebraska-Omaha last season likely fast tracked his development.

Having only played in eight of the Mavericks first 22 games as a freshman last year, Stolarz felt he would be better off in London of the OHL, and thus far, the decision has been a good one. He finished the 2012-13 season as the Knight's goaltender of choice, starting 20 games and posting a 2.29 goals-against-average. He played well enough in the postseason to earn the powerhouse Knights a Memorial Cup bid, but struggled in Saskatoon, posting a 4.50 goals-against-average and a .872 save percentage in three games. He will once again be the starter for the Knights this season and should also get a chance to play for the USA World Junior Team this year.

6. (NR) Robert Hagg, D, 7.0C
Drafted 2nd round, 41st overall, 2013

After captaining the Modo U20 team for the first half of last season, Swedish defender Robert Hägg got the call up to the senior team and looked calm and poised in his 28 games while seeing limited ice time. At 6'2 and 203 pounds, he already has the frame to withstand the grind of playing a full season with Modo's senior team, and plays with enough edge to become an effective NHL player in due time.

He is by no means an offensive dynamo, but has certainly shown an ability to produce points playing against competition his own age. Through 12 games this season, he has three assists.

7. (14) Mark Alt, D, 7.0C
Acquired via trade with Carolina Hurricanes, January 13th, 2013

The Philadelphia Flyers may have received a gift from the Carolina Hurricanes in Mark Alt. Packaged with Brian Boucher in exchange for ECHL forward Luke Pither last season, Alt has quickly climbed the Flyers prospect ranks and seems to be showing some of the promise that made him an attractive second round selection in 2010.

Alt enters the 2013-14 campaign as a useful piece of the Adirondack Phantoms' blue line. He perhaps became expendable for the Hurricanes after a setback junior season with the University of Minnesota in which his point totals dropped from 22 to seven, but has looked comfortable since signing a pro contract with the Flyers and opting to forego his senior campaign.

8. (5) Tye McGinn, LW, 7.0C
Drafted 4th round, 119th overall, 2010

Tye McGinn took an interesting path to the NHL, at least in junior. After a somewhat disappointing rookie season with the Ottawa 67's in 2007-08, he ventured to the QMJHL to play for the Gatineau Olympiques. Though it was only a short trek across the Alexandra Bridge to Gatineau, McGinn found immense success in the QMJHL and gained confidence offensively, scoring 156 points in 140 games.

Brother of Jamie McGinn (COL), Tye plays a very Flyer-esque style of game. The rugged winger has already shown an ability to play at the NHL level when called upon, posting five points in 18 NHL games last season, and three goals through three games this season. He is a smart two-way winger and should carve out a role as a capable bottom-six forward in the NHL.

9. (13) Jason Akeson, RW, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, March 2nd, 2011

A little undersized at 5'10, Jason Akeson has not let that stop him on his path to becoming an NHL regular. He oozes offensive talent, as evidenced by his 108 point season with the OHL's Kitchener Rangers in 2010-11. He is not an elite skater and often gets criticized for lacking toughness, but his tremendous vision and surprisingly quick shot has helped him produce at every level he has played.

In 2011-12, his first pro season, the 23-year-old led a very pedestrian Adirondack team in scoring with 55 points in 76 games. Last season, he scored 20 goals for the Phantoms, and even scored in his first and only NHL game. He picked up two assists in his first game with Adirondack this season, and again should lead the team in scoring, unless of course he can earn his keep with the Flyers.

10. (7) Brandon Manning, D, 6.5C
Signed as a free agent, November 23rd, 2010

Another free agent signing by the Flyers, Brandon Manning was targeted for his combination of physicality and offensive instincts. The defenseman scored 45 goals over three seasons with the WHL's Chilliwack Bruins, and totaled over 400 penalty minutes in that time. He has been an effective top four defender in Adirondack for the past two seasons and has dressed in 10 NHL games.

A restricted free agent following the 2012-13 season, Manning went unsigned by the Flyers until late August when he signed a one-year deal with the club. He will get a chance to be a top-pairing blueliner for the Phantoms this season, and may very likely see time in a Flyers jersey once again, but will need to take the next step in his development to earn a longer term contract next summer. Still, Manning is a player with NHL potential given his toughness and ability to chip in offense.

11. (9) Marcel Noebels, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 118th overall, 2011

Marcel Noebels, a German-born winger, learned quickly how to play the North American game, having spent two seasons in the WHL, split between the Seattle Thunderbirds and the Portland Winterhawks. He was near a point-per-game player during his time in the WHL and showed excellent vision from the wing.

He has good size 6'3 and 200 pounds, but does not play an overly physical game, though he is not afraid to get to the net or use his body to create space for his teammates. His ceiling is limited and he will need to prove himself offensively in the AHL before earning a look with the Flyers.

12. (11) Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 6.5C
Drafted 3rd round, 67th overall, 2008

Concussion symptoms have halted Marc-Andre Bourdon's inevitable graduation from prospect status. The 6'0, 225 pound defenseman played in 45 games for Philadelphia in 2011-12, but appeared in only 17 AHL games last year, and none so far this year.

Bourdon was a high-offense blueliner in the QMJHL, scoring near a point-per-game in his final three seasons, split between the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and the Rimouski Oceanic. That side of his game has not translated effectively to the pros yet, but he has learned to play a more simple game, and can still be a weapon on the power play. When he is symptom free, he may be relegated back to Adirondack given the Flyers signings of Hal Gill and Mark Streit in the off-season, but could provide valuable depth for a Flyers team seemingly always in search of blueliners.

13. (15) Taylor Leier, LW, 6.5C
Drafted 4th round, 117th overall, 2012

Taylor Leier signed his first professional contract in September and deservedly so. The Flyers signed the left winger to an entry-level deal following a breakout season with the Portland Winterhawks in which he scored 62 points in 64 games and added three in three Memorial Cup games.

He is another undersized prospect at 5'11 and 178 pounds, but his skill is evident and he is certainly not afraid to mix it up, as evident by his 63 penalty minutes last season. With the loss of Ty Rattie (STL) this season, Leier has been given increased offensive responsibility and already through nine games he has 10 points, forming a solid trio with Nicolas Petan (WPG) and Oliver Bjorkstrand (CBJ). His feistiness and willingness to drop the gloves should aid him as he attempts to carve out a full-time NHL gig, but he will need to continue filling out and improve his defensive game to do so.

14. (12) Oliver Lauridsen, D, 6.5C
Drafted 7th round, 196th overall, 2009

It is not often a seventh round selection will even get signed to a pro contract, but with Oliver Lauridsen's size, the Flyers had to give him a shot. The 6'6 defender spent three seasons with St. Could State in the NCAA before suiting up full time for the Adirondack Phantoms in 2011-12. After a decent rookie campaign, the Denmark-born Lauridsen suited up in 15 games for the injury-riddled Flyers last season, scoring two goals and adding one assist.

His mobility and skating needs improvement, but his reach can often make up for times when he is beat wide or to the inside. His ceiling is no more than a bottom-pairing shutdown defender, but with his size and reach, he could be a good one at that. He will likely spend most of the year in Adirondack, providing the Flyers defensive core stays relatively healthy this season.

15. (NR) Petr Straka, RW, 6.5C
Signed as free agent, April 11th, 2013

Petr Straka was highly sought after following an 82-point overage season with Baie-Comeau of the QMJHL last season. The Czech-born winger was originally selected in the second round of the 2010 NHL Draft by the Columbus Blue Jackets, but was unsigned following a pair of underachieving seasons with Rimouski.

Last season, Straka found the scoring touch he had in his rookie year with Rimouski, when he scored 64 points in 62 games. Through 55 games last year, he scored a team-leading 41 goals and added 41 assists. He was looked at by a number of teams during the season, but opted to sign with the Flyers in April. It is unclear whether his offense will translate to the pro level, and his 2012-13 numbers should be taken with a grain of salt considering it was his overage season, but the potential is certainly there. The 6'0, 190 pound winger will look to gain confidence throughout his first season with Adirondack.
    
16. (6) Eric Wellwood, LW, 6.0C
Drafted 6th round, 172nd overall, 2009

Though he was a point-per-game scorer in 2009-10 in his final season with the Windsor Spitfires, there is no denying Eric Wellwood's greatest asset is his defensive work. He was the Spitfires top penalty killer during his time there and has appeared on both the Phantoms and Flyers penalty kill unit.

Unfortunately, the 23-year-old is currently recovering from a late-season injury with Adirondack last year in which he slid feet first into the boards, severing two tendons. He may not even play this year, but has already begun skating, though has noted some discomfort. Two seasons ago, he performed admirably for the Flyers in 24 games, scoring five goals in a bottom-six role.

17. (NR) Merrick Madsen, G, 7.0D
Drafted 6th round, 162nd overall, 2013

Though Merrick Madsen was drafted by Des Moines of the USHL, he opted to play for the Minot Minotauros of the NAHL for the 2013-14 season. A towering goaltender with lots of room to grow, Madsen is committed to Harvard University for the 2014-15 season.

Thus, the Flyers have plenty of time to be patient with the goaltender with size 14 skates. Obviously, with his size, he is an intriguing prospect, but his glove hand needs improving and he needs a lot more starts.

18. (17) Michael Parks, RW, 6.5D
Drafted 5th round, 149th overall, 2010

Injuries slowed University of North Dakota's Michael Parks in 2012-13. After he impressed in his freshman season in 2011-12, with 22 points in 42 games, Parks collected just eight points in 25 games as a sophomore.

He has grown an inch or two since his draft year, when his size was thought to be a bit of an issue; though, he's always been stocky, if not solid in stature. Now, the St. Louis native carries a 6'0, 200 pound frame on the ice, and plays with an edge. He has above average speed and a good compete level, but will need to show more consistency in the coming year or two if he is to earn a contract from the Flyers.

19. (18) Valeri Vasiliev, D, 6.0C
Drafted 7th round, 201st overall, 2012

Continuing their recent trend of drafting big defensemen, the Flyers opted to select Valeri Vasiliev in the seventh round of the 2012 draft. At 6'2 and 207 pounds, he plays a physical game on the big ice in Russia and has decent mobility. Far from flashy, he is more of a prototypical stay-at-home defender, but can often get caught out of position when looking for the big hit.

Vasiliev is still just 19-years-old, and seems to have secured a spot on Spartak Moskva this season, having already played in 11 games. He split last season between the KHL and the Russian junior league.

20. (16) Brandon Alderson, RW, 6.0C
Signed as a free agent, March 1st, 2013

The Flyers went back to CHL last spring to sign undrafted free agent Brandon Alderson. A 6'4, 195lb forward from Oakville, Ontario, Alderson played four seasons in the OHL, split between the Sarnia Sting and the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. Last year he scored 64 points in 67 regular season games, before earning a nine game stint with Adirondack, where he had two assists.

Though he scored near a point-per-game pace last season, he is not overly creative. He can however use his body effectively and player a strong game in the corners and around the net. He projects as a bottom-six NHL forward who can chip in offensively.