Philadelphia Flyers 2014 NHL Draft preview

By Jashvina Shah

Sam Morin - Philadelphia Flyers

Photo: Defenseman Sam Morin was selected 11th overall in the 2013 NHL Draft. (courtesy of Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

The Philadelphia Flyers returned to the playoffs this season after a one-year hiatus, although they were unable to move past the first round. After the season ended, the Philadelphia front office promoted then-GM Paul Holmgren to team president while hiring Ron Hextall in his place.

The Flyers seem to be moving upward after making a few huge changes since their last Stanley Cup Final appearance in 2010. Philadelphia has a lot of solid, two-way players in its prospect pool, but the team lacks elite talent. The Flyers have several strong prospects who can help the team moving forward, but the lack of depth at many positions is a concern for the team.

Top 10 Prospects:

1. Scott Laughton, C
2. Samuel Morin, D
3. Robert Hagg, D
4. Shayne Gostisbehere, D
5. Nick Cousins, C
6. Anthony Stolarz, G
7. Mark Alt, D
8. Tye McGinn, LW
9. Michael Parks, RW
10. Jason Akeson, RW

Team Needs

The Flyers have long been plagued by goalkeeping issues. This season they relied heavily on Steve Mason, with Ray Emery appearing in a few games. Philadelphia even called up Cal Heeter from the AHL for a game. Outside of Mason, who has been a question mark at times, Philadelphia's best goalkeeping prospect is Anthony Stolarz. But there are doubts surrounding his future as well, and there is no other player capable of being an NHL goalkeeper in Philadelphia's system.

The Flyers have long prioritized two-way forwards and defense in their drafting and trading, and their current roster reflects that. Elite scoring is an area the team needs to address, particularly on wing. They have a couple of good prospect centers in Scott Laughton and Nick Cousins, but lack depth outside of those players.

Organizational Strengths

Philadelphia has a lengthy list of defensemen in its prospect pool, and they hold the rights to some elite blueliners. Samuel Morin, Mark Alt, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Robert Hagg are just a few of the team's top-rated defensemen, but a few of those players have excelled over the past season and are near NHL ready, like Hagg and Valeri Vasiliev.

The defensive core also has a good mix of speed in Gostisbehere and physicality in Vasiliev and Hagg. Reece Willcox, a defensemen who benefitted from a strong season at Cornell, is another stronger defensive-end player.

Organizational Weaknesses

As mentioned earlier, the biggest weakness for the Flyers is goalkeeping. Mason helped the Flyers be a competitive team this season, but he has been inconsistent in the past. And outside of Mason, the Flyers have Emery as a backup. The organization has three goaltenders in the system, including Heeter, who played an NHL game this season.

But none of Philadelphia's goalies can be looked at as Philadelphia's franchise player. The closest the team has is Anthony Stolarz, but his future is still in question.

The lack of forward depth is a concern for a Flyers team that is also in need of elite scoring talent. They have gotten by with gritty two-way players and have emphasized a defense-first system, but it is an area the team needs to improve.

Draft Tendencies

Philadelphia, in the past, has taken players from the NCAA, the CHL, and even a few here and there from European leagues. But those tendencies have all been with Paul Holmgren at the helm. Hextall spent several years with Los Angeles helping the Kings build a Stanley Cup winning team. The Kings have taken most of their players from the CHL, but picked a couple of very good players from college as well.

In this year's draft, the Flyers, who are hosting, own the 17th overall pick. They have five picks overall and will pick at: 17, 48, 138, 168, and 198.

The Flyers acquired another draft pick after trading Andre Meszaros to the Bruins. If Meszaros re-signs with Boston before the draft, the Flyers will receive a second-round pick. If not, it will downgrade to a third-round selection.

The Flyers have lost two picks for the upcoming draft due to trades. Philadelphia traded its third-round selection to the Islanders in a trade that brought Andrew MacDonald to Philadelphia. The Flyers also lost their fourth-round selection to the Islanders after a swap for Mark Streit last June.

Hockey's Future Staff Mock Draft Results:

17. Nick Schmaltz, C, Green Bay Gamblers (USHL)

Most of Philadelphia's players are very, very gritty forwards. While Nick Schmaltz, the brother of St. Louis Blues draft pick Jordan, most likely needs to work on his defensive game, he has some good playmaking skills.

Schmaltz, a member of the USHL All-Rookie team, used his quick skating ability, fast hands and good vision to record 52 points (18 goals, 34 assists) with the Green Bay Gamblers.

The North Dakota commit played for the USA in the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament before last season started, and helped his country take home silver. He was a member of the U19 team that won gold at the World Junior A Challenge.