Ideal Draft Picks for Philadelphia Flyers' 5 Biggest Needs
The Philadelphia Flyers will be looking to rebuild this offseason and once again become an elite hockey franchise. The team will use this year's draft as a major step in the right direction.
With a number of issues to be addressed, team owner Ed Snider and general manager Paul Holmgren must decide on the main focal points when making their selections and improving the team. Luckily, according to an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer's Sam Carchidi, Philadelphia's director of hockey operations, Chris Pryor, claimed this to be a very deep draft.
It's also apparent the Flyers could use help at all positions on the roster—some more important than others—to add depth and talent for seasons to come. And with a stacked draft class, here are the ideal draft picks for each of the Flyers' five biggest needs.
5. Zach Fucale, Athletic Goalie
You can almost guarantee the Philadelphia Flyers will not be selecting a goalie in the first round of this year's draft, but they may eventually have a need at the position.
Philly recently signed reserve goalie, or soon-to-be starter, Steve Mason to a one-year extension and have yet to make a decision on utilizing amnesty on Ilya Bryzgalov. All resulting in another Flyers goalie issue.
The team did draft goalie Anthony Stolarz in the second round last year, but they may decide to take another this draft. If they do, Zach Fucale would be the best selection.
Fucale, the Halifax Mooseheads' reliable goalie, is ranked the best overall goalie in his draft class. The butterfly style netminder stands at 6'1" and has cat-like reflexes, especially with his glove hand. He is able to move post to post and possesses the ability to take away the low bottom of the net.
Fucale's biggest asset is his durability in net. The 18-year-old has started at least 55 regular-season games and 17 playoff games in consecutive seasons with Halifax. He has the rare ability to be an elite goalie in the NHL.
Therefore, if the Flyers decide to select a goalie, Fucale would be their first choice and could help the team in the very near future.
4. Sean Monahan, Two-Way Center
At the moment, the Flyers may not necessarily need another center. Currently, the team has Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Max Talbot and, at times, Danny Briere.
Philadelphia is most likely trading or buying out Briere this offseason, who will need to be replaced. Meanwhile, Couturier did not advance in his second season with the team and could be traded for a defender before next season.
If Sean Monahan lasts until pick No. 11, the Flyers would be hard pressed not to select him. He is likely the best two-way player in the draft with an incredible set of skills.
The young center also has the potential to be a high-scorer, something Couturier struggled with this season. In fact, other than Giroux's 13 goals, the next highest-scoring center was Schenn with eight.
Monahan may develop sooner than most in his draft class—quickly helping the Flyers on both ends of the ice.
3. Hunter Shinkaruk, Scoring Winger
The Flyers are in need of a scoring winger for the future. Scott Hartnell, the leading goal scorer during the 2011-2012 season with 37 goals, only had eight in 32 games this season. Luckily, wingers Jake Voracek and Wayne Simmonds elevated their play with 22 and 15 goals, respectively.
Matt Read, who played wing for a majority of the season, was impressive at times and could develop nicely into a scoring threat. But the Flyers need a natural goal scorer immediately.
And this is where Hunter Shinkaruk, the Calgary native, may be the team's answer.
Shinkaruk has been an offensive juggernaut for the past two seasons with the Medicine Hat Tigers in the Western Hockey League—scoring 49 and 37 goals in consecutive years. He has a blistering wrist shot and is an extremely shifty skater.
He has also been labeled a "playmaker" with the potential to carry his talent in the NHL, which is exactly what the Flyers need. In a recent article by Daily Sports News' Frank Seravalli, he suggested the Flyers need to bolster their top line to open holes for others to grow.
Shinkaruk may develop into an excellent top-line forward at the professional level, creating a positive domino effect on the rest of the team.
2. Darnell Nurse, Shutdown Defender
Defense is a "must fix" for the Flyers this offseason, and they may look to the draft in addition to free agency.
Philadelphia allowed 2.9 goals per game this season—good for 22nd in the league—while playing with a cluster of different defenders on the ice. The team also suffered many injuries on the blue line with four players missing 14 or more games.
A couple young players stepped up towards the end of the season, but are still unproven in the NHL. If the Flyers decide to draft a shutdown defenseman, they should look to take Darnell Nurse.
The 18-year-old plays a ferocious style of hockey and uses his 6'5" body all over the ice. He is a fearless player who enjoys shutting down his opponents. And the Flyers could use a blueliner who can stop the rush and win battles deep in the zone.
Nurse will only become bigger and stronger, as his body develops, and could blossom into a dominating player in the NHL.
1. Rasmus Ristolainen, Two-Way Defender
Another specific blueliner the Flyers could use is a two-way defenseman. Last season, Philadelphia was extremely limited, with its defenders contributing on offense.
Kimmo Timonen, who consistently posts great offensive numbers, will likely be retiring after next season, and the Flyers should look for his replacement. In addition, the team has struggled to replace injured star Chris Pronger, who also contributed offensively during his illustrious NHL career.
Rasmus Ristolainen,18, may be the perfect player for the Flyers in this year's draft.
The Turku, Finland, native, is an extremely talented offensive defender, who can contribute to a team's scoring threat. Ristolainen is a good skater with smooth stick-handling skills—a rarity for a player his size.
Not only can he contribute to a team's offensive goals, but he is also a dominating defender. The young player enjoys throwing his body around and battling for the puck. In a 2012 interview with NHL's Adam Kimelman, Ristolainen explained he models his play after Chris Pronger and thrives on playing physical hockey:
"I like to play physical and nasty and keep the puck and score. I'm good at keeping the puck and passing. I think I'm good on [the] power play. I have a pretty good shot."
The Flyers appear to be a perfect match for Ristolainen and vice versa. He should fill the team's largest need this offseason and for the future.