It's no secret the Flyers need depth in their defensive unit, but a bruising, punishing prospect may not be enough to succeed in Philadelphia. The team desperately needs a player with an above-average hockey brain and incredible hockey instinct.
Too many times the Flyers defenders found themselves out of position—in their own zone—and losing battles along the board or open ice. Sure, many of these players threw their bodies around, unloading ferocious hits time after time, but that punishment was easily erased by mental mistakes or lack of effort.
As Philadelphia holds selections in the first, second, third, fifth, sixth and seventh rounds, the team should be concentrating on smart defenders who can make the leap into the NHL.
Here are four defensemen the Flyers could be targeting throughout the draft:
A guaranteed first-round selection, the Finland native will be a "tough grab" at the No. 11 pick. Rasmus Ristolainen is a sold blueliner who moves well with or without the puck. He also thrives on playing physical hockey.
He could eventually blossom into Kimmo Timonen's replacement.
Another lock in the first round, Ryan Pulock could be the perfect fit for the Flyers. The shifty blueliner can skate, pass, shoot and hit. He would complement the team nicely, but with his impressive combine appearance, Pulock may not still be around by the time Philly makes its first selection.
The gritty blueliner plays a Broad Street Bully style of hockey but with the potential to be an offensive threat. Darnell Nurse, the nephew of ex-Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb, already has ties to the city and could quickly become a fan favorite with the Flyers faithful.
He possesses a ton of talent and potential upside, so the team would be making an investment for the future.
Chris Bigras is a player who has not received the attention of a first-round selection, but he could end up being a nice second-round pick for Philadelphia. He's a versatile blueliner, who is extremely intelligent on the ice.
In a scouting report by SportsNet's Patrick King, he labeled Bigras as an adaptable player, who could develop into a reliable, long-term pro.
The Philadelphia Flyers will not spend every pick on a defenseman, but the team should be focusing on filling this major void on its roster. Now is the time for Philly to invest in its defenders and help achieve successful seasons for years to come.
"Defense wins championships" is one of the oldest cliches in all of sports, and it's still true to this day. If the Flyers do not improve their defense, they will never truly compete for Lord Stanley's Cup.
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