Re-Grading the Philadelphia Flyers' Last 5 First Round Picks

Dan Fremuth@@hometownphanContributor IIIJune 27, 2013

Re-Grading the Philadelphia Flyers' Last 5 First Round Picks

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    The 2013 NHL Draft is just two days away and the pressure continues to mount as 30 teams look to maximize each and every pick they possess in what is being heralded as one of the deepest drafts in recent years.

    The Philadelphia Flyers control six picks in this year's draft including selections in the first, second and third rounds.

    But the excitement for Philly and its fans centers most around the team's first round pick—the 11th selection overall.

    The Flyers have controlled first round picks in just two of the last four drafts and possess a lottery selection for just the second time in the last six drafts.

    Philadelphia's recent results with opening round picks is a bit of a mixed bag. Here's a look at the team's success with its five most recent first round selections.

Scott Laughton: C

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    Realistically, Philadelphia's first round pick last year should receive an incomplete but for now, Scott Laughton will be viewed as a completely average selection by the Flyers.

    A 6'1", 180-pound forward, Laughton was grabbed by Philly last summer with the 20th overall pick in the draft.

    He began the lockout-shortened season with the big club but after failing to register a point in five appearances, the Oakville, Ontario was demoted to the Adirondack Phantoms and eventually, the Oshawa Generals.

    Laughton recorded a goal and three points in just six games with the Phantoms before posting career highs in goals (23) and points (56) despite suiting up in just 49 games with the Generals.

    During his brief stint with the Flyers, Laughton displayed all the attributes that could make him an incredibly effective depth forward for many years to come.

    He plays with speed, energy and intensity. He hits everything in sight and possesses enough skill to make him potentially a very dangerous third line center.

    For now though, it's simply too soon to tell.

Sean Couturier: B-

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    As with Laughton, it's far too early to pass out a final grade on Sean Couturier.

    He's only participated in two NHL campaigns, including the recent lockout-shortened 48-game season.

    The early returns though are, like Philadelphia's recent first round draft success, a bit of a mixed bag.

    The Flyers' selection of the Phoenix, Arizona native with the eighth overall pick back in 2011 looked like an instant coup when Couturier jumped right into Philly's lineup appearing in 77 games in his rookie season and quickly establishing himself as one of the club's top two-way forwards.

    After not possessing a first round pick in either of the two previous drafts, the Flyers received immediate results from this one when Couturier registered 13 goals, 14 assists and 27 points in his opening campaign. He only tallied four points in 11 playoff tilts thereafter, but established himself as one of the game's top two-way forwards when he completely neutralized Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin in an opening round series win over the Penguins.

    The 6'3", 200-pound forward, however, failed to build on that success this past year.

    Couturier managed just four goals and 15 points in 46 games and endured a 15-game stretch from February 21 to March 28 where he failed to register a single point.

    Again, it's still too early to pass out judgment on Couturier. There's been more promise than panic so far. As a result, there's all the reason in the world to believe Couturier will develop into a long-term top-six forward for the Orange and Black.

Luca Sbisa: D

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    The only reason this isn't an F is because Luca Sbisa has actually turned into a pretty serviceable defenseman.

    Philadelphia's talent evaluators did a nice job targeting Sbisa.

    A 6'2", 200-pound blueliner, Sbisa possesses good size to defend in his own end along with solid skating that has helped him produce eight goals and 50 points in 241 career NHL games.

    The Flyers could have done better though.

    Fellow defenseman Michael Del Zotto was drafted by the New York Rangers immediately following Sbisa. Meanwhile, the Edmonton Oilers tabbed Jordan Eberle just two picks later and the Washington Capitals claimed John Carlson with the 27th overall selection.

    But where this pick really impacted Philadelphia is when the club shipped Sbisa, along with the team's first round selections in 2009 and 2010, to Anaheim for Chris Pronger.

    Pronger was still a top-five NHL blueliner when the Flyers grabbed him but has managed  just 145 regular season games with the Orange and Black since. The future Hall of Fame defenseman got Philadelphia to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 but couldn't bring hockey's ultimate prize back to the City of Brotherly Love.

    Now, his playing future is a tremendous question mark and the Flyers have been burdened by the financial ramifications and lost draft picks ever since. 

    It certainly isn't Sbisa's fault, but the reality is that, before there was the Bryz-aster, there was this disaster.

James Van Riemsdyk: C+

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    Like Sbisa, James van Riemsdyk is another player drafted by the Flyers in recent years who is no longer with the Orange and Black.

    Selected second overall by Philadelphia back in 2007 (just one spot behind recent Conn Smythe playoff MVP Patrick Kane), van Riemsdyk didn't even crack the Flyers' lineup until the 2009-10 season where he posted 15 goals and 35 points in 78 games.

    JVR took a nice step forward the following year, amassing more goals (21) and points (40) despite playing in fewer games (75) and appeared to be on the cusp of emerging as one of the game's preeminent power forwards during the 2011 postseason where he was physically dominant in landing seven goals in just 11 outings.

    Both Philadelphia and van Riemsdyk hoped that playoff outbreak would be the catalyst to a long and prosperous union. Sadly, things went south the following year.

    JVR suited up in just 43 games for the Flyers during the 2011-12 campaign and managed just 11 goals and 24 points during that time. All the while, injuries forced the 6'3", 200-pound forward to miss 15 games from mid-January to late-February and another 19 contests from early March until the end of the regular season.

    When van Riemsdyk did return for Game 6 of Philly's opening round series with the Pittsburgh Penguins, he ended up recording just a goal and an assist in seven postseason tilts.

    By season's end, it was clear van Riemsdyk wasn't progressing as quickly as the club needed. That, coupled with the team's overt need to improve on defense, forced GM Paul Holmgren to move the Middletown, New Jersey native to Toronto in exchange for Luke Schenn.

    The exchange initially appears to be a win-win for both sides. Schenn has provided a physical, shot-blocking presence the Flyers so desperately craved while van Riemsdyk has found instant success with the Maple Leafs pouring in 18 goals and 32 points while appearing in all 48 games this past year.

    If Schenn evolves into a franchise defender for the Flyers, this grade would certainly improve.

    For now though, Philadelphia simply didn't get what it was hoping for from van Riemsdyk and this prized second overall selection.

Claude Giroux: A

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    Riku Helenius. Mark Mitera. David Fischer.

    Never heard of them? That's because they've combined to play zero NHL games.

    The one thing they all have in common, though, is they were each selected before Claude Giroux was tabbed by the Flyers with the 22nd overall selection in the 2006 NHL Draft.

    Philadelphia has certainly made its share of draft day misfires throughout the years, but this certainly wasn't one of them.

    It took the Hearst, Ontario native three seasons after being drafted to become a regular in Philadelphia's lineup but he's been a difference maker ever since.

    In 333 games donning the orange and black, Giroux has compiled 91 goals, 199 assists and 290 points. He's twice been selected to the NHL All-Star Game (2011, 2012) and was named the 19th team captain in franchise history in advance of this past season.

    He's a silky, dynamic offensive threat who is just as dangerous looking to set up his teammates as he is when attempting to beat goaltenders on his own. What's more, he brings a physical edge and emotional intensity to each and every shift that has quickly established him as a fan favorite in blue-collar Philadelphia.

    After leading the team in scoring in each of the last three seasons, there's little more Giroux can do for the Flyers but continue doing exactly what he's done.

    Well, a Stanley Cup would be nice too.