Breaking Down Philadelphia Flyers' Prospect Depth at Each Position
Victories over perennial powers Detroit, Los Angeles and San Jose in a span of just seven days have the Philadelphia Flyers just one point back of the New York Rangers for second place in the Metropolitan Division.
But even with Philly's recent surge, it's still hard to envision the Orange and Black making a serious run at the Stanley Cup this year. The Flyers are a streaky offensive team with defensive deficiencies and enigmatic goaltending.
The building blocks, however, appear to be there for Philadelphia to be a contender in the not-so-distant future.
Six of the team's regular forwards, including blossoming star Wayne Simmonds, are 25 or younger and despite a sluggish start, captain Claude Giroux is producing at nearly a point-per-game clip for the season. They have the basis for a solid defense corps with Braydon Coburn, Mark Streit and Luke Schenn and are committed to netminder Steve Mason for at least the next three years.
Still, the Flyers will need to supplement and the best way to do that is from within.
With that, here's a look at Philadelphia's prospect depth at each position moving forward.
Overall: Good crop of physical, depth forwards but few game breakers.
Scott Laughton: Philadelphia's first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Laughton is considered by most to be the Flyers' top prospect. A tenacious, two-way forward, he projects as a third-line NHL player who will pester the opposition and contribute on the penalty kill.
Laughton is having a solid campaign with the Oshawa Generals (OHL) having already recorded 29 goals and 64 points in just 39 games and was named captain for Team Canada at the 2014 World Junior Championships.
Nick Cousins: Philly's third-round selection (68th overall) in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, Cousins is likely to become a Flyers regular before any of Philadelphia's other prospects. A native of Belleville, Ontario, Cousins boasts a physicality coupled with a consistent scoring touch that will fit in perfectly in South Philly. Like Laughton, he's also a responsible two-way player.
At 5'11", 170 pounds, Cousins still lacks the size to be a dominant NHL threat but plays with a fearlessness and willingness to go to the dirty areas that will serve him well at the next level. After four years in the OHL, he made the professional jump this season and is in the midst of a modest campaign (four goals and 13 points in 43 games) with the Adirondack Phantoms.
Tye McGinn: Philadelphia's fourth-round selection (119th overall) in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, McGinn already has 26 career NHL games under his belt but has yet to stick with the big club yet. He will though.
A rugged 6'2", 205-pound winger, McGinn possesses good NHL size and should be a solid role player for the Flyers down the road. Even though he doesn't boast overwhelming offensive abilities, McGinn is a smart hockey player who knows where he needs to be on the ice to help generate offense. In eight games with the Flyers earlier this season, he produced three goals and has chipped in another 12 conversions and 22 points in 37 games with the Phantoms.
Jason Akeson: Signed as a free agent by the Flyers in March 2011, Akeson is in the midst of the final year of his three-year entry level pact with the Orange and Black. A 5'10", 190-pound forward from Orleans, Ontario, Akeson paced the Phantoms with 20 goals and 53 points last season and is leading Philly's farm team in both goals (16) and points (42) through 45 games this year.
A proven scorer at every level at which he's played, Akeson made his NHL debut in Philadelphia's regular season finale last year and notched the opener in a 2-1 triumph over the Ottawa Senators. Even though the Flyers appear to have plenty of playmakers on their current roster, it's hard to believe Akeson won't be given a full-time shot at some point.
Overall: Good depth but without the elite defender the franchise sorely needs.
Mark Alt: Acquired by the Flyers in a trade with Carolina 13 months ago, Alt was originally tabbed by the Hurricanes with the 53rd overall selection in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. A two-sport star in high school, Alt only committed to hockey full time a few years ago so he's a rather raw defensive talent.
Still, the 6'3", 200-pound defender is a fluid skater who has already displayed a solid two-way game. In 44 games this season in Adirondack, he's third among Phantoms defensemen with 11 points. His positional play, however, continues to need improvement as he presently boasts a minus-eight rating. Even still, his size and pure athleticism will give him a crack at the next level.
Samuel Morin: Philadelphia's first-round pick (11th overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Morin is a towering 6'6", 206-pound defender who should patrol the Flyers blue line for many years to come. He's a top-four defenseman who will regularly square off against the opposition's top units.
Morin is still discovering how to most effectively use his hulking frame and features a very raw offensive game. Still, he's got a booming slap shot and is in the midst of his best offensive season at the junior level having already notched six goals and 23 points in just 39 games with Rimouski Oceanic (QMJHL).
A native of Lac Beauport, Quebec, Morin is likely still a few years away from becoming a regular in Philadelphia.
Robert Hagg: Philly's second-round pick (41st overall) in the 2013 NHL Entry Draft, Hagg is a sound, all-around defenseman who doesn't really excel in any one area. A native of Uppsala, Sweden, he tends to keep the game simple and doesn't boast much of an offensive upside from the back end (just six points in 44 games for Modo Hockey this season).
That said, at 6'2", 200 pounds, Hagg boasts a great NHL frame and doesn't shy away from physical play, which should fit perfectly in South Philly. He'll rarely dazzle while rushing the puck up ice but makes solid outlet passes out of the defensive end.
Overall: Solid prospect in Stolarz but little depth thereafter.
Anthony Stolarz: Philadelphia's second-round selection (45th overall) in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, Stolarz is really the only viable goaltending prospect currently in the Flyers' pipeline. At 6'5", 200 pounds, he's a massive netminder who covers a ton of the goal even when he drops into the traditional butterfly stance.
He's a good positional goaltender who isn't afraid of challenging shooters, which means he doesn't leave the opposition with many options. In the midst of his second season with the London Knights (OHL), Stolarz is having another great year, having already recorded 21 wins to go along with a 2.58 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
Steve Mason is Philly's goaltender for the near future after inking a three-year extension in January but Ray Emery is an unrestricted free agent at season's end. With that, Mason will need a backup, which could put Stolarz on the Flyers depth chart as early as next fall.