The 5 Players Who Should Be on Top of Philadelphia Flyers' 2014 Draft Board
The 2014 NHL entry draft is less than a month away, and for the first time in the event's history, the seven-round, franchise-altering affair will take place in the City of Brotherly Love.
Coming off a bounce-back season in which the team finished third in the Metropolitan Division, the Philadelphia Flyers aren't in need of a centerpiece talent at the draft.
Rather, the Orange and Black will be looking for supplemental pieces to complement the dynamic, young roster currently in place in Philadelphia.
What's more, the Flyers don't have any one glaring positional need, which means general manager Ron Hextall and the Philly brass can simply take the best player available when their time comes with the 17th overall selection.
With that, here's a look at the five players who should be on the top of Philadelphia's 2014 draft board.
Note: This is based on the top players likely to be available with the 17th overall pick rather than the top players available overall.
Alex Tuch, F
There might not be a first-round talent who fits the Flyers' mold better than Alex Tuch.
A 6'3", 213-pound forward, Tuch is a beast who already has an NHL-ready body. He's a bullish power forward who isn't afraid to provide the grit and sandpaper on a skilled line.
However, don't underestimate his ability to finish.
After just 11 goals in 56 games with the U.S. National Team Development Program (USNTDP) last season, the Baldwinsville, New York, native returned to Ann Arbor, Michigan, this year and recorded 29 goals and 64 points in 61 outings.
Both totals were good for third among all skaters on the USNTDP's Under-18 roster.
According to Elite Prospects, Tuch's "a big power winger who skates well with strong balance...and uses his frame to protect the puck and physically support his linemates."
Just like current Flyers Scott Hartnell and Wayne Simmonds, Tuch brings a combination of size and strength to the table with an ability to chip in consistently on offense as well.
Committed to Boston College, he would have the opportunity to fine-tune his game at the college level before replacing either of the aforementioned wingers in a few years.
Tuch was ranked 12th overall among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.
Sonny Milano, F
Only two players on the USNTDP's under-18 roster finished this season with more points than Tuch. One of those was Sonny Milano.
At 5'11", 183 pounds, Milano's physical stature might not be intimidating, but his dynamic offensive abilities certainly are.
After 20 goals and 47 points in 56 games with the under-17 squad last year, the Massapequa, New York, native returned to the under-18 group this year and contributed 29 markers and 85 total points in 58 outings.
What's more, Milano paced the USNTDP with 10 power-play tallies and a plus-35 rating.
According to Elite Prospects, Milano's "a skilled winger who likes to carry the puck and have it on his stick. He uses finesse puck skills and change of direction to beat defenders."
Simply put, Milano's hands are magical and he might be the single most offensively gifted American-born player in this draft. He was ranked 16th overall among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings, but could slip in the first round if teams view his size—or lack thereof—as an issue.
Committed to Boston College, he'll have time to grow and refine his game at the college level before joining the NHL ranks.
Haydn Fleury, D
Haydn Fleury is the complete package on the back end.
At 6'3", 203 pounds, he already possesses an NHL body. What's more, he knows how to use it. Fleury is a physical defender who, despite his hulking size, is still a strong and balanced skater.
He also features a blossoming offensive game.
After just four goals and 19 points in 66 games with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League (WHL) last season, the Regina, Saskatchewan, native returned this year and doubled his goal production as part of a 46-point campaign in 70 outings.
According to Elite Prospects, Fleury "keeps his head up and understands developing plays. He rubs opposing forwards out and isn't shy to make a solid hit."
After drafting Samuel Morin and Robert Hagg with their first two picks last year, the Flyers aren't in desperate need of defensive prospects.
However, Fleury could simply be too good to pass up. A solid two-way defenseman with NHL size and above-average hockey sense would be a steal in the middle of the first round.
Fleury was ranked ninth overall (No. 2 defenseman) among North American skaters on NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.
Anthony DeAngelo, D
A native of Sewell, New Jersey, Anthony DeAngelo would be awfully popular in south Philadelphia on draft day.
At 5'11", 175 pounds, DeAngelo is the most offensively gifted blueliner in this year's draft and could help spark a team's offense from the back end for the next decade.
In three seasons with the Sarnia Sting of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), DeAngelo's offensive production has dramatically increased despite fewer outings from one season to the next.
During his rookie campaign in 2011-12, he managed six goals and 23 points in 68 games. Then, during the 2012-13 campaign, DeAngelo managed nine conversions and 58 points in 62 contests before notching 15 goals and 71 points in just 51 games this year.
What's more, he paced all OHL defenders in both assists (56) and total points (71).
Unlike Fleury, DeAngelo's two-way game still needs work. According to Elite Prospects, "his offensive awareness is incredible but [he] is easily out-muscled in his own end and needs to work on his positioning."
Even with 71 points this season, the OHL's leading defensive scorer still finished the campaign with a minus-34 rating and was minus-54 in 181 career games with the Sting.
DeAngelo was ranked 14th overall among North American skaters in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings and would be an awfully nice offensive boost on Philly's back end despite any defensive deficiencies.
Thatcher Demko, G
For the first time in a long time, the Flyers finally appear to have some stability between the pipes. But that stability can't last forever and teams will have the opportunity to secure a franchise netminder in Thatcher Demko.
At 6'3", 192 pounds, Demko is a traditional, butterfly-style netminder who already possesses an NHL-ready frame.
According to Elite Prospects, Demko "makes himself big in net even when he drops down to his knees and has outstanding lower coverage in the butterfly with leg coverage going almost post to post."
In 24 games at Boston College this season, the San Diego native notched a 16-5-3 overall record to go along with a stingy 2.24 goals-against average and .919 save percentage.
Meanwhile, as a member of the USNTDP's under-18 squad last season, Demko recorded a 27-9-4 record with six shutouts, a 2.11 GAA and .907 save percentage.
It's rare for NHL teams to claim a goaltender in the first round, but Demko is a rare breed. He's a world-class talent, proven winner and phenomenal teammate.
Demko was ranked first overall among North American netminders in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings and will be the first goaltender off the board at the 2014 NHL draft.