Strengths and Weaknesses of Philadelphia Flyers' Top Prospects
Under newly appointed general manager Ron Hextall, the Philadelphia Flyers are dedicated to building from within.
That means preserving draft picks and nurturing prospects as opposed to looking for quick fixes via trade or overpaying for talent in free agency.
The Flyers currently hold six selections in the upcoming NHL entry draft to be held at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia. At that time, the Orange and Black will look to supplement an already promising crop of up-and-coming players as the team continues to build toward joining the NHL's elite.
But in order to understand what the Flyers need, they must first understand what they have.
With that, here's a look at the strengths and weaknesses of Philly's top prospects.
Jason Akeson, F
Strengths: Signed as an undrafted free agent by Philadelphia in March 2011, Akeson has improved his scoring touch in three straight seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms since being signed by the Flyers.
After 14 goals during the 2011-12 season, the Orleans, Ontario, native notched 20 markers last year before producing 24 conversions this past season. Meanwhile, Akeson's 64 total points this year paced all Phantoms and was good for 10th in overall scoring in the American Hockey League (AHL).
On an Adirondack squad that emphasized defense and struggled to score goals this season, Akeson's scoring abilities still translated at the professional level. For his efforts, he was a late-season call-up, where he managed two goals and two assists in eight games with the Flyers.
A proven, consistent point producer, Akeson is a solid skater with good offensive instincts. His ascent to the NHL should be expedited due to the fact that Philadelphia isn't nearly as deep on the wings as it is at center.
Weaknesses: At 5'11", 190 pounds, Akeson doesn't possess ideal NHL size, and he'll need to improve his overall strength to compete against sturdier NHL talent.
He also needs to continue to work on his defensive game after finishing with a minus-32 rating in 208 career games with the Phantoms.
Scott Laughton, F
Strengths: The 20th overall selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft, Laughton is Philadelphia's best forward prospect.
A gritty, two-way forward, the Oakville, Ontario, native has a tenacious work ethic and features above-average hockey sense. He doesn't shy away from finishing his hits and plays a complete 200-foot game. Throughout his career, Laughton has regularly been among the first players over the boards when shorthanded and should translate into an effective penalty killer at the NHL level.
He recorded his most productive offensive season at the junior level this past year, amassing career-highs in goals (40), assists (47) and points (87).
Weaknesses: Don't let his robust offensive numbers from this past season fool you.
Laughton doesn't translate as a frequent point producer at the NHL level. He doesn't possess enough raw skill to generate offense. Rather, he'll need persistent hard work to create scoring opportunities at the next level.
A natural center, Laughton may find it difficult to crack Philadelphia's lineup full-time next season as the Flyers are awfully crowded down the middle.
Shayne Gostisbehere, D
Strengths: Gostisbehere distinguished himself with an incredible 2013-14 season, which culminated with Union College's first NCAA championship.
A smooth-skating offensive dynamo, the Margate, Florida, native was instrumental in the Dutchmen's championship run, finishing tied for fifth among all Union skaters in scoring and third among all ECAC Hockey blueliners with 34 total points.
A blossoming offensive talent, Gostisbehere's goals and points totals increased from one year to the next in each of his three seasons at Union. He's an NHL power-play quarterback in the making and is incredibly adept at kick-starting the offense with solid breakout passes as well as picking his spots to jump up into the rush.
When he does misread a play, he has the foot speed to quickly regroup.
Weaknesses: At 5'11", 170 pounds, Gostisbehere is a bit undersized by NHL defense standards.
He also needs to continue to improve his positioning within the defensive zone and will likely need time to adjust to the size, speed and skill of the NHL game before he can expect to be a regular point producer.
Robert Hagg, D
Strengths: Philadelphia's second-round selection (41st overall) in the 2013 NHL entry draft, Hagg is a solid, jack-of-all-trades defenseman.
The Uppsala, Sweden, native isn't your typical European-born blueliner. At 6'2", 203 pounds, he's got a decent frame, and he knows how to use it. Hagg incorporates a physical edge to his game, carries himself with confidence and doesn't back down from challenges from the opposition.
He possesses good hockey sense and keeps the game simple. Hagg gets pucks in and out when necessary and features a solid breakout pass.
Weaknesses: While Hagg is a versatile, well-rounded defender, he doesn't really excel in any one aspect of the game.
His skating is good but not great. He's physical but won't intimidate the opposition. And while he possesses decent offensive tools and could run an NHL power play, his offensive output has been virtually nonexistent over the past few seasons.
Hagg has produced just one goal and seven points in 77 games with MODO Hockey of the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) over the last two seasons.
Samuel Morin, D
Strengths: The 11th overall selection in the 2013 NHL entry draft, Morin has the highest upside of any of Philadelphia's prospects.
At 6'7", 210 pounds, the St. Henri, Quebec, native is a behemoth. He's still filling in his gigantic frame but already plays with a physical edge. His positioning in the defensive end is strong for an 18-year-old blueliner, and his long reach allows him to negate scoring opportunities other defenders couldn't extinguish.
His offensive game also showed marked improvement this season. After just four goals and 16 points in 46 games in Rimouski last season, Morin notched seven goals and 31 points in 54 games with the Oceanic this year.
He's a strong skater with a booming slap shot who should be a mainstay on Philadelphia's back end for the next decade.
Weaknesses: There aren't really many holes to Morin's game. If anything, he simply needs to continue to refine his overall game.
At just 18 years old, he's still quite raw. He's guilty of the kinds of lapses associated with all young players, and Morin needs to continue to fine-tune his defensive positioning and responsibilities.
Anthony Stolarz, G
Strengths: Philadelphia's top goaltending prospect, Stolarz was plucked by the Flyers with the 45th overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Like Morin, the Jackson, New Jersey, native is a monster. At 6'6", 220 pounds, Stolarz's best asset is his NHL-ready size. A traditional butterfly netminder, he uses his size to his advantage, aggressively challenging opposing shooters and leaving them with few clean looks at the net.
Overall, his positioning is solid, and he's received far more reps after leaving the University of Nebraska-Omaha for the London Knights. In 35 games with London this season, Stolarz recorded a 25-5-2 overall mark to go along with four shutouts, a 2.52 goals-against average and .926 save percentage.
Weaknesses: Despite his size, Stolarz still struggles with his post-to-post movement. That lateral motion will be essential to the netminder's success at the next level.
The 20-year-old goaltender also needs to avoid the kind of mental meltdowns that landed him with an eight-game suspension after high-sticking Windsor Spitfires forward Joshua Ho-Sang in the back of the head.