Re-Grading Philadelphia Flyers' Last 5 1st-Round Draft Picks

Dan FremuthContributor IIIJune 27, 2014

Re-Grading Philadelphia Flyers' Last 5 1st-Round Draft Picks

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    The Philadelphia Flyers hold the 17th overall selection in the upcoming 2014 NHL entry draft.

    With the event set to take place at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, it's a pick the orange and black will almost certainly retain.

    Even though the Flyers' history with first-round picks has been a bit hit-or-miss through the years, the club's success rate has been fairly strong in recent seasons.

    Here's a re-grade for each of Philadelphia's last five first-round selections.

    Please note, these grades will be based on a player's success to date both in the NHL as a whole, as well as specifically with Philadelphia. They will also be based on the players the Flyers could have secured later in that draft but elected to pass on at that time.

Samuel Morin: 2013, 11th Overall

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    It's still far too early to tell what kind of impact Morin will have on the Flyers and NHL as a whole. But so far, the returns are awfully encouraging.

    Chosen with the 11th overall selection just 12 months ago, the massive 6'7", 210-pound defenseman returned to the Rimouski Oceanic of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL) this past season and posted career highs in goals (seven), assists (24), points (31) and penalty minutes (121).

    His skating continued to improve this season, as did his defensive positioning and offensive awareness. The St. Henri, Quebec, native possesses a booming slap shot at the point and boasts the kind of monstrous frame that will intimidate opposing skaters looking to cross the Flyers blue line for the next decade.

    Just 18 years old, Morin is still quite raw and needs to continue to fine-tune his two-way game. Still, he should be a mainstay in Philly's defensive corps by the fall of 2015.

    Grade: B

    Again, it's too early to rush to judgment on Morin and many others claimed in last year's opening round. Still, he fits an organizational need and made the kind of progress this past season the Flyers were hoping for.

Scott Laughton: 2012, 20th Overall

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    Laughton made his NHL debut just four months after the Flyers tabbed him with the 20th overall selection in the 2012 NHL entry draft. But the Oakville, Ontario, native was sent back to the Oshawa Generals of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) after just five games for more seasoning and to avoid activating his entry-level, three-year professional contract.

    In two seasons since, Laughton has matured into one of the best two-way prospects in the game today.

    After setting career highs with 23 goals, 33 assists and 56 points during the 2012-13 campaign, the 6'1", 190-pound pivot bested each of those categories this past year by amassing 40 goals, 47 assists and 87 points. He finished tied for 10th among all OHL skaters in total goals and was named captain of Canada's world junior team.

    He's a gritty, hard-nosed skater who has a motor that never stops running. Even though he doesn't project as a big-time NHL point-producer, he should be a solid third-line center and an effective penalty killer possibly as early as this fall.

    Grade: B+

    Of the 191 players selected after Laughton, only nine have played an NHL game so far, so it doesn't appear as though the Flyers overlooked a can't-miss talent in the 2012 draft.

    Outside of the top 10-15 picks, it's hard to identify can't-miss offensive talents. With that, Philadelphia played it safe and targeted a hard-working, two-way center who should fill a role moving forward and do so quite effectively.

Sean Couturier: 2011, 8th Overall

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    After failing to draft a player in the first round of both the 2009 and 2010 drafts, the Flyers avoided three straight years without an opening-round selection when the orange and black secured the eighth overall pick in 2011 from the Columbus Blue Jackets along with Jake Voracek in exchange for Jeff Carter.

    Philadelphia used that pick on Couturier, who's been a regular contributor for the Flyers ever since.

    At just 18 years old and only four months removed from the 2011 NHL entry draft, the Phoenix native made his NHL debut on Oct. 6, 2011 and went on to record 13 goals and 27 points in 77 games during the 2011-12 season.

    In two years since his rookie campaign, Couturier has produced 17 goals and 54 points while missing just two of a possible 130 games. During that time, the 6'3", 197-pound forward has emerged as one of Philadelphia's top two-way forwards and is regularly one of the first players over the boards on the penalty kill.

    Couturier has shown flashes of offensive brilliance but has yet to display the kind of consistency that made him a 96-point producer in back-to-back seasons with the Drummondville Voltigeurs of the QMJHL heading into his draft year.

    Grade: A

    With 205 NHL games to date, Couturier has seen more NHL action over the last three years than any player chosen in the 2011 NHL entry draft. That's not to say he's better than first overall selection Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or second overall pick Gabriel Landeskog, but it's a testament to the kind of value Philadelphia was able to secure with the eighth pick that year.

    In fact, the other 12 forwards chosen after Couturier in 2011 have combined for just 152 NHL games since.

    It remains to be seen if he will be a 60-70-point producer at the NHL level, but Couturier is already an established role player in Philadelphia with still a high offensive upside.

Luca Sbisa: 2008, 19th Overall

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    In 2008, Philadelphia used its first-round pick on a defenseman for the first time in six years when the orange and black tabbed Lethbridge Hurricanes blueliner Luca Sbisa with the 19th overall selection.

    The Italian defender joined the Flyers the following season, recording seven points (all assists) and 36 penalty minutes in 39 appearances. That was the extent of Sbisa's tenure in the City of Brotherly Love, though.

    Just one year after being chosen by the Flyers, Sbisa was one of the featured pieces shipped to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for six-time All-Star Chris Pronger.

    In his first season in Philly, Pronger helped guide the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Final, but injuries abruptly ended his playing career, limiting the 6'6", 210-pound defender to just 145 games over three seasons with the orange and black.

    Meanwhile, Sbisa's production at the NHL level has been modest at best. Over the last two seasons, the 24-year-old defenseman has managed just two goals and 14 points in 71 games.

    Grade: D+

    Sbisa's impact as a player with the Flyers was virtually nonexistent. As a trade asset, he helped Philadelphia land one of the top defenders of the last 20 years. Unfortunately, that didn't work out either.

    In all, Sbisa has produced just nine goals and 56 points in 266 career NHL contests, and at this point, it appears clear he's just not an impact player at the game's highest level.

    There weren't a ton of stars chosen after Sbisa in the 2011 draft, but the list includes Jordan Eberle, Derek Stepan, John Carlson and Michael Del Zotto. Any of those players would have been considerably better selections than Sbisa.

James Van Riemsdyk: 2007, 2nd Overall

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    After one of the worst seasons in franchise history, the Flyers were rewarded with the second overall selection in the 2007 NHL entry draft, which quickly became Middletown, New Jersey, native James van Riemsdyk.

    A 6'3", 200-pound power forward and product of the U.S. National Team Development Program, van Riemsdyk was a no-brainer for the orange and black.

    After two years of seasoning at the University of New Hampshire, where he compiled 28 goals and 74 points in 67 games, van Riemsdyk joined the Flyers full time for the 2009-10 campaign. In that season, he notched 15 goals and 35 points in 78 games. The blossoming winger took another step forward the following year by amassing 21 goals and 40 points in 75 appearances during the regular season before producing seven goals in just 11 playoff contests.

    But injuries limited van Riemsdyk to just 43 games the following season, and after a disappointing 11 tallies and 24 points during the 2011-12 campaign, Philadelphia shipped the power forward to the Toronto Maple Leafs for defenseman Luke Schenn.

    The Flyers desperately needed to bolster their defense at the time, and Schenn was a former fifth overall selection in the 2008 NHL entry draft, so it seemed like a win for both sides. Sadly for Flyers fans, van Riemsdyk went on to tally 48 goals and 93 points in just 128 games in two seasons since the exchange, while Schenn has struggled to be a top-four defender in Philadelphia.

    Grade: B-

    At the time, van Riemsdyk was the right pick for the Flyers. He was a powerful scoring winger with tremendous upside and local connections. It just simply didn't work out.

    His time in Philadelphia was marred by inconsistency, but his production in Toronto proves all the tools are there to be a regular NHL goal scorer.

    That said, Flyers fans can't help but think what could have been with some of the names Philly passed on back in 2007, including Ryan McDonagh, Kevin Shattenkirk, David Perron, Max Pacioretty, Logan Couture and P.K. Subban.