Sean Couturier, the Flyers 1st Round Selection
On Thursday, June 23, 2011, the course of the Philadelphia Flyers was undeniably altered. Whether the stunning trades of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards were for the better or worse will be seen in the coming seasons, but through these trades the Flyers acquired 3 Draft Picks (2 in the 2011 Draft) to help restock a depleted farm system. Here's a look at the 6 selections the Flyers had this year.
Coming into the 2010-2011 Season, Couturier was considered by most scouting services either the #1 or #2 prospect in the draft. However, a bout with mononucleosis and a sub-par start to the season pushed him down the list, behind names such as Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Gabriel Landeskog. Despite this, he still matched his point total from the previous year in 10 fewer games, and finished the year strong. In the final pre-draft rankings, he was rated as the #3 prospect by the International Scouting Services, and the #6 North American Skater by the NHL Central Scouting Bureau. Regardless, the Flyers were happy to be able to select him with the 8th Selection, acquired from Columbus in the Jeff Carter trade.
In Couturier, the Flyers get a strong center (6' 3", 198) with great hands who prides himself in playing good hockey at both ends of the ice and has some of the best offensive ability in this draft. Couturier has stated that his goal is to be with the team this season, and from what he showed in the QMJHL, he might not be that far off.
With the latter pick that the Flyers acquired in the Carter trade, they took a chance on 17-year old Nick Cousins from the OHL. Cousins, coming off of a point-per-game (68 points in 68 games) campaign, may not be the biggest prospect (5' 10", 168), but all reports indicate that he agitates with the best of them--something Flyer fans love in their players. He may be a few years away from being a real contributor for the club, but the future looks bright for the young center.
Suellentrop isn't Drew Doughty, Dan Boyle, or Mike Green by any means, but he plays a strong defensive game and skates well for a defenseman. He won't impress with flashiness, but is a good piece for the Flyers to add at this point in the draft to a weak defensive prospect pool. If he can continue to develop his offensive game and improve his strengths, he could prove to be a second pairing defenseman down the road a few years.
The German-born left winger put up 54 points (28 goals, 26 assists) in his first year since coming over from the DEL. Noebels was the 49th ranked North American skater, so the Flyers have to feel good about getting him at this point in the draft. He has been impressive at every level he has played at, and shows good play-making abilities to go along with his big frame (6' 2", 205). Another prospect who is probably a few years away from making an impact, but a potential steal nonetheless.
The Czech-born right winger took a bit of an odd route to the draft for a European player, skating for a US high school team, but it appears to have paid off for him. His size (6' 4", 210) and burgeoning offensive ability make him a good pick this late in the draft, where NHL success is certainly not the norm. Placek will take his talents to Harvard next year, and will be worth keeping an eye on for the next few years at the very least.
As a rookie in the OHL this year, Mathers mostly made his mark as an intimidator. The 6' 3" 217 pound 17-year old may not have the most offensive ability at this point (5 points in 55 games), but as he gains more experience he may blossom into a more complete defenseman. Much like Placek, there's not a huge risk here, so Mathers could become another depth prospect for the system in the years to come.
The fact that the Flyers were able to get Couturier with the 8th pick could prove to be one of the bigger steals of this draft 10 years from now. The following selections of Cousins and Noebels show definite promise, while their other selections should develop nicely in the years to come. For the first time in a few years, the Flyers seem to have acquired a strong group of prospects through the draft.