Flyers stick to draft philosophy, emerge with athletes

Flyers stick to draft philosophy, emerge with athletes
June 26, 2011, 8:20 pm
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Sunday, June 26, 2011
Posted: 4:19 p.m.

By Tim Panaccio

St. PAUL, Minn. When it comes to drafting hockey players under Paul Holmgren, both as the Flyers director of player personnel and now as their general manager, he wont deviate in his thinking.

The Flyers draft from a list that the organization's scouts rank by best available athlete. Most teams do that.

What is different about the Flyers, however, is that they virtually never waive from their best athlete philosophy to draft based on need, even if something is right there presenting itself in the later rounds. Thats when teams often deviate to fill holes.

Thats why, even though the Flyers came into this past weekends NHL draft needing defensemen, they ended up drafting only one, while bulking up with five forwards among their six picks.

They were prepared to take a defenseman with their first-round pick on Friday until several teams bypassed Drummondville center Sean Couturier, who they ranked as the best available athlete ahead of any defenseman at the eighth spot who wasnt already taken.

Couturier is projected as a shutdown centerman. Two scouts said that his lengthy bout with mono last year caused him to drop.

He was projected as a potential No. 1 overall, one said. The kid can play. He might even be able to play right now. If not, within two years hes going to be a pretty good NHL player.

Said the other, You take Couturier and Brayden Schenn, and I guarantee you with a few years down the road people wont be missing Jeff Carter and Mike Richards as much.

Still, there is no guarantee either will make the Flyers roster this fall. But if the Flyers were worried about centermen of the future, they certainly took care of their needs with the blockbuster trade they made and the pick they got from Columbus, which they used to draft Couturier.

The ultimate result of this draft was a couple of bigger forwards, plus 6-foot-1, 193-pound blue-liner Colin Suellentrop (Oshawa), who was chosen in the fourth round.

Sometimes, its the way it goes, Holmgren said of the clubs lack of blue liners taken. We move up in the draft and get a high pick. Its the way the cards fall. Nobody is unhappy with Sean, our first pick.

We waited to the third round and there are guys you like, but never do we draft out of order. I dont think you can draft by need like that. Would we like to have more defenseman or drafted more? I guess we probably would have. But I dont think its a good idea. You cant go out of order just to take someone. Thats just the way we always operate.

The Flyer bypassed 6-4, 193-pound Niagara blue liner Dougie Hamilton, who went to Toronto with the ninth pick. One defenseman the Flyers would have loved to have went to New Jersey at No. 4 Skellefteas Adam Larsson.

Larsson was not going to last long before someone scooped him up.

Im happy about our draft, Holmgren said. We obviously got a big center in the first round that we all really liked. The guys we drafted from the third round through seventh round, we got bigger. Weve added skill and competitiveness, as well.

Suellentrop is a stay-at-home defenseman, Holmgren said.

Aggressive, not fighting tough but aggressive tough, he said. OK with the puck, a good skater. Hes a bigger body and right shot, which we havent had in a while.

The Flyers' first two picks in the draft were both centers. One big center, Couturier, and one small center, Nick Cousins (5-10), in the third round.

Energy player, good skill, speed and a highly-competitive kid, Holmgren said of Cousins. Hes one of those guys who kinda gets under the other teams skin a bit. Hes like Steve Downie and Dan Carcillo. I dont know if hes as skilled as Steve Downie. Hes an agitating guy.

The remaining three picks were wingers in fourth-rounder Marcel Noebels (Seattle), sixth rounder Petr Placek (Hotchkiss School) and seventh-rounder Derek Mathers, an OHL heavyweight from Peterborough, who had 27 fights last season.

Holmgren feels the 6-2, 200-pound Noebels will get even bigger.

I think he is still filling out and growing into his body, he said. His foot speed needs to pick up a bit. Hes a good, hard working kid and he wants to play in the NHL.

He impressed the Flyers during his interview, too.

He was telling a lot of people he wanted to be a Flyer, so thats good, Holmgren said.

Placek will attend Harvard next year.

The projection on him is another big kid with good skill and is a decent skater, Holmgren said. When you draft a guy and you know hes going to college, you get all of those years to watch him.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at Follow him on Twitter @TPanotchCSN.

Related: Flyers select center Couturier eighth overall Greenberg: Flyers rolling dice with center shakeup

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