VOORHEES. N.J. - General manager Paul Holmgren has made no secret of the Flyers’ longstanding draft philosophy: Draft the best player available, no matter his position or the team’s specific needs.
But, he said in his pre-draft press conference Wednesday, if he saw both a defenseman and a forward available at pick No. 11 that were of equal talent, he knows which way the Flyers would likely go.
"Well, then we’d probably lean toward the defenseman," Holmgren said. "Just because of our needs."
So, which defensemen will be available with the 11th pick? It’s a tough call -- as Holmgren said, no matter how many mock drafts the Flyers put together, one team who selects before them on Sunday (the draft begins at 3 p.m.) will surely make a surprise pick that throws everything off track.
In CSNPhilly.com’s mock NHL draft, Russ Cohen predicted the Flyers would go after a towering defenseman with some familiar ties: Darnell Nurse, the nephew of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb (see story).
By all accounts, Nurse is certainly a Flyers-type player. And, understandably, Holmgren likes what he’s seen from the 18-year-old Ontario native.
“I’ve seen Darnell play a few times,” Holmgren said. “He’s a hard-nosed kid. He’s like 6-4, I would venture to guess he weighs like 210 pounds (he’s listed as 6-5/192). He’s still, when you watch him play, a lot of elbows and knees, but he’s a rugged, hard-nosed player that can fight, pretty good with the puck, and he’ll continue to get better.
"But I have no idea if he’ll be there at our pick.”
Even if he isn’t, 2013’s draft class is a deep one -- especially on defense. Another good possibility to target at No. 11 is Finnish D-man Rasmus Ristolainen, a 6-foot-3, 207-pound 18-year-old who has been playing professional hockey in Finland since he was 16 years old.
“Physically, he looks like a man right now compared to some of the kids you see,” Holmgren said of Ristolainen. “He played in the men’s league in Finland. I would say of all the defensemen (with the exception of Seth Jones, the top defenseman in the draft), in my opinion, he’s probably the most ready to jump right in. Offensively, looks like a good prospect -- solid defensively with a big shot.”
Asked for an NHL comparison, Holmgren said Ristolainen reminded him of Adam Larsson, the defenseman selected by the New Jersey Devils fourth overall in 2011.
Ryan Pulock, the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL) defenseman from Manitoba was the final prospect Holmgren commented on Wednesday. At 6-foot-1 and 211 pounds, the 18-year-old is well known primarily for one feature of his game.
"He’s really got a bomb for a power play," Holmgren said. "He’s actually pretty physically developed, too. There’s a lot of good prospects [this year]."
Holmgren added Pulock is "not as physical as Nurse," but that he's still certainly "a good solid prospect."