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August 13, 2011
Top 10 Prospects
Philadelphia Flyers

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Philadelphia Flyers Top 10 Prospects

1. Brayden Schenn, Center
2. Sean Couturier, Center
3. Erik Gustafsson, Defense
4. Eric Wellwood, Center
5. Matt Read, Center
6. Tom Sestito, Left Wing
7. Brendan Ranford, Left Wing
8. Mike Testwuide, Right Wing
9. Kevin Marshall, Defense
10. Ben Holmstrom, Center

Organizational Ranking: 14th

System Overview: The Flyers had a nice comfy spot waiting for them at the 30th overall system around May, but the acquisition of two elite center prospects in Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier pulled them all the way up to 14th. Make no mistake, Schenn, Couturier and to a degree Gustafsson are the entire Flyers system. The rest of the prospects are bottom line types, projects or replacement players. I have yet to release my Top 100 NHL Prospects, but how much Schenn and Couturier brought this system up should be an indication of how highly I think of those two players.

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1. Brayden Schenn, Center
Date of birth: 08/22/1991
Age: 19
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 194
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 27 GP, 21 G, 53 P (Saskatoon-WHL)
Acquired: Trade from Los Angeles; drafted first round, 5th overall in 2009 by Los Angeles

The Good: Schenn is one of the elite prospects in hockey and was arguably the most NHL ready Junior-aged player last season. He has top-end puck skills and playmaking ability, with the ability to be an offensive threat on a shift-by-shift basis. His hands are very impressive and he's a significant open-ice threat who can regularly make opponents miss. Schenn's vision is plus, with the ability to see the ice very well and he can thread top-level passes with ease when he identifies a lane. He has an above-average shot that is quite accurate, although the release can lag a little. Schenn plays a hard-nosed game at both ends of the rink. He drives to the net well, plays with a physical edge, and plays his defensive assignments tough.

The Bad: There is next to nothing to put here, as since Schenn's skating improved this season, which was his only true weakness. He's one of the most complete prospects in the game.

Projection: He's got the potential to be an above-average first line center with great two-way contribution and safely projects as a below-average first line center.

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2. Sean Couturier, Center
Date of birth: 12/07/1992
Age: 18
Height: 6'4''
Weight: 197
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 58 GP, 36 G, 96 P (Drummondville-QMJHL)
Acquired: First round, eighth overall in 2011 by Philadelphia

The Good: Just about every tool of Sean's is above-average at the least with several touching plus level. Sean has well above-average puck skills for a big man with the kind of hand-eye coordination that helps him do things out of the ordinary. He is very good at deflecting shots and getting his stick on loose pucks, and while he isn't the kind of guy who will try to deke through several defenders at a time, he does has solid maneuvering ability with the puck and does on occasion make a one-on-one move that draws the rink's attention. His greatest asset though has to be his head and how he thinks the game. He consistently executes on passes and the speed at which he makes good decisions with the puck will translate seamlessly to the NHL game. He does so many little things right and at a quality level, be it on the forecheck, positioning, play in front of the net and on defense that's it's hard to imagine him needing a significant amount of coaching at the technical level when he goes pro. His shooting ability and projections as a goal-scorer are also notable. Couturier has solid mechanics on his shot, be it on his weight distribution when he's moving towards the net or by leaning into his shot from a standstill. The velocity on his wrister is plus and while he can score from a distance, he regularly goes to the net and the high percentage areas for a lot of his goals. He can do that because he's a pretty big guy. At 6'4" and still growing into his body, Couturier has the physical projection to be well above-average to plus at the NHL level, which when combined with his skill set makes you understand his desirable potential.

The Bad: The only thing that will hold Couturier back is his skating tool, because as it stands now it grades as fringe to below-average. Mind you, Sean has made strides to improve in that area and it's far ahead of where it was 1-2 years ago, but it's still not at pro-level. When he gets going in full stride, he can approach fringe-average level and with how the stride looks mechanics-wise now, there is chance for improvement if he continues to put development work in that area.

Projection: An above-average first line center who safely projects as a below-average first line center.

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3. Erik Gustafsson, Defense
Date of birth: 12/15/1988
Age: 22
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 72 GP, 5 G, 49 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: Gustafsson has above-average puck-moving skills and is a very calm force from the backend who sees the ice very well and consistently starts the offense. He has a refined passing technique and can get crisp, accurate distributions off very quickly. Gustafsson has solid hands too, but doesn't really show the penchant to deke a lot as he's more of a mover than a handler. He runs a power play quite well and should be able to do that very effectively at the highest level. He moves at a decent level, showing a nice first few steps and mobility although he doesn't show an above-average top gear. Gustafsson has a solid work ethic, and for a defender with his smaller stature, his effort in battles and in the physical game is a requirement.

The Bad: Gustafsson still needs a little work on his defensive game. It's not bad, but he can get a little too overzealous at times chasing his target and can get taken out of position. His physical game also will never really surpass fringe to below-average.

Projection: An average second pairing defender at best, who should at least end up as a below-average second to above-average third pairing defender.

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4. Eric Wellwood, Center
Date of birth: 03/06/1990
Age: 21
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 179
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 73 GP, 16 G, 28 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 172nd overall in 2009 by Philadelphia

The Good: Wellwood is an above-average skater with an explosive first step and a refined stride that is pretty to watch. Wellwood always has his feet on the move, showing the ability to forecheck well and hustle to get back on defense. He shows an above-average defensive game in regards to his reads and can play a fine defensive forward/penalty killer type of role. He's an aware hockey player whose hockey sense gets praise from NHL sources, and while he's not the most skilled, his awareness allows him to drive possession value out of a limited skill set.

The Bad: Wellwood is below-average puck-handler who won't do much in terms of individual creation and is very basic in how he can attack the defense. He has to get much stronger to handle the NHL game for a smaller forward who plays a hard-nosed style like he does.

Projection: An average third line forward who safely projects as a below-average third to above-average fourth line forward.

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5. Matt Read, Center
Date of birth: 06/14/1986
Age: 25
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 185
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 37 GP, 22 G, 35 P (Bemidji State University-WCHA)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: I would say that Read is an "advanced" player, but for a 25 year old he's about where you would expect him to be. Read started his college career late, and after signing as a college free agent, he has the looks of a player who could play a bottom-six role with the Flyers as soon as next year. He thinks the game at an above-average level and gets regular praise from NHL sources for his hockey sense and his ability to process the game at both ends of the rink. Read also shows a good work ethic defensively to further his value there when combined with his defensive reads. Read has fine puck skills, and can handle it well and has the vision to be a decent distributor.

The Bad: Read is a fair skater, but for a smaller player, he could use a better top gear. His physical game is a little underwhelming especially when you consider he's likely done growing.

Projection: An average third line forward who likely finds some bottom six role in the league.

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6. Tom Sestito, Left Wing
Date of birth: 09/28/1987
Age: 23
Height: 6'5''
Weight: 228
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 57 GP, 13 G, 36 P (Springfield/Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Trade from Columbus, drafted third round, 85th overall in 2006 by Columbus

The Good: Sestito is a mammoth of a man with a wide, thick frame that has a ton of muscle. He projects to be a well above-average if not elite physical player with how well he does in the physical areas. He's very hard to dislodge from the front of the net and is a prototypical player you want to use for power play screens. He forechecks quite well and his work ethic allows him to take advantage of his physical assets. Sestito has decent hands and is quite coordinated for a bigger player.

The Bad: He's a poor skater who can get to below-average in a straight line, but his first few steps and lateral movement is fringe. Sestito also lacks offensive instincts and hockey sense to be anything beyond a dish-and-go-to-the-net type of player. When he does try to create, it usually just ends up in a turnover.

Projection: A below-average third to above-average fourth line player who can spot on a second unit power play, but whose floor projection is a replacement player.

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7. Brendan Ranford, Left Wing
Date of birth: 05/03/1992
Age: 19
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 186
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 68 GP, 33 G, 86 P (Kamloops-WHL)
Acquired: Seventh round, 209th overall in 2010 by Philadelphia

The Good: Ranford has above-average puck skills and has a flair for the dynamic when it comes to creating offense, as he has that extra gear in terms of offensive skill. He's a quick player with a decent top speed, but isn't really a blazer. Ranford works hard on the ice, and can be decent at disturbing the opposition although he isn't really a true pest. He thinks the game at an above-average level and gets praise from NHL sources for his hockey sense and creativity with the puck.

The Bad: He has a lot to work to do physically to have a chance. He's a small guy who needs to put on a lot of muscle. Ranford's skating is fine, but if he could take it to the next level, it would help as he's not a great skater for a smaller forward.

Projection: An above-average third line forward who can somewhat project into a bottom six in some role.

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8. Mike Testwuide, Right Wing
Date of birth: 02/25/1987
Age: 24
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 210
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 76 GP, 18 G, 39 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: Testwuide is an above-average physical player with a desirable work ethic. He's a pain to deal with in the cycle game and in front of the net. He also shows a fine physical effort defensively and will backcheck hard to support his defense. Testwuide has decent hands and can create some offense in terms of handling it through traffic and being able to be a fine distributor.

The Bad: He's not a very instinctual player and lacks pro-level hockey sense, which holds back his offensive potential. That aspect of his game showed some improvement towards the second half of the season, but overall he's behind the pace of the pro game. Testwuide's skating can on occasion flash a fair level, but most of the time he looks below-average moving with an awkward stride that doesn't extend fluidly.

Projection: A below-average third line to above-average fourth line forward who may end up as a replacement level player.

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9. Kevin Marshall, Defense
Date of birth: 03/10/1989
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 207
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 78 GP, 3 G, 14 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Second round, 41st overall in 2007 by Philadelphia

The Good: Marshall is a hard-nosed defenseman who projects to be an above-average physical player if not beyond. He loves to take part in the physical aspect of the game, and is quite competitive when it comes to engaging in battles as he fights for every inch of ice and usually comes out with the puck. Marshall is very strong and has physically matured well in the pro game. He has decent passing skills although he shouldn't attempt anything beyond the basics.

The Bad: Marshall is an unimpressive skater with a below-average top gear and an all-around mobility that leaves a fair amount to be desired. He has fringe offensive skills and isn't much of a creator. His defensive game has come along, but it's still not at a sufficient level for a player of his style.

Projection: He has an average third pairing defender ceiling but there's a decent chance that he doesn't end up as a league regular.

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10. Ben Holmstrom, Center
Date of birth: 04/09/1987
Age: 24
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 79 GP, 16 G, 38 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: Holmstrom is a hard-working defensive forward who is the kind of player you throw over the boards for a handful of minutes per game to kill penalties and play with some energy. I've seen him used in the AHL during high-leverage defensive situations. He has a decent frame and his strength level is on par with professionals.

The Bad: Holmstrom has close to no offensive upside. He's not a puck-handler, he's not a distributor, he's a below-average skater and lacks the possession skills to log significant minutes in the league.

Projection: An average fourth line forward at best who may end up as a replacement-level player.

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The Sleeper: Harry Zolnierczyk is yet another college free agent from this system who got a taste of pro life towards the end of the season. He's a good skater who plays an in-your-face type of game and makes opponents wary despite a sub-6'0" frame.

Extra Notes: Zac Rinaldo had 331 penalty minutes in the AHL last year, so it shouldn't be a surprise scouts commonly plant the "agitator" tag on him. He loves the physical game and he's good at it, but I highly doubt he'll ever be more than a handful of minutes per game type of player.

My report on Nick Cousins can be found here.

Corey Pronman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Corey by clicking here or click here to see Corey's other articles.

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