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September 12, 2012
Top 10 Prospects
Philadelphia Flyers

by Corey Pronman

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Full list of NHL Organizational Rankings

Philadelphia Flyers Top 10 Prospects

1. Scott Laughton, Center
2. Eric Wellwood, Center
3. Shayne Gostisbehere, Defense
4. Nick Cousins, Center
5. Brandon Manning, Defense
6. Jason Akeson, Center
7. Matt Mangene, Center
8. Oliver Lauridsen, Defense
9. Niko Hovinen, Goaltender
10. Marcel Noebels, Left Wing

Organizational Ranking: 30th

System Overview: The graduations of Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Erik Gustafsson, and Matt Read are a giant blow to this system. The Flyers still have a couple of above-average talents left in their pipeline and a number of their top prospects are at the AHL level, but this is a system lacking in significant prospects.

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1. Scott Laughton, Center
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 05/30/1994
Age: 18
Height: 6'0''
Weight: 180
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 64 GP, 21 G, 53 P (Oshawa-OHL)
Acquired: First round, 20th overall in 2012 by Philadelphia

The Good: Laughton is a pretty well-rounded forward who had a very good second half and an eye-opening performance at the Under 18 Championship. He's an above-average skater with good acceleration. Laughton has great on-ice competitiveness at both ends, going all-out every shift, and he has a solid physical game. He's a smart player who makes good decisions and off-the-puck reads, and he has some fine offensive instincts. Laughton is very good defensively and at faceoffs.

The Bad: I've heard some questions about Laughton's pure skill level, although that opinion is not universal. He has few major issues, but just needs to continue getting stronger and producing a little more offense next season.

Projection: He could be an average second line center.

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2. Eric Wellwood, Center
2010-11 Ranking: 4th
Date of birth: 03/06/1990
Age: 22
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 179
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 33 GP, 9 G, 21 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Sixth round, 172nd overall in 2009 by Philadelphia

The Good: Wellwood is a plus skater who gets regular praise for his speed and ability to pressure defenders on the forecheck. He has decent physical value in spite of being undersized as he's got a great work ethic. He is a smart, versatile player who can play any forward position, makes good reads in both ends off-the-puck, and can be a solid-average playmaker.

The Bad: Wellwood isn't an overly skilled player and doesn't really have the hands to create on his own and be an individual player. Some scouts say he could have scoring skill, but that seems unlikely.

Projection: He could be a league average regular.

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3. Shayne Gostisbehere, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 04/20/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 160
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, 5 G, 22 P (Union College-ECAC)
Acquired: Third round, 78th overall in 2012 by Philadelphia

The Good: Gostisbehere has very good hockey sense, showing top-end offensive instincts as a puck mover. "He's always making plays, he finds the open man, and he's very smart with the puck. He's a very good offensive defenseman," said one scout. Gostisbehere has pretty good mobility, as he's a solid if not an above-average skater.

The Bad: Gostisbehere isn't a great defensive player, but he's not bad, probably just a tick below average. He uses his stick well and can make some plays in his own end. He's certainly undersized and needs to bulk up, although he may be slightly bigger than listed.

Projection: He has top four D potential.

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4. Nick Cousins, Center
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 07/20/1993
Age: 19
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 177
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 65 GP, 35 G, 88 P (Sault Ste. Marie-OHL)
Acquired: Third round, 68th overall in 2011 by Philadelphia

The Good: Cousins is a skilled, agitating winger. He's got pretty good puck skills and what one NHL source describes as a "real good feel for the game" in terms of his offensive creativity and his ability to make plays. He's always dangerous with the puck and really emerged this season as a true offensive threat. I can never talk to anyone about Cousins without the word "agitator" coming up as well as it really defines his style.

The Bad: His skating is average, and while he has nice agility, he could use a better top gear. He needs to continue getting stronger as well as his size won't help him as a pro.

Projection: He could be a second line forward.

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5. Brandon Manning, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 06/04/1990
Age: 22
Height: 6'1''
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 46 GP, 6 G, 19 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Free agent

The Good: Manning had a fine first pro season, and actually ended up getting a few games with the Flyers. He's very competitive, plays a solid physical game, and battles well in his own end. Manning is not just a tough guy, though, as he has pretty good hockey sense. He makes good positional reads, can outlet out of his zone well, and will even flash some creativity.

The Bad: Manning has a little bit of skill, but his offensive projection will be below-average at the top level. His mobility could be a tad better as well.

Projection: He could be a #4 defenseman.

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6. Jason Akeson, Center
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 06/03/1990
Age: 22
Height: 5'10''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 76 GP, 14 G, 55 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Free agent

The Good: Akeson is a pretty skilled player who had a successful first pro season, leading Adirondack in scoring. He's got above-average hands and hockey sense and was a consistent offensive threat this season. Akeson is always around the puck in the offensive zone, is a good starting point for offense as he sees the ice well, and always seems to make the right play, with flashes of creativity.

The Bad: Akeson isn't a bad skater and can skate with pros fine, but he's a tick below average for a smaller player speedwise. He needs to bulk up a ton to handle an NHL physical game. His defense is certainly a work in progress and he might even need to be pushed off to the wing at the top level.

Projection: He could be an okay second line forward that is sheltered.

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7. Matt Mangene, Center
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/12/1989
Age: 23
Height: 5'11''
Weight: 190
Shoots: Right
Statistics: 40 GP, 16 G, 34 P (Univ. of Maine-Hockey East)
Acquired: College free agent

The Good: Mangene is a fantastic skater who hits a high-end top gear, really pressuring defenders with his speed. His on-ice work ethic is of an equal level, as he plays with high energy and is a pretty good physically in spite his size due to his competitiveness and a fine strength level. He's a smart two-way player who both does well in his own end and has the offensive instincts to make some plays. Mangene is the rare super-utility player who can not only play all three forward positions, but played defense for long stretches of time in college. That said, he should be used as a forward at the pro level.

The Bad: Mangene's offensive upside is somewhat questionable as he's not the kind of player who exhibited the regular ability to create offense in college and he isn't a gifted puck-handler.

Projection: He could be a bottom-six forward.

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8. Oliver Lauridsen, Defense
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 03/24/1989
Age: 23
Height: 6'6''
Weight: 220
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 65 GP, 3 G, 7 P (Adirondack-AHL)
Acquired: Seventh round, 196th overall in 2009 by Philadelphia

The Good: Lauridsen is an elite physical player. He's a big, strong defender who one scout says "works his [rear end] off" in terms of how hard he battles in the corners and the energy he plays with in terms of laying the body on his checks. He's got decent mobility and moves at a fine pace for his 6'6'' size.

The Bad: Lauridsen had a bit of a rough first season in pro hockey. His decision-making with the puck has to be better and he certainly looked raw. His offensive ceiling is pretty low as well.

Projection: He could be a third pairing defender.

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9. Niko Hovinen, Goaltender
2010-11 Ranking: N/A
Date of birth: 03/16/1988
Age: 24
Height: 6'6''
Weight: 216
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 41 GP, .920 SV% (Pelicans-SM Liiga)
Acquired: Free agent

The Good: Originally drafted by Minnesota, but unsigned, Hovinen had been a high quality goalie in Finland the last few seasons. As evidenced by his height and weight, he's a big man and plays a big goalie style. Hovinen covers the net well and doesn't need to come out and challenge that far out to cut down the net he gives, allowing him that extra split second to reach the puck. Hovinen moves well in terms of his lateral agility and very well for a player of his size.

The Bad: Hovinen doesn't really have impressive reflexes, playing more of a blocker style. He won't wow you with the ability to make the hard second save or make the big stretch stop. His rebound control isn't the best, either.

Projection: He could be a league average goaltender.

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10. Marcel Noebels, Left Wing
2010-11 Ranking: Unranked
Date of birth: 03/24/1989
Age: 20
Height: 6'3''
Weight: 201
Shoots: Left
Statistics: 62 GP, 20 G, 58 P (Seattle/Portland-WHL)
Acquired: Fourth round, 118th overall in 2011 by Philadelphia

The Good: Noebels is a big, strong winger who scouts say describe as loving to throw his body around. He has some touch with the puck, a size element to protect the puck well in the cycle, and can make some average plays in the offensive end. Noebels has a good work ethic and will come back to help in his own end. He can play center and wing.

The Bad: Noebels skating has always been his main issue. It is below-average now, which is an improvement from where it was two season ago. He flashes decent hockey sense, but still has trouble with pace and decision-making on the small ice surfaces.

Projection: He could be a bottom-six forward.

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The Next Five

11. Anthony Stolarz, Goaltender: "Stolly the goalie" is a 6'5'', 200-pound giant who moves very well and has intriguing athletic goals. He's raw as heck, though, after being drafted out of the NAHL, and is at least four or five years away.

12. Valeri Vasilyev, Defense: Vasilyev is the first Russian the Flyers have taken since Denis Bodrov in the 2006 draft. He's a very physical player with good mobility and while he only had two points this season, he does have some ability with the puck. His campaign was shortened by a shoulder injury.

13. Blake Kessel, Defense: Kessel has some impressive puck-moving skills and offensive hockey sense, but looked quite unimpressive in his own end this season.

14. Nicholas Luukko, Defense: Luukko has fine size and wingspan to go along with good defensive hockey sense. Luukko missed a big chunk of the season due to mono.

15. Ben Holmstrom, Center: Holmstrom is a very hard worker with just enough tools to play some minutes in the NHL, but could end up and may already be a replacement player.

The Sleeper: Reece Wilcox, Defense

Wilcox is a mobile defender with size who can make a good first pass. He has enough tools to his game to make him intriguing to follow as he heads to Cornell.

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Philadelphia Flyers Organizational Top 10

Players 22 or under as of 09/15/2012 or still considered a prospect as defined here.

1. Sean Couturier, Center
2. Brayden Schenn, Center
3. Luke Schenn, Defense
4. Scott Laughton, Center
5. Eric Wellwood, Center
6. Shayne Gostisbehere, Defense
7. Marc-Andre Bourdon, Defense
8. Nick Cousins, Center
9.Brandon Manning, Defense
10. Jason Akeson, Center

This time last summer, I considered Couturier and Schenn 1A and 1B prospects, but this year I've flipped the A and the B. Couturier had the more successful season, logging unusually tough defensive minutes for his age. He's not just a checker, however, as he has a ton of offensive potential as well. Brayden Schenn didn't hit the ground running like, but he's still pretty young and I'm still very optimistic about his future. He's got plus hands, great hockey sense, and a top-end work ethic. His brother, the newly-acquired Luke Schenn, has really been up and down in his NHL career, going back and forth between good and bad years. Last year was not a good sign for him at all, and provides some doubt about his potential. However, in seasons like 2010-11, we saw what Luke can do. He's still only 22, which is not an age you usually expect a whole lot out of a defenseman. He's got great defensive instincts, a plus physical game, and fine mobility for a big player. He's not going to be confused for a power play man anytime soon, but I'm cautiously optimistic he could be a long-time top-four defenseman.

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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