The Philadelphia Flyers have traditionally been an aggressive team. The team’s Founder, the late Ed Snider, didn’t hesitate when it came to spending money. He would stop at nothing if it meant putting the best team on the ice. The Flyers have consistently looked to sign the best free agent or make the biggest splash in the trade market to lift Lord Stanley’s Cup for the first time since 1975. The issue with that has often been a lack of true homegrown talent. But that’s no longer the case.
When Snider hired Ron Hextall to lead the Franchise as General Manager in the spring of 2014, it signaled a shift in ideology. They were, and have, grown and developed talent to drive the future of the franchise. And, have restrained from making any big moves that would mortgage the future. The Flyers are currently sitting on one of the strongest pipelines of defensive players in the league. One that includes Travis Sanheim, Robert Hägg, Samuel Morin and Philippe Myers all progressing nicely. And, all getting closer to joining 19-year old rookie standout defenseman, Ivan Provorov—along with Shayne Gostisbehere—in Philadelphia.
Travis Sanheim was chosen 17th overall in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. And, has been long thought of as one of the most NHL-ready prospects the Flyers have in their system. So naturally, he has developed as a standout defenseman for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms of the AHL while playing his first year of pro hockey alongside fellow prospect, Samuel Morin. Look for the pairing to join the Flyers at the same time and to continue to progress into a top-four pairing.
Speaking of Morin, he was the first key defenseman taken of the bunch—taken 11th overall in 2013. Currently listed at 6’7-227 pounds, there were early comparisons to Chris Pronger throughout the Flyers fanbase. Those comparisons were unwarranted and based mostly on their size , but that’s not a knock on Morin’s game whatsoever. He’s taken longer to progress than many fans would have liked. That said, the Flyers have been pleased with his steady progress. And, it would not be a shock to see him in the Orange and Black next year with his current defensive partner, Sanheim.
Robert Hägg, meanwhile, was chosen behind Morin with the Flyers’ second-round pick (41st overall) in 2013. Early projections suggested Hägg may be better than Morin. After all, Hägg was considered one of the best picks of the draft after being projected as a first-rounder in some mock drafts. Prior to the draft, Central Scouting had Hägg ranked 8th amongst European skaters. Following an inconsistent first year with the Phantoms, he has developed nicely. Tom Dougherty of CSNPhilly.com recently wrote, “Hägg ‘s two-way style doesn’t garner much flash, but he does a lot of things well when he keeps his game simple and asserts himself. That has been the case this season, and his development has caught the eyes of Flyers’ front office.” Look for Hägg to make a push for a roster spot next season.
Finally, the newest member of this list is Philippe Myers. Talk about value—Myers was an undrafted free agent signed by the Flyers in September of 2015. He suffered through injuries and a lack of confidence his draft year, which he attributes to his drop in draft stock. But upon landing with the Flyers organization, he has a renewed sense of confidence. And quite frankly, a bright future ahead of him. Myers had a strong year last year but his play has taken off this year. Additionally, he was one of the best players on Team Canada in the 2016 World Junior tournament. He’s probably the furthest of the bunch from joining the team. That said, he may not be that far off either—a phenomenal sign for the Flyers organization and their fans.
Now Hextall will just need to find room on the roster for all of them to make an impact. That’s not a bad problem to have.