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DEPTH CHART: The Blueline

Meltzer's look at the team's defense prospects and their projected path

by Bill Meltzer @billmeltzer

Most of the highly touted group of defensemen who entered the Flyers' farm system from 2012 to 2016 -- including Ivan Provorov (2015 first-round pick), Travis Sanheim (2014 first-rounder), Shayne Gostisbehere (2012 third-rounder) and Robert Hägg (2013 second-rounder) -- have now played two or more seasons at the National Hockey League level through the end of the 2018-19 campaign. 

Originally an undrafted free agent signing, Philippe Myers made his NHL debut this season, and played 21 games for the Flyers. 

Injuries and injury rehabs over the two seasons have limited 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin to eight career NHL games to date. Both third-year pro Myers and the waiver non-exempt Morin are expected to push for full-season NHL roles in 2019-20. Most recently, Myers played for Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Championships under head coach Alain Vigneault.

All of the Flyers' recent top-end picks following the selection Provorov with the seventh overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft have been used on forwards: fellow 2015 first-rounder Travis Konecny (24th overall), 2016 first-rounder German Rubtsov (22nd overall), 2017 first-rounders Nolan Patrick (2nd overall) and Morgan Frost (27th overall) as well as second-rounder Isaac Ratcliffe (35th overall) and 2018 first-rounders Joel Farabee (13th overall) and Jay O'Brien (19th overall). 

As a result, there is presently a holding pattern in the blueline depth chart at the pro level.

A third-year pro come next season, 2014 third-round pick Mark Friedman is the Phantoms defenseman who is closest to an NHL promotion if the Flyers have need for a recall. Following an uneven rookie season, Friedman made significant strides in 2018-19 and made his NHL debut for the Flyers in the final game of the season. 

Unlike its crowded field of incoming forwards and goaltenders, the Phantoms are not slated to have much in the way of youngsters on the blueline next season. Veterans such as longtime AHL offensive-minded standout T.J. Brennan are likely to continue to populate the Phantoms blueline for another year. Twenty-five year old Cornell graduate Reece Willcox, originally a Flyers fifth-round pick (141st overall) in 2012, dressed in 65 games for Lehigh Valley this past season and 57 games in 2017-18.

Most of the prospect defensemen in the Flyers farm system are slated to play next season in Europe, the NCAA or in Canadian junior hockey. 

This includes a trio of blueliners over in Sweden:

* 2018 second-round pick Adam Ginning (Linköping, SHL)

* Linus Högberg (Växjö, SHL)

* David Bernhardt (Växjö, SHL)

A pair in the WHL:

* 2018 undrafted free agent signee Yegor Zamula (Calgary Hitmen, WHL), who notched 56 points (10g-46a) which more than tripled his output from his rookie season.

* 2018 fifth-rounder Wyatte Wylie (Everett Silvertips, WHL) led his team's defense in scoring with 47 points and new career highs in goals (11), assists (36) and a +33 rating. 

And two from the NCAA ranks:

* Wisconsin junior to-be in September, Wyatt Kalynuk posted a career-high nine goals and matched his 25-point output from his freshman season.

* Yale sophomore Jack St. Ivany, who was a part of TEAM USA's silver medal winning team at the World Junior Championships in January.

Part 3, later in the week, will look at the core of goaltenders in the organization.

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