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Laughton heads list of Flyers' top 10 prospects

by Adam Kimelman

Philadelphia Flyers director of scouting Chris Pryor asked a rhetorical question: What was the best year for player development in the past 10 years?

"They'll probably go back to the lockout year [2004-05], when all the kids had to go down and play in the American [Hockey] League," Pryor said. "They were forced to. If you look at the players now that are go-to guys, at that time, [Jeff] Carter, [Mike] Richards, [Ryan] Getzlaf, [Corey] Perry, [Eric] Staal, [Jason] Spezza, they all spent time in the American league. Everyone realizes that the American league plays a huge role. It did back then and it does now."

That's why the Flyers have no intention of rushing any of their top prospects, a number of whom have picked up a bit of experience in the AHL or will debut there this season.

"You've just got to be patient, even though sometimes it's hard to do it if you have a lot of high draft picks and everyone wants to see them play right away," Pryor said. "Unfortunately, it's not that easy. And what's best for the kid is to be patient. Let him develop."

Here's a look at the Flyers' top 10 prospects, according to

1. Scott Laughton, C

How acquired: 1st round (No. 20), 2012 draft

Last season: 54 GP, 40-47-87, Oshawa Generals, OHL

The Flyers have had Laughton on the opening-night roster in each of the past two seasons, but his only NHL experience so far has been five games in 2012-13. That could change this season as the 6-foot-1, 177-pound 20-year-old moves full time into the professional ranks, but there is no rush to get him into the NHL lineup.

"We saw him develop last year over the course of the year because he did get an opportunity to go back and play a significant role on that team [Oshawa], go to the World Juniors [for Canada] and be a captain there," Pryor said. "From a development standpoint it was really good for him because they were patient. There's no reason not to continue that mode."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

2. Robert Hagg, D

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 41), 2013 draft

Last season: 50 GP, 1-5-6, Modo, SWE

After a strong season in Sweden plus a second straight silver medal at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championship, Hagg 19 (6-2, 204), came to North America and had one goal, three assists and a plus-1 rating in 10 games with the Flyers' AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms.

"It said volumes about him as a hockey player to come in here," Pryor said. "It is a big jump and he handled himself quite well. We're happy with the transition he made even though it was only a short time coming in. … He showed us that he wanted to come over and spend some time and work on his game. He's got the correct mindset right now. He's got a good attitude and a good work ethic. He's on the right course."

Projected NHL arrival: 2014-15

3. Shayne Gostisbehere, D

How acquired: 3rd round (No. 78), 2012 draft

Last season: 42 GP, 9-25-34, Union, ECAC

Gostisbehere, 21, whetted the appetite of Flyers fans with a dynamic performance at Wells Fargo Center during the Frozen Four, including one goal, two assists and a plus-7 rating against Minnesota in the championship game, and took home the Most Outstanding Player trophy. He signed days after his season ended and got into two AHL games; Gostisbehere (5-11, 160) likely will start the season in the minors as he gets bigger and stronger, and learns the defensive side of the game at the pro level.

"Offensively he was always kind of a dynamic, offensive guy," Pryor said. "I think what he's really done here, and it's a compliment to Shayne and to Union, they worked on his game without the puck. He's really paid a lot of attention to that part of his game. His game has become more rounded than it was a couple years ago. That offensive part of his game is always something that he can do, and he's really paid attention to the other part of his game which has helped his overall game."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

4. Samuel Morin, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 11), 2013 draft

Last season: 54 GP, 7-24-31, Rimouski, QMJHL

Morin is listed at 6-6, 202 but arrived at development camp noticeably thicker in his upper body, and the result was an easier time handling opposing players in battle drills. Though the Flyers have been looking for a skilled, physical defenseman since Chris Pronger was injured in 2011, there is no impetus to rush the 19-year-old to the NHL.

"One thing that makes the kid good is he's got a lot of jump in his game," Pryor said. "He wants to be a player. And he's willing to put a lot of work into it. Kjell Samuelsson [player development coach] has done a good job with him working on his game on the ice, and he's spent a lot of time and paid a lot of attention to his off-ice regimen. He's shown it with the results. He's become bigger and stronger. But there's no rush here. He's on the right path. We're not going to rush the kid. We'll just let him develop."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

5. Anthony Stolarz, G

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 45), 2012 draft

Last season: 35 GP, 25-5-2, 2.52 GAA, .926 save percentage, 4 shutouts, London, OHL

It's been a remarkably rapid ascent for the 20-year-old, who went from playing for the Corpus Christi IceRays in the North American Hockey League in his draft year to back-to-back trips to the Memorial Cup with London of the Ontario Hockey League, with a spot on the United States team for the 2014 WJC thrown in. Stolarz (6-5, 210) start this season in the AHL as he adjusts to life as a professional.

"A lot has happened with Anthony the last couple years," Pryor said. "He wanted to go to school [Nebraska-Omaha] and try that route, and then he realized this wasn't working the way I wanted it to work and I need to get more hockey. He made the move to go to London, which turned out to be a good move. Played in two Memorial Cups, got a little taste of World Junior, now he's ready to turn pro. … He just needs to keep going."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

6. Travis Sanheim, D

How acquired: 1st round (No. 17), 2014 draft

Last season: 67 GP, 5-24-29, plus-25, Calgary, WHL

Sanheim went from a relative unknown to a first-round pick in June thanks to a strong second half to his season followed by an outstanding turn at the 2014 IIHF World Under-18 Championship when he had six assists and a plus-5 rating in seven games to help Canada win the bronze medal.

The next step for Sanheim, 18 (6-3, 181) is to have the same high-quality season with Calgary in an elevated role.

"He expects to continue from where he left off last year," Pryor said. "Should be fun to watch him when he takes on a bigger role and more responsibility. He's got a good attitude and he's got his head screwed on right. Should be interesting to see how he does this year."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

7. Mark Alt, D

How acquired: Trade (Carolina Hurricanes), Jan. 13, 2013

Last season: 75 GP, 4-22-26, Adirondack, AHL

The 6-foot-4, 201-pound 22-year-old turned pro after three seasons at the University of Minnesota and had a solid first full professional season in 2013-14. The Flyers want to see him continue to build on that effort.

"I think the last year was a significant role in his development," Pryor said. "He really handled it well. He made the transition. I think he's on the right path now. We're excited to see how this goes. He's got a lot of physical attributes to become a player. I thought last year he did really well for himself."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

8. Taylor Leier, LW

How acquired: 4th round (No. 117), 2012

Last season: 62 GP, 37-42-79, plus-48, Portland, WHL

Leier, 20 (5-10, 174) continued to grow in his third season with Portland, serving as captain and playing for Canada at the 2014 WJC. Now he'll try to keep that development curve heading up as he starts his professional career.

"If you look at the track he's been on, from where we got him a couple years ago to where he's not a secret anymore," Pryor said. "Hockey Canada brings him to the World Juniors and he makes that team and by the end of the tournament he's playing a role on that team because he's a versatile guy, he can do a lot of different things for you. He's competitive, he's smart. He can give you a little bit of offense. He's good defensively. Everybody needs those types of guys. The kid has a good work ethic. He knows what he wants and he's been a pleasant surprise the last couple years."

Projected NHL arrival: 2015-16

9. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, RW

How acquired: 2nd round (No. 48), 2014 draft

Last season: 65 GP, 22-31-53, Val-d'Or Foreurs, QMJHL

The 5-11, 187-pound forward was able to fly below the radar a bit last season thanks to Val-d'Or's incredible top line. However, Kubel had 13 points in 24 Quebec Major Junior Hockey League playoff games and was a significant part of a team that won the league title and advanced to the Memorial Cup.

Like Sanheim in Calgary, it's expected Aube-Kubel, who turned 18 in May, will get more ice time this season in Val-d'Or.

"[Aube-Kubel] is what the game is, speed and skill, and he's competitive," Pryor said. "I thought for playing an under-the-radar role in Val-d'Or behind that big line, I thought he had a big year. We talk about Travis Sanheim, it'll be exciting to see how he handles the added ice time and added responsibility, even more so with Aube-Kubel. I think he's going to have a real good year. It's going to be exciting to see him get those minutes the other guys got last year. I think he'll handle it well and it should be a good year for him."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17

10. Brandon Alderson, RW

How acquired: Signed as free agent, March 1, 2013

Last season: 71 GP, 14-7-21, Adirondack, AHL

The 22-year-old raised his goals, assists and points totals in his final three seasons in the Ontario Hockey League, but it wasn't enough for him to get drafted. The Flyers signed him late in the 2012-13 season and are hoping he continues to grow as he gets older.

"He's a big kid (6-4, 202) and he looks like a player," Pryor said. "He's 6-4, he can skate, he's got some skill. He's another kid that just needs time. He's got a year [in the AHL] under his belt. He's someone that's going to be exciting to see the next couple years how he handles himself. I think he's starting to put his game together."

Projected NHL arrival: 2016-17


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