We’ll never know if the Flyers targeted a specific defenseman or two in the first round.
We’ll never know if they tried to trade up to select physical forward Tom Wilson, scooped up by the Capitals at No. 16 overall with the second of their two first-round picks.
All we know is that when the Flyers selected at No. 20, Oshawa Generals center Scott Laughton was the player liked the most.
“We really like Scott,” said Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren, who was loudly booed by the Pittsburgh crowd. “I’ve seen him play a couple of times, and he kind of reminds me a little bit of Mike Richards, a little bit of (New Jersey’s) Adam Henrique; he’s a good, solid hard-nosed two-way player.”
Laughton (6-foot, 177 pounds) finished fifth in scoring on the Generals with 53 points (21 goals, 32 assists). However, 41 of those points (18 goals, 23 assists) came during Oshawa’s final 39 games. Laughton ranked third among Oshawa players in penalty minutes, with 101.
Two picks after the Flyers selected Laughton, the Penguins, who quickly made a splash as the hosts of the draft by trading center Jordan Staal to Carolina for a package of players and the eighth overall pick, picked Finnish defenseman Olli Maatta. But the Flyers obviously liked Laughton better than Maatta, feeling that he represented value over positional need.
Eight of the first 10 picks in the draft were defensemen, which depleted the quality depth at that position in the first round.
The Flyers hope Laughton will eventually join their core of young centers, which includes Claude Giroux, Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier, the eighth overall pick in the 2011 draft.
“I’m not sure of the timetable for me right now to play there,” Laughton said, “but I’m just really excited to go to an organization with such young talent and a good group of core guys. I’m really honored.”
After taking a center in the first round Friday, the Flyers addressed the other end of the ice on Saturday, taking a goalie, four defensemen and a left wing.
The Flyers selected goalie Anthony Stolarz in the second round with the 45th overall pick, a selection acquired Friday as part of a trade for Sergei Bobrovsky. If the 6-foot-5 Stolarz, who is from Edison, N.J., has a better NHL career than Bobrovsky, fans will look back on this deal as a steal. Stolarz, who played for Corpus Christi of the North American Hockey League, will play for the University of Nebraska-Omaha in the upcoming season.
In the third round (78th pick), the Flyers selected defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere of Union College, which reached the Frozen Four this past season. They went for defense again with the first of their two fourth-round selections (No. 111), picking 6-foot-3 defense Fredric Larsson from the Swedish Junior League. Six draft positions later, the Flyers selected left wing Taylor Leier from the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League, a highly competitive league that saw 6 of its players picked in the first round.
The Flyers returned to defense in the fifth and seventh rounds. They selected Reece Willcox (6-3), who played for Merritt in the British Columbia Hockey League last season and has committed to Cornell University for this upcoming year, in the fifth round (141). Willcox was the 90th rated North American skater in the draft by Central Scouting. Continuing their trend of taking big defensemen, the Flyers closed out their draft by taking 18-year-old Valeri Vasiliev (6-1, 203), who plays for Spartak-2 in the Russian Junior League, in the seventh round (201). Vasiliev was the #16 rated European skater in the entire draft, but slipped down the draft board.