Flyers

2020 NHL draft profile: With 'real mature game,' defenseman Ryan O'Rourke shouldn't be overlooked

2020 NHL draft profile: With 'real mature game,' defenseman Ryan O'Rourke shouldn't be overlooked

The entire picture for the 2020 NHL draft remains cloudy with the ongoing suspension of the 2019-20 regular season because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Where will the Flyers be picking? When and how will the draft be held? Those questions are currently unanswered.

The Flyers hold seven total selections and, as of right now, are slotted with the 26th overall pick.

“I think it’s a decent draft — I don’t know if it’s top end," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said April 25 in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "The top 10, 12 guys look like pretty high end. There’s a bit of a drop-off, but there’s some depth to the draft for a couple of rounds. We don’t know totally where we’re picking, but we have an idea. We have some guys targeted we feel we would be very happy with in the top couple of rounds and then we still have some work to do to clean up the mid-to-later-round picks.

"Obviously you’d want the big, scoring, playmaking center, anybody does. We’re in a position where we’ll likely be taking the best player available. 

"Realistically the players you draft now are two or three years down the road, best-case scenario. Some cases you get surprised. But by then, your team needs are different. We’ll do the best we can, we have an idea of where our holes are going forward and places where we certainly want to add depth to, whether it’s center or scoring winger or defense, we’ll see what happens. We’ll prepare, we weigh guys against each other, the pros and cons and we’ll do the best we can there.”

This month and into June, we'll continue to break down options for the Flyers at No. 26.

Ryan O'Rourke

Position: Defenseman
Height: 6-foot
Weight: 178
Shoots: Left
Team: Soo Greyhounds

Scouting report

O'Rourke is particularly appealing because his defensive game is already refined. The 18-year-old takes immense pride in playing in his own end, while his offensive game features untapped potential.

As team captain, O'Rourke led the OHL's Greyhounds with a plus-16 mark and scored 37 points (seven goals, 30 assists) in 54 games.

O'Rourke doesn't get enough credit for his adeptness at pushing the puck north. He can get up ice and is an intelligent passer.

“A real steady player," Flahr said May 12. "He’s a 6-footer, but a competitive guy, his outlet passing, moving the puck up ice is probably his bread and butter. He can defend, he can do a little of everything. You’ve got to be a little careful of your viewings because he plays so much up there, you have to pace yourself, so there could be another level to what he can do. Plays a real mature game I think is the best description of him.”

Fit with Flyers

As we noted when looking at William Wallinder, the Flyers are well-stocked at defensemen but won't shy away from drafting the best player available to load up even more on the back end.

O'Rourke fits the bill of blueliners the Flyers like — guys with quality size and mobility. The Soo defenseman might be a fringe first-rounder, so he's expected to be available for the Flyers. The club is likely looking more for a center or winger in the first round, but O'Rourke brings a lot to the table. The Hockey Writers' Mark Scheig believes O'Rourke will be the steal of the draft.

It would be somewhat surprising if he's the Flyers' pick at No. 26. If O'Rourke is in their ballpark during the second round, though, he'll definitely have the club's attention.

(Terry Wilson/OHL Images)

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2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

2019-20 Flyers season grades: Matt Niskanen

The 2019-20 NHL regular season has concluded and the next time the puck drops will officially kick off the race to the Stanley Cup. The Flyers are hungry and ready to battle it out, but that is thanks to the hard work from back in October. 

In an End to End series, NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Brooke Destra, Katie Emmer, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall will be grading players based on individual performances. 

Today we will be looking at Matt Niskanen.

Destra

I’m not going to lie — I fell under the category of not fully understanding the trade for Niskanen during the offseason in a one-for-one deal, sending former Flyer Radko Gudas to the Capitals. At the time, the most appealing aspects about the deal were recognizing the level of veteran experience Niskanen was going to bring to the blue line and his extensive résumé when it came to the playoffs. 

Now, with his first regular season as a Flyer officially at an end, it’s safe to say he was an absolute steal. Way to win a trade, Chuck Fletcher. 

Not only did he post 33 points (eight goals, 25 assists), making him the second-best defenseman in points on the team, but he elevated his partner Ivan Provorov to new heights in his career as well. The duo built such powerful chemistry on the ice and Niskanen provided the skill set needed to help Provorov hone in on his talent.  

There couldn’t have been a better fit for the Flyers and Provorov. Whatever Niskanen’s next steps are in the NHL, let’s hope he wants to stay in Philadelphia for a little while longer. 

A+ for Niskanen — not bad for his 13th season in the league. 

Emmer

The Flyers went from averaging the third-most goals against per game (3.41) and a minus-37 goal differential in 2018-19 to then tying for the seventh-fewest goals against in the league and drawing a plus-36 goal differential this season. A major key for that success was Niskanen.

Niskanen had a lasting impact throughout the regular season on special teams. Most notably, the penalty kill, which he helped improve from 78.5 percent in 2018-19 (26th in NHL) to 81.8 percent (11th in NHL). His power play minutes were also impressive as the four goals scored on the man advantage were the highest in his career.

He brought leadership to the blue line and the dressing room and was a steady presence the Flyers and his defensive partner Provorov depended on throughout the regular season.

I give Niskanen an A.

Fordyce 

Niskanen, an experienced Stanley Cup-winning defenseman, came to the Flyers via trade for Gudas from the Capitals last offseason. His addition to the team added a veteran leader to the roster as well as a possible mentor for some of the Flyers' young defensemen. In his first season with the Flyers, he did both admirably.

Niskanen’s presence on that top defense pair with Provorov allowed Provorov to open up his game more and become a better overall player. Niskanen is a smart defenseman who is rarely out of position, and this allows Provorov as his defensive partner to freelance a bit more, which is one of the strengths of his game. Niskanen also has great puck skills from the point, getting pucks toward the net by pass or shot and creating opportunities. 

No-brainer, Niskanen gets an A.

Hall

What an acquisition by Fletcher. In the Gudas-Niskanen swap, the only other hit for the Flyers was salary related — obviously taking on Niskanen's $5.75 million cap hit as well as retaining 30 percent of Gudas' $3.35 million cap hit.

Niskanen made the trade unquestionably worth it for his new club.

Not only did the 33-year-old Stanley Cup champion significantly improve the Flyers at 5-on-5, on the power play and the penalty kill, but he also did wonders for the rebound of Provorov, a 23-year-old who had far too much on his shoulders last season.

Niskanen's winning pedigree has rubbed off on everyone. With eight goals and 25 assists, he also had a chance to crack 40 points for the second time in his well-established career before the regular season was cut short because of the coronavirus outbreak.

A well-deserved A for Niskanen.

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Flyers Talk podcast: Carter Hart's leash, team awards and NHL playoffs analysis

Flyers Talk podcast: Carter Hart's leash, team awards and NHL playoffs analysis

On the latest Flyers Talk podcast, NBC Sports Philadelphia's Katie Emmer and Jordan Hall discuss Carter Hart's leash, team awards and the return-to-play tournament.

From the 24-team madness to prospects and Oskar Lindblom, let's dive in:

0:55 — Scott Laughton is the most improved Flyer; who were the other candidates?

5:15 — Analyzing the length of Hart's leash in the 24-team tournament

14:30 — Six games a day in the 24-team tournament?!

19:15 — Which Flyers player will love the bubble setting the most?

24:05 What to make of the Wyatt Kalynuk decision

29:20 — Which prospect benefits most from Kalynuk's departure?

33:00 — Why the Flyers won't fret over the loss

36:00 — Lindblom, ring that bell! A special moment

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Click here to download the MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Flyers, Sixers and Phillies games easily on your device.

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