Flyers

Flyers

In this addition of "Riday's Mailbag," I answer a question about some up-and-coming defensemen in the Flyers' organization.

Q: Where do you rank the Flyers' defensive prospects? - @ShipJduvich

A: There's a lot of hype behind the young defensemen in the Flyers' system, and rightfully so. Many are hoping they'll be ready to make the leap to the NHL soon to help freshen up and bring some stability to the back end.

But Flyers general manager Ron Hextall is in no rush to bring up his prospects. You can guarantee they won't be in the lineup on a consistent basis until they are fully ready to compete at a high level. Hextall will make sure of that.

In the meantime, it doesn't hurt to take a closer look at the blueliners. Here's how I rank them:

1. Travis Sanheim (6-3, 190)
Sanheim, in my opinion, is the best prospect the Flyers have at any position. Period.

The 19-year-old skyrocketed up NHL Central Scouting's rankings among North American skaters last year from out of nowhere. At the midpoint of the season, he was ranked 167th. By the end of the year, he finished 53rd.

That impressed Hextall enough for him to make Sanheim the 17th-overall pick in the 2014 NHL draft, which was held in Philadelphia. It looks like Sanheim could turn out to be a steal.

 

The smooth-skating D-man is coming off a remarkable season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL. He recorded 20 goals, 63 assists and a plus-27 rating in 84 games, including playoffs.

I believe Sanheim possesses the highest NHL upside of any defenseman in the Flyers' system. That said, he's still very young. Sending him back to Calgary for another year of seasoning in the WHL would be wise, especially considering the team's current logjam on defense

2. Sam Morin (6-7, 225)
Not far behind Sanheim is Morin, who was selected 11th overall by the Flyers at the 2013 NHL draft.

The towering blueliner has spent the past four seasons with Rimouski Oceanic of the QMJHL and could be in a position to compete for a roster spot with the Flyers at training camp.

Morin, who turns 20 in July, plays a simple game. He doesn't try to do too much with the puck and has no problem throwing his body around. He can be feisty, but is certainly imposing. He's worth keeping a close eye on in 2015-16, wherever he winds up playing.

3. Shayne Gostisbehere (5-11, 160)
Gostisbehere's first season as a professional came to a disappointing end after he partially tore his ACL in November.

He appeared in two games with the Flyers as an emergency call-up, but suffered the injury after he was returned to the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in the AHL. In all, he played just seven games in 2014 and registered five assists, all with the Phantoms.

The good news? Gostisbehere put on nearly 15 to 20 pounds of muscle during his rehab. His development may have taken a hit, but he'll be fresh for training camp. Expect him to come back motivated.

4. Robert Hagg (6-2, 207)
Hagg may be at the bottom of my list, but I think he still has a legitimate shot at being a reliable NHL defenseman in the near future.

The 20-year-old played 69 games for Lehigh Valley last season, collecting three goals, 16 assists and 48 penalty minutes.

He may have some stiff competition in front of him, but he could be the most complete two-way defenseman of the four prospects. He can play all aspects of the game. He has good size, vision and is mobile. He's just going to have to work that much harder to make himself stand out. Don't be surprised if you see him called up to the Flyers at some point next season — if there's room.