Just because the Flyers are loaded with talented, young defensemen doesn’t mean they won’t consider a blue-liner with their first selection in the June 21 draft.
“We’ll take the best player available, regardless of position,” said assistant general manager Brent Flahr, who will head up the Flyers’ draft contingent in Vancouver.
That means if defensemen Victor Soderstrom, Thomas Harley, or Philip Broberg is available, the Flyers will consider each of them, depending on which forwards have already been taken.
Bowen Byram of the Vancouver Giants in the Western Hockey League is the draft’s premier defenseman, but he should be long off the board when the Flyers make the No. 11 overall pick in the first round.
The next-best defenseman appears to be the 6-foot, 182-pound Soderstrom, a Sweden native who doesn’t have the size of Harley (6-3, 183) or Broberg (6-3, 203), but is regarded in some circles as a more complete player. Oh, and he has a right-handed shot, which teams covet.
“There’s a couple of defensemen in this year’s draft that we have ranked pretty high and we think are going to be impact players,” Flahr said.
A cerebral two-way player with a high competitive drive, the puck-moving Soderstrom, 18, made the leap to the adult Swedish Elite League last season and had four goals and seven points in 44 games.
“I really got to work on my defensive game,” Soderstrom told reporters. “I think that’s what I developed most in the last year.”
He still needs to add weight and upper-body strength to help win more puck battles, but that should come as he matures.
“He’s not the biggest body, but he’s a smart player, terrific skater,” Flahr said. “He plays a very mature game and he’s already playing close to 20 minutes a night in the Swedish League. Some young guys struggle at that level or just play it safe, but this kid plays regularly in the top four and had a really good year.”
Regarded as a smooth skater with a great shot, Soderstrom plays with a physical edge and can also be counted upon to shut down a team’s top offensive player.
Because the draft is rich in high-quality forwards, especially centers, there’s a decent chance Soderstrom will be available when the Flyers make the 11th overall pick.