After a disappointing season, the Flyers have to start making player development a priority. The 2013 NHL Draft will be held on June 30, and it may seem far away, but the Flyers really need to focus on their options when they head into the first round.
Since the Flyers have the No.11 pick, they will not draft well sought after defenseman Seth Jones, who is likely to be drafted by the Colorado Avalanche. Their next best option would be to draft the second ranked defenseman Darnell Nurse.
According to NHL.com's Adam Kimelman, the Flyers might not have the opportunity to draft Nurse either. In his first installment of the NHL's mini-mock draft, Kimelman instead has Nurse going to the Edmonton Oilers with the No. 7 pick and the Flyers drafting Finnish defenseman Rasmus Ristolainen from TPS in the first round.
Kimelman thinks the Flyers will pick Ristolainen mostly because a "big, tough, nasty blueliner is something the Flyers have needed since Chris Pronger left the lineup." The 6'3", 200 pound defenseman is practically built to be a Flyers defenseman and he has a Pronger-esque mean streak which is something we like in Philadelphia.
If the Flyers don't jump at the chance of drafting this emerging defenseman, it will be a huge mistake. The Flyers flaws have always been due to a lackluster defense so their top priority is to start developing young defenseman. In this year's draft, they have to seriously consider drafting Ristolainen in the first round before another team scoops him up.
Ristolainen's stats may not be perfect, but he has been actively improving over the past couple seasons in Finland. He ended the 2012-2013 season with TPS having played 52 games where he showed his ability as a two-way player. He notched three goals this season and proved to be a consistent passer by helping his teammates get to the net 12 times. He has also matured as a player and only logged 23 PIMs this season, which is something that should really interest the Flyers.
Drafting this prospect could do wonders for the Flyers' emerging defensive class. Especially if he gets paired with powerhouse rookie Oliver Lauridsen down the line. Could you imagine the defense size of this team in the years to come? Their size and physical play could really turn the team's defense into a intimdation factor that could help lead them to success.
Ristolainen may not be a player that particularly takes big hits, but he does get physical in front of the net and knows how to use his body. If he takes a puck to the face blocking a shot, I'm sure we'd fall in love with him in this city.
[To view the NHL's mini-mock draft CLICK HERE]