We continue our position previews with a look at the top defensemen eligible for the 2016 NHL draft, which will be held June 24-25 in Buffalo, New York.
It’s well known the Flyers already have their share of talented defensemen in the organization. But if a blueliner is the best player available when the Flyers pick at No. 18, it may be too good of an opportunity for Ron Hextall and team brass to pass up. It never hurts to have more defensive depth.
Let’s get started with a preview of the defensemen who will be available on June 24:
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1. Jakob Chychrun, 6-2/199, Sarnia (OHL)
The last name Chychrun may sound familiar. Jakob’s father, Jeff, was a second-round pick of the Flyers in 1984 and played parts of three seasons in Philadelphia in the late 1980s and early 1990s. But whereas Jeff was more known for physicality and feistiness (608 career penalty minutes in 199 games), Jakob is now for his complete, two-way game. He can fire the puck as evidenced by his 27 goals over the last two regular seasons in Sarnia. So you know he knows how to run a power play. Chychrun is known for his smooth skating ability that fuels his defensive abilities. He’s also known for his smarts while on the ice, rarely finding himself out of position. His Flyers ties go even further than his father. He’s the nephew of former Flyers defenseman Luke Richardson and a teammate of prized Flyers prospect Travis Konecny in Sarnia. A resident of South Florida, Chychrun played for the Florida Jr. Panthers, the same program Shayne Gostisbehere started with.
Draft projection: With the way Edmonton desperately needs defensive depth in the organization, I don’t think the Oilers can afford to pass on Chychrun at No.4.
2. Olli Juolevi, 6-2/182, London (OHL)
Gone are the days of burly and relatively immobile defensemen manning NHL bluelines. The league has shifted toward shifty, mobile defensemen who can make impacts at both ends of the ice. Much like Chychrun can, Juolevi can do the same. He posted nine goals and 33 assists in the regular season for London and added three goals and 11 assists as the Knights made a run to the Memorial Cup title. The one knock on Juolevi is that he needs to add more of a physical element to his game. That can come, though, as he matures and grows more into his frame.
Draft projection: Juolevi is a top 10 pick. As far as where he goes, it’s just a matter of a team’s preference. Arizona at No. 7, Buffalo at No. 8, Montreal at No. 9 and Colorado at No 10 could all go any position with their picks. But Juolevi goes to either Arizona or Buffalo.
3. Mikhail Sergachev, 6-2/221, Windsor (OHL)
A two-way defenseman with smooth skating ability. Starting to sense a theme here? What differentiates Sergachev, though, is the physicality he plays with and how he uses his size. He's known for playing with that smart edge other teams hate playing against. But that’s not all he can do. He anchored Windsor’s top defensive pairing and power-play unit while posting 17 goals and 40 assists in the regular season. For his efforts, he was named the OHL’s defenseman of the year.
Draft projection: Colorado makes a lot of sense at No. 10. The Avs have a decision to make as to whether or not they can hold on to Tyson Barrie, a restricted free agent defenseman who is due a pretty hefty raise. Even if the Avs hold on to Barrie, someone else will likely have to go. Sergachev would be a nice fit and could play sooner rather than later.
4. Jake Bean, 6-0/173, Calgary (WHL)
Flyers fans who follow the progress of current prospects may be familiar with Bean. He’s a teammate of 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim in Calgary and even spent time next to Sanheim as his partner on the Hitmen’s blueline this season. Bean’s offensive numbers really stick out as he led all WHL defensemen with 24 goals last season. As you may imagine, he’s known for his puck-moving skills and mobility, too. The defensive zone itself is what’s known to be Bean’s issue and where he needs to work on his game.
Draft projection: This is interesting because Bean is one of those talents who could legitimately go anywhere between No. 10 and, say, No. 20 depending on teams’ needs and preferences. Ottawa at No. 12, Detroit at No. 16 and Nashville at No. 17 are very realistic. The Flyers pick at No. 18. If Bean’s there and they Flyers feel like he’s the best player on the board, fill in the blank.
5. Dante Fabbro, 6-0/191 pounds, Penicton, (BCHL)
Fabbro doesn’t have the typical background of a presumed first-round draftee. Though he’s committed to Boston University for this coming fall, he has yet to play at the NCAA or major junior levels. He played last season for Penicton of the British Columbia Hockey League, a junior “A” league. He posted 14 goals and 53 assists for Penicton last season and also represented Canada on its under-17 team. A year or two at BU will do him well if for just the fact he can get used to more pro-like competition.
Draft projection: Much like with Bean, Fabbro realistically could go to a number of teams in the first round depending on those teams’ needs and preferences. A team with a number of young defensemen that can afford to wait a few seasons for Fabbro to make a real impact makes sense. Of course, that screams Flyers and if Fabbro's there, it could happen. Minnesota at No. 15, Nashville at No. 17, Carolina at No. 21 and Anaheim at No. 24 all make sense, too.
Rounding out the Top 10:
6. Charles McAvoy, 6-0/199, Boston University (NCAA - Hockey East)
7. Logan Stanley, 6-7/224, Windsor (OHL)
8. Dennis Chowlowski, 6-1/177, Chilliwack (BCHL)
9. Lucas Johansen, 6-1/177, Kelowna (WHL)
10. Kale Clague, 6-0/183, Brandon (WHL)