Photo Credit: Amy Irvin (38Photography)
As the Flyers move into off-season mode, one item on their checklist is to assess the prospects that already exist while helping prepare their draft board. The final prospect on the current list is defender Robert Hagg who just completed his first full season in the AHL with the Phantoms after splitting the the 13-14 campaign with the Phantoms and his Swedish league team, MODO Hockey.
It is important to note that Hagg was the youngest blueliner on the Phantoms, youngest full time player on the Phantoms and one of the youngest players in the AHL this season due to the transfer rules between the CHL-NHL making it nearly impossible for players under the age of 20 to play in the AHL. This actually bodes well for the Hagg’s development as he was able to play both the North American game but also do so as a very young player which means he could get his learning curve out of the way quickly.
Hagg’s development curve is skewed by this fact, making traditional NHL-Equivalency ratings tough to project. However, there is an implied NHL-AHL curve, which comes in at .65 to .7 points per game. For the sake of simplicity, 2/3 will suffice for Hagg. This projection puts Hagg at .186 points per game or 15 points per 82 games played, which is not too bad for a more defensively minded defender. The 15 points would tie Nick Schultz for this season on output.
Due to his AHL and Swedish League experience, Hagg is easily the most ready of the Flyers defensive prospects not named Shayne Gostisbehere. Travis Sanheim has been amazing in the WHL and Sam Morin not bad in the QMJHL, but Hagg’s AHL experience counts for more than that. That said, of those four, Hagg’s ceiling is likely the lowest. Sanheim, Gostisbehere and Morin all have potential to be top pair defenders with Sanheim likely able to achieve superstar status. Hagg is likely a third pair defender who might be able to step into a second pair role for short stretches.
This basically means that, given the Flyers cap situation for next season, they should do everything they can to trade Nick Grossmann for a mid round pick. Given the Flyers do not pick in the third round of this year’s draft as they traded that pick to Columbus for Steve Mason, the Flyers should see if they can get back into the third round for Nick Grossmann. A team who plans on being bad next season and needs to hit the cap floor could find some use for Grossmann at the draft. Arizona and Carolina are two such teams.
Assuming the Flyers and Michael Del Zotto cannot come to any agreement, and the Flyers trade MDZ for picks in 2016 (or just accept offersheet compensation), they might have a place for Hagg on the NHL team next season. Let’s assume for a minute the Flyers make the following moves at the NHL draft:
Move 1: The Flyers cannot come to terms with RFA Michael Del Zotto who wants a contract around 3.3M for 2 years. The Flyers trade Michael Del Zotto to the Edmonton Oilers for a 2016 2nd round draft choice, which is basically the same compensation as an offersheet.
Move 2: In an effort to tank out next season as well while continuing to rebuild, the Arizona Coyotes take the final year of Nicklas Grossmann for a 7th round pick in the 2017 draft. (Author’s Note: I know this contradicts the above, but this is a realistic scenario as opposed to a dream scenario)
Sorry, but unless the Oilers let Scott Howson make a trade, Andrew MacDonald is not going anywhere.
This would leave the Flyers the following defenders for next season:
Mark Streit-Luke Schenn
Nick Schultz-Radko Gudas
Andrew MacDonald-Brandon Manning
Now let’s go one step further. The Flyers package the Schenn Brothers for Loui Eriksson and 2 future 2nd round picks from Boston. Bruins’s President Cam Neely cited wanting to get more into Bruin hockey when discussing the firing of GM Peter Chiarelli last week. The Schenns are certainly known as physical players and both will drop the gloves as well. If this is what Neely wants, let him have it.
Via Own the Puck
Loui Eriksson is a solid wing option for either of the top 2 lines in the short term. In fact, his shot suppression and defensive ability would make an Eriksson-Couturier-Read line quite deadly as a full on two way threat.
With the Schenns gone, the Flyers defense could look like this:
This would allow the Flyers to get two kids in the lineup, Sanheim could also slide, so if he struggles in games 1-9, send him back to the WHL and call up Shayne Gostisbehere who missed most of this season with a knee injury. Ghost could use Sanheim’s 9 AHL games as a chance to get his legs back in the AHL before flipping them.
Assuming the Flyers get a decent coach who understands the weaknesses of MacDonald and shelters him properly, the Flyers could try to make MacDonald look decent enough that a team trades for him in the summer of 2016.
This blueline isn’t elite, it’s probably not even good enough to get to round 2 of the playoffs without Mason being elite in net and the forwards being perfect, but it does represent a huge step in the right direction from what we saw this season.
Robert Hagg may not be the answer, nor is he a top flight talent, but given the Flyers cap situation, a cheap ELC who can play competent minutes is a huge plus while the Flyers blueline future of Morin-Sanheim-Gostisbehere-Friedman take shape.