Poor Development of Prospects Has Been the Flyers’ Achillies’ Heel

Flyers' Chuck Fletcher
24 June 2011: Minnesota Wild general manager Chuck Fletcher during the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Development is the process of growth or progress. Someone needs to contact the Philadelphia Flyers organization and just give them a printed version of the definition because they have shown to struggle with this concept in recent years.

The Flyers just aren’t good at developing players. It’s not much of a debate. Take a look at their draft picks over the past decade. Look at even just the first round.

Sean Couturier

Sean Couturier was drafted eight overall and has developed into one of the best Flyers players over the past few years. Has that been because of the Flyers?

No. Couturier was so talented that he was considered the top overall talent in his draft, a surefire player that could immediately contribute to an NHL team, then he got sick and slipped to eighth in the draft. Good for the Flyers. What did they do with him?

They put him on the third line and tasked him with shutting down the opposing team’s best players. He was never given anyone of any quality to score points with. That was for years and the fans were losing their minds because “Coots” wasn’t scoring as he had in the juniors or was expected to when he joined the team.

The problem was solved when he was moved to the first line and Claude Giroux was moved to the wing. Couturier was now scoring and using his playmaking ability to show he belonged on the first line, long before they moved him there. He’s a top talent because of his talent, not because of the Flyers.

Other First Rounders

Continue through the Flyers’ first-round picks throughout the last decade. While all of them have talent, they need to be developed as they grow and have to get used to playing or even ready to play in the NHL, where the players are all faster and stronger and more talented than those in the juniors.

Scott Laughton, Sam Morin, German Rubtsov, Nolan Patrick, Morgan Frost, Jay O’Brien. That’s six players that the Flyers haven’t been able to do a thing with since drafting them. Some, including Morin and Patrick, especially have dealt with injury issues, which is a topic for a whole book regarding the Flyers medical staff, let alone able to be summed up in a paragraph or two here. Laughton is a serviceable player. Rubtsov is where? Frost and O’Brien, while talented, need to be coached correctly and, wait for it, developed. There’s no progress. This is where the team fails its players and its fans.

Do you want to talk about the players from the past ten years that I didn’t mention? OK, let’s go.

Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny, Joel Farabee, Cam York, and Tyson Foerster.

Sanheim has been playing with the Flyers but no one would mistake him for a star or even a top-line defenseman. Provorov and Konecny, like Couturier before them, were simply too talented to not play on the Flyers immediately after being drafted. Have they improved? Maybe, slightly, but again, that’s more on their own talent than it is on the team developing them into top-level players.

Joel Farabee has 70 points over 129 career games throughout the three years he’s appeared in the NHL. He’s talented and getting a chance to contribute. Did the Flyers do this? No. Farabee is a talented player who’s somewhat successful in spite of the Flyers organization, not because of them.

Cam York, while heralded as a great pick by the Flyers in the 2019 draft, where he was selected fourteenth overall, hasn’t really done much to show that his game has improved. Tyson Foerster is just a year removed from being drafted, so I won’t pass judgment on him either.

I’m not knocking any of these players, the problem I have is with the Flyers’ organization not bringing in people that could help develop their young talent. You can’t rely on hitting on players such a Couturier, Provorov, or Konecny while forsaking the other players. Look at the Flyers’ developmental coaches. Recognize any of them? Is there anyone of them that you would think can recognize talent or know what to do with it?

This team has failed its youngest players and while they may have a lot of “hopefully’s” in the pipeline, they’re not doing them any favors and making them into definite NHL players. IF you’re going to try to have a constantly good or great organization, it starts at the top and you’re not getting better if you don’t have coaches that know how to improve prospects.

Brace Hemmelgarn/Icon Sportswire