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Meltzer's views on our 2012 draftees


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http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=50190#.UU2wK1txt15

The 2012 NHL Draft is generally not considered to have been one of the deeper classes in recent history. Of course, it is impossible to accurately gauge the overall quality of a Draft year until about five years have passed. There are always players who surprise, either positively or negatively.

In the case of the Philadelphia Flyers, the earliest indicators on their 2012 Draft selections are generally positive. There is a chance that there could be multiple players from their selections who go on to appear at the NHL at some point. First-round pick Scott Laughton already has seen time in the NHL, having opened the regular season with the big club.

Here's a look at the progress of the Flyers' seven picks since the time of the 2012 Draft:

Scott Laughton (Oshawa Generals (OHL), C, 1/20): Rather than sulking after returning the OHL's Oshawa Generals following his five-game stint with the Flyers, Laughton has been one of the best two-way players in the Ontario League. Although he still does not project as an offensive player in the NHL, Laughton has set junior career highs in goals (23), assists (33) and points (56) despite playing 15 fewer regular season games with the Generals than he did last year. He has added some muscle, although he could still use more lower body strength. He plays a physical, gritty game and is one of the better defensive centers in the league.

Anthony Stolarz (London Knights (OHL), G, 2/20): The decision for Stolarz to leave the University of Nebraska- Omaha program for the OHL's London Knights part of the way through his freshman collegiate season was based largely on the opportunity for more playing time against a generally higher grade of opposition. Playing behind a powerhouse Knights team that boasts the best record in the OHL, Stolarz posted a 13-3-2 record, 2.29 GAA, .920 save percentage and one shutout in 20 regular season games. The 6-foot-5 netminder is still a raw athletic talent with a steep learning curve ahead to make it to the NHL. However, he's progressed at an encouraging rate over the last year. He looked nervous and shaky in his debut game for UN-O and struggled in three of his four starts. Since then, he's improved at a steady rate, especially since joining London.

Shayne Gostisbehere (Union College (ECAC), D, 3/78): A member of the gold medal winning Team USA squad at the 2012-13 World Junior Championships, Gostisbehere showed off his explosive shot and impressive puck-moving ability in the tournament. He was a second-team All-ECAC honoree this season, posting seven goals and 25 points in 33 games. The undersized blueliner, who played forward in his early years of youth hockey, has improved in his own of the ice. He still needs to add more muscle to his sub 5-foot-11 frame. Gostisbehere clearly has pro hockey potential. He could play in the AHL right now. The question is whether he can develop into an NHL defenseman and, if so, if it will be as a second- or third-pair caliber offensive defenseman.

Fredric Larsson (Brynäs IF J20 (J20 SuperElit), D, 4/111): Larsson's stock in trade is hitting and shot-blocking. The defenseman's aggressive hits and occasional fights get him in trouble with the referees in a league where even clean physical play is often penalized and in which a fight carries 25 penalty minutes and an ejection. Larsson's 134 penalty minutes in 41 games for the Brynäs J20 team made him the most penalized player in the SuperElit league this year. He had four goals and 10 points. Three of the four goals were scored on the power play, where he was sometimes used as a net-front forward. Larsson is still a very raw talent, and may not be Elitserien-ready next year. An intermediate step may be for him to be loaned to a team in Allsvenskan (the top senior minor league in Sweden) and then try to work his way up to BIF's big team. Another alternative may be for him to come to North America and try his hand at college or lower minor league hockey for a couple years. The Flyers have a four-year window to make a decision on whether to sign Larsson, so there is no hurry.

Taylor Leier (Portland Winterhawks (WHL), LW, 4/117): Leier is not one of the big stars on the talent-laden Winterhawks, but his combination of speed, grit and two-way ability have made him a valuable part of the supporting cast. He is sixth on the team with 62 points (27 goals, 35 assists) in 64 games. More important, he has shown himself to be a player who is equally comfortable in a defensive role as offensive situations. His plus-41 rating ranked among the regular season leaders, and he tallied a pair of shorthanded goals in addition to three power play tallies. Leier had an assist in Portland's 4-3 Game One playoff loss to Everett last night. Although Leier is a small player, he "plays big" with a bit of an agitator streak in him.

Reece Willcox (Cornell University (ECAC), D, 5/141): Although his freshman point totals (five assists in 34 games) do not stand out, Willcox has some promising tools. He did not look out of place in collegiate hockey as an 18-year-old freshman, showing both poise and mobility. He is not a particularly physical player despite his above-average size. Generally he plays a conservative game, but does have the ability to pinch intelligently and make good first passes out of the defensive zone.

Valeri Vasiliev (Spartak Moscow (KHL), D, 7/201): A no-risk, high-yield pick late in last year's draft, Vasiliev had been projected to go much earlier in the Draft. A shoulder injury and the usual question marks over whether the Russian player would be willing to work his way up in North America pushed him to the seventh round. Vasiliev is a mobile and aggressive-hitting defensive defenseman somewhat in the mold of Montreal Canadiens' defenseman Alexei Emelin. After battling injuries early this season and flirting with the idea of leaving Russia to play in the USHL, Vasiliev earned a promotion from Spartak's junior team to the senior club in the KHL. He dressed in 11 KHL games, recording one assist and four penalty minutes.

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