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Flyers Go for Hard-to-Play-Against Players in NHL Draft



Devin Kaplan, Philadelphia Flyers
The Philadelphia Flyers took feisty right winger Devin Kaplan in the third round of the NHL draft on Friday.

The Philadelphia Flyers’ management team is listening to their former interim coach, Mike Yeo.

Back in March, Yeo criticized the Flyers for their passive play, saying they needed to play with “a little more attitude to be able to close these games out, to be able to win these games.”

The Flyers then went out and drafted hard-to-play-against players with their first four selections.

In the third round Friday, the Flyers took Devin Kaplan, a rugged 6-foot-3, 191-pound right winger who plays with an edge. He was selected No. 69 overall, and was ranked 49th in a consensus of well-known scouting services.

Kaplan has committed to Boston University.

“It’s no secret, the last two or three years have been tough, and the culture hasn’t been where we want it to be,” Danny Briere, a special assistant to Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher, told the NHL Network. “… We want to bring in guys who have that swagger, and we felt (the first few draft picks) bring that.”

FUTURE STAR? Flyers take Cutter Gauthier in 1st Round

Kaplan, a Bridgewater, N.J., native who said his family members have rooted for either the Rangers or Flyers, had 18 points (8-10) in 22 games for the U.S. National Development junior team while playing in the USHL last season.

“He’s strong on pucks down low,” said assistant GM Brent Flahr, who ran the Flyers’ draft. “He’s heavy. He plays physical. He’s a tough kid. At the same time, he started making plays and showing a lot more confidence with the puck.”

Trend starts

The Flyers drafted another physical (and talented) player in Thursday’s opening round, taking power forward Cutter Gauthier with the No. 5 overall pick.

Kaplan has an impressive transition game, but needs to improve his skating, scouts say. He played on a line that included Rutger McGroarty, who was drafted by Winnipeg with the 14th pick in the first round.

In the fifth round (133rd overall), Philly took 6-foot, 194-pound left winger Alex Bump, who was ranked 91st by McKeen’s Hockey.

The Minnesota native is another player who has a physical side to his game and works the corners well, scouts say.

“We need to get that swagger back,” Briere said.

Flahr said Bump was probably the best high school player in Minnesota this year.

“He had a big year in high school, and finished strong when he went back to the USHL,” Flahr said.

Solid stint

Bump was solid in a 27-game stint with the Omaha Lancers in the USHL, collecting 11 goals and 17 points.

He will play another year on the junior level, and then compete at the University of Vermont, the school that former Philadelphia Flyers great John LeClair attended.

The Flyers took 6-3, 207-pound defenseman Hunter McDonald in the sixth round (165th overall). He will play at Northeastern University.

“I like to be physical and stick up for my teammates,” he said.

Notice a trend?

McDonald, 20, is a little bit raw, “but is mean and big” and has a heavy shot, Flahr said. “He’s had a little longer path, but he’s going to a good program at Northeastern.”

Early in the seventh round (197th overall), the Philadelphia Flyers took 6-4, 194-pound Finland forward Santeri Sulku, and they selected 5-10, 174-pound center/right winger Alexis Gendron with their final pick (seventh round, 220th overall).

Sulku has good hands and is a strong skater, per Flahr. “He’s going to have to evolve his game a little more to the North American style as he fills out and gets a little stronger,” he said.

Based on McKeen’s ratings — 74th overall — the speedy Gendron could be a steal. He had 30 goals in 66 games in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season.

Gendron is a “really competitive kid. He’s grown a huge amount,” said Flahr, who called the forward “a no-brainer for us.”

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