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For Highly Regarded Flyers Prospect, Time in AHL is Key

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Ronnie Attard, Philadelphia Flyers
Ronnie Attard has size, skill and some toughness.

Philadelphia Flyers prospect Ronnie Attard is on a path to the NHL.

Drafted in 2019 in the third round (72nd overall), Attard gave the Philadelphia Flyers what they needed: a righthanded defenseman with size, skill, and some toughness.

Oh, and he also has a cannon of shot. An AHL All-Star this season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, he finished third in Sunday’s hardest-shot skills competition. Attard registered a 97.2 m.p.h. blast on one of his shots.

I had him ranked as a first-round talent in 2019. But I also knew his 6-foot-3,  208-pound frame was going to need a lot of development, and I’ll talk about some of that here.

Attard, 23, gained a few pounds and found his man strength when he attended Western Michigan University. There was little doubt he would need two or three seasons there, so he could play at pace and hone a very potent point shot.

Improvement needed

Improving his defensive play and playing at an NHL pace are the two areas he is working on. That’s why he needs to stay in Lehigh Valley; it’s for his future development. He had a taste of the NHL, last year, and he can battle for that next season.

Attard gets to play in all situations with the Phantoms, and that’s important. He is fifth in the AHL among rookie defensemen in scoring. There is a future elite defenseman ahead of him in David Jiricek.

From here, Attard he has a chance to be a second-pairing defenseman someday. If he makes the Philadelphia Flyers next year, he’ll probably be on the third pairing. He’s almost 24, but he was always going to take more time than others. Age never fully determines a player’s development cycle. That’s why proper coaching and development in an organization is a must.

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This offseason is big for Attard. There’s a real chance he can make the big club, especially if the Flyers have a blueline shakeup at the trade deadline or in the offseason.

Attard currently has seven goals and 19 points in 43 games. In his next 29 games, he needs to show some more offensive push. If this talented blueliner gets to 30-35 points, that would be a huge success.

Right now, he’s on pace to be a moderate success, which could mean more time in the AHL next season. And that’s fine. The Philadelphia Flyers aren’t in a position where they must rush him.

It’s nice that Attard was named to the AHL All-Star team. That was a great experience for him and right winger Tyson Foerster. Maybe for the stretch run, Attard could play top pairing but is currently on the second pairing. I think he needs to experience the top pairing at the AHL level to make sure he can handle the best matchups the league has to offer. Let’s hope this happens. It’s the next logical step in his development.

Russ Cohen is a prospects expert for sportsology.com and .www.eprinkside.com, and he can be heard on SiriusXM NHL Radio.

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