Time flies when you are atop the Eastern Conference year in and year out. The Philadelphia Flyers were the team to beat for the early portion of the 2010s until eventually sputtering into mediocrity as the decade went on. Fortunately, wise decision-making by front office staff to keep all seven of the Flyers’ draft picks intact heading into the 2012 NHL Entry Draft has afforded the team some household names. Here is the Flyers’ 2012 draft class.
1st Round: Scott Laughton
With the 20th-overall pick in the first round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected center Scott Laughton from Oakville, Ontario. He was a junior league standout playing for the Oshawa Generals out of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). In his four years with the Generals spanning from 2010 to 2014, Laughton racked up 239 points with 87 of them coming in a single season — 2013-14 — after being drafted by the Flyers.
Stats aside, Laughton never shied away from getting his hands dirty from a physical standpoint, throwing his body around and squaring up with the opponent. Heading into the draft, scouts around the league raved about his impressive, full-package skillset translating well into the pros. Eight years later, he has finally found his stride with the Flyers as a solid depth player after a rocky first few years in the NHL.
2nd Round: Anthony Stolarz
With the 45th-overall pick in the second round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected goaltender Anthony Stolarz from Edison, New Jersey. He started his amateur career back in 2011 playing in the North American Hockey League (NAHL) for the Corpus Christi IceRays. The towering 6-foot-6 goalie started in 50 games with a .500 record, but still posted a decent .920 save percentage. His game progressed after joining the London Knights of the OHL a year later. In his two years with the club from 2012 to 2014, Stolarz’s game reached new heights chalking a record of 38-8-4.
From there, the now 26-year-old moved on to join the Flyers organization where he spent four years in their system as the starting goalie for farm team affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms. Despite above-average numbers, a slower pace to Stolarz’s progression became unsettling within Flyers operations. After a couple of call-ups to the Flyers, he was eventually traded to the Edmonton Oilers last season and currently plays for the Anaheim Ducks organization.
3rd Round: Shayne Gostisbehere
With the 78th-overall pick in the third round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere from Pembroke Pines, Florida. Gostisbehere, also knowns as “Ghost,” played three years at the collegiate level at Union College in upstate New York out of the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC). After winning the National Championship in 2014, which was held in Philadelphia, he joined the Phantoms the same year at the tail end of their season. Upon his arrival, Ghost suffered an unfortunate knee injury that sidelined him for most of the Phantoms’ 2014-15 season.
Fully recovered at age 20, Gostisbehere burst onto the scene in a mid-season call-up during the Flyers’ 2015-16 campaign. The young D-Man became an overnight sensation due to his unique skating ability accompanied with an absolute rocket of a shot. After logging just 64 games in his first full season with the Flyers, the lefty led all rookie defensemen in goals (17) and ranks 11th all-time in NHL history in goals scored by a defensemen in their rookie year. Because of such astronomical numbers, Gostisbehere was a finalist for the 2016 Calder Trophy, which is awarded to the most outstanding rookie.
4th Round: Fredric Larsson
With the 111th-overall pick in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft, the Flyers selected defenseman Fredric Larsson from Karlstad, Sweden. His entire career, he has faced an uphill battle in order to make it to the NHL. Plagued by injuries and a rare food allergy disorder that prevented him from adding proper muscle, the 6-foot-4 Swede had his time cut short with the Flyers based on the severity of back-to-back knee injuries in 2012 and 2013. First, he had suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee playing juniors for Brynas out of the Swedish SuperElite League (SSL).
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The very next year, where he was playing for the Tri-City Storm out of the United States Hockey League (USHL), an eerily similar blow to his right knee required season-ending surgery. The Flyers ultimately elected to move on from Larsson, who last played professional hockey in 2017 in his native Sweden.
4th Round: Taylor Leier
With the 117th-overall pick in the fourth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected left winger Taylor Leier from Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. He spent his junior career playing for the Portland Winter Hawks out of the Western Hockey League (WHL) from 2011 to 2014. The speedy winger put up monster numbers in all three years, accumulating 178 points in that span. Leier continued his consistent play for the next three years — 2014-2017 — as a member of the Flyers’ affiliate Lehigh Valley Phantoms, posting double-digit goal marks each season.
His productivity did not go unnoticed, as the then-21-year-old cracked the Flyers’ roster in 2015. From there, more and more ice time came for Leier in the NHL as a player the Flyers could roll up and down their lineup. Even though the numbers don’t jump out at you, his quickness and agility is what earned him a roster spot. In 2019, the Flyers decided to move on from him by trading him to the Buffalo Sabres where he was signed to a two-way contract and plays for their AHL affiliate Rochester Americans.
5th Round: Reece Willcox
With the 141st-overall in the fifth round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected Reece Willcox from Surrey, British Columbia. He has flown under the Flyers’ radar, spending his entire professional career with the Phantoms since being drafted. The 6-foot-4 prospect played two years of junior hockey for the Merritt Centennials out of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL) from 2010 to 2012 before enrolling at Cornell University out of the ECAC.
After playing all four years at Cornell, Willcox signed his three-year, entry-level contract with the Flyers in March of 2016. Size and advanced knowledge of the game have earned the 26-year-old a spot in the club’s system.
7th Round: Valeri Vasiliev
With the 201st-overall pick in the seventh round of the 2012 NHL Draft, the Flyers selected defenseman Valeri Vasiliev from Moscow, Russia. The final draft pick for the Flyers in the 2012 Draft comes as a disappointing one, as the team passed on signing him to an entry-level contract after his time playing for Moscow Sparek in the Kontinental Hockey League (KHL).
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When he first started playing professionally back in 2012, Vasiliev was considered a “diamond in the rough” player for the Flyers standing at a solid 6-foot-2, 225 pounds, but never came over and played in North America. A simple lack of development led to the demise of the Russian defenseman with little tangibles to show for it. He is actively playing for Amur Khabarovsk in the KHL.
In reality, not every draft pick is going to live up to their team’s standards. Some flourish and some just don’t pan out the way the organization nor fan base wants them to. Today, only half of the Flyers’ 2012 draft class remains a part of the organization. That doesn’t take away from the impact current or former Flyers have made during their tenure in Philadelphia.
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For the most part, the Flyers’ objective to relevancy as of late has been to stockpile draft picks, rather than disposing them for a one-time cup run. Development also serves as a vital lifeline for players to thrive with the team who believed in them since day one. With plenty left in the tank, the Flyers’ remaining class of 2012 has not disappointed the Philly faithful.
Hello there! My name is Nicholas LaPalombara and I am a contributor to The Hockey Writers team writing for the Philadelphia Flyers! Born and raised in the suburbs of Philadelphia, I have been a lifelong player, coach, and fan of the beautiful sport of hockey. Ever since I was five years old, hockey has been my one and only true love. I am humbled and honored to have the opportunity to cover the Philadelphia Flyers, my hometown team, for this passionate hockey blog.