(Photo: Wikipedia Commons)
By Siobhan Nolan, Contributing Writer
The Flyers have had considerable success when it comes to drafting defensemen. As the current NHL season prepares to begin, names like Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Shayne Gostisbehere will grace the roster, all having been previous draft picks. Even as recently as the 2019 NHL Draft, the Flyers have tapped into defensive potential, choosing Cam York with the 14th overall pick.
These are all names that Flyers fans are primarily familiar with, but there is a new name that’s been added to that list from the 2020 NHL Draft, and it’s a name fans will definitely want to remember.
Emil Andrae, a native of Vasterik, Sweden, was drafted 54th overall in this October's draft. Being selected at that spot in the second round, the Flyers were surprised to get the rising defenseman.
“We did expect him to go before then just because of his skill set, his hockey sense and the poise he plays the game with," assistant GM Brent Flahr said following the pick. "Obviously we’re very happy. Our draft board was going quickly and he was a guy that we rated highly that was still there. We’re happy to snap him up."
An undersized defenseman of 5'9" and 181 pounds with a left-handed shot, Andrae is known for his skating ability, hockey IQ and competitiveness. Considered one of the best defensemen in Sweden for his age group, Andrae was the top scoring defenseman in Sweden’s top junior league, recording 11 goals and 38 points in 40 games during the 2019-20 season. He was on a near point-per-game pace for HV71 in the Swedish Junior League, which led to him making 10 appearances for HV71’s SHL team, although he failed to register a point at the senior level.
Andrae has also represented Sweden in international competition for the past three seasons, and was tasked with captaining the U18 team last year, where he scored 12 points in 13 games. Andrae made Sweden’s final roster for the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, and has one assist in four games as the tournament reaches the Quarterfinals.
While Andrae’s stats are impressive, his presence on the ice and style of play further the notion that Andrae was quite a steal for the Flyers. Numerous prospect reports noted him as a versatile offensive defenseman, possessing a high amount of offensive creativity. Considered to be quite dangerous when given space, his top-rated hockey sense allows him to see the ice well, along with having an excellent judgement of when and when not to make plays. Blessed with great hands and a penchant for walking the line and making plays, Andrae’s offensive capabilities are not to be ignored.
What separates the Swede from other offensive defensemen in the Flyers system is the fact that he is far more solid in his own zone, although not enough so to classify him as a two-way player. He does, however, bear some similarities to other Flyer blueliners like Provorov and Phil Myers in his comfortability with sniping the puck from the circles in a pinch.
On his defensive side, Andrae is tough in spite of his lack of size. He doesn’t hit actively, but certainly doesn’t shy away from it either, and is noted as consistently having a physical impact on the games he plays in. He is a stalwart defenseman — solid, consistent, and well-rounded. He’s only 18 years old, but has proven himself to be a player with capabilities well beyond his years, especially playing among older competition in the SHL.
Like any player, Andrae is not without his drawbacks, although there aren’t many that stand out. Naturally, as a young player whose experience comes exclusively from a European system, his game will need polishing and maturing before he becomes a regular starter for the Flyers in North America. He also lacks the speed that is, in the modern NHL, expected of smaller, more mobile players, despite his solid skating ability. It is an area of his game that will need further honing before he makes the jump to the NHL.
Overall, Andrae is a positionally-sound, offensively-geared defenseman that closes gaps well, consistently makes plays, has a stellar hockey sense and plays a balanced game. He was a hidden gem that the Flyers were able to snap up, and fans will undoubtedly be thankful for this pick once he starts showing off his skills when he moves to North America and starts his quest for the NHL.