Flyers have high hopes for Swede Hagg

Posted: March 23, 2014

AFTER MAKING a few trips to Sweden to watch him, work with him and track his development, the Flyers couldn't wait to get their hands on second-round pick Robert Hagg.

Just a few days after Hagg's season ended with MODO in the Swedish Hockey League, the Flyers announced yesterday that they had come to agreement on a 3-year, entry-level deal to bring the 19-year-old defenseman to North America.

Hagg was selected 41st overall in 2013, behind first-round pick Samuel Morin. Hagg will arrive in the United States on Monday and report to the AHL's Adirondack Phantoms for the final 15 games of their season. His professional contract will begin next fall.

"He's progressed to the point where some options opened up for us," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said. "To have him in North America, I think it's a good thing for both Robert and the Flyers down the road."

Holmgren conceded that it's "a little bit of a stretch" to think Hagg could jump into the NHL next season - say, if Kimmo Timonen were to retire or play elsewhere - but he "didn't want to rule anything out."

Unlike Morin, in junior hockey, or even fellow defenseman and second-round pick Shayne Gostisbehere at Union College Hagg has been playing a man's game. He averaged 13 minutes per night over 50 games this season with MODO, while collecting one goal and five assists for six points and 49 penalty minutes. He had 77 hits and finished the season with an even rating.

Only three other junior-aged players skated in more games in the Swedish Elite League this season than Hagg. For that, Holmgren said Hagg (6-2, 203 pounds) is probably more physically developed than Morin or Gostisbehere.

Former Flyer Peter Forsberg, MODO's assistant general manager, did not respond to a request for comment on Hagg yesterday.

"He's a steady, two-way guy," Holmgren said. "His ability to move the puck is exceptional. And his ability to play defense and defend is exceptional. This number of games he can get in with the Phantoms will be crucial for his development. His reaction time is going to need to improve with the smaller ice. We're excited to have him."

Free-agent watch

After striking gold with college free agent Matt Read out of Bemidji State in 2011, the Flyers are again on the hunt for NCAA players who will be wrapping up their seasons in the coming weeks. One player Holmgren admitted the Flyers have their eye on is UMass-Lowell defenseman Christian Folin.

Lowell is, at the very least, more than a week away from the end of its season - but the Flyers and Bruins are among the teams in the hunt for Folin's services, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. Holmgren personally saw Folin play this season. He's a player many believe can jump right to the NHL, like Western Michigan's Dan DeKeyser did last spring, sliding into the Stanley Cup playoffs with the Red Wings. The Flyers were among the finalists for DeKeyser's services. They'd love to snag Folin, a 23-year-old from Sweden, this spring.

"He's a good, young defenseman," Holmgren said. "He's a good-looking player. He's big. He looks good. He moves the puck well. Could he jump right in? Probably on the right team, yeah. We have a few guys on our list that we'll check in when the time comes."

Slap shots

When asked to compare his personality to former Flyers and current St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock, Craig Berube quipped: "Mine's better." Berube, 48, played for Hitchcock in junior hockey in 1985-86, had him as an assistant coach in 1990-91 with the Flyers, and was the Phantoms' head coach while Hitchcock coached the Flyers (2006-07) . . . Today marks the Flyers' first matchup with St. Louis in more than 2 years (Oct. 22, 2011). They will now face the NHL-best Blues twice in 2 weeks . . . Ryan Miller, who is 7-1-1 with a 1.92 goals-against average since being acquired from Buffalo on Feb. 28, will start for the Blues . . . The Blues' top line of T.J. Oshie, Alexander Steen and David Backes is also expected to be reunited against the Flyers.

On Twitter: @DNFlyers


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