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Kaplan Brings Power Forward Style to Prospect Pool

Selected by the Flyers in the third round (69th overall) of the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, right winger Devin Kaplan plays a straightforward, physical brand of hockey. The 6-foot-3, 204 pound native of Bridgewater, New Jersey, is a product of the vaunted US National Team Development Program (USNTDP), and is committed to Boston University in 2022-23.

While with the USNTDP, Kaplan almost exclusively played a checking role; excelling at creating turnovers on the forecheck, winning puck battles and creating operating room for linemates. He also managed to post 13 goals and 38 points in a combined 53 games in 2021-22 including eight goals and 18 points in 22 games against USHL competition. At the Under-18 World Championships, Kaplan chipped in six points (1g, 5a) in six games and did not take a penalty the entire tournament.

Kaplan is hard to take off the puck once he has it on his stick. He is an above-average north-south skater with a powerful stride, according to Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr. Where his skating of him needs some work is in terms of making cuts and turns.

“That’s something I know I need to work on. Definitely my ankle flexion and the stutter steps, all those things. We’ve also been working on stuff like that at the program with Mathew Larke. He’s unbelievable with that stuff too. It’s not It’s definitely stuff I need to keep working on every day, so that it can continue to develop and translate to the next level,” Kaplan said on the second day of the Flyers 2022 Development Camp.

“On my cutbacks, I tend to lean back towards my heels. I think with my ankle flexion, that’s something I need to work. When I get my knees over my toes a little bit more, my turns can stay leaning forward, then I “I’ll be able to keep my speed. That’s something one of the coaches told me they were going to film me in with throughout the week. We’ll go from there.”

Although Kaplan did not see much ice time in the top six of the USNTDP team’s forward rotation, he is not devoid of skill. Rather, he played on a team with a very deep roster and was assigned to a specialized role in which he excelled.

“He has great touch and puck skills,” said NTDP coach Nick Fohr to NHL Network. “He’s hard to defend and shines in tight.”

Nonetheless, one of the things that most impressed scouts about Kaplan is the player’s sense of self-identity as a player. He seems to understand that the power game is his bread and butter. He is also good at getting to the “greasy” areas if he sees a scoring chance developing. He was ranked No. 4 in the “most competitive player” category among the NHL scouts polled for the 2022 Recrutes Draft Guide (Cutter Gauthier was ranked 5th).

“I feel like being a power forward, somebody who makes defensemen scared to go back, get pucks, disrupts their breakout, gets pucks back for the team, and extends on their own possessions. I feel those are all things that tend to be my identity. We’re working on a lot of that stuff here, like picking up pucks off the wall. It’s all a big help,” Kaplan said.

When it comes to player development, one of the big challenges that NHL organizations face is often to help players discover what will and will not work for him in the pro game — which doesn’t always match up to the player’s self-assessment or his calling cards at the game’s lower levels. According to Flyers senior advisor on player development, Mike O’Connell, it significantly helps the development process when a player comes in with a good grasp of what he’ll need to do to succeed in the NHL.

“If a player has a really healthy understanding of what he needs, where he is, where he’s at, that’s huge. It does make our job a little easier. If [Devin] is really dug in like that and then we can really get into the process of what players, he really does look like and it’s a lot easier,” O’Connell said on the first day of Development Camp.

“There’s a real give and take. In the development today opposed to when I first started, there has to be such a give and take with the players now. They have so many advisors now. They have advisors. They have coaches. They have skill coaches outside of the Flyers organization. They have agents with coaches. They have parents. They’re going to other colleges, so there has to be a real give and take. A real understanding of what is being told to these young me, so we don’t confuse them any more. With this case, we are aware of it and will do everything we can to help him to realize even if he’s wrong, we’ll try to point him in the right direction.”

Some scouts have compared Kaplan’s main competencies and eventual NHL upside to former Flyers forward Tyler Pitlick. Kaplan himself said that he models his game after longtime NHL right wing Josh Anderson.

“I like to say Josh Anderson just because his high-tempo pace. You always know he’s on the ice. He makes his presence known when he’s on the ice. Whenever he is on the ice, he tends to find a body and hit somebody I feel like if you do that over and over, you can make a big impact on the game. That’s someone I try to emulate,” Kaplan said.:

“For me, I think it’s to keep developing my power forward game, picking up pucks off of walls, cutting guy’s hands off, the little subtle things that will help me develop and dominate at the next level. I’m looking forward to that .”

At present, there is not an abundance of wingers in the Flyers prospect pool who play a style similar to Kaplan’s. One who does is 20-year-old Zayde Wisdom, who is slated to re-join the Lehigh Valley Phantoms in 2022-23. Kaplan and Wisdom hit it off quickly at Development Camp.

“It was awesome. I talked to him a lot about his first taste of pro and it was really nice to hear from him, and all the other guys too. Their experiences and just take that all in. It was really good,” Kaplan said.

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