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NHL Draft: Flyers' rebuild begins

The SportsXchange

VOORHEES, N.J. -- Ilya Bryzgalov is gone. So is Danny Briere. The Philadelphia Flyers began an important offseason with two big moves that saved them plenty of salary-cap space.

Now it's time to add some young talent.

The Flyers enter Sunday's NHL draft looking to fill some obvious holes. Their most pressing need is a defenseman.

If either Darnell Nurse or Rasmus Ristolainen are available when Philadelphia picks at No. 11, one of them could be wearing black and orange. Nurse has familiar ties. He's the nephew of former Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb.

"He's a hard-nosed kid," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said of the 6-foot-5, 192-pound Nurse. "When you watch him play, he's a lot of elbows and knees, but he's a rugged, hard-nosed player that can fight and he's pretty good with the puck, and he'll continue to get better."

Ristolainen has the size advantage and fits what the Flyers are looking for, a guy with offensive skills and nastiness.

"Physically, he looks like a man right now compared to some of the kids you see," Holmgren said. "He played in the men's league in Finland. I would say of all the defensemen except Seth Jones, he's probably the most ready to jump right in. Offensively, he looks like a good prospect. He's solid defensively with a big shot."

Nikita Zadorov and Sam Morin are two other blueliners who could land in Philadelphia. Goalie Zach Fucale is also a possibility, though he wouldn't replace Bryzgalov immediately.

Having Steve Mason under contract, though, could allow the Flyers to take Fucale to be their goalie of the future.

"I'm a big Steve Mason fan," Holmgren said. "I think moving forward he's a very good young goalie in our league that has, for his age, a lot of experience. I know there's a short window that we got to watch him here, but he played very well. Even the game he lost, he played well. Ideally, I'd like to get a guy that will work in tandem with him, but put the bulk onto Steve, but we'll see how it goes."

Of course, the Flyers could trade out of their spot at 11, which is where they picked Jeff Carter in 2003.

"It's going to be crazy," Holmgren said. "So, we'll see what happens. We know we have needs and we're in the middle of trying to work out how we can fill those needs."

The Flyers exercised their compliance buyouts on Bryzgalov and Briere, and already acquired veteran defenseman Mark Streit from the New York Islanders. They're almost always one of the most active teams at the draft -- they got Chris Pronger in 2009, acquired the rights for Dan Hamhuis and Evgeni Nabokov in 2010 -- and are coming off a season in which they missed the playoffs for the just the second time in 18 years.

Things certainly will be interesting this weekend for a franchise that wants to win now and hasn't hoisted a Stanley Cup since 1975.
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