After Saturday’s stunning trade of Ryan Ellis to the Philadelphia Flyers, many Predators fans were asking the question listed in the headline above. As a Flyers fan myself, I was not one of them. Today, I’m here to answer some questions, add some concerns, and overall enlighten the Nashville faithful as to why Philippe Myers is a valuable, exciting addition, as well as a massive risk. Let’s talk about what I mean by that.
When hockey people talk about Phil Myers, they speak in hushed, awe-struck tones in reference to his athletic ability. Myers stands a towering 6’5” at 210 lbs, has adequate or better NHL-level skill with the puck on his stick, and can skate like the wind. That’s a rare combination of traits in any player, let alone a young, right handed defender. At 24 years old and due to turn 25 in January, Myers might seem like a player who ought to be rounding into the player his talent hints at him becoming. That doesn’t paint the entire picture, however.
Myers’ freakish athleticism wasn’t enough to get him drafted into the NHL. The only reason he became a “prospect” at all was because Ron Hextall’s front office cohort invited him to a development camp and liked what they saw in the quiet UDFA, signing him to an entry level contract. In his time preceding the signing with Philly, Myers had scored just 12 points in 106 regular season QMJHL games, along with six points in 15 playoff appearances. While the talent was bubbling under the surface, the execution required a longer adjustment period to catch up. Following his signing with the Flyers, Myers totaled 80 points in 97 regular season games and 25 points in 33 postseason games. The jump was made.
Why are you telling us this?
To add context to what I’m about to say. Phil Myers is an exceptionally talented hockey player whose God-given gifts form the framework of the next stud blue liner in Nashville. He’s also coming off of a horrendous season where he didn’t look like an NHL player for long stretches of time. The Predators made this trade with the speculators opinion that they have the internal development staff and suitable timing in Myers’ career to assist him in making the leap he failed to take after a promising rookie year. Whether or not that will happen remains to be seen, but it’s fair to say that Myers has always been a late bloomer with an irregular development cycle. His stunning one-year leap in the QMJHL is proof enough of that.
What are your concerns?
Myers had a strong rookie season with Philadelphia in 2019-20, even if he didn’t score all that well. The problems arose when he was placed in situations that required him to play against tougher competition with defensive partners who weren’t great stylistic fits for his aggressive mentality off the puck. While Myers has the tools to be a Victor Hedman, his drawbacks lie in the one area of the game that is arguably the hardest to coach: hockey IQ. While Myers is by no means a stupid player (he’s in the NHL, after all), he frequently misread plays, chased for hits, or took questionable gaps this past season, and it cost him. He was particularly exposed on sustained defensive zone shifts, where opponents picked him apart in the low slot for multiple tallies. He’s a big fella, but he doesn’t use his size effectively yet outside of having an extended reach on back checking efforts.
Another glaring flaw that Myers has had in his time in the NHL is an inability to hit the net when he’s pulling the trigger. All too often the Flyers would see an entry or cycled possession erased by an errant shot from their young defender. Myers is a tenacious and active player when he’s on the ice (which I’ll talk about in a second), but at times it felt like he was attempting to force plays too much rather than letting the game come to him. He’ll need to learn to contain his desire to attack.
What are the positives outside of his athleticism?
So far, Phil Myers at his best has been a physical, tone-setting player who can be the first man to step up on the rush while still managing to be the first man on the back check. His skating ability for a player of his size is legitimately rare, but his willingness to use that ability to take risks is what makes him a potentially special player. Myers will be working with one of the best development staffs in the NHL when it comes to historic success with defenders, and while he doesn’t appear to be a very cerebral player on the ice at the moment, he has a reputation as a hard worker who’s a student of the game outside of the rink. If he can absorb lessons from Mattias Ekholm and Roman Josi as well as the trainers, coaches, and development team, he has the mental makeup to become a player who can skate for 30 minutes and dominate.
What are the different outcomes for Myers as a player?
I’d say that Myers is very much a low floor, high ceiling prospect in terms of his NHL impact. At worst, I see him projecting as a third pair RHD who can skate and provide some physicality, mostly relying on his size and speed to get the job done; think Rasmus Ristolainen of the Buffalo Sabres, but a bit less boneheaded and playing in sheltered minutes. His most likely outcome is becoming a solid fourth defenseman in the mold of Brayden Coburn; a player with supreme physical gifts that should make him a bonafide star who ultimately is just solid.
However, in terms of ceiling, Myers reminds me of the likes of Seth Jones or Colton Parayko in that he’s capable of becoming a No. 1 defender (or a borderline one) that can munch big minutes and use his dominant presence to dictate play in both ends. Think along the lines of a much, much worse Chris Pronger (a legendary talent who absolutely nobody should be compared to), and you’re on the right track. Will Myers ever be that guy? Doubtful, and if I had to put a number on it I’d say he has a 5% chance to develop into that player. Nashville is betting that they’ll be able to land somewhere closer to this outcome than the third pair defender he might become.
Should I be excited for Myers?
Yes. While he might be frustrating to begin the year, he’s a project worth investing in thanks to that aforementioned astronomical potential. Keep in mind that he doesn’t need to be an immediate impact player and follow along as he grows. This team is entering a rebuild, and that’s the perfect time for this kind of development to take place.