Philadelphia Draft Picks:
#2 – Nolan Patrick
#27 – Morgan Frost
#35 – Isaac Ratcliffe
#80 – Kirill Ustimenko
#106 – Matthew Strome
#107 – Maksim Sushko
#137 – Noah Cates
#168 – Olle Lycksell
#196 – Wyatt Kalynuk
Philadelphia lucked out at the draft lottery, moving from 13 to the second overall pick, and on draft day simply had to sit back and take the consolation prize between Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, the two players widely considered to be the best in the draft.
Patrick was the bounty, and he will be expected to compete for a top-three center position in training camp as long as he’s fully recovered from recent surgery to repair a sports hernia. A talented playmaker and shooter with size and puck skills, Patrick gives the club a long-range replacement for Claude Giroux at first-line center.
The Flyers weren’t finished revamping their future down the middle as GM Ron Hextall shipped center/winger Brayden Schenn to St. Louis for the 27th overall pick so they could add Sault. Ste. Marie center Morgan Frost. A potential one-two punch at center of Patrick and Frost with Couturier/Rubtsov/Vorobyev battling it out for the other two positions gives Philadelphia one of the most promising center groups in the league. Perhaps Frost even ends up on the wing if the Flyers decide one of the other centers is a better two-way fit as a top-three center. Regardless…the club will have plenty of options.
The Flyers moved up to take Isaac Ratcliffe 35th overall by dealing the 44th, 75th and 108th picks to Arizona, a move alleviated by the fact that at the time Philadelphia had eight picks in the top 108, and after the deal still ended up with six picks in the top 106. The Flyers obviously considered Ratcliffe to be a first-round talent (as did Recrutes), and it was a smart move to use extra assets to pick up a third high-end prospect.
Ratcliffe gives the club a winger with size to complement the likes of Travis Konecny and Jordan Weal in the future. A club that added a superb playmaker in Patrick may just have found him his sniping linemate in the 6-6 Guelph winger with soft hands and a dangerous shot.
Kirill Ustimenko started the U-18’s as the backup to Maxim Zhukov and ended up playing two games, impressing scouts, and ultimately being drafted ahead of him. His performance at the U-18’s shouldn’t have been overly surprising given his great numbers in the MHL – a 1.74 GAA and .938 save percentage. He gives the Flyers four goalies drafted in the top 90 in the past three drafts, so for some it came as a surprise that they picked another goalie so high. Fact is though…that at this point the Flyers are four deep or more at every position in terms of prospect depth as they have had 28 picks in the last three draft alone, including 18 in the top three rounds.
Once considered a top-15 candidate for the draft, nobody dropped further than Matthew Strome this season as his skating remained a serious issue. After scoring 29 goals in his first 47 games, Strome had six goals in his last 26 contests, including one goal in seven playoff games. By the U-18’s his skating looked worse than it did in the summer, and only heightened scouts’ concerns about just how much it will improve in the future.
Yet…there were similar concerns with Oskar Lindblom when he dropped to 138th overall in 2014, and now he looks like a solid prospect as he improved his skating and just won the MVP award in the SHL. If Strome can ever get those feet moving quicker, the size, puck shills, shot, sense and pedigree are there.
Maksim Sushko was the forgotten draft-eligible prospect on Owen Sound given the accolades heaped on Nick Suzuki, Johan Gadjovich and even Markus Phillips this past season, but the Flyers saw something they liked in the Belrussian winger…so much so that he ended up being selected ahead of Phillips. Sushko picked up his game later in the season as he acclimatized himself to the North American game, collecting nine points in his final 11 games and playing well in Owen Sound’s playoff run.
Noah Cates‘ draft stock was on the rise in the weeks leading up to the draft as word got around the scouting community that several teams were interested in picking the American high schooler somewhere in the later rounds. The 6-1 winger is slated to play for NCAA runners-up Minnesota-Duluth in 2018-19 after a playing one full season for Omaha in the USHL.
Draft Grade – A : Philadelphia ended up with three prospects ranked in Recrutes’ top 30, joining Las Vegas in an exclusive club from this draft class. Any time you can select more than two players that end up playing in the NHL you’ve had a successful draft, so it was a wise move for the Flyers to target three prospects in the top 35 given their abundance of assets going into the event.
With their final six picks the Flyers selected three players ranked in Recrutes’ top 150 in Strome, Cates and Sushko, giving them six players in Recrutes’ rankings; one of the higher totals in the draft. In adding quality and quantity for the third straight season, the Flyers once again earned an A grade, and the future looks bright for the club.