Here is a look at Philadelphia’s organizational needs and possible draft targets:
The Flyers may push the NHL to expand the number of pro contracts for each team from 50 to 60 given that at the end of the draft the club will have selected 30 players in the last three drafts, more than any other team.
By the midway point of the fourth round Philadelphia will have made seven picks, including three in a row, and the hope will be that at least four or five of them can help the team down the road. Odds are good that they will be getting seven players in the top 70 of their rankings, so if the scouts are as shrewd as they’ve shown in the past the club will be well set for the future, as the Flyers drafted well the past two years.
No team benefited as much from the lottery as it moved from 13th to second, and the club is expected to select either Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick as the eventual replacement for Claude Giroux at number-one center. Most draft pundits presume New Jersey will take one of the two centers as well, but the possibility exists that it selects Miro Heiskanen, and if that’s the case the choice for Philly at second overall may be Hischier, but it’s basically a tossup. Hischier’s speed and all-around game will appeal to the Flyers, but so will Patrick’s size and the fact that GM Ron Hextall also came from the same junior organization in Brandon and will have a good handle on the long-lauded Wheat Kings’ center.
Hischier looks a bit safer and more well-rounded as he has better speed and competitiveness. Patrick has been the presumptive top selection for 2-3 years, and in the previous season had a wide margin in the race for first overall after a sensational 102-point regular season and 30-point playoff performance. This season Hischier was clearly the better prospect as Patrick was slow to recover from a sport hernia injury, so it will be interesting to see which one wins out.
There is a remote possibility that the Flyers take the top defenceman available in Heiskanen and adds to an already impressive young group of defencemen. A future top pairing of Heiskanen and Ivan Provorov would be one of the best in the league, and the Flyers and others are quite high on the Finnish blueliner. Other defence prospects could always be dealt to fill other holes, and defencemen keep their value as a rule, so the Flyers picking Heiskanen is not completely off the radar even if it will shock a lot of pundits if it happens.
At 44th overall, all things being equal, the Flyers may well look at adding a winger as there should be some good ones available, with likely candidates being Maxime Comtois, Grant Mismash or Alex Formenton. The Flyers have good scouting representation in Quebec and are not averse to picking prospects from the QMJHL. If Comtois falls to 44 they will look seriously at a prospect who was well scouted by the Flyers as they kept an eye on his teammate Pascal Laberge in Victoriaville.
Formenton will bring a great speed infusion to whichever team selects him…if it is Philly they will take their time grooming the young prospect who doesn’t turn 18 until September as the club is going to have a gaggle of young prospects in the system, including 19 from the previous two drafts that will have a jump on him maturity-wise. Mismash is a hard worker with a decent modicum of skill that, like Formenton and Comtois, has solid third-line winger written all over him. Like Comtois he is responsible at both ends of the ice, and a decent bet to play in the NHL some day.
In the third round the Flyers will simply go for the BPA…and yes…may even add another defenceman or two considering that in the past two drafts they added just one blueliner in the top four rounds despite having 12 picks. It is often the team with a boatload of picks that is more inclined to take a gamble or two on darkhorse prospects, so don’t be surprised if the Flyers target a player like Alex Texier, Ostap Safin or defenceman Gustav Lidstrom.
Texier is the France phenom who did not get seen by a whole lot of North American scouts so is a definite draft wildcard who may have second-line center upside….Safin is a big talented winger who underperformed this season but may be worth a gamble in the third round as the talent is there…Lidstrom is a late birthday who as a result missed all of the U-18 events but the skilled blueliner impressed in a couple of U-19 events.
Other possibilities in the third round may include defencemen Cam Crotty and Jack Rathbone. Crotty toiled in the CCHL and underperformed offensively on a club that didn’t score a lot of goals. He’s a big defenceman with excellent mobility who is raw..he’ll get four years to develop at Boston University, and Philadelphia can afford to wait if they end up selecting him. Rathbone is another raw, mobile defenceman that played high school hockey for all but a handful of late-season UsHL games. His defensive game has a long way to come, but the Flyers may like the gamble in the third round as there is lots of upside.
By the end of this draft the Flyers will be four deep or more with promising prospects at every position…and club that barely missed the playoffs will be in a good position to be able to deal coveted asset to other teams as the situation calls for it to fortify specific positions on the big club. The future does indeed look bright for the Flyers.