PHILADELPHIA – For the first time in five years, the Philadelphia Flyers have someone other than former General Manager Ron Hextall to call the shots on draft day. Hextall made the NHL Draft his own personal playground in years past by adding multiple first round picks through trades. This time around it is Chuck Fletcher’s job to make the call on whom the Flyers should draft but don’t expect Fletcher to wheel and deal the way Hextall did especially for other prospects or picks.
Fletcher spent nine years running the Minnesota Wild from the GM’s chair with very mixed results. This time around the mandate from upper management is to win games now as opposed to later. Hextall had a very patient approach in a very impatient city with a fan base that has seen ticket prices go up and up despite the franchise missing the playoffs two of the last three years and four times in the last seven.
Hextall had a best-player-available approach to the draft but despite drafting some quality players, the Flyers passed on several others who are showing star potential. In 2014, they drafted Travis Sanheim but passed on David Pastrnak. In 2015, the Flyers drafted Ivan Provorov but past on Mikko Rantanen. In 2016, they selected German Rubtsov but passed on Alex DeBrincat. In 2017, the Flyers drafted Nolan Patrick but passed on Elias Pattersson.
While it is easy to look at the negative, the reality is the Flyers are stocked in terms of quality prospects but some of them are now at least a year away from cracking the NHL roster. The problem now appears to be how to fit them into the Flyers’ plans when the mentality has changed. When talking about those prospects Fletcher was quoted publicly that the Flyers already had enough prospects. Sorry but if you ask any GM in the league they will tell you that they never have enough prospects, including those teams that win the Stanley Cup.
The Flyers’ best prospects are forwards. Among those who are the closest to making the big club are: Rubtsov, Joel Farabee, Isaac Ratcliffe, Wade Allison, Morgan Frost, Noah Cates, Olle Lycksell, and Matthew Strome. Oskar Lindblom made the team last season and rewarded the Flyers with a 17 goal, 16 assist season. Not bad for a 5th round pick in 2015.
Frost, who is a center, is easily the Flyers’ best forward prospect but even he might have to spend at least the first half of next season in the AHL before being called up. Rubtsov has had injury issues but if he has a good camp it’s not out of the question that he makes the team. Farabee left college after only one season but some scouts feel he is NHL ready and could make the club as well. The need for more left wing scoring besides James Van Reimsdyk and Lindblom is necessary.
Ratcliffe finished his junior career but he will most likely spend only one season in the AHL before making the big club. Allison is going back to college for his senior season but he is a right winger. After having traded Wayne Simmonds, Allison could fill his role a year down the line.
Buckeyes Stitched College White Bosa 97 Jersey Limited On defense, Adam Ginning was drafted in the second round and is the type of physical presence the Flyers need on the blueline. Former first round pick Samuel Morin is finally healthy and should make the team in training camp. Like Ginning, Morin is a physical presence and his 6’ 6” frame is sorely needed to clear the crease for goaltender Carter Hart.
Speaking of Hart, he will be the Flyers’ starting goaltender from the start of next season. Had it not been for his being called up to the Flyers midway through last season, the Flyers season would been a whole lot worse. The Flyers need to decide on a backup goaltender. The Flyers have a few prospects who appear to be promising but none are NHL ready.
That leads us to this year’s draft the Flyers will select 11th overall. The Flyers biggest needs are defensemen and right wing scorers. It is a very forward heavy draft. The Flyers could land a defenseman easily if that’s the road the Flyers want to take. Bowen Byram is the best defenseman in the draft but he should be long gone by the time the Flyers pick. He is the only defenseman that is a given to be gone before the Flyers pick at #11.
Victor Soderstrom, Philip Broberg, and Thomas Harley are the other defenseman who should be their when the Flyers pick but Soderstrom is a right handed shot which is something that the Flyers need and could have an edge over the other prospects.
The Flyers have done a very good job of drafting left wing prospects and at center. The Flyers under Hextall decided to rebuild the blueline through the draft. They currently need a defenseman who can be an anchor for the next several years and that will most likely come either through free agency or via a trade.
On the current Flyers roster, Sean Couturier led the team in goals with 33. Overall five players had 20 or more goals and nine had 10 or more. Only two other players had nine, just missing the cut. Most of the Flyers production came from center or right wing position but one of them was Wayne Simmonds who could come back to the Flyers in free agency but with players like Jeff Skinner on the market, and the fact that the Flyers finally having cap space thanks to Hextall, it seems unlikely Simmonds comes back to Philly unless the Flyers miss out on Skinner.
In PHN’s mock draft there are quite a few right wingers still on the board in a very center driven draft. RW’s Arthur Kaliyev, Vasily Podkolzin, and Raphael Lavoie are still on the board with most of the top centers already gone. The Flyers are known for building down the middle of the ice but unless someone like Matthew Boldy or Trevor Zegras falls to them we don’t expect the Flyers taking a center.
Cole Caufield is the most intriguing player in the draft. He is and probably the best goal scorer in the draft but one has to wonder if his barely 5’ 7” frame doesn’t scare enough teams off to pass on his skill. If he does fall to the Flyers he is the Flyers pick. If the Flyers decide to go for defense we see the Flyers taking Soderstrom over Broberg despite Broberg having more of a physical style of play then Soderstrom.
At the end of the day we see the Flyers going after goal scorers and in this case on right wing. The Flyers should make the following call at the podium in Vancouver.
“With the 11th overall pick in the 2019 NHL Draft the Philadelphia Flyers select, from the Hamilton Bulldogs of the Ontario Hockey League, Arthur Kaliyev.”
Brian Jennings covers the Philadelphia Flyers for prohockeynews.com and can be found on twitter at @Flyersfan22.