On the Clock: Philadelphia Flyers

The Flyers head into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft feeling confident about the prospect pool. The Flyers are succeeding in moving their drafted classes up the ranks and filling in empty slots with more promising players. The Flyers have 11 selections this year, and tend to always find themselves with a few extra. That habit has contributed to this embarrassment of riches. As does Hextall’s willingness to trade up and down, and fill in gaps with undrafted free agent signings.

The Flyers are really strong on the backend, though they all tend to be left handed. Flyers also are pretty full on goalies so may wait until one of their three 4th round picks to think about netminders. They have a lot of forward depth but do have less first line forward prospects than starting goalie prospects or young first pairing defenseman. This will be addressed (most likely) with the second overall pick. Their biggest area of need and only weakness is right handed defensemen.

Besides picking up one right shot defender, Hextall has room to maneuver however he sees fit on the draft floor. They can package picks, take risky picks, they can go fit or best player available. They can even reach on some over-agers or long term projects. That’s the freedom of having that many picks with an elite prospect pool already.

Companion Resources:

Whyhockey’s  2017 Draft Guide: 2017 Top 80 Skaters, Top 12 Goalies, First Round Mock Draft, 2018 Top 20, Makar and Pettersson extended profiles. It even has a table of contents and everything.

NHL Central Scouting’s Final Ranking.


 

Pick 1: 2nd Overall
Best Player Available Best Fit Sleeper
1 Nico Hischier Nico Hischier Eeli Tolvanen
2 Nolan Patrick Nolan Patrick Klim Kostin
3 Gabe Vilardi Gabe Vilardi Elias Pettersson

Whyhockey’s Choice: C Nolan Patrick, Brandon  (Whyhockey Rank : #2)

Reasoning

The scuttlebutt is that Hischier is New Jersey’s pick at 1, and that is how Whyhockey would pick, ourselves.  Therefore, it makes sense to think Hextall cashes in his chips and take the remaining of the consensus Top 2 in the draft. Flyers were expecting to pick outside the Top 10 and to move up to second overall and have the widely argued number one overall choice fall to you, it is an obvious call. Know when to fold them and take what you’ve been lucky to get. But Hextall hasn’t always made the ‘obvious’ call, and to his credit he has a good track record doing so.

Speaking in generalities, Hextall has selected Defenders when everyone thought he would take a forward; Hextall routinely drafted goaltenders and Russian prospects for a franchise where drafting a single goalie or Russian prospect would raise eyebrows. Hextall’s first draft he selected Travis Sanheim 17th, a noticeable distance from his perceived value, at the time, of early-mid select round.  Sanheim may be the second best 1996 birth year defenseman behind Aaron Ekblad, so Hextall’s gamble worked. The next year Hextall selected Ivan Provorov over Zach Werenski, or Mikko Rantanen. Frankly, there wasn’t a bad choice to be made and no one was surprised by Hextall’s choice.

2016’s first round selection is probably the most dramatic of his three selections, and if you are looking for excitement on Friday night, you hope this is a foreshadowing of Flyer’s 2017 pick. Hextall did his homework on the other GMs’ plans and read the board–dropping back to get the guy they wanted– German Rubtsov, a top 10 consideration who fell due to the Russian Meldonium scandal. Might Hextall drop back to pick up extra assets of some sort (player, prospect, pick) and take Klim Kostin, or Elias Pettersson. Trading back to grab Vegas’s 6th overall and one of their other firsts could allow both, Kostin and Pettersson.

But the more likely case is the Flyers select Nolan Patrick (or Nico Hischier) and grab a likely 30 goal, 60 point center. But with Dallas and Philadelphia in the Top 3, I want to bet a Finski on one of them stirring the pot–just not best odds it’s Hextall doing the stirring.


 

Pick 2: 44th Overall
Best Player Available Best Fit Sleeper
1 Callan Foote Callan Foote Filip Westerlund
2 Ostap Safin Filip Westerlund Filip Chytil
3 Grant Mishmash Ostap Safin Morgan Geekie

Whyhockey’s Choice: D Filip Westerlund, Frolunda (Whyhockey Rank : #56)

The Flyers have the luxury of going for need and fit early in this draft. They have good prospects and depth in almost all positions which allows them to utilize their early picks to improve weaknesses. Their blueline looks promising but is almost entirely filled with left handed shots. Radko Gudas, Mark Friedman (2014 3rd rounder), and Jesper Pettersson (2014 7th rounder) is the scope of right handed options. Drafting a potential Top 4 D in the 2nd round should be a priority, then.

There’s a feeling Foote could fall in the draft. But depending on whether Foote is a mid first round pick or a late first round pick, according to NHL GMs, he might not fall far enough. Falling to 44th from late twenties (where we rate Foote) or early thirties is realistic. But falling from mid first round to 44th is uncommon.

Westerlund is the other side of the ocean version of Foote. Right shot defenders that are decisive and break up plays early, both Foote and Westerlund know where to be on the ice and how to use their body position as well. They both are strong skaters but with heavy feet. But where Foote is classic Canadian Oak of a defenseman who gets described as ‘gritty,’ Westerlund is an average (if not undersized for his position) 5’11, 175  puckmover who is described as ‘crafty’.

Westerlund is a D we wanted to rank higher but there’s a lot of risk that the adventurous puck rushing and raging style doesn’t transition to the NHL with his size and his lack of speed. However, in the right situation like this, with Frolunda developing him– we’d gladly take him earlier than ranked.

If they do instead pick a forward here, Ostap Safin and Filip Chytil are two Czechs to keep an eye on. Chytil is an August birthday who is rising up the charts. Creative player who sees ice extremely well but may be more likely available later. Safin is a power forward who comes with notable scouting pedigree. Skilled but lacking structure and teamwork in his game, he’s risky to some other teams but Flyers top end prospect pool affords them the patience and the foundation to develop Safin.


 

Pick 3: 75th Overall
Best Player Available Best Fit Sleeper
1 Rickard Hugg Rickard Hugg Dmitri Samorukov
2 Kirill Maksimov Adam Tilander Mackenzie Entwistle
3 Pavel Shen Pavel Shen August Berg

Whyhockey’s Choice: C/LW Rickard Hugg, Leksands IF (Whyhockey Rank : #48)

I must admit this might be a marriage more for the matchmaker than the matched. I am rather high on Rickard Hugg (as evidenced by his ranking) but he seems to be criminally underrated (4th round in some ratings) and with the Flyers picking two in short order in the 3rd round, and having tons of picks, Hugg is a good value selection here.  Hugg had the best points per game (1.19, better than Joni Ikonen and Lukas Elvenes) in the SuperElit Swedish Junior leauge for u19 forwards.  He is dogged on the puck and once he gets it, he is determined to keep it and make a play. His skills are unrefined and his trajectory long but he makes a lot of similar plays as Jakub Voracek does, and I think there’s a few commonalities there to Voracek’s game as a prospect.

Maksimov and Shen are two Russian forwards who are upshots for Top 6 forwards. Kirill Maksimov is the safer pick, finishing his season strong, growing into his NHL sized frame, already in North America. Pavel Shen led first year eligible MHL players in points, and impressed internationally for Russian U-18s. It’s rumored he recently grew to six foot, but some just say his 5’9 listing is correct, he’s only six foot on skates. Shen is one of the highly creative and offensive forwards in the MHL waiting for an NHL team to give them a chance.

Tilander and Berg are Swedish rearguards who also happen to be right handed, in case Hextall wants to get another RHD or failed to do so earlier. Tilander moved to OHL but not to a good team and watching his puck skills and puck movement you wish he stayed in Sweden, where that remains a larger focus over physical play.  But there’s promise there and 75th overall isn’t a bad place to grab him. Berg is a small D who activates himself a lot into the play, skates well, and looks like a pro defenseman in the making.


Pick 4: 80th Overall (From Boston, Z. Rinaldo trade...Idiots.)
Best Player Available Best Fit Sleeper
1 Brandon McManus Artyom Minulin Samuel Bucek
2 Artyom Manukyan Artyom Manukyan Michael Pastujov
3 Artyom Minulin Samuel Bucek Tyler Inamoto

Whyhockey’s Choice: D Artyom Minulin, Swift Current (Whyhockey Rank : Not Ranked in Top 80)

Since there were two picks only 5 spots away in the mid-3rd round, despite good chance some of the prospective picks at 75 still being on the board at 80, we wanted to provide a whole new set. Really over-deliver on the blog post, ya know? But also to make up for the fact that here I go again about to spout off about how the Flyers should probably draft a right handed defenseman or two…

Artyom Minulin didn’t make the Whyhockey Draft Guide, and really wasn’t a threat to. To us, he’s always been a 90-110 pick. But with filtering down to right handed defenseman, you sometimes need to get them a little earlier. Minulin isn’t a bad prospect at all, and I don’t mean to sound underwhelming. He’s made a good step forward in his second WHL year, scoring at a 0.58 ppg clip over both seasons–0.71 ppg this past year. He’s a large and deliberate defenseman who needs to work on his skating and agility, but he shoots hard, low and well. His passing is strong and on the tape. His defensive positioning is good, as is his stick. He breaks up plays being physical and starts breakouts quickly.

Artyom Manukyan (Artyom and Artyom are happy coincidence) is the first MHL player to crack 100 points. He’s an undersized, second year eligible who is all talent no grit. The complete opposite of Zac Rinaldo, all grit no talent.  This would be a fitting pick for the Flyers, who have the diverse prospect group and patience to make something of the pick. Samuel Bucek was once a well scouted prospect who was possible top 60 selection. However, he’s moved from Slovakia to the USHL to the QMJHL in around 12 months. That must be a huge culture shock. The points have vanished. Flyers are a team that do their homework and if they think it was a situational thing, they may pluck him and change his situation.

 

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