The Philadelphia Flyers will pick 17th at the 2014 NHL Entry Draft. Although this pick is slightly lower than the pick they had last year (11th), the 17th slot still has the potential to land a quality prospect. Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, and Justin Williams were all drafted late in round one, while many superstars (Bergeron, Weber, etc) were not drafted until the second round.
When looking back at what other teams have done with the same pick, the results are about what you would expect. A superstar, a budding star (Hertl), a collection of average NHLers, and a few duds. Take a look:
Career NHL stats are listed next to the names.
2000 – Alexei Mikhnov (EDM) – LW – 2GP – 0G – 0A
2001 – Carlo Colaiacovo (TOR) – D – 401GP – 31G – 113A
2002 – Boyd Gordon (WSH) – C – 560GP – 47G – 96A
2003 – Zach Parise (NJD) – LW – 617GP – 241G – 263A
2004 – Marek Schwarz (STL) – G – 6GP – .808 SV% – 4.32 GAA
2005 – Martin Hanzal (PHX) – C – 456GP – 80G – 142A
2006 – Trevor Lewis (LAK) – C – 276GP – 18G – 30A
2007 – Alexei Cherepanov (NYR) – RW – 0GP – 0G – 0A
2008 – Jake Gardiner (ANA) – D – 167GP – 17G – 48A
2009 – David Rundblad (STL) – D – 55GP – 1G – 8A
2010 – Joey Hishon (COL) – D – 0GP – 0G – 0A (3 playoff games this season)
2011 – Nathan Beaulieu (MTL) – D – 23GP – 0G – 4A
2012 – Tomas Hertl (SJS) – C – 37GP- 15G – 10A
2013 – Curtis Lazar (OTT) – C/RW – 0GP – 0G – 0A
When it comes to this pick the Flyers have five clear options, some of which are not mutually exclusive. They can draft a forward, draft a defenseman, trade up, trade down, or trade the pick away. The Flyers likely will not draft a goalie in the 1st round. Ultimately, the team will draft the player who they believe is the ‘best player available.’ However, positional bias will still take place in the scouting process. Let’s examine the case for each option:
Draft a Forward
For all the talk in recent years of the Flyers lack of drafting/developing defensemen, the clearest need in the prospect ranks is for impact forwards. Sam Morin, Robert Hagg, Shayne Gostisbehere, and Mark Alt may be the most hyped defense prospect, but the Flyers have also grabbed the likes of Reece Wilcox, Valeri Vasiliev, Frederik Larsson, David Drake, and Terrance Amorosa in the late rounds.
When it comes to impact forward prospects, the list starts and ends with Scott Laughton, and he will likely become a Flyer next season. Nick Cousins still has potential, but with the organizational logjam at center he is likely stuck in the AHL for the foreseeable future. Taylor Leier may have offensive potential, but he is undersized and still a work in progress. Players like Tyrell Goulbourne and Michael Parks may not even have an NHL future, and if they do it will be on the fourth line.
With that said, there is a good case to be made for taking a winger with this pick. The team knows the need for future forwards and, even if they draft BPA, they know that there are many more forwards than defensemen in this draft. Names like Nikita Scherbak, Sonny Milano, David Pastrnak, or Ondrej Kase could be available at #17.
Draft a Defenseman
You can never go wrong in creating a stable of young defensive prospects. The amount of guessing that goes into drafting a defenseman makes it nearly impossible to know the ceiling of the prospect being drafted.
For the Flyers, it is still possible that Morin, Hagg, Gostisbehere, and Alt will all turn out to be duds, playing little more than quality AHL or NHL bottom pair minutes. The long range prospects listed above may never even join the ranks of pro hockey. As you can see in this article by Bill Meltzer, it is much more likely to find a regular NHL defenseman in the first round.
Forwards like Patrice Bergeron, David Krejci, Wayne Simmonds, and Tomas Tatar were all found in the second round. Therefore, it would be wise for the Flyers to draft a defenseman at the 17th spot and rebuild their forward depth in the later rounds. Although the top prosepcts, Aaron Ekblad and Haydn Fleury, will likely be gone the Flyers could still grab a player like Julius Honka, Anthony DeAngelo, Markus Pettersson, or Dominik Masin.
Unlike the 2013 NHL Draft, this draft does not project to have an abnormal level of depth. The consensus top five (Bennett, Ekblad, Reinhart, Draisaitl, and Dal Colle) should have a bright NHL future, but after that there is little projected difference in the prospects.
Therefore, it may be wise for the Flyers to trade into the top five. Florida GM Dale Tallon has publicly stated that he is willing to trade the top overall pick. Although the location of the draft should not be a factor in potential moves, the draft will be held in Philadelphia, which could prompt the Flyers to want to ‘make a splash.’
Ultimately, getting our hands on a franchise defenseman like Ekblad or a smart forward like Bennett could change the complexion of the Flyers for years to come. The issue is the price. The 17th pick would obviously be involved as well as one of our young centers (BSchenn, Couturier, or Laughton). Another prospect would likely have to be added to that mix.
There is no doubt that a top five prospect would be a fantastic addition in the long term. However, when looking at this team’s ‘Cup window’, this may not be the right time to gut the organizational depth to acquire any one player.
Through the first two rounds of the draft the Flyers hold picks number 17 and 48. There are numerous teams that will hold multiple picks between those two. The Sabres (numbers 31, 39, and potential the Blues 1st rounder), the Blues (possibly their own first rounder and number 33 overall), and the Anaheim Ducks (late 1st rounder and number 38 overall).
Swapping the 17th and 48th overall for multiple other picks may help the Flyers long term plans. Any trade of the Flyers first two picks would likely include three picks coming back. The Flyers suffer from both a lack of prospects and a lack of quality prospects. They have already traded away both their 3rd and 4th round picks this season (although they’ll get one back in the 2nd or 3rd round from Boston) in trades to the Islanders (Streit, 4th – MacDonald, 3rd).
Next season the Flyers will be without a 2nd round pick because of the Andrew MacDonald trade. This team could use their first two picks in a trade to stockpile prospects. The player they get with the 17th overall pick may not be that much better than a player they would get in the late 20’s or early 30’s. Therefore, trading down would give this team more depth in the long run.
As I addressed in my off season agenda post, the Flyers have a few glaring needs that need to be addressed if they want to take the next step as a franchise. This team is lacking in top pairing defensemen and they could use a pure-scoring left winger. It will be tough to address both/any of these needs on the free agent market.
Any potential prospect will not be hitting his prime until the current core group begins to slowly leave their prime. Therefore, they cannot draft their immediate needs.
Ultimately, this pick may best serve the Flyers as part of a package. The Flyers are well aware of the fact that they need a top pair defenseman (see Pronger contract, Suter offer, Weber offer sheet, etc.) and they know that their star player is in the midst of his prime. It will be a shame to watch Giroux spend his prime in similar fashion to Eric Lindros; with a good team, but never a complete team.
I have a feeling that this pick will be traded as part of a package. The Flyers have a good core of forwards, but they could use that top pairing defenseman, and those do not show up in free agency. At the 2009 NHL Draft Paul Holmgren traded Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, and two first round draft choices for Chris Pronger.
That deal took a good Flyers team and turned it into a great Flyers team. I believe a similar trade could go down this summer.
This is the first of many looks I will take at the 2014 Draft as it approaches. I will be researching potential picks and giving scouting reports. Please feel free to comment (or ask via twitter) with any questions that you would like answered concerning the draft. Thanks for reading.