While the current NHL trend is for GMs to steer away from drafting goalies due to their unpredictability, that fear may be the Philadelphia Flyers’ gain
After looking at a plainly visible strategy of Philadelphia Flyers GM Ron Hextall to draft possession-oriented forwards, another strategy unveiling itself is Hextall’s willingness to draft goalies. On that count, Hextall is not following the popular trend among NHL GMs right now.
There is growing wisdom (or alternatively, a fad), that picking out goalies as future starters from high draft positions is usually a futile exercise. Indeed, many of today’s starters for top NHL teams were far from hyped prospects.
The result of this thinking has been teams completely bailing on picking goalies in the high rounds of the NHL draft. With this collective league decision, comes opportunities for others willing to go their own way.
Ron Hextall has already draft Anthony Stolarz in the 2nd round of the 2012 NHL Draft, and he is developing very nicely after an all-star AHL season last year. Hextall’s willingness to draft goalies has really separated him from other GMs over the last 2 drafts, however.
In the 2015 draft, Hextall used two 3rd round picks to grab Felix Sandstrom and Matej Tomek. Despite waiting until the 3rd round, Hextall’s pick of Sandstrom was actually the 3rd goalie taken in the draft. This feels like a coup, as the Philadelphia Flyers were able to get blue chip skater prospects in Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny in the 1st round, but were also able to wait and still get one of the best goalies in the draft.
This effect was even more pronounced in the 2016 draft. The Flyers used their first 2 picks to get the type of aforementioned solid two-way forwards, but even by the Flyers 3rd pick halfway through the second round, the Flyers were able to snag the first goalie taken in this draft, Carter Hart.
Regardless of how hard drafting and developing goalies is, this looks like very good value for the picks. Hextall is dedicating his first few picks to staple skater players, but he is also able to grab the best goalie goalie talent in the drafts. This strategy really maximizes the value of having multiple 2nd and 3rd round picks in these drafts, in spots when you’re unlikely to find a star skater with those picks.
I suppose you could take the stance that Hextall missed the memo that you shouldn’t really bother drafting goalies anymore, but he’s hardly putting all (or most) of his draft “eggs” in the goalie basket. It is more accurate to say Hextall is seeing an opportunity created by popular draft and scouting trends.
If even one of Sandstrom, Tomek or Hart develops into an NHL goalie, that strategy will have paid off. Of course any GM can get lucky with random goalie pick, but Hextall seems to have found a way to extract maximum value for 2nd and 3rd round picks to potentially fill a crucial position. Hextall doesn’t have to be a prescient goalie scout, but he is sneakily stockpiling goalie prospects when other NHL GMs have apparently given up on the project.
I bet it’s more likely people will look back and marvel at how crafty Hextall was with these goalie picks, rather than shake their head at another GM hopelessly chasing the league’s next great goalie in the draft.