A History of Flyers Top Five Draft Picks

COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 22: Second overall pick James vanRiemsdyk of the Philadelphia FLyers poses for a portrait during the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 22, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images)
COLUMBUS, OH - JUNE 22: Second overall pick James vanRiemsdyk of the Philadelphia FLyers poses for a portrait during the first round of the 2007 NHL Entry Draft at Nationwide Arena on June 22, 2007 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Marc Serota/Getty Images) /
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Joni Pitkanen

After three seasons in the Finnish league, Pitkanen made the jump to North American where he was drafted fourth overall by the Flyers in 2002. Not necessarily seen as a scoring defenseman, Pitkanen cemented a role for himself on the roster after posting 27 points in his rookie season. He would play for the Philadelphia Phantoms during the lockout in 2004-05.

He performed well in the AHL, posting 41 points in 75 games. He also had a career high 105 penalty minutes while playing for the Phantoms. They would go on to win the Calder Cup that year where Pitkanen grabbed three goals and seven points in 21 games. The year following the lockout, Pitkanen was the Flyers highest scoring defenseman. Despite being hampered by injuries and only playing in 58 games, he had 13 goals and 46 points.

Signing a one year contract in 2006 to remain with the Flyers, Pitkanen was a key part of the powerplay unit. His 17 assists on the man advantage led the team as he would post 43 points overall in 77 games. That would be his final season in Philadelphia as he was traded to Edmonton the following summer.

Pitkanen played one season for the Oilers before being traded to the Hurricanes. He spent five seasons with Carolina, tying his career high of 47 points in his second season with the team. His games played would drop heavily during his final three seasons as he ended up missing the 2013-14 season, the final year of his contract, with a broken heel.

Almost three years after his last NHL game, Pitkanen signed on in the Finnish league but would only play three games before he announced his retirement.

James van Riemsdyk

The Flyers came into the 2007 Draft Lottery with a league worst 56 points, also the lowest in their entire history. They were destined to get the top pick. Except the Blackhawks came around. They had just an 8.1% chance to win the lottery as they had the fifth worst record. Luck went their way as they earned the top spot with the Flyers picking second.

The Blackhawks would end up with Patrick Kane while Philadelphia drafted James van Riemsdyk second overall. And the rest is history, right? Well, there was some other stuff before the event we all know took place. But we don’t have to talk about that yet. Van Riemsdyk would spend two seasons in college before turning pro at the end at the 2008-09 season.

He debuted with the Flyers the following year, posting 35 points and 40 points during his first two seasons. Injuries hampered him the following season, causing him to miss a large portion of the 2011-12 season. Following the season, trade rumors followed as van Riemsdyk ended up heading to Toronto in exchange for Luke Schenn.

It was with the Leafs that van Riemsdyk took off. The season was delayed due to a lockout so he wouldn’t make his Toronto debut until for a few months. But in the shortened 48-game season, he posted 18 goals and 32 points as the Leafs made their first playoff appearance since 2005.

Throughout the next five season with Toronto, van Riemsdyk hit the 30-goal mark twice, posting a career high 36 goals in 2017-18. His had a career high 62 points the season prior. He would end up cashing in with a lucrative five-year, $35M deal to the return to the Flyers that offseason. Known as a streaky scorer, van Riemsdyk truly embodied that during the 2019-20 season as he posted only 19 goals.

He had three separate seven game scoreless droughts during the year. But each of them was followed by a lengthy scoring streak, one of which saw him register 15 points in 14 games. The one was a three game stretch with six points and a 13 game streak with 14 points. Van Riemsdyk would differ a fracture to his finger in early March as he was expected to miss the remainder of the season before the COVID pandemic forced the NHL to postpone.

Returning in the bubble for the playoffs, van Riemsdyk found himself as a healthy scratch on multiple occasions. His first goal of the playoffs came in Game 5 of the semi-finals against the Islanders. The following season still saw effects from the pandemic as the Flyers would play only 56 games. It was a rather productive season for van Riemsdyk despite a 17-game goalless streak. He ended up with 43 points, tied for the team lead.

This last season, he climbed back over the 20 goal mark, leading the team with 24 goals and finishing third with 38 points. Rumors continue to swirl on if the Flyers will keep him for the final year of his contract.

Nolan Patrick

The Flyers most recent pick in the top five of the draft was Nolan Patrick in 2017. They jumped from 13th to second as the New Jersey Devils would earn the top pick. It was between Nico Hischier and Patrick for the top prospect in the draft. The Devils would take Hischier, leaving Philadelphia with Patrick.

It came out later on that scouts may not have been in favor of Patrick and were looking towards either Cale Makar or Miro Heiskanen. The rumor was that Ron Hextall didn’t tell anyone that he was drafting Patrick until it was too later.

Patrick would not participate in Flyers training camp as he was still recovering from abdominal surgery. He would end up making his debut at the start of the season, scoring his first NHL goal in his fourth game. He would end up missing nine games after taking a hit from Chris Wagner in late October. Finishing with 30 points in 73 games wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t exactly the kind of production you wanted to see from a top pick.

Patrick began to suffer headaches that affected his training in the off-season. Originally said to be an upper body injury, Patrick would later on be diagnosed with a migraine disorder. He would miss the entire 2019-20 season and wouldn’t be able to participate in the playoffs despite the lengthy pause to the season. The migraines were said to not be from hockey but rather a condition that ran in Patrick’s family.

Despite missing the entire season, Patrick would accept the Flyers qualifying offer and returned to play for the 2020-21 season. Scoring a goal in the season opener, it was his first game in 650 days. Patrick played in all but four games that season, only registering four goals and nine points overall. He admitted to avoiding contact at the beginning of the season due to his disorder.

The Flyers would end up trading Patrick and Phil Myers to the Predators this last offseason in exchange for Ryan Ellis. Nashville immediately flipped Patrick to Vegas for Cody Glass. Patrick signed a two year deal with the Knights, but only appeared in 25 games. He spend a few months on IR starting in late October and returning at the end of December.

He landed in COVID protocol in mid-January. After returning, Patrick took a high hit from Nathan MacKinnon in early February. He would return in mid-March, but would once be sidelined later that month. Patrick could be looking at one final chance this upcoming season to turn his NHL career around.