There are a several major needs the Philadelphia Flyers have to fix in order to move forward. When it comes to the draft, most fans would probably look at either a big hulking center (like a Dalibar Dvorak), a crafty center (like a Will Smith), or a fast paced winger who can score from the outside (like Adam Fantilli). You wouldn’t immediately think of defense.
Much like steady and consistent arms in the bullpen in baseball, you can never have enough steady and reliable blueliners sitting on the bench. The Flyers defense, by all accounts, should be good, but it is inconsistent. Travis Sanheim, Ivan Provorov, and Tony DeAngelo all showed flashes of brilliance and gave us lots of frustration at the same time.
Nick Seeler has one year left on his contract. Cam York, Egor Zamula, and Ronnie Attard are all young and still have a lot to prove. Emil Andrae, Adam Ginning, and Linus Hogberg are waiting to prove themselves as well while starring for the AHL Lehigh Valley Phantoms.
With all that in mind, you would think that the Flyers would fill an immediate need up front instead of going with a defender with their seventh overall pick.
Between the end of the Stanley Cup Finals and the NHL Draft, the Flyers will have the opportunity to make some moves via trades and free agency. The makeup of the team could be a LOT different in three weeks. With that said, if defense becomes a need, who could the Flyers go for with the seventh overall pick?
David Reinbacher, an Austrian playing in the Swiss League, is turning heads and could be the first defender selected in the draft. He has been projected in several drafts to go as high as fifth to as low as twelfth, depending on who is doing the mocking and betting on the needs of teams picking. He is 187 lbs and is 6’2″. NHL Central Scouting has him ranked the fifth best European skater available in this draft.
According to the Sporting News, he is “a steady, two-way blue liner who has already shown he can eat up minutes.” (They have him falling to eighth to Washington.) The Hockey Writers have said this about his skills:
"“David Reinbacher’s fame has been steadily increasing throughout the 2022-23 season. Reinbacher is the most NHL-ready defenceman available in this upcoming draft. He is right-handed and has a good frame that NHL general managers covet in their defenders. Reinbacher also has an offensive flair to his game, making him a legitimate two-way threat. Reinbacher had 22 points in 46 games as an 18-year-old in a men’s league. Roman Josi had eight points in 35 games in his draft year while playing in the same league.”"
Reinbacher is more of a stay at home defender. Playing for Kloten HC of the Swiss League, he scored only three goals with 19 assists in 46 games. Likewise, in international competition, he had just two assists in five games for Austria in the Under-20 Junior Championships. Scoring is not going to be his addition to the club.
However, that’s not a bad thing. The Flyers have several offensive minded defenders, like DeAngelo, who get too offensive minded and forget to play defense sometimes. However, when DeAngelo played in Carolina, that deficiency was hidden by the fact that he was paired up with Jacob Slavin; one of the best defense-first minded defenders in the game. Having a guy like Reinbacher patrolling the blue line to protect the Flyers’ zone could open up the defense and give Carter Hart a rest.
It’s been a while since the Flyers picked a defender with a first round pick. In fact, the last one was York in 2019 with the 14th overall pick. Likewise, the Flyers have selected only two Austrians in their history: forward Andreas Nödl in the second round in 2006 and goaltender Bernd Brückler in the fifth round of 2001.
Defense may not be the biggest concern, but you never know what the team may need in another year or two. Players could get hurt or the team may move on from “today’s stars”. Reinbacher, who will turn 19 this fall, could be someone who may not be ready to go for another year or so. And maybe at that point, he could be ready to make a big impact on this team. Or depending on offseason moves made by the Flyers, he could make that impact now.
While I myself would prefer the Flyers to pick a powerful forward who can score at will, if a lot of the top names (Fantilli, Smith, Dvorak, Ryan Leonard, Zach Benson, etc.) have been taken off the board and Reinbacher is still there waiting to be picked at seventh overall, it might not be a bad move for the Flyers to take a chance on a guy who is “NHL ready” by most scouting reports than guys who “may have a lot of upside”.