The 2023 NHL Draft is quickly approaching. The Flyers, as it currently stands, have 10 total picks. That includes two first rounders, which Danny Briere would like to make three if any team is willing to offer. There are teams around the league who do believe Briere is going to get that done by draft day.
Briere, on the other hand, wasn’t as confident when he and Brent Flahr did their annual pre-draft press conference on Thursday morning.
"“If someone wants to give us another pick, we’d gladly take it. We’re having discussions with different teams. I’d probably say it’s not likely, but we’re definitely looking at every avenue, and I would love to give another jolt to our amateur scouts to dive in even deeper in our list. We’re trying, no doubt about it, but you need a dancing partner, as well, so I don’t know if it’s realistic.”"
After picks 7 and 22, the Flyers will not pick again until 87. It’s another scenario where Briere and Flahr would love to add a pick in between. It’s known to be a deep draft, mostly on the forward side. Flahr noted that the depth of this draft will see some good players being available throughout the early rounds.
Most of that will come via forwards as Flahr didn’t believe that the crop of defensemen was deep in the draft. There are some quality defensemen that will be available in the first round, but overall it appears there will be more focus on the group of forwards.
And that list includes Matvei Michkov.
Is Matvei Michkov on the table for Flyers?
One of the first questions that Briere answered was if the team secured an interview with the Russian star. There had been rumors that Michkov was planning to limit his talks as a way to navigate which team he was going to go to. But Briere did confirm that the Flyers should have a chance to meet with him before the draft.
There is a chance that he could he available when Philadelphia steps to the podium. With the bevy of talent available and the potential concern some teams may have, there is some thought that Michkov’s stock could drop. In a Connor Bedard-less draft, Michkov is likely a top pick.
Going back to potential concerns, the Flyers as a whole have not been able to see much of Michkov this season. Only the team’s Russian scout, Kenny Hoodikoff, has been able to meet with players over there and see them play live. But even with that, there isn’t much conversation to be had when only one scout is able to see the player.
So again, how much concern is there with a player that you haven’t been able to speak with much? Especially with one that is expected to go high in the draft.
Despite not talking to Michkov himself, Flahr said they have done plenty of background research in order to learn more about him.
"”We do a lot of background. We do talk to players on his team, we’ve talked to coaches – our staff have talked to – so we’ve done a lot of our background, and we’ll spend time with him and his family, and get a comfort level and then make a decision appropriately.”"
When the Flyers are in the midst of making those decisions, what are they looking for in their draft choices? Well, position isn’t necessarily what they’ll be looking at first.
Flyers value character and compete level over position
Most teams and fans alike will tell you that they want to draft the best player available. There are some that will tell you that position is important, especially if said team is lacking in a certain area. Some will go for the safe pick while others are willing to gamble for the high reward that a player could bring.
That’s something the Flyers have been more willing to do as of late.
"“I think there’s certain players where it depends what the risk is. If the risk is character and lack of drive or lack of compete, that’s a big risk for me, and those are risks that tend to work against you down the road even if they do play,” Flahr said. “But the risk, if it’s just a player needs to get stronger, or there are skating issues that our staff feel like can be addressed, or whatever the issue is, that’s a thing that we can help with and fix, then we’re willing to take those swings if we think the ceiling is that much higher for a particular player.”"
When it comes down to it, the Flyers are more than willing to take a chance on a player if their development staff believes any potential “risks” can be dealt with. Shying away from those who lack a level of drive or compete also goes along with the mentality of head coach John Tortorella. So it’s not a surprise that it’s something the scouting staff is paying attention to as well.
What else are the Flyers looking for in a player? Say there are multiple players available that are on the team’s list. What is going to separate one from the other? Again, position isn’t going to play a big factor in that scenario.
"”There’s got to be a difference somewhere, so it’s kind of going back to videos, to their charts, to the interview,” Briere said. “So, you try to just get deeper into those two players and find the one trait that can make the difference. That’s kind of my approach with it more than – especially early in the draft – more than the position that they play in.”"
When do you decide to take a look at position? For example, there will be plenty of goaltenders to choose from. That is a position that the Flyers don’t necessarily need to choose from early on. There will be at least four goaltenders at this time fighting for playing during training camp: Carter Hart, Cal Petersen, Felix Sandstrom, and Sam Ersson. That doesn’t include Ivan Fedotov, whose contract was tolled and moved over to this upcoming season. Alexei Kolosov is also making a name for himself as a 21-year-old in the KHL.
Flahr does believe that once the first goaltender goes off the board, the rest could follow rather quickly. But the team isn’t going to take one just to take one. It’s still about what fits for them down the line, even with the depth they have at the position.
"“There is some depth in that position, and typically we’ve always tried to take a goalie. Now if they all go, then you’re not just drafting a goalie to draft a goalie, but there is some depth, so I would assume at some point we would have a chance to get one.”"
Overall, the Flyers are aware that they need more high-end talent. Hence the talk on choosing the best player available to them instead of focusing solely on positions. There is also the thought of how different this team is going to be in a few years. So there is a risk of choosing players based on positional needs. It might be something the team needs now, but down the line, they could need something competently different.
Briere made sure to make note of that.
"“And we have to be careful too. Again, we discussed that earlier, about three, four, five years down the road, the roster is going to be completely different, so you have to be careful diving into that too much.”"
The focus for the Flyers is about the development of whichever players they take. It’s why they’ve hired the likes of Patrick Sharp and John LeClair to focus on player development. It’s an area that the team is determined to get right. It doesn’t matter to them if it takes a few years for any of these players to become the best versions of themselves.
The now is not important to the Flyers anymore. It’s about building for the future. Briere and company will have a chance to continuing working on turning things around when they head to Nashville next week for the 2023 NHL Draft.