In short, the Flyers needed to restock their defensive corps. Ivan Provorov was dealt a few weeks ago. Tony DeAngelo and Travis Sanheim are being shopped. This leaves the Flyers with a defensive unit of Rasmus Ristolainen, Nick Seeler, Sean Walker, Cam York, and most likely Egor Zamula and Ronnie Attard. They may search for a defenseman on the trade market or in free agency. Perhaps another prospect could be called up. But that will drain the defensive youngsters.
In that sense, picking a blueliner made a lot of sense. This was a forward heavy first round, but there were some defensemen who were worth picking. Briere and company picked Bonk; the son of former NHLer Radek Bonk. In fact, Oliver grew up watching his dad on the Senators and tried to play like the player he idolized (who wasn’t his father), Erik Karlsson.
Playing for the OHL’s London Knights, he scored 10 goals with 20 assists this year. Bonk also tallied 11 assists in the playoffs for the Knights, however he went scoreless in five games for Team Canada in the Hlinka Gretzky Cup.
However, he is not your typical offensive defender. He is more of a shutdown defender with some offensive upside. Elite Prospects said this about Bonk:
"“A prototypical shutdown defenceman, Bonk safeguards his team by backtracking ahead of offensive turnovers, blocks access to the defensive zone, forces opponents to dump the puck around him, and then seals the puck from them on the back wall. He pushes attackers wide in the defensive zone and scans the ice behind him to stop backdoor plays.”"
So, he could end up being more of a Chris Therien more than a Karlsson. Right now, the Flyers could use more of a classic blueliner who can protect the zone then another offensive guy who can leave the team hanging. In that sense, he has value.
First off, in selecting Bonk, they passed on forward Gabe Perreault and his 132 points. He was snagged in the very next pick by the NY Rangers. If Bonk busts and Perrault because a star, it will be super painful to see him star on Broadway.
Unlike Michkov who seems to be more of a finished product, Bonk is more of a work in progress. He doesn’t have a lot of international tournaments on his resume, so it is hard to judge how he played against elite world talent.
Bonk seems to be more of the type of guy that the Flyers will have to develop. This can turn out well. On the other hand, we could have another German Rubtsov here and in a few years, we’ll see his face on a milk carton because nobody will have seen him.
To prove this point, look at his draft rankings. It’s funny to read draft rankings of NHL prospects because they are scouring the world’s junior leagues, high schools, and colleges for players. Every scout has something they are looking for and value certain characteristics over others. Bonk was rated as high as a late first-early second round to as low as third-to-fourth round. In short, he’s a big question mark. He possess raw talent, but the key word there is raw.
Chuck Fletcher selected York with his first pick in 2019. So far, that pick seems solid. Ron Hextall chose Sanheim in 2014. Back in 2007, Paul Holmgren made, as his first selection, James van Riemsdyk. If Michkov and Bonk can turn out like these three guys, it will have been worth it.
Both have high ceilings which could make Briere’s roll of the dice pay off big time. They also have lots of question marks surrounding them which could set this team back in their rebuilding efforts. Perhaps drafting someone like Ryan Leonard or Dalibar Dvorsky at seventh or Perrault at 22nd would’ve been safer or more traditional for the Flyers. However, we have to assume that Briere and company did their due diligence, checked all the boxes, and did all their homework in selecting Michkov and Bonk. Now, we must wait to see if it pays out in the end.