Flyers Front Office Must Focus on Prospects’ Unknowns

NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 28: Daniel Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
NASHVILLE, TENNESSEE - JUNE 28: Daniel Briere of the Philadelphia Flyers attends the 2023 NHL Draft at the Bridgestone Arena on June 28, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images) /

The Philadelphia Flyers, in a not so distant past, were once thought to have one of the deepest prospect pools in NHL. Former General Manager Ron Hextall had assembled a stable of young talent that was thought to have many future NHL regulars in its ranks. But as Chuck Fletcher took over for Hextall, the vision and priorities changed. Fletcher has his plans, and it seemed that Hextall’s propects were not in them.

It is hard to say, outside of players already established in the Flyers lineup, if there was much vetting of the players in the NHL pipeline. It was not even that Fletcher cleaned house, trading away or releasing prospects to get what he wanted. The team’s prospects were to left to languish, with very little attention to their development, or thoughts of how they could best serve the team.

Under Fletcher’s stewardship, most prospects were left to dangle in limbo, with no path to the NHL club, essentially used as a space holder, rather than organizational depth or future development. Now, Danny Briere has a chance to be proactive with how prospects are vetted, and help create a sleeker, more outcome-oriented prospect pool, using a season of low expectations to extract knowledge and value.

Under Briere’s leadership, the Flyers are making a few changes. Briere, and Tortorella, are looking to see if there was any fruit left from the seeds Hextall planted, but questions still linger. For example, Noah Cates is a player drafted by Hextall in 2017, that Fletcher left to ferment. Cates finally got an opportunity under coach John Tortorella and looks to be a pretty solid NHL player. But players from that same class, like Olle Lycksell, are still waiting for an extended NHL try out. I would rather find out what a player like Lycksell can contribute, than watch Zack MacEwen or Patrick Brown.

The evaluation of the class of 2016 is not much better. Is Wade Allison an NHL player? Is Tanner Laczynski? Is Linus Hogberg? It is really hard to say if they can be NHL players or to rule them out completely. This is seven years after they were drafted, and the uncertainty about their quality is an indictment of Chuck Fletcher’s leadership and lack of strategic thinking. At this juncture, these players’ NHL futures are a coin toss, because they have not played enough NHL hockey to tell.

Seasons like this, ones with low expectations, are unpleasant, but do come with some advantages. No one expects this team to challenge for the cup, or even contend for a playoff spot, with the exception of Coach Tortorella, who is certain he could squeak into the playoffs with a roster of five-year olds if he was coaching. This is the perfect time to catch up on some organizational homework and to let the kids play. A bottom of the table finish is expected, so use this season to see if any of the prospects have a chance to play in the NHL. On any journey, you need to know where you stand before you can see how to get where you want to be.

This season may not end in playoff success and it may not yield much fruit in terms of top-tier talent, but by season’s end Briere and the Flyers should know for sure who they are counting on to contribute, and who they are not. Once the decision is made, then the Flyers need to move players who do not fit into their plans. Ideally this would happen through trade, but even releasing players may be just as good, if it opens up room for other prospects.

Next. Let’s appreciate Jim Jackson while we can. dark

More than anything, this season management must have their house in order when it comes to prospects. A plan to evaluate them, a plan for detailed progression, and a plan of what role they can play in the organization. If the Flyers do not attempt to find the answers to their unknowns, we can expect the organization to remain lost.