VOORHEES – While signing flashy free agents and trading for established stars might garner a lot of the NHL’s headlines, there’s still one process which remains the foundation of most teams.
Namely the NHL Entry Draft.
For the first time since the unforgettable Russ Farwell left town in 1994, the Flyers are putting their faith in a general manager who has no previous ties to the organization to run the show when 31 teams convene in Vancouver on June 21-22.
Chuck Fletcher, with support from his assistant GM, Brent Flahr, will be picking 11th overall in the first round.
In all, barring a trade, the Flyers have at least nine draft picks, including extra picks in the third, sixth and seventh rounds.
It will be interesting to see what the Flyers will do with their top selection.
As always, it’s important to get it right, both in the first round and beyond.
“The draft in the cap era is huge,’’ Flahr said at a Monday press briefing the Skate Zone. “You need young players, you need to push from beneath. . .as you get your core positions solidified, you need younger players to contribute.
“This team has drafted well the past couple years. But we still have holes to fill. We just need to add players going forward to give us depth and hopefully has success down the road.’’
Fletcher and Flahr seem to be in agreement that the Flyers will select “the best player available’’ rather than try to fill a specific need.
That said, Flahr indicated the Flyers might lean toward a defenseman, even though they appear to be overstocked at that position.
“The way I look at it, we’ll take the best player available at 11,’’ Flahr said. “We have some young defensemen who are in the NHL right now and a couple coming but we would probably like to add a defenseman to our organization going forward.’’
At the same time, don’t rule out a scoring winger or center.
Flahr gave the overall draft a grade of “B+.’’
If that’s the case, there’s a good chance the Flyers believe they will get a good prospect at No. 11 and probably won’t need to trade up or down.
“In this draft, especially in the top 15, I think there are a number of different types of players, which is interesting,’’ Flahr said. “There are power wingers, scoring wingers, centers, a number of ‘D’ (defensemen).
“Obviously picking 11, we’ve identified five or six guys that we think have a chance to be there at 11. Probably some of the teams in front of us will dictate that. We’re really confident we’re going to get a good player.’’
It’s safe to say the top two consensus picks – Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko — are out of the Flyers’ reach, but there are a host of other hopefuls who could be taken “ahead of schedule’’ or fall for whatever reason.
One player the Flyers might be interested in drafting is Cole Caufield, who is rated ninth by The Hockey News.
The one possible drawback is that Caufield is listed as only 5-foot-7, 157 pounds. That’s rather small, even for a right wing. But try telling Columbus Blue Jacket star Cam Atkinson about that.
“Would I be surprised if he’s still there (at 11)?’’ Flahr said. “No.’’
Other candidates projected around the No. 11 spot include center Alex Turcotte (rated No. 10 by THN), center Peyton Krebs (rated No. 11) and defenseman Victor Soderstrom (rated No. 12).