Judging by the Flyers’ recent flurry of activity, it shouldn’t be a given that they will hang on to their No. 11 pick when the NHL Entry Draft gets underway Friday night in Vancouver.
General manager Chuck Fletcher has already swung several big deals, including a pair of name defensemen (Matt Niskanen, Justin Braun) and a potential second-line center (Kevin Hayes).
Fletcher had to give up his second-round pick (41st overall) to secure Braun, so it wouldn’t be a big reach to suggest the Flyers might trade down in order to fill that hole, thus possibly gaining an extra pick in the process.
Assistant GM Brent Flahr, who oversees the scouting operation, indicated it would be a little frustrating if the Flyers parted ways with the No. 11 pick after all the scouting work put in.
“It always hurts for me,’’ he said with a smile at a recent press briefing. “If we’re going to trade (away) 11, it would be for a significant piece. It won’t be a ‘rental’ (pending free agent), it will be a younger player.
“At the same time, I don’t like to think about that stuff. I like to keep my first-round picks when I can.’’
That said, if the Flyers do stand pat, it sounds like they will go the “best available player’’ route rather than pinpoint a particular position.
Fletcher and Flahr have indicated there is enough depth in the draft to select strictly on a talent basis.
“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.’’
The top two prospects in the draft – Jack Hughes and Kaapo Kakko – appear to be a lock for the one-two positions.
After that, things could get a little more wide-open.
Here are the top 15 prospects, as rated by The Hockey News/International Scouting Services:
- Jack Hughes, center.
- Kaapo Kakko, right wing.
- Dylan Cozens, center.
- Kirby Dach, center.
- Vasili Podkolzin, right wing.
- Bowen Byram, defense.
- Trevor Zegras, center.
- Matthew Boldy, left wing.
- Cole Caufield, right wing.
- Alex Turcotte, center.
- Peyton Krebs, center.
- Victor Soderstrom, defense.
- Thomas Harley, defense.
- Raphael Lavoie, right wing.
- Alex Newhook, center.
Flahr and his staff have extensively scouted all these young players.
Caufield, he said, has potential, even though he’s only listed as 5-foot-7, 157 pounds.
“He’s as advertised (58 goals in 57 games for the U.S. Under-18 development team),’’ said Flahr. “You can pick apart his size, but he’s a pure goal-scorer, a competitive kid, a lot of intangibles. He has intrigue.’’
Flahr indicated Caufield could drop to No. 11 because of his slight build.
Also, Flahr said that while working for Minnesota in a similar capacity, he generally had handle on which players were going where about a week before the draft. But this year, things look a little more unpredictable.
“A little different,’’ he said. “We’ll have a better idea just through talking to agents of players what teams are high on certain players.’’
Flahr also likes Boldy and probably would go for him if he’s still around at 11.
“He’s a unique guy, a power forward (6-foot-2, 187 pounds out of Massachusetts),’’ Flahr said. “Really good hands, can shoot. He’s a guy we like but other teams do as well.’’
Flahr reiterated the draft has become more and more important in recent years because of salary cap restrictions and possibly because the talent level continues to go up each time around.
“You have some of these guys who are having impacts,’’ Flahr said. “Just to have young players, the energy that they bring. . .when teams start to look a little older, you bring a couple young guys in and they give you that energy.
“You see players who might struggle in September and October but then they contribute in the second half, like (Robert) Thomas (19-year-old rookie) in St. Louis (Stanley Cup champions). These guys can have an impact down the stretch, which is a big deal.’’
Flyers’ order of selection:
>Round 1: 11th overall.
>Round 2: No selection (traded to San Jose).
>Round 3: 65th overall (from NJ-Edmonton); 72nd overall.
>Round 4: 103rd overall.
>Round 5: No selection (traded to Winnipeg).
>Round 6: 165th overall; 169th overall (from Arizona).
>Round 7: 196th overall; 201st overall (from Montreal).