Even if Flyers hit draft lottery, can they cash in?

Nolan Patrick
      Not many people thought the Flyers had a chance at a top-two pick prior to the start of the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.
      Somehow the Flyers beat the odds, moving up from No. 14 to No. 2.
      This coming Wednesday, No. 14 Philadelphia once again will get a chance, albeit a 1.8 percent one, when the NHL decides who gets a crack at the top two amateur prospects from around the world.
      Thing is, even if the Flyers somehow pull off another miracle, there’s no guarantee they can secure a sure-shot talent.
      The team has a history of slightly more “misses’’ than hits when it comes to single-digit draft picks, including the aforementioned 2017 selection.
      That was the oft-injured center Nolan Patrick, who has failed to live up to his pre-draft billing.
      Some thought the Flyers should have used the pick on defenseman Cale Makar, who was later selected at No. 4 by Colorado. In his first season with the Avalanche, Makar won the Calder Trophy for NHL rookie of the year.
      The Flyers also ran into a bit of bad luck in 2007. After finishing with the worst record in the NHL for the 2006-2007 season, the Flyers lost the lottery to Chicago, which promptly grabbed Patrick Kane.
      That left the Flyers with James van Riemsdyk, who has had a good career with Philadelphia and Toronto but nowhere near that of Kane. The U.S. native has won Hart/MVP honors, three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and became the first American to win an NHL scoring title.
      In recent years, Philadelphia has done well with some other high draft choices, including Ivan Provorov with the No. 7 in 2015 and Sean Couturier with the No. 8 in 2011.
      But if you go further back in history, there have been some rather questionable picks.
      Who can forget 2002 when the Flyers used a No. 4 choice on defenseman Joni Pitkanen?
      Or 1992, when the Flyers went after Hall of Famer Darryl Sittler’s son, Ryan, with the No. 7 selection. Ryan wound up playing exactly zero games in the NHL.
      The alltimer might be the 1990 draft. The Flyers went with Mike Ricci at No. 4.
      Know who was No. 5 that year? Some kid named Jaromir Jagr.
      And if you backpedal all the way to 1982, the Flyers had the No. 4 slot again and chose talented two-way forward Ron Sutter.
      Only problem was, as second-guessers quickly pointed out, the No. 5 pick turned out to be Hall of Fame defenseman Scott Stevens.
      On Wednesday there will be two draws to determine the No. 1 and No. 2 picks.
      In their history, the Flyers have had only one No. 1 overall draft pick. That came in 1975 when the Flyers chose center Mel Bridgman.
      Bridgman played 462 games for the Flyers, played in two Stanley Cup Finals, registered 324 points and finished with a plus-140.
      To the Flyers’ credit, no one after Bridgman besides Dennis Maruk would go on to come close to those numbers.
      This year’s draft will be held on June 23-24. Should the Flyers, who are clearly in the market for help on defense, get lucky again, there are several talented backliners out there, including Canada native Brandt Clarke, the University of Michigan’s Owen Power, Sweden’s Simon Edvinsson and Luke Hughes from the U.S. National Team Development Program.
      Center Matthew Berniers of Michigan tops the list of forwards.
      Ultimately, at the risk of repeating ourselves, if the Flyers are fortunate, they have to be prudent with their selection. Actually, that statement holds true regardless of where the Flyers pick.
      They have hit it right plenty of times over the years, some of the best including Brian Propp (14th in 1979), Peter Forsberg (6th in 1990) and Joel Farabee (14th in 2018).
      For now, all the Flyers scouts and talent evaluators can do is keep their fingers crossed.
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About Wayne Fish 1351 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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