NASHVILLE, Tenn. – It was no secret the Flyers were looking to make a trade to compensate for the lack of a second-round pick at the NHL Draft.
So there were few raised eyebrows when Philadelphia acquired the No. 51 pick from Chicago on Thursday morning on the draft’s concluding day at Bridgestone Arena.
The Flyers quickly selected goaltender Carson Bjarnason of the Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL).
In exchange, the Flyers sent their No. 167 pick in this year’s draft plus a second-rounder in next year’s draft. They felt OK with that because they already had three second-rounders – the second coming by way of not signing former first-rounder Jay O’Brien, plus another via the recent Ivan Provorov trade with Los Angeles (he eventually landed in Columbus).
Flyers general manager Daniel Briere made it known he was looking to draft a goalie to add some depth to the organization. They do have Felix Sandstrom and Samuel Ersson in the system but neither one particularly stood out in small samples of NHL action last season.
The Flyers also used a third-round pick to take Russian goalie Egor Zavragin.
“We were afraid we wouldn’t be able to get one of the goaltenders high on our list,” Briere explained. “That’s why we moved up for the first one. Then, all of a sudden, someone we had right up there with Bjarnason was still there. We felt the upside was just too much to pass up.
“You can never have too many goalies. So many things can happen, different trades. All these guys start hitting. It’s going to be a nice thing to have. It’s for the long haul.”
Bjarnason is a big fan of Flyers starting goalie Carter Hart and said he looks forward to working with him on the Flyers.
“I kind of play like a Carter Hart/Carey Price (ex-Montreal great) style of play,” Bjarnason said. “So it’s pretty cool to come to Philadelphia and be able to see Hart.”
The Brandon Wheat Kings alum said it was gratifying to learn the Flyers had traded to acquire his services. It makes a player feel wanted.
“It’s pretty crazy,” he said with a chuckle. “I mean I’m just going to prove them right, that they made the right decision.”
Asked if he thought if he might go this high in the draft, he shrugged.
“I wasn’t sure, I’m sort of a wild card,” he said. “Obviously there were a couple goalies ahead (of him). I’m just super-stoked.”
Bjarnason said he watches all the Flyers game on television, mainly because he wants to see Hart in action.
“He’s one of my favorite goalies since Price stopped playing,” Bjarnason said. “He’s the one guy I’ve been watching so it will be pretty cool to go to Philadelphia.”
Assistant general manager Brent Flahr, who oversees scouting, gives Bjarnason high marks.
“Carson was one of the top-rated goalies coming into the season,” Flahr said. “He’s big, athletic. Our goalies coach and scouts have been very high on him.
“He’s had a big role in Brandon the last couple years. He has a chance to be a Hockey Canada goalie going forward and we’re excited to get him.”
Bjarnason, 17, hails from Carberry, Manitoba. He’s 6-3, 186 pounds. Last season with the Wheat Kings he was 21-19-6 with a 3.08 goals-against average.
Zavragin played in the Russia Junior League last season. He’s 6-2, 183 pounds. The 17-year-old is a native of Novosibirsk, Russia.
After that, the Flyers went for forward Denver Barkey at No. 95. He’s a left-shooting center who played for the London Knights.
“When I heard my name called, my heart kind of stopped,” Barkey said. “I was like in shock almost and then I kind of let it sink in. I was just happy to hug my parents because without them I wouldn’t be here today.
Barkey is not all that big, so he models his game after players such as Toronto’s Mitch Marner and Tampa’s Brayden Point.
“They’re really skilled fast forwards,” Barkey noted. “(Point is) really gritty and competitive. Not afraid to go in the corners. When you’re a smaller guy, you can’t be afraid to do that. I try to play my game like his.”
At No. 103, the Flyers chose Cole Knuble, the son of former Flyer forward Mike Knuble. He’s a re-entry player. Scouting report says he’s a real hard worker, just like his old man.
With the No. 120 selection, the Flyers picked up Alex Ciernik. Not overly big but a fast skater.
His family flew from Austria to New York, then had their flight from the Big Apple to Nashville cancelled due to bad weather. So they rented a car and spent 14 hours on the highway to get here.
“It was a long week for me and my family,” Ciernik conceded. “A lot of travel. It’s a relief to be part of such a great organization.
“New York was pretty brutal. Seven hundred flights were cancelled. We had to take a rental car all the way from New York to here. . .we just came in here yesterday. But it was worth the ride.”
The No. 135 pick went to Carter Sotheran. He’s an 18-year-old defenseman from Manitoba. The Flyers obviously like his 6-3, 191-pound frame.
Ryan MacPherson, a center, was picked at No. 172. He’s a center and listed at 6-0, 176 pounds.
With their final pick at No. 199, the Flyers chose Matteo Mann. The New Brunswick, Canada native plays defense. He’s 6-6, 229 pounds, so he fits right into the Flyers’ traditional plan of having one or two backliners who can clear traffic in front of the net.