Flyers look to draft players who are both smart and physically skilled

Flyers GM Daniel Briere

       When Daniel Briere helped the Flyers reach the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, it was clear his decision-making prowess was what made him an elite player.

      He connected for a team record 30 points in just 23 games along the way, a mark which stands to this day.

      In fact, his 72 points in 68 Flyers postseason career games make him the only Philadelphia player on the top 10 list to achieve more than a point per game, an honor roll which includes Hall of Famers Bob Clarke, Bill Barber and Eric Lindros.

      So it was clear that at 5-foot-9, 175 pounds, Briere got by as much with his wits as his lightning-quick skates.

      Perhaps that’s what makes him as qualified as any professional scout to evaluate players, something which should come in handy when the NHL Draft convenes in Las Vegas on Friday night and Saturday.

      Briere is a proactive GM who doesn’t just let everything fall on his scouts. He does his fair share of traveling to watch prospects on his own.

      He’s looking for special players who can not only execute plays but have the imagination to think on the fly and create stuff in a split-second.

      “First of all, it (scouting) is an area that I love,” Briere said during Thursday’s press conference at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey. “I did a lot of it before being GM (including being special assistant to former GM Chuck Fletcher).

      “It was one of my favorite parts of the job, going around minor league/junior rinks, the U18 tournaments, the World Juniors. . .I loved that part of the game. So as much I can, I try to (see prospects first-hand). What I try to do is see at least the top 40 to 50 prospects that are out there.”

      Briere said he attempts to see the game’s best draft-eligible players at least once, maybe twice in person.

      However, Flyers scouts might see the same players 15 to 20 times, so Briere relies on that input as well.

      “I try to respect that a lot,” the GM said. “I do have an opinion but I rely on our guys a lot. They’re the ones who kind of dictate the direction. I do have the last say but these guys know a lot more about the players than I do.

      “For me, it’s an idea about who we’re drafting, that’s why I like seeing the player. I like to have an idea what they look like, the type of style that they play. I like doing the (scouting) combine in Buffalo so I get to see a little bit of the personality. Just having an idea who we’re drafting.”

      One of the other key things is having an idea whether a young player will fit in here. Sometimes you swing and miss, like in the case of former No. 1 pick Cutter Gauthier, who for some reason didn’t want to sign with the Flyers and ended up getting traded to Anaheim.

      Gauthier was drafted by the Flyers before Briere became GM, so that one doesn’t go on his record. Briere wants players who not only will mesh with the Flyers’ philosophy but thrive with it.

      “I think it’s a great opportunity for them and that’s kind of how we sell it – you sell yourself to the Flyers and we draft you,” he said.

      “You have a great opportunity here. There are teams that are chasing the Cup right now (Florida, Edmonton) – the opportunities are smaller. For us, it’s wide open. We’re building toward the future. If you put the time in, you have the chance to be part of something special. That’s kind of the message we tell the players.”

      >One game for all the marbles

      The eyes of the hockey world will be glued to TV sets on Monday night when the Edmonton Oilers and Florida Panthers play a one-game winner-take-all for the Stanley Cup.

      Only one team, the 1942 Toronto Maple Leafs, has pulled off what the Oilers are attempting to do, namely rebound from an 0-3 deficit to win four straight games for the championship.

      While it didn’t happen in the ultimate round, the Flyers did achieve this magnificent fete in the conference semifinals in 2010. As mentioned, Briere was on that team.

      Monday’s game will be played in Florida, and it remains to be seen if the home-ice advantage will be a factor, the way it was back in 1975 when the Flyers and New York Islanders met for the Eastern Conference title in Philadelphia.

      If the Panthers are to win their first championship, they have to di something to stop the Oilers’ high-powered offense, which has scored a whopping 18 goals in the past three games.

      In the 1975 Game 7 on May 13, Gary Dornhoefer scored 19 seconds into the game at the old Spectrum and Rick MacLeish later provided a hat trick as the Flyers prevailed, 4-1.

      The Oilers are the 10th NHL team to make it back to a Game 7 in the Cup Final. Maybe they can find an old video of the Leafs’ ’42 title to provide inspiration.

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About Wayne Fish 2473 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.