Philadelphia Flyers

2018 NHL draft profile: Ryan Merkley, a polarizing high risk/reward prospect

2018 NHL draft profile: Ryan Merkley, a polarizing high risk/reward prospect

Over the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how they would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Ryan Merkley

Position: Defenseman
Height: 5-foot-11
Weight: 170
Shoots: Right
Team: Guelph (OHL)

Scouting report
It’s hard to overlook Merkley’s offensive instincts and ability as a right-handed defenseman. He has elite speed and acceleration and moves the puck quickly and smoothly. The blueliner has great vision and can make breakout passes look simple. Add in his ability to quarterback a power play and a prospect like Merkley would normally be considered a safe high first-rounder.

Merkley just finished up his second season with Guelph, which selected him with the No. 1 pick in the 2016 OHL draft as a no-brainer. In his first OHL season, Merkley scored 12 goals and 55 points in 62 games. This season, the righty netted 13 markers and 67 points in 63 games. The offensive numbers are gaudy as they were in Triple-A midget hockey when he was “heads and shoulders above everybody else.” Merkley is an elite offensive defenseman prospect with major concerns in his own end and has been labeled as a player who cheats a bit to produce offense. Plus/minus is a flawed stat but in two seasons in the OHL, Merkley is a minus-70. That’s telling.

A major concern with Merkley is his character and maturity. He had a public argument with his former coach in Guelph last season, according to Sudbury Star. He was reportedly cut from Team Canada’s U-18 team because of a conflict. It could be chalked up as a teenager being a teenager, but some teams could be scared away from spending a high pick on him. 

Fit with Flyers
The Flyers certainly could use another impact defenseman to insert into their farm system and offensively, Merkley would qualify as such. Add in that he’s a right-handed shot and some may view Merkley as a prospect worth the risk. But there would be considerable risk in selecting Merkley.

One, his defense is an area of concern and there has been chatter he’s been unwilling to work in that area. Two, the maturity aspect. Merkley’s drafting team will require patience, which Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has. Some feel Merkley should be in the top 15 and others see him slipping to the late first round. He doesn’t seem to be a fit with Hextall’s past.

With two first-round picks, it’s possible the Flyers could aim to draft both a forward and a defenseman. It would be a minor surprise, if they keep both, that they don’t take at least one defenseman at either 14 or 19. Fourteen seems a little high with the defensive concerns, but at 19, if he is available, it is worth taking a look at him. His offensive game is as good as it gets.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

• Profile: Dominik Bokk

• Profile: Noah Dobson

• Profile: Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: Martin Kaut

• Profile: Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: Serron Noel

• Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtsov

Flyers to face Islanders 4 times in 2018-19 preseason

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USA Today Images

Flyers to face Islanders 4 times in 2018-19 preseason

The Flyers are going to get pretty familiar with the New York Islanders this September.

The team released its preseason schedule Friday, which includes eight games, four against the Islanders, with the first matchup on Sep. 16 at 1 p.m. at Nassau Coliseum. The Bruins (two games) and the Rangers (three games) are the Flyers' other preseason opponents. 

Those same three opponents also comprised the entirety of the Flyers' preseason slate last season.

A matchup vs. the Islanders on Sep. 17 at 7 p.m. will be the Flyers' first game at the Wells Fargo Center since their 8-5 loss on April 22 in Game 6 of the first round of the playoffs to the Penguins.

The full preseason schedule is below.

Sunday, Sept. 16: Flyers-Islanders at Nassau Coliseum — 1 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 17: Flyers-Islanders at Wells Fargo Center — 7 p.m.

Tuesday, Sept. 18: Flyers-Islanders at Barclays Center — 7 p.m.

Wednesday, Sept. 19: Flyers-Rangers at Madison Square Garden — 7 p.m.

Friday, Sept. 21: Flyers-Islanders at PPL Center — 7 p.m.

Monday, Sept. 24: Flyers-Bruins at Wells Fargo Center — 7 p.m.

Thursday, Sept. 27: Flyers-Rangers at Wells Fargo Center — 7 p.m.

Sautrday, Sept. 29: Flyers-Bruins at TD Garden — 7 p.m.

More on the Flyers

2018 NHL draft profile: Dominik Bokk, a RW who could bring pure scoring to Flyers' system

2018 NHL draft profile: Dominik Bokk, a RW who could bring pure scoring to Flyers' system

In the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how those players would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Dominik Bokk

Position: Right winger 
Height: 6-foot-1
Weight: 176
Shoots: Right
Team: Växjö (SHL)

Scouting report
The German-born Bokk will undoubtedly draw comparisons to fellow countryman Leon Draisaitl, but the Edmonton Oilers' forward was clearly much further along in his development as the third overall pick in the 2014 draft.

Bokk is a highly skilled prospect who loves to create in the open ice. He dominated Sweden’s highest junior hockey league, scoring 41 points in 35 games and then spent time with Växjö in the Swedish Elite League.  

The book on Bokk is that he’s a player with very high offensive upside. I really like the way the puck comes off his stick and he’s very accurate with his snapshot. He doesn’t have top-end, explosive speed, but when he senses the open ice, he finds that extra gear in his acceleration. Not too many defensemen I watched can handle a player like Bokk 1-on-1 where there’s room to operate.

Then again, Bokk hasn’t played against high-end blueliners.

He doesn’t play with much physicality and his development is still in the early stages, but Bokk is a very intriguing prospect and a player with good size (6-1, 176) who can still fill out his frame. The team that drafts him will have to exercise a great deal of patience in his development. 

Bokk may want to consider bringing his game to the smaller North American rink next season where the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League currently own his rights. Can he maneuver and score in tight spaces? Playing a season or two in major junior will help.

Fit with Flyers
General manager Ron Hextall talked about the need to add more pure scorers within the organization and Bokk appears to have that goal-scorer’s mentality. Bokk isn’t a natural center who the Flyers can integrate into a winger, so it could be a stretch for the Flyers to grab a player like Bokk this high.

I think Bokk has the versatility to play either wing position and looks more comfortable on the right side.

He’s another “tweener” in that I think he’s a reach for the Flyers with one of their two first-round picks, but he’s too highly rated to where he won’t be available when the Flyers make their second-round selection. 

If the right deal is available, the Flyers could take Bokk late in the first round or early second while picking up additional picks.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Noah Dobson

• Profile: Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: Martin Kaut

• Profile: Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: Serron Noel

• Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtso