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With 2 picks in top 20, Flyers' Ron Hextall may look to move up in 2018 NHL draft

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With 2 picks in top 20, Flyers' Ron Hextall may look to move up in 2018 NHL draft

Over the course of the next six weeks, general manager Ron Hextall will be meeting extensively with his scouting staff as they align their draft board and rank the prospects for the NHL entry draft in Dallas on June 22 and 23.

The Flyers have two picks in the top 20 for the first time in 40 years. That hasn’t happened since 1978, when the organization snagged defenseman Behn Wilson and center Ken Linseman with back-to-back picks in the top 10. 

Recent history suggests Hextall will not wait for the draft board to come to him. As passively as Hextall has operated around the trade deadline, the Flyers' GM has shown a much more aggressive side in terms of navigating his chess pieces during draft weekend. 

Holding the 14th and 19th overall selections gives Hextall many options.

“We’ve seen enough players where it’s a good draft and we’re going to get a couple of good players if we make those picks,” Hextall said last week. “In terms of options, yeah, it gives you more options. If you want to move up, I would envision the chance to move up.”

Moving up has been Hextall’s draft strategy.

In his four years at the helm, he has valued draft picks and prospects like family heirlooms, reluctant to part with them regardless of how much of a boost it provides the Flyers in the short term. 

Three years ago, the Flyers acquired Tampa Bay’s first-round pick, 29th overall, along with Radko Gudas as part of the Braydon Coburn deal. Fearing Travis Konecny may not be around that late, Hextall was able to move up five spots by throwing in a late second-round pick as part of the Kimmo Timonen deal with the Blackhawks.

Last year, Hextall engineered the Brayden Schenn deal with St. Louis, which netted the Flyers a pair of first-round picks — the 27th overall selection in 2017 that was used to select Morgan Frost, who finished second in the OHL with 112 points in 67 games. It’s the most points scored by a Flyers prospect in junior since former Quebec Ramparts winger Simon Gagne finished with 120 points in 1998-99.

Hextall and his staff didn’t relax on Day 2 as they jumped up nine spots in the second round to snag big scoring winger Isaac Ratcliffe, which gave the Flyers three picks in the top 35 of last year’s draft.  

As a result, the Flyers' prospect pool looks considerably more potent in the four years under Hextall’s control, and the farm system has been consistently ranked in the top five. 

“We have a good depth chart right now,” Hextall said. “Would I like it to be a little better? Yeah, I would. Get a little greedy, I guess.”

With Ivan Provorov, Nolan Patrick, Konecny and Frost just in the past three years, Hextall has been stockpiling first-round picks and now has an opportunity to add two more to his reserves. 

“We’ll look at everything with those picks," Hextall said. "I’m not saying we move them or move up. I don’t know. I don’t know what’s going to come our way. You sit here and you might want this or that. Someone else is going to want the same things you want.” 

But as Hextall has shown, he won’t sit around and let another GM dictate what the Flyers do on draft day.

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

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.

Jack McBain

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Scouting report
If you watch tape of McBain you immediately have to keep in mind that he’s played his teenage hockey in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he was physically an overpowering player against lesser competition. 

McBain was drafted by the Barrie Colts of the OHL, but elected to keep his amateur status intact, which will allow him to attend Boston College next fall. That’s when we should receive a real gauge of where his skills stack up playing in the NCAA Hockey East Conference.

A big body center, McBain isn’t the most elusive skater, nor is he the most creative playmaker. He plays more of a north-south game but doesn’t back down from the high-traffic areas. He prefers to use his big frame to overpower opponents and works well down in the trenches.

Surprisingly, he’s a solid puck handler, but again, a lot of those plays looked easy for him against smaller, inferior competition. 

He plays with a long stick which enables him to be disruptive while getting that stick into a lot of passing lanes and using his reach effectively on the backcheck. 

As the best player on the ice, he probably tries to do too much, but he doesn’t back down and he’s very assertive. There doesn’t appear to be much hesitation in his game. It’s obvious McBain has the frame and the tools to be a future NHL player. 

Fit with Flyers
Interestingly, McBain knows what it’s like to play with the Flyers crest on his sweater. Before joining the Toronto Junior Canadiens, McBain was a member of the Don Mills Flyers minor-midget AAA team in Canada. 

McBain is a player the Flyers can snag with their second-round selection (50th overall). I just don’t project him going higher considering he has never played major junior hockey.

If you look within the farm system, the Flyers don’t have very many big body centers within the organization and McBain could certainly help fill that void. However, he’s also the type of big body player that could effectively transition to left wing if he can’t handle the responsibilities of playing down the middle.

If McBain can successfully make the jump to college hockey, the Flyers could have a second-round pick with first-round talent.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Rasmus Sandin

• Profile: Ryan Merkley 

• 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

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

This is a peculiar time for Ron Hextall.

In one facet, it's his time, precious for a build-from-within disciple who must feel like a kid on Christmas when the NHL draft arrives.

Then again, it's a weird time. Shortly after the Flyers' general manager unwraps his gifts and adds them to the toy bin, NHL free agency hits. Not a time when Hextall likes to play. Quickly, Christmas turns into the first day of school.

It's that time of year again for Hextall. The question is, have the times changed for the GM?

With the Flyers entering Year 4 under Dave Hakstol and looking to take the next step forward, some wonder if Hextall is ready to make free agency his new time. After all, much of the organization's youth is here and contributing, the core isn't getting any younger and the Flyers have more financial wiggle room — thanks to Hextall — with $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

But if Hextall's vision was ever in danger of shifting, an expansion team's marvelous story lent credence to his plan, reinforcing the belief in the way he operates and constructs his own hockey team.

When asked Thursday about the constant chatter regarding his core's clock and the team's youthfulness catching up to it, Hextall spoke with conviction and at length.

"They might have different roles; you almost might not depend on them quite as much because your younger guys are coming up and taking a bigger piece of the pie," Hextall said. "So all of a sudden you don't need one guy scoring 85 points, he can score 75 points or 70 points because we've got these kids coming up that are scoring more and more. 

"That's how you build a team. You don't build a team by having three top players and they go out every power play and they win you games. It's just not the way it works. You saw — Vegas is a good example. They were the best team in the league. Not the best talent, they were the best team. Teams still win. Teams still win. And that's what we've got to continue to build."

So if you were hoping Hextall was tinkering with the thought of making a free-agent splash, think again. He will stick to his guns and always has, constantly stressing the importance of never deviating from the course set at the journey's start.

None of which is to think Hextall won't utilize free agency to improve. He will make additions strategically and judiciously, but doling out money and years to a stud won't happen.

And the moment Hextall reaffirmed his M.O., the pressure picked up.

On all levels.

On Hextall's faith in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and the mainstays delivering star-like production.

On the young foundation pieces taking heftier strides to lighten the loads for the veterans.

On the scouting and development personnel finding and molding game-changing talent.

And on the confluence of Hextall's motives and ultimate goal.

"We are still the ultimate team sport and I think Vegas proved that to all of us this year. The more we move along here, the more society, pro sports seem to put a spotlight on a star, and that's fine, but that star has got to have his teammates in our sport or you're not going to win," Hextall said. "You look at Washington, they had a lot of really good players in the playoffs. Devante Smith-Pelly. Do they win without Devante Smith-Pelly? A couple guys get all the credit but look what this guy did. We are still the ultimate team sport, we really are."

The ultimate test will be the Flyers proving it themselves.

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