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.

2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

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2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs schedule: Flames look to avoid 2-game series deficit vs. Avalanche

The NHL-best Lightning were shockingly swept by the Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The NHL's second-best team the Flames are in some first-round trouble, too. Calgary is facing a 2-1 series deficit against the Avalanche with Game 4 Wednesday night in Colorado.

Below is the full schedule for Day 8 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. You can watch the entire playoffs on the networks of NBC. 

Boston Bruins at Toronto Maple Leafs (TOR 2-1)
Game 4, Eastern Conference first round
7 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars (NSH 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
8 p.m. ET | TV: USA | Live stream here

Calgary Flames at Colorado Avalanche (COL 2-1)
Game 4, Western Conference first round
10 p.m. ET | TV: NBCSN | Live stream here

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

Why Flyers did just fine with Alain Vigneault, not Joel Quenneville

It's uncertain how hard the Flyers went after Joel Quenneville or if the team was even in on the three-time Stanley Cup champion at all.

On the day Quenneville took the Panthers' head coaching job, Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher appeared unflappable when asked about his level of disappointment with the news.

"I'm happy for Joel," Fletcher said April 8. "We're less than 48 hours since the end of our season and the process of identifying the next head coach of the Flyers will start today. We'll start the process.

"He's not available. I'm not going to speculate on names or people that may be available or were available or were available in past years. It's a big decision for the Flyers."

Backup plan or not, Fletcher didn't do too shabby with his big decision, tabbing Alain Vigneault as the Flyers' new head coach. 

Maybe there's some short-term memory with the outside perception of the hire. When you see Vigneault's name, many think of his final days with the Rangers. After four winning seasons, New York fired Vigneault last April as the team was ready for a fresh approach following a 25-point drop-off.

Well, the same happened with Quenneville. While he experienced a much longer and more fruitful run of success in Chicago, the situation eventually grew sour to the point in which new direction was wanted. Quenneville was fired 15 games into this season after his worst year with the Blackhawks in 2017-18.

Vigneault is not Quenneville. But he's no slouch, either.

The Flyers needed a coach with experience and got one.

Vigneault has led three teams to the Presidents' Trophy and two to the Stanley Cup Final. In 16 seasons as an NHL head coach, 11 have featured playoff berths, with eight of those teams advancing past the first round (see 5 takeaways).

He owns three 50-win seasons and eight 100-point seasons. The Flyers haven't won 50 or more games in a season since 1985-86 and haven't amassed 100 or more points in a season since 2011-12, when they last won a playoff series (see story).

"I think his track record speaks for itself," Fletcher said Monday. "He's had success at the junior level, had success in the minor leagues, and he's had success in the NHL. You can't have success at all those levels unless you're good at developing players and good at connecting with veteran players. He's a guy that gets his teams to play hard and gets his players to buy in."

And for Fletcher, what likely made Vigneault such an attractive candidate is the head coach's track record in Year 1 on the job. At Vigneault's previous three stops (Canadiens, Canucks, Rangers), each of his first seasons resulted in playoff bids and at least one series win. Overall, his combined record in those seasons was 131-89-26 with a .585 points percentage.

"Right now, it's about trying to continue to build our group and become as competitive as quickly as we can," Fletcher said.

Quenneville was clearly set on South Florida.

It's also clear why that didn't break the Flyers' hearts.

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