As we inch closer to Ron Hextall’s fifth draft as Flyers general manager, we have a track record of what to expect this weekend at the 2018 NHL draft at American Airlines Center in Dallas.
The Flyers have nine selections and two first-rounders. Hextall said last week he anticipates making both of his first-round picks (Nos. 14 and 19) but left the door open for a trade. In prior drafts, Hextall operated by a best player available mentality. While he said he’ll stick to the Flyers’ list, he let it slip they would like to restock their defense and desire more right-handed D-men.
We’re going to provide prospects the Flyers could target in the first round. First up, No. 14.
Joel Farabee, LW, 6-0/161, USA U-18 (NTDP)
While Hextall said a righty D-man is on his wish list, he also acknowledged the Flyers’ need for goal scoring. Farabee, an 18-year-old New Yorker from the USNTDP, fits that description well.
Farabee scored 48 total goals in 88 combined games and produced above a point-per-game clip between the USHL and NTDP. He brings high character and a commitment to a 200-foot game.
A speedy left winger, Farabee possesses a shoot-first mentality and his skating to create space. He’s headed to Boston University in the fall, where he’ll fine-tune his game and bulk up.
Rasmus Kupari, C, 6-1/188, Kärpät (Extraliga)
Hextall lives by building down the middle — centers, defensemen and goaltenders — so Kupari could be on the Flyers’ radar come Friday night. He’s one of the best skaters in the draft and owns tremendous puck skills while still having a ton of raw talent he needs to polish overseas.
Kupari, as a 17-year-old playing in Finland’s top hockey league, recorded 14 points in 39 games with Kärpät. He also made Finland’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships roster.
The centerman will be staying in Finland for at least another year, so patience will be required. Could be a few years before he comes to North America but is a high-upside prospect.
Bode Wilde, D, 6-2/197, USA U-18 (NTDP)
If the Flyers stay put, keep an eye on Wilde, a smooth-skating righty defenseman with a cannon for a shot and a solid frame for an 18-year-old, using it to separate players from the puck.
Wilde scored 12 goals and 41 points in 61 games with the NTDP this season and added three goals and 16 points in 25 games with the NTDP junior team in the USHL.
After originally committing to the University of Michigan, Wilde recently de-committed from the college, according to TSN's Bob McKenzie. Needs to get smarter with his decision-making and sharpen his play in his own zone, but there are enough encouraging signs in which that won’t be an issue.
Ty Smith, D, 5-10/176, Spokane (WHL)
A smaller defensive prospect, Smith’s skating ability picks up for what he lacks in size. The game has changed, so size doesn’t matter as much anymore. Still, Smith’s skill level is high.
The Chiefs' defenseman scored 14 goals and 73 points in 69 games in 2017-18 and captained Team Canada’s U-18 team at the 2018 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championships.
Smith’s talent level isn’t that far off from the draft’s top D prospects. Spokane head coach Dan Lambert recently said Smith reminds him like a mix of Shayne Gostisbehere and Ivan Provorov.
Joseph Veleno, C, 6-1/194, Drummondville (QMJHL)
Veleno may be off the board when the Flyers are on the clock but could last until 14. The centerman was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2015 QMJHL draft after receiving exceptional status as a 15-year-old by the CHL, becoming just the fifth player to ever be granted that rank.
Finishing as the eighth-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Veleno has a pro-like work ethic with a high hockey IQ. He was traded from Saint John to Drummondville midseason in 2017-18 and finished with 79 points in 64 games between the two clubs.
Under the Hextall administration, the Flyers have valued smart players with high character and a commitment to playing a 200-foot game. If Veleno is available, he fits all that criteria.
Other names to watch
Barrett Hayton, C, 6-1/190, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
Hayton is a prospect the Flyers should know plenty about. A solid two-way centerman who produced just under a point-per-game clip in 2017-18 playing for the powerhouse Greyhounds.
Serron Noel, RW, 6-5/210, Oshawa (OHL)
A monster of a winger, Noel falls under the project category. The Flyers’ farm system positions them to be able to take on a project like Noel but there appear to be better fits at No. 14.
Vitali Kravtsov, RW, 6-2/184, Traktor Chelyabinsk (KHL)
Hextall has built a reputation as a GM who likes high risers — Travis Sanheim and Morgan Frost, for example — and Kravtsov definitely falls into that category. A very intriguing option at 14.
Grigori Denisenko, LW, 5-10/171, Loko Yaroslavl (MHL)
A Russian winger with sky-high potential. Not sure if he’ll be on the Flyers’ radar at 14 — might be a little high — but his ceiling could be enticing enough for Hextall to call his name.