The topic: Will the Flyers make both of their first-round picks?
This may be the most intriguing draft for the Flyers since 2003, when they selected Jeff Carter (11th overall) and Mike Richards (24th overall) in the first round. I’ve packed my binoculars to keep a close eye on the Flyers' table as general manager Ron Hextall should be busy answering phone calls and discussing potential deals. The other 30 teams will be inquiring about one of their two first-round picks and I think Hextall will put some feelers out as well.
I also tend to ignore mock drafts as nothing more than pure speculation and the one thing you can disregard as it pertains to the Flyers is the prototypical Flyers pick. That simply doesn’t exist with Hextall calling the shots. In the Bob Clarke era of doing business, you may have easily predicted the big, rugged forward or the hard-hitting defenseman, but those days have passed.
I wouldn’t mind seeing the Flyers move up a few spots with their first pick (14th overall) if it helps them land one of the more coveted right-handed defensemen. However, I’m not convinced the Flyers should move into the top five as the price to do so would be steep and there’s simply not a wide enough separation within the top 20 prospects outside of Rasmus Dahlin, the projected No. 1 overall pick.
Recently, the Flyers' scouting department has been rock solid in its first-round assessments. Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny are already major contributors. Travis Sanheim is trending in the right direction and the decision to move up and select Morgan Frost last year makes the organization look like visionaries.
My prediction is the Flyers will go forward and defense (in no particular order) with their first-round selections and continue to fortify an already rock-solid farm system.
Hextall dug deep into his bag of general manager speak last week during his pre-draft news conference in Voorhees, New Jersey, when asked if he was leaning toward keeping both of his first-round picks and pulled out a doozy. Get this, the Flyers “would move up if the right deal were there, and we would look at moving back if the right move was there.”
Hextall then went on to say he anticipates making both of the Flyers’ first-round picks at the NHL draft Friday night in Dallas, where he owns the 14th and 19th overall selections.
“It’s really hard to project or predict,” Hextall said. “I don’t even know in my own mind what might come our way, but I know something will at some point.”
Translation: Even Hextall has no idea what the Flyers will do Friday. Not because he and his staff are unprepared but because the draft is a wicked animal that often goes against projection.
With the Canucks (No. 7) and Blackhawks (No. 8) reportedly dangling their first-round picks on the trade market, the allure to move into the top 10 may intrigue Hextall. He mentioned a desire to add more right-handed defensemen and that the Flyers need to “restock” their defensive prospect pipeline. Would a trade up for Evan Bouchard or Noah Dobson make sense?
Unlike last June, I don’t see the Flyers making any draft-night blockbusters. No Brayden Schenn-level trades. Sure, they have the ammo to move up or to bring in a big name, but I just don’t see Hextall changing his M.O. when his car isn’t ready to leave the shop.
Draft picks are like lottery tickets. Give me as many as you can and if I have two first-rounders — two in the teens too — I’m not giving them up unless I am absolutely certain I’m hitting.
I'd be surprised if Hextall traded one of his two first-round slots. Draft picks are like gold to the GM.
Just look at what he had to say last week about the final round, where percentages aren't great of landing future NHLers: "We've got two seventh-round picks this year, they're friggin' important. We need to do our best to try to get the best guy and try to hit on a guy."
Many see this draft as Dahlin and everybody else. After the clear-cut No. 1 overall pick, it's pretty wide open, so the Flyers are likely comfortable at picks Nos. 14 and 19.
This doesn't mean the Flyers won't make a trade all draft. That can very well happen, as we've seen in the past with Hextall. But with his two first-round picks in nice spots, signs point to the club staying put.