DALLAS — In his four years as general manager, Ron Hextall has shown a preference to take the center with the versatility to play the wing.
However, Friday night in Dallas, Hextall went against the grain by selecting left winger Joel Farabee 14th overall, the highest winger Hextall has selected now in his fifth draft as Flyers general manager.
“When we look in the first round, we want hockey players,” Hextall said. “We want hockey sense and we want character. We want good hockey players and if you don’t draft them in the first round, you won’t find them. Philosophically, that’s the way we approach things.”
It’s the way Farabee envisioned this draft playing out all along from a father who grew up in Warminster in Bucks County, Pennsylvania.
“Actually, I’m not going to lie, when I came to the draft, I wanted to go 14 to Philly. I think that’s pretty cool that happened,” Farabee said. “I really liked their interviews. I talked to them a couple of times. My dad is actually from Philly, so I grew up watching the Flyers. It’s just awesome. I’m a really big Phillies fan. I don’t have any words for it right now. It’s really cool to be part of a great organization.”
Farabee is considered a gifted goal scorer from the wing position, which the Flyers are lacking organizationally, having racked up 31 goals in 58 games with the USNTDP. He's the first player the Flyers drafted from the USA Hockey National Team Development Program since James van Riemsdyk second overall in 2007.
He’s been compared to Boston’s Brad Marchand and Minnesota’s Zach Parise, which also suggests he plays with a very high motor and a good deal of intensity.
Farabee sees more of a comparison with Pittsburgh’s undersized forward Jake Guentzel.
“I think hockey IQ, playmaking ability along with two-way [play] is something I pride myself on,” Farabee said. “I definitely like scoring goals, but I definitely hate getting scored against. It’s kind of my motto.”
“He’s a real attention-to-detail player,” Hextall said. “He’s got speed. He’s got skill. He can score. He’s a good player and he has size in his family, so I still think there’s a chance he can grow.”
If there’s a question mark surrounding Farabee, it's a slight frame, where he’s currently listed at 6-foot and 168 pounds. It's further proof the Flyers no longer feel the need to draft big and bulky to play along the boards and dig pucks out of the corners in today’s NHL.
“I think I’m pretty light, so I definitely need to put on some weight in college,” Farabee said. “With that, just work on playing down low. I think that will help me.”
Can Farabee follow a timeline similar to that of "JVR," who spent two seasons at the University of New Hampshire before joining the Flyers in 2009-10?
“I think it’s hard to say right now,” Farabee said. “It’s kind of what the organization wants me to do. Hopefully, after one, but two years of college may be really good for me just because I’m a lighter guy. Two years is a good timetable.”