Flyers

Flyers

We know a few things about Friday night’s first round: Connor McDavid will be the No. 1 pick, Jack Eichel will follow suit and Pierre McGuire will tell us things we’d never know.

Oh, and Ron Hextall will make his way to the podium twice. The Flyers’ general manager has two first-round picks, No. 7 and No. 29, in a draft considered to be the deepest since 2003, one of the strongest in NHL history.

“I believe in five or seven years, we’ll look back at this draft and go, ‘Wow,’” Hextall said last week. “I think there’s going to be a lot of players coming out of this draft, not only from the first and second round, even deeper than that.”

Hextall has eight more picks Saturday, 10 total. Five of those he’s acquired via trade. He has seven in the Top 100, which is the third time that’s happened for the Flyers since 1979, when the league expanded from 17 teams to 21.

The last occurrence of seven picks for the Flyers in the Top 100 was 2003, which is also the last time the Flyers had two first-round selections. This year marks the fifth time in franchise history the orange and black own multiple first-rounders.

How did the '03 draft turn out?

We know the story. The Flyers landed Jeff Carter (No. 11) and Mike Richards (No. 24), both of whom were franchise players here before being traded. They have since won two Stanley Cups together with the Los Angeles Kings, but this isn’t about Carter and Richards.

 

Friday night embarks the next — and most important — step in Hextall's plan. The Flyers have a chance to add two top prospects to the pipeline at No. 7 and No. 29.

While Hextall believes the draft goes beyond the first two rounds, the '03 draft taught us the importance of hitting home runs in the first round.

How about this: Of the 30 players drafted in the '03 first round, 21 are still regulars and 24 have played in at least 300 games.

Last year's first-round pick, Travis Sanheim, has continued to trend upwards. The early return on Hextall's first pick as GM is promising.

Sanheim heads a Flyers farm system that has an encouraging future on the blue line, with Sam Morin, Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg.

Down on the farm, however, the team lacks exciting forwards. Outside of Scott Laughton and Nicolas Aube-Kubel, the cupboard is bare.

The good news is the Flyers view this year's draft as forward-heavy, though Hextall's mantra is best player available, which may be Brandon defenseman Ivan Provorov at No. 7.

There are a few routes Hextall could go Friday:

• A defenseman and a forward

• Two forwards

• Two defensemen

• A forward and a goalie

• A defenseman and a goalie

(We're not including two goalies, as the top-rated goalie is projected to be a late first-round pick at best.)

Whichever road Hextall travels, he has to connect on two impact prospects regardless of position.

Trading up from No. 7 remains a possibility, but only if it makes sense.

“Everybody knows the top two players in the draft are special,” Hextall said. “After that, there’s arguments. I think a lot of the hockey world has a pretty solid No. 3, but when you get by that, I think there’s a lot of guys that are similar-level players.

“Different identity, maybe different positions, different type of player, but they’re similar level of players. So to move from seven to move up, we would consider it at the right price, but I’m not sure it’s worth it just because you’re going to get a similar-level player that you would at those other picks.”

But don't expect the Flyers to move back.

"I guess if someone threw something really stupid at you," Hextall said. "But I don't anticipate moving down."