Happy NHL draft eve. As we’re now one day away from Ron Hextall’s fifth draft as Flyers general manager, we know what to expect this weekend at the 2018 NHL draft at the American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine total selections and two first-rounders.
During his pre-draft news conference last week, Hextall said 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.
On Wednesday, we provided options for the Flyers with the 14th overall pick, acquired from the St. Louis Blues. Today, we’re looking at prospects the Flyers may target with the 19th pick.
Rasmus Sandin, D, 5-11/185, Sault Ste. Marie (OHL)
A slick-skating defenseman, Sandin enjoyed a strong first season in North America. Coming over from Sweden, Sandin posted 45 points in 51 regular-season games with Sault Ste. Marie.
Sandin joins Barrett Hayton as two first-round prospects whom the Flyers likely know a lot about, as both are teammates of Morgan Frost with the Greyhounds. His strengths are with the puck as he makes his decisions calmly and he’s also very aware in his own end.
Considering the Flyers’ familiarity with him and their desire to restock their defensive pipeline, Sandin figures to be a name on their radar. He’s a riser, too, which is something Hextall likes.
Mattias Samuelsson, D, 6-4/218, USA U-18 (NTDP)
The Flyers certainly know a lot about Samuelsson — more than any other team. His father, Kjell Samuelsson, is the team’s director of player development and played eight seasons in Philly.
“Mattias is a good player. He’s big, he’s smart, he’s well-rounded,” Hextall said. “You can call him a two-way defenseman. Lots of upside. He’s going to be a good player. Where he’s going to go, I certainly wouldn’t share where we have him but I don’t expect him to be waiting too long.”
Hextall stressed that the Flyers will not draft Samuelsson based on family ties to the organization. But they do have more background on Samuelsson and that can be good and bad.
Isac Lundestrom, C, 6-0/183, Luleå HF (SHL)
If the Flyers want a shot at Lundestrom, they may have to trade up from 19 to select him or consider him with the 14th pick. Depending on where you look, he’s projected to go either early teens or late teens. There is a chance the Flyers will have two chances to select Lundestrom.
Lundestrom, a late 1999 birthday, has been part of Team Sweden for all of the major international tournaments and joined Rasmus Dahlin as the only draft-eligible players to crack Sweden’s 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship team. He had 15 points in 42 games this season playing for Luleå, his second year in the SHL. One of the top center prospects in the class.
Akil Thomas, C, 5-11/176, Niagara (OHL)
Thomas took a big jump in his second season in the OHL after being one of Niagara's top players as a rookie in 2016-17. In 68 games, the Brandon, Florida-born centerman registered 22 goals and 81 points — 1.19 points per game. His 81 points led all OHL draft-eligible players.
He’s a well-rounded player who took a bigger jump as a playmaker than a goal scorer, which caught some by surprise. He’s known for a strong work ethic and a high compete level. He’s projected to be drafted around this range so he should be there for the Flyers at No. 19.
Martin Kaut, RW, 6-1/175, HC Dynamo Pardubice (Liiga)
Kaut should be on the board when the Flyers come up for a second time Friday and because of his jump in the second half of his draft season, falls in line with what Hextall likes: high risers.
The right winger finished 2017-18 strong and had a solid postseason for HC Dynamo Pardubice as an 18-year-old in the highest level of hockey in the Czech Republic. Kaut scored nine goals and 16 points in 38 regular-season games and three goals and five points in seven playoff games. His numbers on the international stage, against players in his age group, are better.
Other names to watch
K’Andre Miller, D, 6-4/205, USA U-18 (NTDP)
A big 18-year-old D-man who models his game after Seth Jones and Roman Josi. Headed to the University of Wisconsin in the fall. Very good skater, left-handed shot and has a lot of upside.
Ryan McLeod, C, 6-2/205, Mississauga (OHL)
McLeod’s older brother, Michael McLeod, was the 12th overall pick by the Devils in 2016. Had 70 points in 68 games in 2017-18. Some question his upside but should be there at No. 19.
Nils Lundkvist, D, 5-11/172, Luleå HF (SHL)
A mobile, puck-moving, right-handed D-man who’s been rising. He’s been compared to Anton Stralman. We know Hextall likes risers, the question is has Lundkvist moved into the top 20?
Ryan Merkley, D, 5-11/170, Guelph (OHL)
One of the most polarizing prospects in this draft class, questions about Merkley’s character likely will keep the Flyers away regardless of how talented the righty D-man is.
Dominik Bokk, RW, 6-1/176, Växjö (SHL)
A highly skilled winger who can play both sides, Bokk loves to create space. The German-born Bokk is a pure scorer and with the Flyers looking for that, he’ll be an intriguing option at 19.
More on the 2018 NHL draft
• Prospects the Flyers could select with the 14th overall pick
• Smith, with little bit of Gostisbehere and Provorov, should attract Flyers
• Flyers anticipate making both first-round draft picks
• Flyers need to find needle in haystack on Day 2 of NHL draft