Flyers

End to End: If Nolan Patrick makes Flyers, where does he best fit?

End to End: If Nolan Patrick makes Flyers, where does he best fit?

Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.

Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com reporters John Boruk, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.

The topic: If Nolan Patrick makes the Flyers, where is he best featured in the lineup?

Boruk
Despite the surge of momentum that led to Nico Hischier going No. 1 overall to the New Jersey Devils, the Flyers were more than thrilled that Patrick fell into their lap. Here's a player the organization and its scouts had seen for two seasons playing with Ivan Provorov when the two were teammates with the Brandon Wheat Kings. Sources connected to the Flyers' organization had told me that Patrick's skill set coupled with his size, leadership and hockey sense had him ranked higher on its draft board than Hischier, who may have a little more of a learning curve when it comes to developing into a solid two-way center.

Patrick should make the opening night roster coming out of training camp with the only concern being his health. Will he have any setbacks from the core muscle surgery he had back in June? Assuming he's with the Flyers, there's absolutely no way he doesn't play center, and it doesn't appear Ron Hextall is willing to experiment. Patrick has played only a few shifts at wing, but even he admitted it's not a position he's too comfortable with.

With that said, where do you slot the rookie when you have Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula and Jori Lehtera, whom all primarily played down the middle last season. First, I would like to see the two Finns (Filppula and Lehtera) on a line together, with Lehtera at center since Filppula is a more versatile forward. Couturier is the team's best two-way center at even strength, and if he stays healthy, this could be his breakout year (which seems to be the most repeated phrase over the past three years).

So why not experiment a little during the preseason? How about a Jakub Voracek-Patrick-Giroux line just to see how well they could work together? Giroux has been the opposition's bullseye for the past five years and his body has taken a toll as a result. He led the team in 2010-11 with 76 points primarily playing right wing, so this wouldn't be a novel idea for him. The Flyers need to find a way to extend Giroux's career since he's locked up through 2022. I'm not sure the Flyers have entertained the thought, but during the preseason you have very little to lose.

Where Patrick can really assert himself is on the team's second power-play unit that really struggled last season to contribute anything, especially when the top unit was mired in a drought. The natural inclination would have Patrick replace Schenn on that No. 1 unit, but as long as the Wayne Simmonds-Giroux-Voracek-Shayne Gostisbehere combination remains in tact, Patrick would give the second unit a little more firepower.

Dougherty
This one is simple. It's either second- or-third line center or the WHL. He is not playing wing. He will not be in a fourth-line role. It is as clear-cut as that. I'm a firm believer Patrick will be here in 2017-18. I don't see how he doesn't make the team. Where does he slide into the lineup? I see him as the third-line center.

We can get carried away with labels — first line, second line, third line, whatever. It doesn't matter. You need to be able to roll four lines to be successful in today's NHL. The Flyers should be able to do that. Whether Patrick is on the second or third line, it doesn't matter. For the logistics of this discussion, I'll proceed with how I see it playing out.

I believe Couturier will start the season as the second-line center and play penalty kill with Patrick as the third-line center and seeing power-play time. Couturier will still see top minutes against opponents' top lines and be in a role in which he's proven he can succeed. He'll still make his linemates better and score efficiently at even strength. Everyone will be happy.

Patrick will give the Flyers a formidable third line — a line that could see fellow rookie Oskar Lindblom and the veteran Filppula on his wings. Whether Patrick remains on the third line all season long is another question. I can see him moving up to the second line and Couturier taking over as the third-line center.

The point I'm making is this: With Patrick here, the Flyers will be able to roll out four lines with skill on each one centered by legitimate NHL talent. Giroux, Couturier and Patrick is a helluva one-two-three punch.

Hall
It's important to remember if Patrick makes the roster, his presence is big for the Flyers, but it's also significant developmentally for the teenager.

As an organization, you always want to put your players in spots where they have the best chance to succeed. With Patrick, this might be a special case.

So what does he do best and what makes him feel most comfortable?

By those who know him, Patrick has been lauded for his ability to make others better, and it's not just that sports cliché here. Patrick may not be a dynamic goal scorer, but surround him with talent and he'll thrive by augmenting others.

"If he's playing with some skilled guys, he will get them the puck, he will make plays," Patrick's uncle, James, said to CSNPhilly.com in June. "He's shown that he can do that. Certainly, the last three years in the Western Hockey League, put the best players on the ice with him and they will get chances, and chances all night. I think that's what his offensive upside is."

With that said, Patrick should play in a top-six role. Give him the minutes and setting to make a true impact in which he can develop through playing. Giroux is this team's obvious first-line center. Couturier can center the third unit in which there will be greater offensive depth but still the defensive focus.

So for Patrick, I'd love to see him flanked by Jordan Weal and Simmonds. Both are scorers that finish plays and bring a variety of ways to put the puck in the net. The skill sets of Weal and Simmonds complement Patrick's, while the three would compose a nice mixture of size and speed, a tough-to-play-against second line.

The fun thing is the Flyers should have options — much more than before — depending on roster decisions at the end of training camp. How the lines are constructed by Dave Hakstol will be even more polarizing in 2017-18.

Paone
Let's get something out there loud and clear to start this off: You don't fall backwards into the No. 2 overall pick and arguably the most talented player in the draft only to move him out of position and have him basically start from scratch as a 19-year-old in a new position in the best league in the world.

Patrick is a natural center and will be playing center for the Flyers. No questions asked.

OK, now that we have that issue all tidied up, the question now shifts to where Patrick fits into the lineup when it comes to linemates.

Giroux is still the Flyers' top-line center. Couturier is likely slotted in at the second-line center spot. 

You don't take an uber-talented 19-year-old and put him in a fourth-line, defense-based role where his minutes become limited. He needs as much exposure as he can get on the ice.

Those factors above are why I feel Patrick has the third-line center spot sewed up to start the season, granted he's healthy.

It's a good spot for him because it'll give him time to feel out the NHL game and make the coming adjustment period to this level a little smoother because the pressure to produce won't be as great right away as it would be if he were in a top-six role. There is wiggle room to ease in.

Time for another question shift — who plays alongside Patrick on his wings? It's an important question and it's obviously way too early for Hakstol to even tip his cap yet as to what he's thinking for the Flyers' line combos.

But, if we're just spitballing here with the current roster as of Aug. 5, here's what I believe the Flyers' third line could look like: Filppula-Patrick-Michael Raffl.

Having Filppula alongside Patrick gives the rook a veteran presence who's a natural center himself to guide him when on the ice. That's a valuable intangible. In Raffl, you have a veteran who's not afraid to go into the dirty areas and do the greasy work to free things up for Patrick to make plays. Lindblom is another name to watch for Raffl's spot, but having two rookies on the same line may not be an enticing endeavor for Hakstol, knowing the way he operates.

And of course, if Patrick excels while others in the top-six roles meddle, the door is open to moving up the lineup as soon he's proven he's ready.

And don't be surprised to see him on the power play, either.

End to End: Will Carter Hart need a full season in the AHL?

End to End: Will Carter Hart need a full season in the AHL?

Going End to End today is NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Tom Dougherty and Jordan Hall.

The topic: Will Carter Hart need a full season in the AHL?

Dougherty
Flyers general manager Ron Hextall kept the door open, however slightest, at his end-of-season news conference for Hart to earn a spot with the big club in training camp. Knowing Hextall's past, it's hard to imagine a scenario where Hart breaks camp with the Flyers, but the 19-year-old is a special breed years beyond his age.

Hart closed the book on his junior career Saturday with his second CHL Goaltender of the Year award in three years, becoming the first goalie to win it twice (see story).

On paper, the Flyers have Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth under contract for 2018-19. Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz are restricted free agents, and one figures to move on from the organization this summer. My bet is on Lyon coming back and having first dibs at the NHL backup job if injuries hit the Flyers' crease.

But it's hard for me to sit here and say Hart has no shot at being in the NHL next year. I think he's going to do everything he can this offseason to push for a job, and I think if he's ready for one, he'll be here.

Do I think he needs a full season in the AHL? Probably not. If I were to bet, I'd put my money on him being with the Phantoms in October. But I've lost plenty of bets in my life. I think we'll see him with the Flyers at some point in 2018-19.

It's just a matter of when.

Hall
A full year in the AHL would be wise for Hart — and all signs point to that happening.

Last week, I asked Everett general manager Garry Davidson if he could tell Flyers fans one thing about Hart, what would it be?

Here was his response:

"I think they still have to be a little patient. He's just a 19-year-old, he's just played major junior, he's been very successful. But the jump from where we are to the pro game — whether it's either in the American league and then at the NHL level — is a substantial jump. He's going to need some time and I don't know how much time that will be, but we use the word here all the time — you've got to have patience."

That certainly jives with Hextall's approach to prospects. The Flyers have confidence in their current tandem, featuring two goalies in the final year of their respective contracts. And it seems Lyon, a restricted free agent this offseason, has earned himself a contract and the status of backup in case of an injury.

Hart very well could be the future and the Flyers won't mess with it.

2018 NHL draft position preview — Defensemen

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AP Images

2018 NHL draft position preview — Defensemen

We conclude our 2018 NHL draft position previews with a look at the top draft-eligible defensemen. We’ve already looked at centers, left wingers and right wingers. While the Flyers will likely draft a goaltender at some point, we are not previewing that position. It is highly unlikely they would select one in the first round with either of their two selections.

Rasmus Dahlin, 6-2/181, Frolunda (SHL)
Prospects like Dahlin come around once every so often and there is no question where the 18-year-old will be drafted. Dahlin will be a member of the Buffalo Sabres and become the first player born in 2000 drafted into the NHL. Dahlin is a special player with dynamic offensive ability and creativity. Dahlin will become just the second Swedish-born player ever drafted No. 1 overall, joining Mats Sundin, who was the first overall pick in 1989. Dahlin registered seven goals and 20 points in 41 games this season with Frolunda playing top-four minutes. He was an Olympian at 17 years old. His highlight reels have some bonker plays on them.

Draft projection: No. 1 overall

Quinn Hughes, 5-10/170, University of Michigan (NCAA)
Finishing as the sixth-best North American skater by NHL Central Scouting, Hughes is one of the top defensive prospects in a defense-heavy draft class. He should join a respectable list of Wolverines defensemen drafted high in the first round — Zach Werenski, Jacob Trouba and Jack Johnson. Had five goals and 29 points in 37 games during his freshman season at Michigan and has plenty of Team USA experience coming up in the USA National Team Development Program. An all-around defenseman who is an excellent skater and puck-mover.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 4-9

Adam Boqvist, 5-11/168, Brynas Jr. (SuperElit)
Another Swedish defenseman, Boqvist checks in as the second-best European skater by Central Scouting. The younger brother of Jesper Boqvist, who the Devils drafted with the 36th overall pick last year, Adam Boqvist has high-end offensive skill with a ton of potential. A little bit away from coming overseas and more of a long-term play but could blossom into a star blueliner. He averaged nearly a point per game with Brynas’ junior team, recording 24 points in 25 games and led the junior league among defensemen with 14 goals.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 4-9

Evan Bouchard, 6-2/193, London (OHL)
The OHL veteran finished as the fourth-rated North American skater by Central Scouting. Bouchard, in his third season with the Knights, had 25 goals and 87 points in 67 games this season. His 87 points led all OHL defensemen and was eighth among all players. He’s a right-handed shot who can quarterback the power play and owns a wicked slapper. Has decent size and strength and has a good hockey IQ.

Draft projection: Top 10

Noah Dobson, 6-3/180, Acadie-Bathurst (QMJHL)
Dobson finished as the fifth-best North American skater by Central Scouting, a three-spot climb from the midterm rankings. A right-handed shot, Dobson has been entrusted by the Titan to play against teams’ top players. He’s a strong two-way defenseman with good size, though he’s not a great skater. He had 69 points in 67 games with Acadie-Bathurst in the regular season, and while his points were down in the playoffs, he’s helped the Titan reach the Memorial Cup.

Draft projection: Between Nos. 8-15