While the NHL Scouting Combine fitness testing began Friday in Buffalo, Flyers general manager Ron Hextall had returned to Skate Zone.
The organization has scheduled amateur scout meetings over the next four days in preparation for the NHL draft later this month in Chicago.
With 11 picks in the draft, Hextall while in Buffalo made it a point to meet as many players as he could – over 70 – earlier this week during one-on-one club interviews with prospects.
Obviously, Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier were among the first interviews since the Flyers are picking No. 2 overall after New Jersey.
“I can’t say anything surprised me,” Hextall said of those specific player interviews. “I can say both kids seem like terrific young men who conducted themselves like pros. Very mature kids. Very professional.”
None of the prospect interviews are meant to make or break a case for drafting a player, as much as they are intended to dig beneath the surface to find out more about the player’s overall background.
“It sorta cements your thinking,” Hextall said of the combine. “It gives our amateur scouts, who already know the kids, to ask similar questions they’ve asked during the year to clean anything up in terms of injuries or other issues they had going on.
“It gives the rest of us a chance to listen and get a feel for a young player. By no means does it necessarily change your mind on a player.”
The interviews delve into family upbringing, how much structure has been in the kid’s life, his exposure to things outside of hockey, whether he had to overcome a tragedy and even undisclosed injuries he might have incurred.
“These are young guys we have to remind ourselves,” Hextall said. “Some are 17-years-old. You are trying to get a little background on them to see what they have been through in their life, what they fought through and what they deal with on a daily basis.”
Like Devils GM Ray Shero, Hextall admitted he’s taken calls about trading for his pick. He reiterated what he said last month. He’ll listen, but nothing has come across his desk that would entice him to trade the No. 2 pick.
This is a critical draft for the Flyers in that among their 11 picks – that’s quite a bit – they have five picks between the third and fourth rounds.
They need to unearth a future impact scorer at left/right wing.
Aside from Travis Konecny, who projects to have a big impact at some point – he had 11 goals in his rookie year – and Swedish prospect Oskar Lindblom, who signed this week, the Flyers have not produced a scoring winger on their roster via the draft since James van Riemsdyk in 2007. And he was traded.
Claude Giroux was a right wing turned center. He was also a first-round pick, as were JVR and Konecny.
Hextall’s focus here is the later picks. The Flyers have not had a single such impact player since the 2000s began.
Patrick Maroon, a sixth-round Flyers selection in 2007, had 27 goals this year for Edmonton. It was his first terrific output in six years as an NHLer after a concussion-filled tenure in Philadelphia.
“We have 11 picks,” Hextall said. “They are very important. You have to hit on your first-round pick and you also have to hit on some late picks. Our guys, to this point, have done a really good job.
“You gotta continue on. You can’t take one player out of a draft to be a successful franchise. We have to continue to push and keep pulling players in late rounds.”
Hextall is believed to have already tendered an offer to defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere to retain his rights. He is a restricted free agent. Jordan Weal is unrestricted.
Hextall said he has been in touch with both players' agents.
“I’m not going to negotiate through the media but will continue to work at (signing) all our guys, who are unsigned here and try to get them done sooner, rather than later,” Hextall said.
“If things drag out a bit, that’s pretty much the normal process of the negotiation. We’d like to have Jordan back. He’s a UFA. We have to see where that goes. Ghost we hope to have under contract before training camp.”
That Hextall said he hoped to have Ghost signed by camp indicates the RFA offer has likely been made. The Flyers can protect him in the expansion draft.
Hextall admitted he is behind in his search to replace power play coach Joey Mullen. He indicated it will likely remain that way because of scout meetings and such.