Flyers

Unlike 2007, Flyers should get immediate impact player at No. 2

Unlike 2007, Flyers should get immediate impact player at No. 2

On April 29, the Flyers’ fortune changed 10 years after the same event dealt them a blow that may have altered the team’s narrative over the last decade. This time, they won.

The Flyers, by the fruit of blind luck, jumped 11 spots in the draft lottery to No. 2. It was the largest hurdle in lottery history. It could be a moment we look back on as a game-changer. It could be many things. What it’s not is what happened on April 10, 2007, when the Flyers, who finished with an NHL-worst 56 points in 2006-07, lost the lottery to the Blackhawks.

Ten years ago, the lottery operated under a different system. Until 2013, the lottery consisted of the five teams with the fewest points in the standings. No team could move up more than four spots, and the team with the fewest points (the Flyers) could only pick either No. 1 or 2 in the draft. The Flyers had a 25 percent chance of getting the No. 1 pick.

We know the story. Chicago, which had an 8.1 percent chance at the top pick, won the lottery, and the Flyers, who had the worst season in franchise history, got sloppy seconds. The lottery system changed in 2013. Now, any team that does not qualify for the playoffs is eligible to win the lottery, which paved the avenue for the Flyers’ climb last month.

"I'm not sure it really matters," Paul Holmgren, then-Flyers' GM and now team president, told NHL.com on April 12, 2007, of losing the lottery. "The thing about having the first pick is you get the first pick. Now, we don't, but I'm confident we're still going to get a good player. As I've said all along, I'm not sure there's an immediate impact guy there anyway."

That is where the 2007 and 2017 similarities come into play. Ten years later, we know how the 2007 draft panned out, with Patrick Kane, the top pick, being head and shoulders atop the class, and James van Riemsdyk, whom the Flyers drafted No. 2, now playing in Toronto.

There was an immediate impact player in the 2007 draft, which is where Holmgren was wrong, and it was Kane, who scored at a 0.89 points per game clip in his rookie season, finishing with 72 points in 82 games.

van Riemsdyk never developed into an impact player with the Flyers. In 2013, the Flyers traded van Riemsdyk to the Maple Leafs, where he’s matured into a solid complementary scoring winger with a 30-goal season under his belt and two 60-plus-point campaigns.

“We were both put in different situations and we were both in different stages, I guess of our hockey development,” van Riemsdyk told The Daily Herald, a Chicago-area newspaper, May 27, 2010. “I did what I thought was best for me to be a better player, and he was obviously ready to make that jump right after the draft. He made it happen right away.”

If we go back to 2007, it was not considered to be a slam dunk atop the draft. It was a three-player race between Kane, van Riemsdyk and Kyle Turris, who went No. 3 to Arizona. There was thought that even if the Flyers had the top pick, “JVR” would have been the pick. 

“All three of these kids were very close. Very close,” Holmgren told Kevin Kurz, now with NBC Sports Bay Area, after the draft on June 23, 2007. “We’d have been happy with any of them, but you have to make a decision and James ended up on top.”

Fast forward to this year. The Flyers’ luck shifted. They finished with 88 points, seven points out of a playoff spot. Without the lottery, they would have picked 13th in what general manager Ron Hextall has described as “an average draft” — like it was in 2007, a draft that generated five All-Stars, including the Flyers’ Jakub Voracek, who was drafted seventh overall by Columbus, and van Riemsdyk is not one of them. There were several big misses in the draft.

This year, it's widely considered a two-player draft, with Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick and Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier as the cream of this year’s crop. Barring any unforeseen surprises, the Flyers will come away with either Patrick or Hischier come June 23. It really is as simple as whoever New Jersey does not take at No. 1.

But that is where we see the difference between 2007 and 2017 for the Flyers. Ten years ago, the Flyers played their way into a top-two pick and rotten luck cost them the top pick. Their choice was between the two players Chicago didn’t take — van Riemsdyk and Turris.

In van Riemsdyk, the Flyers were drafting a player who came up in the USA Hockey National Team Development Program and still needed years to develop. He decided to play at the University of New Hampshire before turning pro after his sophomore season.

With either Patrick or Hischier — it seems to be a pick-your-poison situation — the Flyers will be getting a player closer to making an immediate impact than they did in 2007. Neither will have the impacts we have seen from the No. 2 picks from the last two drafts — Jack Eichel and Patrik Laine. 

When asked about Patrick and Hischier’s NHL readiness on May 8, Hextall refused to tip his hat about his views on the prospects, sticking to his mantra that any kid has to earn a spot.

“We would like to think we know that, but until the kid comes in and shows you what he can do … you make an educated judgment and then you go from there,” Hextall said. “A player has to come in and prove that he’s ready, and at this age, not many are.”

Patrick has three years of experience in the Western Hockey League, and there is some belief he will not benefit from a fourth season in the WHL. Despite battling groin and abdominal injuries last season, he still produced above a point-per-game pace (1.39). 

As a 17-year-old two years ago, Patrick put up 102 points in 72 regular-season games and led the Wheat Kings to a WHL championship with 30 points in 21 playoff games. He still will have to prove his worth to either the Flyers or Devils, but one has to believe the likelihood of him making an immediate impact is far greater than him going back to junior.

Hischier broke out during the world junior championships for Switzerland, scoring four goals and three assists in five games. With Halifax during his rookie season in the QMJHL, Hischier finished as a 1.5 points-per-game player, putting up 86 points in 57 games and earning the league’s Rookie of the Year award. Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, describes the Swiss center as “definitely worth the price of admission.”

There are a plethora of reasons why 2007 and 2017 are different for the Flyers. Luck is atop the list. But the player they’ll be getting this June is one they should be able to reap immediate benefits from, something they weren’t getting in 2007.

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

2018 NHL draft profile: Jack McBain, a big center with something to prove

Over the weeks leading up to the 2018 NHL draft, we're providing prospect profiles and how they would fit with the Flyers, who have two first-round picks — Nos. 14 and 19.

The NHL draft takes place June 22-23 at American Airlines Center in Dallas. The Flyers have nine picks with two in the first, fifth and seventh rounds and one in the second, fourth and sixth. They do not own a third-rounder as it went to the Detroit Red Wings for Petr Mrazek. The 14th pick conveyed from the Brayden Schenn trade. The final details were Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for Jori Lehtera, a 2017 first-round pick (Morgan Frost) and the 14th pick.

Our prospect profiles will touch mostly on prospects projected to go in the 10-20 range but some may require the Flyers having to trade up to select. We’ll identify those prospects.

Jack McBain

Position: Center
Height: 6-foot-3
Weight: 195
Shoots: Left
Team: Toronto Jr. Canadiens

Scouting report
If you watch tape of McBain, you immediately have to keep in mind that he’s played his teenage hockey in the Ontario Junior Hockey League, where he was physically an overpowering player against lesser competition. 

McBain was drafted by the Barrie Colts of the OHL, but elected to keep his amateur status intact, which will allow him to attend Boston College next fall. That’s when we should receive a real gauge of where his skills stack up playing in the NCAA Hockey East Conference.

A big-bodied center, McBain isn’t the most elusive skater, nor is he the most creative playmaker. He plays more of a north-south game but doesn’t back down from the high-traffic areas. He prefers to use his big frame to overpower opponents and works well down in the trenches.

Surprisingly, he’s a solid puck handler, but again, a lot of those plays looked easy for him against smaller, inferior competition. 

He plays with a long stick, which enables him to be disruptive while getting that stick into a lot of passing lanes and using his reach effectively on the backcheck. 

As the best player on the ice, he probably tries to do too much, but he doesn’t back down and he’s very assertive. There doesn’t appear to be much hesitation in his game. It’s obvious McBain has the frame and the tools to be a future NHL player. 

Fit with Flyers
Interestingly, McBain knows what it’s like to play with the Flyers crest on his sweater. Before joining the Toronto Junior Canadiens, McBain was a member of the Don Mills Flyers minor-midget AAA team in Canada. 

McBain is a player the Flyers can snag with their second-round selection (50th overall). I just don’t project him going higher considering he has never played major junior hockey.

If you look within the farm system, the Flyers don’t have very many big-bodied centers within the organization and McBain could certainly help fill that void. However, he’s also the type of big-bodied player that could effectively transition to left wing if he can’t handle the responsibilities of playing down the middle.

If McBain can successfully make the jump to college hockey, the Flyers could have a second-round pick with first-round talent.

More on the 2018 NHL draft

Profile: Rasmus Sandin

• Profile: Ryan Merkley 

• Profile: Dominik Bokk

• Profile: Noah Dobson

• Profile: Rasmus Kupari

• Profile: Martin Kaut

• Profile: Grigori Denisenko

• Profile: Jesperi Kotkaniemi

• Profile: Serron Noel

• Profile: Joel Farabee

• Profile: Barrett Hayton

• Profile: Isac Lundestrom

• Profile: Joseph Veleno

• Profile: Vitali Kravtsov

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

How much will Flyers change? Another summer is here for Ron Hextall

This is a peculiar time for Ron Hextall.

In one facet, it's his time, precious for a build-from-within disciple who must feel like a kid on Christmas when the NHL draft arrives.

Then again, it's a weird time. Shortly after the Flyers' general manager unwraps his gifts and adds them to the toy bin, NHL free agency hits. Not a time when Hextall likes to play. Quickly, Christmas turns into the first day of school.

It's that time of year again for Hextall. The question is, have the times changed for the GM?

With the Flyers entering Year 4 under Dave Hakstol and looking to take the next step forward, some wonder if Hextall is ready to make free agency his new time. After all, much of the organization's youth is here and contributing, the core isn't getting any younger and the Flyers have more financial wiggle room — thanks to Hextall — with $17.2 million in cap space, according to CapFriendly.com.

But if Hextall's vision was ever in danger of shifting, an expansion team's marvelous story lent credence to his plan, reinforcing the belief in the way he operates and constructs his own hockey team.

When asked Thursday about the constant chatter regarding his core's clock and the team's youthfulness catching up to it, Hextall spoke with conviction and at length.

"They might have different roles; you almost might not depend on them quite as much because your younger guys are coming up and taking a bigger piece of the pie," Hextall said. "So all of a sudden you don't need one guy scoring 85 points, he can score 75 points or 70 points because we've got these kids coming up that are scoring more and more. 

"That's how you build a team. You don't build a team by having three top players and they go out every power play and they win you games. It's just not the way it works. You saw — Vegas is a good example. They were the best team in the league. Not the best talent, they were the best team. Teams still win. Teams still win. And that's what we've got to continue to build."

So if you were hoping Hextall was tinkering with the thought of making a free-agent splash, think again. He will stick to his guns and always has, constantly stressing the importance of never deviating from the course set at the journey's start.

None of which is to think Hextall won't utilize free agency to improve. He will make additions strategically and judiciously, but doling out money and years to a stud won't happen.

And the moment Hextall reaffirmed his M.O., the pressure picked up.

On all levels.

On Hextall's faith in Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek and the mainstays delivering star-like production.

On the young foundation pieces taking heftier strides to lighten the loads for the veterans.

On the scouting and development personnel finding and molding game-changing talent.

And on the confluence of Hextall's motives and ultimate goal.

"We are still the ultimate team sport and I think Vegas proved that to all of us this year. The more we move along here, the more society, pro sports seem to put a spotlight on a star, and that's fine, but that star has got to have his teammates in our sport or you're not going to win," Hextall said. "You look at Washington, they had a lot of really good players in the playoffs. Devante Smith-Pelly. Do they win without Devante Smith-Pelly? A couple guys get all the credit but look what this guy did. We are still the ultimate team sport, we really are."

The ultimate test will be the Flyers proving it themselves.

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