Cole Caufield

Bobby Brink should ease the pain over the Flyers' passing up of Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft

Bobby Brink should ease the pain over the Flyers' passing up of Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft

If there was any frustration among the fan base over the passing up of Cole Caufield, it was somewhat alleviated by the Flyers' work in the second round.

Let's be clear, that was not on the Flyers' mind when making the selection.

But on Friday night in the first round of the 2019 NHL draft, the Flyers had a chance to take Caufield, a popular 5-foot-7 right winger regarded as the best goal-scorer in the class. The 72-goal, 100-point American had dropped deeper than many anticipated, all the way to the Flyers at No. 14, even after the team moved back three spots.

The Flyers went with Cam York, a defenseman they had watched a ton of and really wanted (see story).

On Saturday afternoon in the second round, the Flyers just so happened to draft a right winger with first-round talent and prolific scoring ability. They traded up 11 spots and forfeited a third-round selection in order to grab Bobby Brink at No. 34 overall (see Flyers' draft recap).

No, Brink was not on Caufield's level, but he's pretty good and has similarities. The 5-foot-8, 165-pounder was ranked as the 20th-best player in the draft by TSN's Craig Button and put up eye-catching numbers with 68 points (35 goals, 33 assists) in 43 regular-season games for the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL.

"We had him slotted higher [than No. 34 overall]," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said Saturday via a conference call. "Bobby was the guy that we were hoping was there. We knew he wasn't going to last very long in the second round, so we paid the price to move up; but to get a player of his caliber, we were happy to do that.

"He's not the biggest body, but he's extremely smart, highly skilled, very competitive. He picked apart the USHL league, which is hard to score in; coming right out of high school and dominated. He's very strong on his skates, he's got great edges and he's slippery."

Brink may have dipped into the second round because his skating isn't a notable strength. Flahr cleared up some of the doubt on that topic.

"His skating is different," he said.

"I don't think he's a burner as far as speed at this point, but his skating is always in the right spot and it doesn't seem to impact him at this point. He'll be the first one to tell you he's got to get quicker and stronger to play at the next level, but at this point in his physical development, we don't see an issue.

"He's a little bent over, but he's one of those kids that is down low, he's always moving his feet, he's on his edges. He opens up his feet, creates different angles and passing lanes. As far as straight out speed, I wouldn't say he's the fastest, but he always seems to get there."

Brink was there Saturday and the Flyers didn't want to miss him. They got a smaller, high-scoring right winger, less than 24 hours after passing up on one.

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Why Flyers picked Cam York over Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft

Why Flyers picked Cam York over Cole Caufield in 2019 NHL draft

Cole Caufield was there.

His polarizing 5-foot-7 frame, his eye-popping 72 goals and his century-mark production.

The Flyers didn't take him.

Why?

Because they liked Cam York. They did their homework on the U.S. defenseman. The Flyers went into the 2019 NHL draft Friday night with goals of restocking the organizational cupboard along the blue line. Assistant general manager Brent Flahr said last week that the Flyers had a few defensemen on their top-10 list.

York turned out to be their guy after trading back to No. 14 (see story). Flahr said the Flyers' entire scouting staff had probably watched York 10 to 15 times during the season.

"His whole team was well-scouted, that's for sure," Flahr said Friday night via a conference call.

That means the Flyers had seen a lot of Caufield, who was teammates with York on the loaded U.S. national U-18 team. It's not that the Flyers didn't like Caufield, but they clearly weren't as high on the diminutive winger as they were on York.

Thirteen other teams passed on Caufield, who was taken by the Canadiens at No. 15 overall. Many draft experts ranked Caufield as a top-10 talent, and some even placed the goal-scoring machine among the top-five players in the draft.

"He's a player we knew very well, we spent some time with him again here," Flahr said. "He's going to be a good player, so when we traded back, we were confident there were a couple players there, that we were guaranteed to get one of them. It's just kind of the way it worked.

"I think this kid is going to beat the odds. He checked a lot of boxes. He's obviously small, he's been small his whole life, but he's had nothing but success. He's a great kid and if we ended up with him, we would have been happy, as well. 

"We got a guy that we think will be a very good player for a long time."

York is a point-producing defenseman with an impressive skill set. He's a constant threat with the puck on his stick and thrives when joining the rush. The Michigan-bound lefty shot scored over a point per game in 2018-19 with 65 points, a USNTDP single-season record for a defenseman, while maintaining a plus-56 rating.

"He's kind of a modern defenseman," Flahr said. "He's very mobile, very intelligent, very cerebral. Lots of poise, plays a real responsible two-way game, he's a very good defender for a 6-footer. With his mobility and ability to move the puck and the offensive dimension, he checks a lot of boxes. He'll need some time to get stronger and fill out like any young player, but he's a guy that has tremendous upside."

The Flyers undoubtedly need more defensemen in the farm system with many of their prospects having graduated to the NHL. At forward, the Flyers have much better depth, headlined by Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee and Isaac Ratcliffe.

York is a good option to help build back up the group of blueliners (see Flyers' draft recap).

"He's put up big numbers offensively," Flahr said. "He's a talented guy and projects to be a very good defenseman for a long time.

"I think if you asked him, he would want to turn pro tomorrow. He's going to a good program at Michigan, we'll take it year by year. I don't see him as a four-year guy, let's put it that way."

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2019 NHL draft profile: Could Cole Caufield drop to Flyers at No. 11?

rena_laverty_usa_hockey_cole_caufield_nhl_draft.jpg
Rena Laverty/USA Hockey

2019 NHL draft profile: Could Cole Caufield drop to Flyers at No. 11?

The 2019 NHL entry draft is Friday and Saturday in Vancouver, British Columbia. General manager Chuck Fletcher, assistant general manager Brent Flahr and the Flyers hold the 11th overall pick and eight selections in total.

"This draft's a little unique," Flahr said last week. "Especially in the top 15, there are a number of different types of players, which is interesting — some power wingers, some smaller scoring wingers, some centermen, there's a number of D, a goaltender.

"We've identified probably five or six guys that we think have a chance to be there at 11 and probably some of the other teams in front of us will dictate that. But we're really confident we're going to get a good player."

This week, we are breaking down options for the Flyers at No. 11.

Cole Caufield

Position: Right winger
Height: 5-foot-7
Weight: 162
Shoots: Right
Team: USNTDP

Scouting report

The electric, diminutive winger has climbed draft boards after erupting for 72 goals and 100 points in 64 games this season with the U.S. national U-18 team. His 72 markers set a single-season USNTDP record, which was previously held by 2016 No. 1 overall pick Auston Matthews (55).

Caufield has a big-time shot and an incredible sense for how to score.

"He's as advertised," Flahr said. "He's undersized, but he's a pure goal-scorer, he's a competitive kid. He's got a lot of the intangibles that should allow him to play as a small player. One thing he does is score and scores consistently against all competition."

The Wisconsin commit is the fourth-ranked player in the draft by TSN's Craig Button, while TSN's Bob McKenzie has Caufield at No. 9.

Fit with Flyers

It's difficult to tell when Caufield will hear his name called. His size might scare clubs and he played on a supremely talented team that could see seven prospects drafted in the first round, featuring consensus No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes.

"Some teams won't draft him because of his size and others aren't worried about it," Flahr said.

"There's a grouping of the guys, his own teammates, that could go in any range there. Would I be surprised if he's there? No. Would I be surprised if he went before us? No."

If Caufield falls to the Flyers at No. 11, he'd be a no-brainer choice. It would be difficult to find a higher-value pick at that point and the Flyers won't mind his small stature; they could use some more pure goal-scoring wingers in the system.

More on the 2019 NHL draft

• Flyers take one of draft's best D-men in this 1st-round mock

• Trading No. 11 pick? Draft dynamic? That and more here

Flyers could have shot to draft 'elite' skating, 6-foot-3 defenseman

• Flyers like 'unique' winger Boldy as option for No. 11 overall pick

• Impressive playmaking center Krebs could be there for Flyers at No. 11