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NHL draft 2015: Mathew Barzal takes the No. 7 spot on the board

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The do-it-all center from the WHL slots right into the Flyers' spot on our draft board, making him the top forward available outside of the draft's top-5.

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We've finally reached the crossroads moment, so to speak, of our community draft board, as the No. 7 name on the board essentially marks the cutoff of "players you would be most happy to see chosen by the Flyers on the 27th". The player chosen for that honor was Seattle Thunderbirds center Mathew Barzal, who topped the other eight contestants on the ballot by collecting 39 percent of the vote.

Our own JpH89 wrote about the 6-foot center from the WHL a couple of weeks ago, and specifically spoke to how he may fit on the Flyers as they're assembled:

Two: Dave Hakstol's comments about wanting forwards who play a two-way game, and wanting those who can control the puck at both ends. Outside of being a top playmaker, Barzal is also one of the best puck-moving forwards available in this draft. I don't think he's the defensive standout that Sean Couturier is, but I think he has more upside on the offensive end of the ice.

[...]

So I think Barzal could slide right into the No. 2 center spot between Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier in a year or two. He's not the most physical player for his age, but once he has the puck, he's adept at taking it right to the offensive end of the ice. Aside from the big two, Barzal could be the most sound, pure center prospect in this draft class.

This season wasn't all smooth sailing for Barzal, who injured his knee early on and was a bit slow coming out of the gate after returning from injury. But his second half of the season was outstanding, as he was one of the best forwards in the entire WHL while scoring 39 points in his final 24 games of the season (via). He was also arguably Team Canada's best player in the U18 World Junior Championships after the WHL season ended, with a team-high 12 points in seven tournament games. (Hmmmm. Does that sound like anyone who was a recent Flyers draft pick (see No. 2 on the list)?)

Barzal does have the pedigree to his name -- he was the first overall selection in the WHL draft in 2012, and there are some out there who believe that had he not been hurt earlier in the year, he would be in the conversation for a top-5 pick. Whether or not that's true, that one can even make the argument goes to show how strong a prospect Barzal is.

There's a lot to love about Barzal's game. As JpH mentioned in the scouting report, he's an outstanding skater who plays a great 200-foot game, as they say. But perhaps even more importantly, that speed and style is complemented by high-end vision and puck skills. He's definitely a pass-first forward, as can be evidenced by his only having scored 26 goals in two years of juniors, but when you're tallying over one assist per game the way he did last season you can take that kind of stuff in stride. And he is a bit on the small side, but he does play a high-energy style that you could describe as "playing bigger than his size".

All in all, Barzal's profile is pretty exciting. It'd be very surprising if he doesn't go in the top 10, and while I'm skeptical he's quite at the level of either of the draft's top non-top-2 forwards (meaning, Strome or Marner), whoever gets him is picking up a very nice consolation prize.

Would the Flyers be interested? Well, one peculiar note came out of the Combine, via Sam Carchidi of the Inquirerthe Flyers didn't interview Barzal while there. Given how familiar the Flyers tend to be with the WHL, you can read this in one of two ways: either the Flyers think they know enough about him to not need to interview him, or they aren't particularly interested in him as a prospect. The latter seems more likely, out of those two, but it's also possible that we shouldn't read much into it either way.

If he were here, then as mentioned by JpH, Barzal could slide right behind Giroux (a player who Barzal compares himself to, style-wise) by 2017 or so, and the Flyers would have a potentially dynamic 1-2 punch down the middle for a long time ... assuming the Flyers aren't hesitant to take a center again. But if the combine was any indication, that may not be in the cards. We'll see.

We'll keep the list of other candidates the same for now. Who's No. 8? You tell me.

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The 2015 BSH Community NHL Draft Board

  1. Connor McDavid, C, Erie (OHL)
  2. Jack Eichel, C, Boston University (NCAA)
  3. Dylan Strome, C, Erie (OHL) (45% of the vote)
  4. Mitch Marner, C/RW, London (OHL) (54%)
  5. Noah Hanifin, D, Boston College (NCAA) (77%)
  6. Ivan Provorov, D, Brandon (WHL) (45%)
  7. Mathew Barzal, C, Seattle (WHL) (39%)
  8. ???

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As always, please use your vote below to answer the following question: If all of the players listed were available when the Flyers were on the clock, who would you want them to pick?