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2015 NHL draft: Will the Flyers take a center with the No. 7 overall pick?

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We continue our breakdown of top draft picks by looking at various centers who could be available when the Flyers make the No. 7 overall pick in the 2015 NHL draft. ★ Previously, we looked at defensemen.

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Travis Konecny :: C :: Ottawa 67's (OHL)

BSH Community Draft Board Ranking: 14th.

konecny

Why the Flyers will take him

Speed, skill, and more speed. Konecny could very well be the fastest skater out of the consensus top-20 prospects of this draft, aside from the otherworldly Connor McDavid. In addition to skating ability, Konecny also possesses a top-tier offensive skillset, which helped him to rack up 70 points as a 16-year old in the OHL.

But his high-energy play is what could really catch Philadelphia's eye. Some have categorized him as a faster, more offensively gifted Ryan Callahan, and that's exactly the type of player that could have Flyers scouts drooling. After the breakout season and dominant playoff performance of Tyler Johnson (another comparable for Konecny), the bias against smaller players may be losing its hold at the perfect time for the Ottawa 67's forward.

Why the Flyers will pass

Konecny had a fantastic rookie season in the OHL, but he failed to take a dramatic step forward in 2014-15, stalling his draft momentum. As a result, there are some legitimate questions regarding his long-term upside. In addition, he simply does not possess the size of many of the other forward prospects in the Flyers' range. Konecny has the playing style of a future Flyers fan favorite, but the combination of his lack of progression this season and his size limitations could cause Philadelphia to pass.

Kyle Connor :: C :: Youngstown Phantoms (USHL)

BSH Community Draft Board Ranking: 11th.

kyle connor

Why the Flyers will take him

Connor has steadily climbed mock drafts over the past few months, and is now being discussed as a sleeper top-ten choice. Probably the best forward in the developmental USHL, Connor is the type of two-way center that the Flyers have coveted in the past (Scott LaughtonMike Richards) and is still growing into his body. In addition, his skating speed is off-the-charts, as ESPN's Corey Pronman ranked him as the third fastest in the entire draft, behind only McDavid and Noah Hanifin.

His slow rise up the rankings is less due to a shortage of skill, and more because of the lack of visibility that the USHL provides. Connor will join the Michigan Wolverines next year, however, so he won't be unknown for long. The Flyers may decide that Connor is actually a top-five talent, simply underrated due to lack of exposure.

Why the Flyers will pass

While the USHL is far from a terrible league, it's clearly a step below the CHL, NCAA, or the major European leagues. Taking Connor with the seventh overall pick without judging him in a full season against top competition is definitely risky. He's an intriguing prospect, but also comes with a high level of projection. Will he excel in the NCAA? Can he bulk up without sacrificing his elite speed? Considering the talent that will be available at seven, Connor comes with a fair amount of uncertainty.

Pavel Zacha :: C :: Sarnia Sting (OHL)

BSH Community Draft Board Ranking: 12th.

Why the Flyers will take him

Zacha brings many of the same positives to the table as Lawson Crouse, but arguably has better excuses for the negatives. The Czech forward is big, physical, and a plus skater. In addition, he has the ability to play either center or wing, which separates him from the wing-only Crouse. Like Crouse, he failed to put up stellar offensive numbers, but it was only Zacha's first season in North America, so an adjustment period to the smaller ice surface is understandable.

In addition, Zacha's year was broken up by two suspensions, an injury, and participation in the WJC, not to mention the fact that his supporting cast made Crouse's team look like Memorial Cup contenders. Considering those circumstances, it would be very easy for Hextall to look past his middle-of-the-road production and dream on Zacha as either the physical, skilled 2C of the future or a punishing, forechecking top-six winger.

Why the Flyers will pass

Zacha may be even more risky than Crouse. While Crouse has received rave reviews for his two-way play, the evaluations of Zacha are more mixed. Crouse is likely to carve out a career as a useful bottom-six grinder if his offense never comes around, but Zacha could have a much lower floor. Combine that with some maturity concerns (as mentioned, he was suspended twice this year) and the Flyers might decide that the risk outweighs the reward.

Mathew Barzal :: C :: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)

BSH Community Draft Board Ranking: 7th.

barzal

Why the Flyers will take him

Philadelphia was able to nab Sean Couturier at No. 8 in 2011, primarily due to a midseason medical issue (mono) that deflated his production. In 2014, they selected a quickly-rising Travis Sanheim, who was fresh off a stellar performance in the U18 World Junior Championships.

For Mathew Barzal, his draft season was a hybrid of both narratives. Once a possible top-five selection, Barzal's stock dropped due to a knee injury in November that caused him to miss three months. But a dominant performance at the U18 tournament in April saw his stock shoot back up, solidifying Barzal's spot in the top-ten.

If the Flyers are looking to add speed to their prospect pool, Barzal could easily be the pick. It's easy to envision him as the slick complement to Sean Couturier down the middle in a few years, with Barzal playing the Briere role of sheltered scorer as Couturier faces top lines.

And the player that Barzal most emulates? None other than Mr. Claude Giroux.

Why the Flyers will pass

It's already been reported that the Flyers did not interview Barzal at the NHL Combine. While that doesn't necessarily rule out a selection, it does not bode well for the likelihood of Barzal being a Flyers target. Philadelphia did pass on interviewing Sean Couturier in 2011, but the combine occurred before the Jeff Carter trade, so front office likely assumed they would have no chance at taking Couturier. Circumstances are a bit different with Barzal.

So why would the Flyers not be interested? It's possible that the Flyers evaluate Barzal strictly as a center at the NHL level, and would prefer to improve their depth at wing. His lack of ideal size also could also have the Flyers wary.

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Note that we excluded top centers such as Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel from the list.