Welcome back to another summer of NHL draft coverage, folks! This years' draft will be an exciting time for Flyers fans, as they hold a fairly high pick that can potentially change the shape of the franchise. With that said, I wanted to do something a bit different this year compared to last years' coverage.
A high pick means most of us have probably have heard of the player to be drafted. So instead of a full info session for these profiles, I want to give more of a reasoning for why the Flyers would choose a certain prospect.
So to start it off, I'm going to jump into a player that looks like he falls in line with what general manager Ron Hextall and coach Dave Hakstol preach.
- Born: May 26th, 1997
- Nationality: Canadian
- Height: 6'0"
- Weight: 181 lbs.
- Team: Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
- Position: Center
The rundown on Mathew Barzal
Assuming no major changes happen and the first round of the draft falls pretty much in line with what people are expecting, one guy that could stand out is Seattle Thunderbird star Mathew Barzal.
Barzal is one of the top playmaking forwards available in this draft. His 26 primary assists were third-best in the WHL last season among draft-eligible players, and that's even more impressive when you consider that Barzal played about 30 fewer games than the two players above him. He was also the only 17 year old player among the WHL's top 30 goals scorers to play less than 56 games.
I'm not a huge fan of looking at points per game as a stat in this context, especially considering we're talking about one season of junior hockey. Also, as EricT pointed out a few years ago, the secondary assist has small relevancy in terms of predicting success.
So I'm going to use something along the lines of "primary points" -- essentially just counting goals and primary assists. Barzal last year had a primary point per game ratio of .86 last season. The Flyers current top forward prospect, Scott Laughton, had a .67 ratio his draft year. I think it's fair to say that Barzal would come in as the de facto top forward prospect in the organization if he were drafted.
How Barzal would fit with Flyers
Two quotes from Flyers management stick out to me regarding Barzal's game.
One: Ron Hextall saying that he would take a forward over a defenseman if they were close. That's among the most pointless statements a GM can make in the press, since we really don't know what the Flyers' internal draft board looks like -- but for the sake of argument, we'll take Hexy at face value here.
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.
Brayden Schenn looks, in my opinion, more like a winger than a center at the NHL level, and it seems that the Flyers might finally agree on that. He's just not a fluid-enough puck mover to play the center 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.
No prospect is flawless, and Barzal isn't an exception, but if we believe what the Flyers have been saying in the early stages of this summer, he could definitely be a guy they covet.