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2016 NHL Draft: Evaluating the Flyers' Day Two Selections

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The Flyers added nine more prospects to the organization on Saturday. Time to learn about them.

Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

After adding two-way center German Rubstov to the organization in the first round of the 2016 NHL Draft, Ron Hextall was faced with a new task on Saturday. Ten picks remained, and Hextall's aim would be to stock an already-impressive pipeline with fresh talent.

The stated goal of Hextall and the Flyers prior to the draft was to focus upon adding forwards to the organization, and they did just that on Saturday. Out of their nine picks (they traded one fourth rounder to the Islanders for a future selection), six were wingers or centers. Size was also a priority, as all but one of the forwards selected measure in at over six feet.

Now that the picks are in, let's take a deep dive into each selection.

2nd Round, 36th overall: Pascal Laberge, C/RW, Victoriaville Tigers, QMJHL

Laberge was one of a number of players who generally was ranked in the 20 to 40 range by draft analysts. Had he been taken in the late first round, no one would have batted an eye, and for good reason. Laberge scored 68 points in 56 games with the Tigers, and he has the frame (6'1'', 174 pounds) to potentially become a force down low at the NHL level. He brings a well-rounded physical skillset to the table, but is primarily viewed as a playmaker and not a goal scorer.

His performance this season supposedly got much better after a full-time shift to the wing, allowing for Laberge to focus primarily on the offensive side of his game. Most likely, that will be his position at the next level. As for his production, Laberge is probably the fourth-most impressive statistical performer among draft-eligible forwards from the QMJHL this year, behind Pierre-Luc Dubois, Julien Gauthier and Vitali Abramov. He ranked fourth in even strength points per 60, and sixth when the dataset is limited to just primary points (goals and first assists).

Of course, the aforementioned Abramov was one of the high-end scorers that Philadelphia passed up to select Laberge. To be sure, there were probably more flashy players available at no. 36, but that doesn't make Laberge a poor pick. His production is strong, the skillset is diverse, and there's upside potential as he continues to fill out. No issues here.

2nd Round, 48th overall: Carter Hart, G, Everett Silvertips, WHL

It's undeniable that Carter Hart had a very compelling case as the top goaltender in the 2016 draft class. Craig Button ranked 24th among all prospects and Corey Pronman (who separates goalies from skaters in his rankings) placed him at #1 among netminders. Purely from a rankings standpoint, the Flyers made a strong value selection by grabbing Hart with the 48th overall pick.

Your excitement level surrounding the selection more comes down to a philosophical question -- do you support taking goaltenders in the early rounds of a draft? This wasn't an organizational need pick, as the Flyers have one top tier goalie prospect in Anthony Stolarz and a number of mid-tier ones with upside, like Felix Sandstrom, Alex Lyon, Merrick Madsen and Matej Tomek. Instead, this was a case of Ron Hextall believing that Hart was the best player available, and reacting accordingly.

But was that the smart move, considering how difficult it is to evaluate the potential of goaltenders? Matt Cane of PuckPlusPlus explored this mindset in the days leading up to the draft, and noted that the value of "hitting" on a goalie pick exceeds that of a comparable forward or defenseman, both because starting-caliber UFA goalies make far more on the open market. Kane even developed a curve to help determine when a goalie selection becomes prudent.

The Flyers took Hart with the 48th selection, placing him right near the point where the curve starts to bottom out. So for the Hart pick to be of a sound process, Philadelphia needs to believe that he has about a 10-12% chance of becoming a starting NHL goalie. That doesn't seem unreasonable, especially taking into account the positive scouting reports, good stats (0.918 save percentage in 2015-16), and young age (he won't turn 18 until August). There's legitimate cause for skepticism surrounding the choice, but pick 48 seems around the right time to take a strong goalie prospect, at least from a value standpoint.

2nd Round, 52nd overall: Wade Allison, RW, Tri-City Storm, USHL

Many were disappointed when the Flyers chose to pass on available sniper prospects Kieffer Bellows and Julien Gauthier at pick #18 on Friday night, instead trading down and selecting German Rubtsov. The Flyers desperately needed a goal scorer with size, the thought process went, with Bellows and Gauthier checking off all the necessary boxes.

In Wade Allison, however, they finally added a big goal scorer to the system.

The counting statistics are far from overwhelming at first glance. Allison finished with 47 points in 56 games, including 25 goals. But his performance trended upwards as the season progressed, culminating with a performance in the USHL playoffs (nine goals, seven assists in 11 games) that earned him the playoff MVP award. As a result, he shot up draft boards and clearly caught the attention of Ron Hextall.

Allison, first and foremost, is a scorer. He's a classic power forward with good size (6'2'', 205 pounds) and a nose for the net. His skillset seems to lean closer to that of Gauthier than Bellows, as he thrives down low and on the forecheck. Allison's even strength rate stats also show sign of promise, as his ES Goals/60 mark of 1.382 is in the same ballpark as Bellows' 1.529 during his time in the USHL. And that rate doesn't even account for Allison's playoff performance, when he truly was at his best.

Concerns exist surrounding his skating ability, especially his acceleration. In addition, late-rising prospects like Allison always come with the risk that a hot streak and not a sustainable improvement in play explains the surge in scoring. But if you want to add a goal-scorer with size and few question marks, you need to take them in the first round. The Flyers chose against that, and instead went with the next best thing in Allison.

3rd Round, 82nd overall: Carsen Twarynski, LW, Calgary Hitmen, WHL

Twarynski is the only Flyers selection on Day Two that really rubbed me the wrong way. Clearly, the team is familiar with him considering the fact that he plays for the same WHL team as Travis Sanheim and Radel Fazleev. It's easy to see how Flyers scouts could fall in love with his high-effort motor and size/speed combination after seeing him on a regular basis.

Unfortunately, I'm unconvinced that he has the upside to justify a third round selection.

The counting statistics don't look terrible, as he scored 45 points in 67 games with the Hitmen this year. But this isn't a case of Twarynski receiving minimal ice time which deflated his numbers. In fact, his ES Primary Points/60 of 1.50 ranks him an underwhelming 17th among draft eligible forwards in the WHL, implying that his just-decent production was more a result of lack of efficiency from a scoring standpoint.

Scouting reports peg Twarynski as more of a bottom-six forward at the NHL. That's fine for the later rounds, but in the third, it's reasonable to hope for a little more upside. Instead, the Flyers went for a player who -- even if everything breaks right -- probably tops out as a checking winger.

4th Round, 109th overall: Connor Bunnaman, C/LW, Kitchener Rangers, OHL

Bunnaman feels more like a third round talent than Twarynski. While Bunnaman's counting statistics are even less impressive than Twarynski's, it's much easier to attribute that to lack of ice time. Bunnaman ranked 13th among 2016-eligible OHL forwards with 1.991 ES Primary Points/60, just behind Alexander Nylander (2.055) and a few positions ahead of Michael McLeod (1.825). That's pretty solid company.

Another example of the Flyers' focus on adding bigger forwards to their prospect pool, Bunnaman stands a solid 6'1'' and weighs over 200 pounds already. Like Laberge, he played center in the past but switched to wing for the bulk of this past season. He's definitely a player to keep an eye on for next season, as he'll almost certainly be given an expanded role for Kitchener in his age-18 season. That's when we'll see if his promising rate stats can fuel an offensive breakout with more minutes.

5th Round, 139th overall: Linus Högberg, D, Växjö Lakers HC, SHL

At this point in the draft, selections are all about plausible upside. The high-end talents are gone, and any player remaining who produced at a strong statistical level from a raw counting stats standpoint probably comes with other concerns. As a result, players with a few intriguing elements to their resume -- elite skating ability, promising production in lower leagues, extreme youth -- become enticing possibilities. Defenseman Linus Högberg checked off the latter two boxes, and seems like a worthwhile lottery ticket.

Högberg racked up 25 points in 39 games in the Swedish U20 league, and earned a reputation as a solid offensive defenseman. Most notable is his age, as Högberg doesn't turn 18 until September 4th, making him one of the youngest prospects taken in the draft. Considering where he was selected, the stats like his chances. Canucks Army's pGPS tool (a spiritual successor to the PCS model that was essentially purchased by the Florida Panthers via hires this year) gives Högberg an 18.9% chance of becoming an NHL regular considering past comparables. For the fifth round, that's not too bad.

6th Round, 169th overall: Tanner Laczynski, C, Lincoln Stars, USHL

With Laczynski, the Flyers snapped up the only overage prospect of their draft. He was eligible to be selected in 2015, but was passed over by all 30 NHL teams despite a solid freshman season in the USHL. In 2015-16, he increased his production, scoring 63 points in 52 games and ranking seventh among all forwards in ES Primary Points/60.

Laczynski is off to Ohio State next season, and we'll likely have a much better read on him after a few seasons at the collegiate level. This feels like a case of Hextall liking the skillset, and wanting to get his rights now, just in case he becomes a big time scorer in college.

6th Round, 172nd overall: Anthony Salinitri, C, Sarnia Sting, OHL

With Anthony Salintri, the primary draw is speed. An anomaly in a draft class filled with bigger forwards, Salintri stands just 5'11'' and 170 pounds, but brings a high-end skating tool that the rest of the prospects chosen on Friday and Saturday lack. The stats aren't great (30 points in 62 games, 29th among draft-eligible OHLers in ES Primary Points/60), but any player with world-class skating ability is worth a flier in the sixth round. He'll likely take a more prominent role with Sarnia next season, and the Flyers will obviously be hoping for an offensive breakout.

7th Round, 199th overall: David Bernhardt, D, Djurgårdens IF, SHL

Just like with Högberg, the Flyers used the Swedish U20 league to grab a little-known defenseman with an intriguing set of skills. At 6'3'', 203 pounds, Bernhardt is not lacking for size, nor is he merely a bruising stay-at-home defenseman. His 38 points in 45 games was second among all blueliners in his league, behind only Filip Berglund, who was selected in the third round by the Edmonton Oilers. Taking a shot at a defenseman with both size and offensive upside was a shrewd use of a seventh round pick.

Overall Evaluation

Philadelphia's selections on day two of the draft took on the same characteristics that described their pick of German Rubtsov in round one. The Flyers weren't flashy, but focused on adding players with a combination of size and two-way hockey sense. The result was a draft class that may not possess the scoring upside that some fans hoped it might, but one with a relatively high floor.

Hextall added two first round talents in Rubtsov and Laberge, the best goaltender in the draft class, and a high-upside power forward prospect with his earliest picks. His mid-rounders leaned more towards bigger forwards (Twarynski and Bunnaman) who may top out as bottom-sixers but bring size and forechecking ability to the table. The late-round selections showed a keen understanding of value, particular in the choices of two intriguing young Swedish defensemen.

What's missing from the class is that one standout value grab, when an ultra-talented player falls "too far" and the Flyers swoop in and receive the plaudits of the hockey world at large. I believe there's a good chance that Rubtsov may be viewed through that lens in the coming years, but in the here and now, his skillset isn't the type that generates unqualified excitement.

The rest of their key selections (Laberge, Hart, Allison) all have the upside to be key contributors at the NHL level, but none brought that immediate universal reaction of, "Man, Hextall really pulled a rabbit out of his hat with this pick." Coming off a draft that brought two such players (Provorov and Konecny) to the organization, it's only natural for fans to feel a bit underwhelmed this time around.

From an overall value standpoint, however, Hextall and the Flyers' front office mostly succeeded in their picks. In the key rounds, there were no real "off-the-board" selections, and Philadelphia exits the draft with a much deeper set of forward prospects and one of the best goalie pipelines in the NHL. Hextall had clear goals for this draft (get Rubtsov, get bigger, get forwards) and clearly achieved them. It wasn't a spectacular draft, but there's definitely reason to believe that it was a solid one.

Final Grade: B

All statistics from or