When the Flyers traded down in the first round of the 2016 draft, passing up on the chance to get one of the draft's two most coveted pure goal scorers in Kieffer Bellows and Julien Gauthier at No. 18 before watching both of them get taken and ultimately selecting German Rubtsov at the 22nd pick, there was assuredly sound logic behind that decision. Value-wise, it's tough to argue with the deal in a vacuum, as they were able to pick up an early second-round pick for their efforts that allowed them to snag Pascal Laberge on Saturday morning.
Still, fans who were miffed at the passing on Bellows and Gauthier were well within their right to feel that way. As hockey continues to find ways to make it harder and harder to score goals, players who can do just that get harder and harder to find. And for all of the prospect depth the Flyers have built in recent years in terms of defense, goaltending, and all-around skilled forwards, there's no one guy currently in the system other than maybe Travis Konecny that you look at and say "that guy's going to score a lot of goals in the NHL", the way you could for the likes of Bellows and Gauthier.
But when the dust had settled on the 2016 draft, the Flyers' next-best chance at getting that pure goal-scorer was probably the other skater that they picked up in the second round of the draft.
No. 25: Wade Allison
Age: 18 (10/14/1997)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Tri-City Storm, USHL -- 22 G, 25 A in 56 GP
Nationality: Canadian (Myrtle, MB)
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft -- Round 2, Pick 52 (Pick acquired via Chicago for Kimmo Timonen)
Really, Wade Allison checks a lot of boxes in terms of what the Flyers lack their prospect group. He's a winger (though, more specifically, a right winger who shoots righty). At 6'2" and over 200 pounds, he's a forward with skill and size; in recent years the Flyers have taken several small, skilled forwards and a number of big, grinder-type forwards, but not many guys that get the best of both worlds quite like Allison does. And of course, the guy can shoot the puck and score goals.
What's true of Allison that may sound familiar to Flyers fans is that he's a bit of a late riser. Much like prominent Flyers draft picks Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim, and even Travis Konecny before him, Allison worked through a slow start to his draft season to really come on strong late and establish himself as a legitimate option to NHL squads. The Flyers do seem to have a liking for guys that come on strong as their draft year goes on, and Allison fits that description to a T.
He went from 192nd in Central Scouting's midterm ranking of North American skaters to 62nd in their final ranking -- and when you look at how his season progressed, it's not hard to see how that jump happened. After a rough first 15 games with Tri-City of the USHL, Allison started making his presence known right around Thanksgiving and never really looked back -- and by the time the USHL playoffs rolled around, he was one of the best players in the entire league:
|9/25 to 11/14||15||0.13||0.07||2.40|
|11/20 to 4/9||41||1.10||0.59||4.07|
Tri-City won the Clark Cup this year, which goes to the winner of the USHL. With those kinds of playoff numbers, you'll be shocked to learn that Allison was named Clark Cup MVP.
So while Allison's track record is somewhat limited -- he posted just 13 points in the USHL in 2014-15 -- it's hard not to think that the play he showed this past season represented a massive step forward in his development. The challenge for him now is to build on it.
Allison's play as the USHL season went on was definitely what pulled him into the NHL draft discussion, convincing scouts and evaluators who maybe didn't see much there beforehand. ESPN's Corey Pronman was still relatively low on Allison, ranking him 99th (Insider link) in his final pre-draft rankings this year, but noted that that was a significant improvement for him:
The best player during the USHL playoffs, Allison turned me from a skeptic into a semi-believer of him being an NHL prospect. Allison is a pretty good skater (he finished toward the top in nearly every skating-related skills competition at the USHL top prospects game), showing a solid top gear and first few steps. He's a smart player with the puck, being able to move it, but he generates more chances for himself than his teammates. Allison was a shots-on-goal machine during the season and into the playoffs, and could be a legitimate goal scorer as a pro.
A big winger who creates chances for himself, generates a ton of shots (he was third in the USHL in shots on goal per game this past season), and can put home chances that his talented teammates give him? That does sound like something the Flyers need.
Chris Dilks over at SBN College Hockey also put together a scouting report, one that paints a clear picture of a player willing to play a physical game to go to the net and score goals. On the flip-side, Allison doesn't seem like the smoothest skater or a guy who's going to be blowing past defenders in the neutral zone and carrying the puck up-ice with ease. All of which is to say that it's a lot more likely that he'll be the guy finishing the rush than it is that he'll be the guy starting it.
Allison will be playing at Western Michigan University this fall, and we should quickly get a chance to see if the improvement he showed over the course of this past season is something he can build on. And if it is, then that's a very exciting thought for Flyers fans. Because if Wade Allison is able to keep growing and make it to the NHL, then the Flyers might just have their pure goal-scorer after all.
How we voted for Wade Allison:
How we voted at No. 25:
|Felix Sandstrom||Reece Wilcox||Mikhail Vorobyov||Alex Lyon||Wade Allison||Mark Friedman||Matej Tomek||David Kase||Phillippe Myers||Mark Friedman|
Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016: