The Flyers’ move from the 13th spot in the draft to the 2nd overall pick is still something that we’re trying to process six weeks after the fact, and it may not be an understatement to say that stroke of good luck could prove to be franchise-changing for the Flyers.
In a draft that appears to have two prospects that tower above the rest, the team will have the opportunity to fill possibly its biggest long-term need: a top-6 (top-line?) center that can help give the team strength, scoring, and strong two-way play down the middle.
It’s widely expected that one of Brandon Wheat Kings center Nolan Patrick or Halifax Mooseheads center Nico Hischier will be the pick here, depending on what the New Jersey Devils do with the first overall pick. And that’s exciting! But it does take a bit of the mystique out of mock drafts that you’ll see in the lead-up to the draft. Including ours here at SB Nation.
In the past few years, we here at BSH have had the chance to deliberate a bit in making our pick. Last year, we eventually landed on big QMJHL winger Julien Gauthier with our pick at No. 18; he was one the Flyers had a chance to grab in real life, but passed up on for a trade-back and German Rubtsov. Two years ago, after some discussion, we ended up reaching a consensus on a fellow named Ivan Provorov at No. 7. Perhaps you’ve heard about what happened to him from there. And in 2014, with a lot of options on the board at No. 17, we chose one Dylan Larkin, who went to Detroit at No. 15 in the real thing a few minutes before the Flyers nabbed Travis Sanheim.
This year, it figured that there wasn’t going to be much deliberation amongst our staff on what the right pick was here.
Not that we’re complaining.
SB Nation NHL Mock Draft 2017
What happened next may shock you. (But it also may not!)
With the 2nd overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers are proud to select, from the Brandon Wheat Kings, center Nolan Patrick.
If you’ve been following along since April 29 (or even just since the beginning of this post), this will likely come of little surprise to you, but let’s talk through it a bit more.
The choice was clear
Of course, the ongoing discussions and debates that have taken place amongst Flyers fans for the past six weeks over Patrick and Hischier and which one they’d prefer are undermined by the fact that it’s not really the Flyers’ choice to make. The choice of which one of Hischier or Patrick is on the board at No. 2 is entirely in the hands of the Devils (assuming they don’t unexpectedly go off the board, which apparently is something they’re at least maybe considering?), and it’s more or less been assumed that whichever one of those two the Devils don’t take will be the Flyers’ pick.
In that vein, let it be known that after our friends at All About The Jersey sent in their Nico Hischier pick at 9:51 p.m. ET on May 31, Travis had our pick submitted at ... 9:52 p.m. ET on May 31. We are nothing if not expeditious.
In seriousness, having spent a lot of time across the previous six weeks discussing this draft, our staff is in agreement with the generally prevailing wisdom that there’s a drop-off between the draft’s top two players and the rest of the field, and we’d be pretty happy to see either one of Hischier or Patrick in the orange and black. Ron Hextall has given lip service to the idea that this draft is stronger than it’s been given credit for, and of course he’s going to do that, but it would frankly be very surprising if he went at all “off the board” here and took someone other than whichever one of the top two guys the Devils leave around.
With that said, there does seem to be maybe one thing that could possibly take Patrick out of the conversation for this pick, and it’s his injury history. And the Flyers, in real life, must (and should be able to) do their due diligence there. Hextall, thanks in no small part to his connections in Brandon, will probably be as capable as anyone of tracking down all of the relevant information out there regarding Patrick’s various ailments over the past few years. If what he learns is genuinely threatening to Patrick’s ability to have a long, prosperous NHL career, then indeed, he may have to consider looking elsewhere.
We here at BSH, however, do not have that kind of information at our hands. And with what we know now, the potential risk of Patrick’s injuries isn’t close to enough to scare us away from his talent.
Additionally, there were never really any considerations given amongst our team to trading this pick, whether that would involve trading back in this draft or outright dealing the pick for NHL talent. While it’d be foolish to totally rule out a trade (and Hextall is, unsurprisingly, getting asked about his interest in one), the core belief that we have here is this: the Flyers, by way of moving up to No. 2 in the lottery, have been given a good chance to pick up a young, extremely talented, cost-controlled top-6 center for the next decade or so.
That’s a very hard thing to come by, and any trade offer for that pick should involve the Flyers receiving someone who has an even better chance of being a young, extremely talented, cost-controlled top-6 center for the next decade or so. Basically, we’d need a young player who already is a top-6 center and still has the upside to be more than that. Those kinds of players get traded just so, so rarely, and as such it’s hard to imagine a situation where it makes sense to move this pick.
(Also, within the context of this exercise: none of the other blog managers actually approached us with an offer for the pick. Takes two to tango, and all that.)
So there’s the why/how of our selection. As for the “who”...
Is this really a consolation prize?
If you were to have asked any informed NHL draft observer who the No. 2 pick in the 2017 NHL Draft would be at this time a year or so ago, they’d probably have named anyone other than Nolan Patrick. That’s because Patrick entered this year as the odds-on favorite to be the first pick in the 2017 draft, and his status there only started to really get questioned as we got deeper into the 2016-17 hockey season.
And sure — there are good reasons why that questioning happened. Patrick missed three months last year following sports hernia surgery (which we now know came in no small part because the injury was missed in initial testing for another injury last summer), and it’s tough to keep your profile up when you’re off the ice. That’s, of course, been a recurring problem for Patrick, who’s missed a lot of hockey time due to injury over the course of his teens. And even when he was around, Patrick’s overall production last year was stagnant relative to where it was in the 2015-16 season. His position as this draft’s top dog was ripe for the taking.
Hischier, to his credit, went ahead and did everything he could to try and take it. Between an outstanding season in Halifax and a starring role for Team Switzerland in the World Juniors last winter, Hischier had put himself firmly on the map this year. His first year in North America couldn’t have gone much better, and he has earned his way into the conversation for the top pick in this draft. That the folks over at All About The Jersey elected to take him at first overall is not surprising, and it’s a very reasonable pick for them to make.
But what does it say about the players in question that, after a year in which nearly everything went wrong for Patrick and nearly everything went right for Hischier, the top pick in the draft is still not only a discussion, but by many accounts a true toss-up? If Patrick comes back from his October injury a little bit stronger, or if his hernia isn’t misdiagnosed last summer, are we even considering the possibility that he’ll be available here at No. 2? If he’s at 100 percent next year, no one would be surprised to see him look like the guy people thought he would look like this past year — y’know, the guy who was the consensus No. 1 pick not too long ago. Does that really sound like a consolation prize here?
Maybe what we saw this year is real, and Patrick will spend a lot of time in his career struggling with injuries and may just never be the dynamic talent that he looked like he may be just a year ago, when he tallied 101 points for the Brandon Wheat Kings (and then 30 more in the playoffs) as a 17-year old. He didn’t have the draft year you’d hope to see him have, and to be sure, penciling him in as a franchise cornerstone at this point does involve some risk.
And far be it from me — by absolutely no means a draft expert — to go too far against the grain here, what with so many smart people saying that this decision is truly a toss-up. Were the Devils to take Patrick at No. 1, I’d be thrilled to have Hischier, who seems like he’d add just the kind of dynamic scoring touch that the Flyers can desperately use in their forward ranks.
But the allure of Nolan Patrick reaching the ceiling that many saw for him not too long ago is simply tantalizing. If, 11 days from now, the first pick in the draft mirrors the first pick in our mock draft here, Hextall (unless he has information regarding Patrick’s injuries that we don’t) should have no hesitation about picking the Winnipeg native at No. 2, just like we here at BSH didn’t on this pick. And as fans, no matter which of these two guys the Flyers get, we should be pretty excited for what’s to come.
Anywho. Dallas is now on the clock. Enjoy the rest of the first round, non-top-2-pick-having teams. You can follow along with the draft here.