All anyone has been able to talk about with this year’s NHL Entry Draft, and for good reason, has been the dynamic duo of American Jack Hughes, and Finland forward Kaapo Kakko. The two will undoubtedly go first and second overall on June 21 in Vancouver and will most likely be instantaneous or shortly thereafter contributors to their NHL teams. The Philadelphia Flyers meanwhile, will pick at the 11th overall spot, but still with a chance to make a pick that can contribute in the near future.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some of the draft prospects I believe the Flyers should take a deep look at, and even select with the pick.
Cole Caufield — RW, USNTDP, USHL
2018-19 Point totals: 29 G, 12 A, 41 P in 28 GP
Cole Caufield is one of the most exhilarating players in this draft class, and he just may slip to the Flyers at 11. Caufield fits exactly what this team needs in a pure goal scorer. He averaged just over a goal per game in the USHL and in the USDP league, he scored 72 goals in 64 games good for 101 total goals this season. The main gripe many Flyers fans have had with this team really since Jeff Carter was traded, was that the team lacks a pure goal scorer. Caufield fits that and more.
The NHL is not what it used to be in regards to the need for size in today’s league. Looking back to even 10 years ago in the 2008-2009 season, the thought was among essentially all general managers that diminutive players were inferior to the big boys of the NHL and that they could never hold up physically. Today’s NHL has changed though, and features more speed and skill than brute strength, and this could make a GM take a chance on Caufield with a top 10-15 pick.
The 18 year old out of Stevens Point, Wisconsin absolutely has the skill and speed to be a dynamic player at the NHL level. And while we’ve seen smaller players succeed more and more in the past couple seasons with the likes of Johnny Gaudreau and Alex Debrincat, it doesn’t change the fact Caufield still has a big hill to climb to find success in the NHL. While speed and skill have taken a greater precedent over size and grit, the latter two still have their place in the game. Caufield would be a small gamble for the Flyers, but one I think Chuck Fletcher and co. would be justified to take.
Arthur Kaliyev — LW, Hamilton Bulldogs, OHL
2018-19 Point totals: 51 G, 51 A, 102 P in 67 GP
Kaliyev has been one of the most surprising stories heading into this year’s draft. He entered the season looking like a late first to early second round pick, and with a 102 point season and a 54 point increase from the year prior. As Corey Pronman of The Athletic called him, he’s “one of the most divisive prospects” in this draft class. There are people who believe he’s a top 10 talent, and then there are those who believe his compete level lacks and he will never be the main driver on a line.
The 17 year old is another prime example of fitting the goal scorer need, although there is much more to his game than simply his goal scoring. His vision is impeccable and he showcased that with his 51 assists. His goal scoring may not translate as well as his ice vision and passing, but his shot is still something to keep an eye on. It’s not as accurate as it could be, but the sheer power his shot possesses makes it the weapon it is.
As for the concerns of his compete level and overall star power, I think there’s some validity to them, but I might be willing to overlook that for a guy who scored 50 goals at age 17. In this article from Pronman, he delves deeper into Kaliyev and addresses some of those concerns. It might be a gamble to take Kaliyev just outside the top 10, but it could also turn into one of the steals of the draft.
Cam York — D, USNTDP, USHL
2018-19 Point totals: 7 G, 26 A, 33 P in 28 GP
With Philippe Myers looking like a shoe-in for a spot on the Flyers opening night roster next season, this leaves a bit of a hole on the defensive side of the team’s prospect pool. Samuel Morin is a bubble prospect at this rate, and after him, there’s no true standout prospect. Yegor Zamula had a breakout season with the Calgary Hitmen of the WHL, scoring 56 points in 61 games, but it’s still unknown if he’ll be able to continue his march up the rankings. There is also the likes of Wyatte Wylie, Mark Friedman, Wyatt Kalynuk, and Jack St. Ivany, but none of those guys are blue chip blueliners.
Cam York would seemingly fit that role, as the 18 year old out of California was the top defenseman on U.S.A’s back end this season. York quarterbacked the American power play which featured some heavy hitters in the likes of Jack Hughes, Alex Turcotte, the aforementioned Caufield, and more. His vision is what separates him from the pack, and what makes him one of the top defense prospects in this year’s draft class.
The issues with York predominantly stem from his size, as he stands just 5’11” weighing in at 176 pounds. He makes the jump next season to the University of Michigan which will be a huge test for the young blueliner, going up against much stiffer and older competition.
Vasili Podkolzin — RW, SKA-Neva St. Petersburg, VHL
2018-19 Point totals: 2 G, 3 A, 5 P in 14 GP
Podkolzin came into this season as one of the top draft prospects, and was thought to be a for sure top five pick even as late as midseason. However, he simply hasn’t produced at a high enough level to warrant staying in that projected spot. Podkolzin has slipped on many people’s draft boards such as Pronman and Scott Wheeler of The Athletic, but that doesn’t mean the Flyers shouldn’t be interested in the Russian winger.
At just 17 years old, Podkolzin already has a great frame to him and he utilizes it well. His ability to protect the puck at his age is fantastic, and he seems fully aware of the size advantage he possesses. His shot is a major plus which again comes back to fitting a need for this hockey team. His hockey sense is excellent although a drawback noted by Wheeler, who for reference ranked him 17th in his final rankings, is that he is “an instinctual player who makes plays for himself but struggles to involve his teammates and the end result is a contrast between what your eyes tell you (they notice him a lot) and how effective he actually is.”
This along with his awkward skating style is a concern for some, and when that gets added into the lack of production even at Russian junior leagues, his draft stock has continued to go down. While I’m not certain he’ll slip to the Flyers at 11, I absolutely think it’s a possibility. With plenty of late chargers to choose from, Podkolzin could slip on many team’s draft boards. I believe if he slips to 11 and the likes of Caufield or a Trevor Zegras are already gone, this might be the guy to take.
Alex Newhook — C, Victoria Grizzlies, BCHL
2018-19 Point totals: 38 G, 64 A, 102 P in 53 GP
To get the obvious out of the way quickly, the negative with Alex Newhook is quite simply the league he’s playing in. After that, there’s not a whole lot to dislike about this kid. Posting just under two points per game in his second season in the BCHL, Newhook has a wide skill set that makes him a possible steal in the middle of the first round. His speed is off the charts but he’s not just a pure speed demon. He’s great on his edges and his ice vision and hands are well above average.
His size is also a plus, despite being relatively small for a centerman. Newhook’s 5’11” frame weighing in at 190 pounds is already a decent size for a NHL player, and he’s sure to add on a few more pounds by the time he finishes up at Boston College where he’ll be playing next season. His 102 points lead the entire BCHL as an 18 year old, with the next closest player coming in at 84 points.
Certainly, his freshman year at Boston College will be a telling one, as he’ll face much better competition and get his first true test. If the Flyers do decide to select the impressive forward, he’ll be another gamble by the Flyers in the first round. Last season, they selected high school product Jay O’Brien, who had a season to forget between being injured and simply not producing at Providence. Given the deep forward prospect pool, it wouldn’t be horrendous if Newhook doesn’t pan out, but it’s certainly a risky selection.