There’s going to be a lot of talk over the next couple of weeks leading into the 2019 NHL Draft as to who the Flyers should take at 11th overall. And to be fair, I think there’s going to be a lot of quality talent available at the 11th pick, such as some of the names I mentioned last week (shameless plug read my stuff thx.) However, I just haven’t been able to convince myself of wanting Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers to make this draft pick.
This season was a drain mentally on a large portion of the fan base, and the patient strategy from Ron Hextall wore thin resulting in his firing. While we all can appreciate the breath of fresh air he was in the sense of not trading second round picks for Pavel Kubina and Nicklas Grossman and Andrew MacDonald, he clearly was not going to fire his coach or make a trade, and something had to be done.
That mentality should in a way, make its presence felt at the draft. Claude Giroux is not getting any younger, and neither is Jakub Voracek. The window to win with these two guys is closing and although that should not cause trading the pick simply for the sake of trading it, I think making a move to get a legit proven NHL player is more valuable. The Flyers need NHL talent on this roster right now. If some team is willing to give up a viable second line center for the 11th pick and some mid-tier prospect, you almost have to make that trade.
Drafting a player like Alex Newhook who albeit looks to be a fantastic talent and someone that could greatly benefit the Flyers down the line sounds good. But this team needs more front line talent not just for the talent alone, but to take the load off of some young players.
Nolan Patrick has shown brief flashes of brilliance in his short NHL career, but he hasn’t proven he’s capable of being the full-time second line center. Sure, injuries have played a role in this and it certainly throws a wrench into his development, but there are times where he’s been healthy and looked entirely ineffective. Going into next season with Patrick as the 2C doesn’t seem all that smart at this point, and getting a legit 2C takes the load off of Patrick heading into next season.
The other area Chuck Fletcher can look to improve is on defense, in finding a partner for Ivan Provorov. The 2015 first round pick has seen an insane workload since entering the NHL, and it’s only grown for the young Russian. Provorov is getting workloads that the top defensemen in the league are getting and he’s only 22 years old entering his fourth NHL season. Provorov’s defense partners over this span? Well it’s a whole lot of Andrew MacDonald. We saw some success between him and Travis Sanheim this past season, and while it wouldn’t be the worst thing to enter 2019-20 with those two joined at the hip, I would like to see Provy get a quality veteran who can handle top minutes.
Dave Hakstol appears out of nowhere with a megaphone “WELL THAT SOUNDS JUST LIKE ANDREW MACDONALD!!”
Chuck Fletcher is going to have a lot of options come mid-June and although I would prefer the Flyers to trade this pick, there are a few players who could sway me the other way. If Cole Caufield slips to 11 — which wouldn’t surprise me given the concerns with his size — I think Fletcher needs to pull the trigger. Then again, if Caufield does slip it could prompt another general manager to give more up in a trade to acquire the diminutive forward.
Another would be Vasili Podkolzin who at one point was projected to go in the top five in this draft, but has since fallen out of many scouts graces. Podkolzin would be a gamble at 11 given his lack of production in lower Russian leagues but I think he’d be the perfect low risk high reward pick. There’s also the likes of Trevor Zegras and Matthew Boldy although I believe the latter would be more likely to be there come the Flyers pick.
Something I definitely don’t want to happen is for the Flyers to trade back in this draft. They have 10 draft picks this year and that’s more than enough for a team whose main focus should be winning in the near future rather than later. If trading back somehow involves getting a legit NHL player then by all means go for it, but I just don’t see that happening.
So all in all, I believe the Flyers best bet this year is to trade their first round pick in return for a quality NHL player. Whether you can get a second line center or a partner for Ivan Provorov is an unknown, and could possibly be easier to explore via free agency, but it doesn’t have to be one of those two. The Flyers need more quality players on their roster who are proven and have had experience winning, and are still actually good hockey players. The time to compete is now, we’ve waited long enough.