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Recapping the Flyers’ 2021 Entry Draft

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Let’s check in with the new additions.

2021 NHL Draft - Round One Photo by Carlee Calfee/NHLI via Getty Images

That’s a wrap on the draft, folks! It’s been a busy weekend, so it’s time that we take a few moments to recap, talk a bit about the new additions,

What they lost

The Flyers, of course, traded away their first round pick in the deal that brought Rasmus Ristolainen to Philly. And we’re not here to re-litigate whether this was too steep a price to pay, but we’re just here to acknowledge that the Flyers are already at something of a disadvantage when it comes to grading this draft, as they weren’t able to add as much dynamic talent through the top of this draft as they’ve been able to in the past. So there’s that.

Who they added

Round 2, No. 46: Samu Tuomaala, RW, Kärpät (Liiga).

If you were coming into this draft hoping that the Flyers could add a bit more speed to their prospect pipeline, this pick certainly does fill that wish. Tuomaala is a very strong skater who, on top of already having the mechanics in place, brings a ton in the way of pure speed. He works well in transition, moving and protecting the puck well, and can get that transition moving up-ice quickly through a strong anticipation of plays as well as just good motor. His scoring pace has always been quite good, but not stellar, but he does still bring quite a well-rounded offensive game. With flashes of dynamic playmaking and a quick release on his wrist shot that can beat goalies from a distance, Tuomaala is often a dangerous scoring threat. That said, he can get caught playing a bit too often on the perimeter, which can be frustrating, but if that can be coached out of him as he develops, the Flyers may well have a real steal with this pick.

And, we’ll talk more about this when the tournament wraps up, but he’s already looking really sharp playing big minutes for Finland in the World Junior Summer Showcase.

Round 3, No. 78: Aleksei Kolosov, G, Minsk (KHL).

Kolosov is a second year eligible goaltender (that is, he was passed over in last year’s draft) who has certainly turned some heads with his performance at the KHL level. What stands out most immediately about his game is his overall quickness, but he does still show a level of calmness and economy of movement, all of which certainly make for an intriguing package. There are some concerns about his size, and that fact that he can be beaten a little more often than we’d like to see by shots from a distance, so there are some question marks there, but the foundation for him game does seem solid.

Round 4, No. 110: Brian Zanetti, D, Lugano (Swiss U20).

Zanetti makes for another mobile defenseman added to the Flyers’ pipeline. He spent last season with Lugano of the Swiss U20 league, but will come overseas to play with Peterborough of the OHL next season, as the OHL is able to actually get their season rolling after missing out last year. Zanetti is a strong skater and clean passer, with good size (6’2”), and who was able to kick in a good bit of scoring last season. All of that said, there have been questions about how well his offensive game and puck skills will translate to the professional level.

Round 5, No. 158: Ty Murchison, D, NTDP (USHL/USDP).

Murchison makes the second defenseman added of the day, and the third in the Flyers’ pipeline from California (which is kind of neat, right?). Murchison, an ASU commit, spent last year with the NTDP and found some good results playing in what we know is a competitive program. He skates well for his size, can execute clean passes, and has shown good transition ability at the junior level (though it remains a question how well that particular ability and instinct will translate to the professional level). His defensive instincts are generally good, and his physicality and reach to break up plays are real assets to that side of his game.

Round 6, No. 174: Ethan Samson, D, Prince George (WHL).

Samson is the third and final defenseman added into the mix from this draft. Though he has shown some flashes of having nice puck skills at the junior level, he does project as more of the defensive-defenseman of this group. But, as we said, we did still see some more dynamic skill from him already. He plays a physical game and brings a good motor, and his defensive positioning and anticipation certainly stand out.

There are some reservations, though, about how well these elements of his game will translate when he moves to playing against men, and his skating, if it doesn’t improve quite a bit, will be a hindrance at the next level.

Round 7, No. 206: Owen McLaughlin, C, Mount St. Charles Academy (U18 AAA).

McLaughlin, the local boy! (Well, if you consider Spring City, PA local to Philly).

McLaughlin put up solid scoring numbers (54 points in 33 games) with his high school team, and got a brief looking with the NTDP at the end of the season. That profile seems enough to take a shot on him and see what you might have and might be able to develop with him, to be sure. He’s a creative player with a nice scoring touch, but there are questions about how much offense he drives for himself, and his play away from the puck certainly leaves something to be desired. He’s still a bit raw, but taking a bit of a longer development path (spending next season with Sioux City of the USHL before heading to Penn State) may help him to smooth out some areas rather than throwing him into a program where he’ll be in over his head.

How are we feeling?

It’s hard not to come away from this draft feeling a bit lukewarm. In part it comes from not having the flashy new first round pick to be excited about, but it remains that this group of prospects just doesn’t bring the same level of excitement, of “wow they might really have something here” intrigue that we saw even last year.

The Tuomaala pick is a good one, his speed certainly addresses a need in the pipeline. And while it’s fair to point out that the Flyers passed on perhaps an even more dynamic forward in Aatu Raty to draft him, there’s enough that I like about Tuomaala as a player that keeps me from being too fussed about this pick. Beyond him, though, there really isn’t too much that really excites. Kolosov isn’t a bad pick, he was probably the next best goalie available after Sebastian Cossa and Jesper Wallstedt (though the gap between him and those two is sizable), but with the holes in his game, at present we’re looking at a player who projects as someone who is a maybe to play some games as a backup in the NHL. Murchison too is an interesting pick, but his situation is similar—if he hits his ceiling, he might just have third pair upside.

The Flyers left some talent on the table. To pull just one example, I was watching the first of the World Junior Summer Showcase games this weekend and thinking that Dylan Duke (round 4, pick 126) was really standing out and was going to make some teams look really silly for letting him fall as far as he did. We can acknowledge the difficulties in scouting this season and be a little generous with how teams drafted because of that. But the Flyers have set the standard (even with this new management group) of being able to dig up some really intriguing prospects in the middle to late rounds of the draft, and this year it just feels like they’ve fallen short of that standard.

Now, in fairness, there’s still a whole lot of time for developing left for these players. Their skillsets aren’t fixed, and there’s lots of time for our opinions on them to build and change. I haven’t seen any of them play live and in person, so we may well see some of those changes come as soon as the next development camp (assuming at least some of these new draftees are able to participate). So again, things could change, but until that happens, we’re looking at this class with a bit of skepticism.