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What if the Flyers traded their first round pick this year?

Would we really be that mad?

2022 NHL Draft Lottery Photo by Mike Stobe/NHLI via Getty Images

So...the Flyers moved back in the draft this year. They didn’t move back by much but they did indeed move back, and as we know, will be picking at No. 5, behind Montreal, New Jersey (why does the NHL love this stupid franchise?), Arizona, and Seattle. Many were disappointed, us included, with the news, but outside of Shane Wright, the consensus No. 1 overall pick, there’s a fair amount of debate.

By all accounts this is a very deep draft with some talent being projected anywhere from top three all the way down to 10-15. For example, Brad Lambert, a center from Finland, we’ve seen in the top five, but also present all the way down at #35 by TSN/Craig Button. A deep draft can be a very good thing for obvious reasons: that your team is more likely to pick a talented player who will impact an NHL roster. However, with deep drafts come the choice dilemma for teams that pick high such as our Philadelphia Flyers.

Much akin to the Eagles’ 2020 NFL draft, there’s the chance the Flyers could take the equivalent of a Jalen Reagor over Justin Jefferson, though obviously the comparison is not perfect. In collegiate football, the raw talents of a player compared to their competition (for the most part) are easier to measure given the high level of competition of the power five and other conferences involved with the CFB Playoff. All of the players will be in between the ages of 18 and give-or-take 22/23 years old as well, where this will only be the case in players drafted from juniors in the NHL. For players such as Lambert, who play in the Finnish Liiga (i.e. a professional men’s league) at such a young age, it can be hard to properly evaluate them.

Obviously, this “problem” is one that can be mitigated by good scouting and doing one’s homework on draftee’s intangibles. However, even the best scouts are prone to over or under rating prospects. Yet, does this seem like a reason to give up on making the 5th overall selection in the draft? Probably not, but there are reasons for those who have made up their mind in different ways for the Flyers to trade their first round pick this year.

The Negative Approach

If you believe the Flyers should 100% tank, and are going nowhere in the next 3-5 years, then trading this pick either for prospects or future picks could be a smart move to stock up on assets. Again, look to the Eagles, who traded one of their first round picks to the Saints for a first round pick in next year’s draft plus some extra picks to boot. Once again, however, this is a bit of an unfair comparison to make given the Eagles had multiple first round picks to play with, but gearing up with more future assets would be beneficial in the case of a full on rebuild. The Flyers going in this direction, however, is rather unlikely given the history behind Ron Hextall’s GM tenure, and the Flyers’ position on blowing it up in general. They are far more of a “re-tool” team, but in fairness, look where it’s landed them.

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

The Positive Approach

On the opposite end, if you believe with some changes, the Flyers will surge back into being competitive, especially with young talent on the way and a very good young goaltender in Carter Hart, trading their first round pick could be a way to supplement said changes.

The Flyers could potentially trade down in such a deep draft and acquire any form of asset from doing so. Equally, the Flyers could package this pick in a move for a quality player. The prospect of this, combined with potential free agent deals (Mr. Gaudreau, come home) could spell a reversal of fortune for the orange and black if you believe in Chuck Fletcher’s ability to be aggressive and put this team on the map.

From this perspective, keeping the pick is actually a worse move given potentially how NHL ready such a prospect who isn’t, say, Shane Wright or Juraj Slafkovsky, may be. If the Flyers are truly looking to bounce back into contention, trading their lottery tickets for tangible assets would be the more astute move (though once again, this depends on your trust in management not to make a shortsighted move, or over-evaluate a player such as they did with Andrew MacDonald).

Or they simply make the pick

This option is likely the most popular among the fanbase. Why would you want to trade a pick in such a deep draft where you pick in the top five? Yes, that is a fair question to ask.

More so than simply the reason listed above, the Flyers could be very high on a particular prospect that they think could change the fortunes of the franchise in themselves. There are drafts such as 2015 where nearly every player drafted in the first round turned out to be at very least a middle-six forward or second pair defenceman. The Flyers could be very confident in themselves drafting a quality player.

However, to contest this point, have the Flyers really been all that good at drafting over, say, the last five seasons? This is an argument that could go both ways, as they’ve hit on players such as Joel Farabee (we’re yet to see just how good he truly is or can become) but they’ve also missed on too many a prospect to count when better players were taken right under their noses. The Flyers, or to be more accurate, Chuck Fletcher, have recently taken more of a bias towards picking up close to NHL ready prospects regardless of who drafted them, as evidenced by their asking price in the Claude Giroux trade and their target of Owen Tippett. It could then even be possible that instead of making the pick that the Flyers trade it for a prospect in a package or straight swap.

In the end, we’ll only know what the Flyers have in mind with their pick until Schrodinger’s box is opened and the pick is either made or traded. However, more than one might think, there are reasons for the Flyers to not make this pick, from a positive and negative perspective. As much as we may love certain prospects and want the Flyers to draft them, if they packaged the first round pick for a top-six NHL forward, then complaints may be at a minimum.

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