Excitement surrounding the impending NHL draft has begun to heat up. No one yet knows what the draft order will be or even how it will be determined, but the prospects ranking boards are set and scouting season is in full swing.
The Philadelphia Flyers are deep at virtually all positions, giving them the freedom to select the best player available. There is a drop off after the first 10 overall prospects or so, but this draft looks to be particularly deep in centers and defensemen. Here are a few centers that the Flyers should look to draft with their first-round selection.
2019-20 Team: Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
2019-20 Stats: 56 Games Played, 24 Goals, 34 Assists, 60 points
Weight: 163 pounds
In a draft full of centers, Greig is one of the players with the most translatable game to the NHL. He is a strong skater with the ability to turn on the jets for contested pucks and has proven to be a valuable two-way player. Despite not being particularly big, he plays a heavy game, often one of the first men in on the forecheck. His playmaking is another plus element of his game, able to see open passing lanes where many others wouldn’t and when the pass isn’t there, his shot can get the job done, too.
Overall, he does the things that coaches want out of their young players, which should result in being NHL-ready sooner rather than later. The only knock on Greig is that his ceiling may not be all that high considering he doesn’t have any one elite trait. He is the son of current Flyers scout and former Hartford Whaler Mark Greig, so he is a player that the Flyers likely know very well. Nepotism aside, he is a legitimate first-round prospect.
2019-20 Team: Portland Winterhawks (WHL)
2019-20 Stats: 58 Games Played, 42 Goals, 56 Assists, 98 points
Weight: 175 pounds
One of my absolute favorite players in this draft class, Seth Jarvis is a smaller forward with a strong shot and excellent playmaking abilities. However, where he truly sets himself apart from other prospects is with his skating. He is capable of wreaking havoc on the forecheck, as well as on the backcheck by sheer virtue of being faster than pretty much everyone else on the ice. He has good straight-line speed but his elusiveness and edgework are a cut above. This attribute by itself makes his two-way potential tantalizing, but he is just as effective if not more so on offense.
Watching him play, it becomes apparent just how easily he can receive a short pass near the top of the offensive zone and, in just a stride or two, catch a well positioned defender completely flatfooted and blow right by. Couple this with his nose for the net and above-average shot and it is easy to see that Jarvis could be the steal of the first round when it is all said and done.
He is currently ranked as the 11th North American skater, which should put him in the Flyers’ range. He is an all-situations player, spending time on his team’s top power play unit as well as being a primary penalty killer. He played right wing this season but is listed as a center in the North American skaters rankings, so he likely could play either. To me, Jarvis is most comparable to Mitch Marner, which would be a tremendous outcome for any team lucky enough to snatch him up.
2019-20 Team: Chicago Steel (USHL)
2019-20 Stats: 45 Games Played, 24 Goals, 35 Assists, 59 points
Weight: 179 pounds
Playing in the USHL this season, Brendan Brisson flashed some serious potential. An alumnus of the famed Shattuck St. Mary’s School, he is a solid passer with good vision and is very good away from the puck. His hands are soft and he regularly sets up teammates with clever drop passes or wide open looks after he has drawn defenders to him.
However, his finishing ability showed up more in his highlight tape than on his stat sheet. Brisson has a hard, accurate shot and a lethal one-timer. His favorite place to finish from is just below the face-off dot in the offensive zone, often dealing with some very sharp angles. Despite his tendency to set up there, he is very good at getting open for the shot, which bodes well for his prospects of earning power play time.
His skating is fine — certainly not a detriment to his game — and he needs to add some weight before reaching the next level, but those issues shouldn’t hold him back. The league he played in is a half step down from top Canadian Junior leagues, which could be part of the reason for his #20 ranking among North American skaters, but his skillset is authentic.
2019-20 Team: University of Wisconsin Badgers (Big Ten, NCAA)
2019-20 Stats: 35 Games Played, 8 Goals, 9 Assists, 17 points
Weight: 203 pounds
One of the standout players from NCAA competition this season, Dylan Holloway is a well-rounded power forward. His straight-line speed is one of his best attributes, utilizing an effortless stride to close distance and he is a willing back checker. What makes him unique is the power in his game; he has a hard shot, plays very physically, and is a bulldozer driving through defenders to the net. Do not mistake him with a blunt instrument; he is a very capable playmaker as well.
He has an excellent sense for when to pass and when to shoot, making him a decisive offensive weapon. He stands at 6’0″ and a shade over 200 pounds, so physicality will not likely be much of a learning curve for him. The Flyers’ scouting department has seen a lot of Holloway this season, as he is a University of Wisconsin teammate of current Flyers prospect Wyatt Kalynuk. Holloway reminds me in many ways of Dallas Stars forward Jamie Benn, minus, perhaps, a bit of snarl and an Art Ross Trophy.
2019-20 Team: Kamloops Blazers (WHL)
2019-20 Stats: 57 Games Played, 38 Goals, 48 Assists, 86 points
Weight: 178 pounds
Zary is a difficult player to project because his stock has had peaks and valleys throughout his scouting cycle. During the 2018-19 World Junior Championship, he was a point-per-game player for Team Canada and was expected to be a top-15 pick. His return to the WHL saw some scouts sour on him a bit, as he seems to lack an elite trait and some of his quietest games came in some of his team’s biggest matchups.
Despite not having a high-level attribute, Zary is a complete player and his stick handling ability is above average. He is a hard worker in board battles and can compete in a variety of roles. Some of his best work came on the defensive side as a quality backchecker, which is not always a given with young forwards.
He is another prospect that shouldn’t need much seasoning before making the jump to the NHL, even if his ceiling is a third-line player. In this regard, he would be a low-risk, low-reward pick that can double as a penalty killer. The player that I liken Zary to is someone that Flyers fans know well — Scott Laughton. Zary may not be a game-breaking talent but it’s a safe bet that he could be a versatile middle-six forward.
Pick of the Litter or Plan B?
When the Flyers are eventually on the clock, it is possible — albeit unlikely — that all of the players above are available. Similarly, all five players could be off the board by the time Philadelphia’s pick rolls around. The Flyers need to replenish their farm system and have the luxury of not needing any one position in a dire way. Regardless of who ultimately ends up being their selection, they should be able to get an impact player for the future.