The last month has teemed with speculation about the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. We are rapidly approaching the usual time frame for the annual event but with the season still on hold, it has yet to be determined how the draft order will be decided and when the draft will happen.
Predictably, the teams near the bottom standings are advocating for a June draft, where only the bottom five will have a shot at the first overall selection. Teams in playoff contention represent the opposite. Regardless, the 2020 Draft will be a unique challenge for the league’s general managers. The Philadelphia Flyers are currently projected to select 26th overall; these are their needs by position.
This season, the Flyers boasted one of the deepest forward groups in the league. The addition of Kevin Hayes last offseason solidified the team’s depth at center, even with Nolan Patrick unable to play this year. The wingers have also been strong, with young players like Nicholas Aube-Kubel and Joel Farabee seizing significant roles in the lineup. The group has been a bright spot, but the prospect pool could use an infusion of high-end talent now that many have graduated to the big show.
The team could also use the draft to shed some salary. The Flyers lived very close to the cap ceiling all season and with a cap increase for next season in doubt, the team may be forced to make some difficult choices.
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Ideally, they could package a high salary player like James van Riemsdyk or Shayne Gostisbehere with their first-round pick and a prospect to move into the top ten. This draft has depth, but there is a drop off after the first dozen or so prospects. If the Flyers want cheaper and younger players while simultaneously replacing lost production, this would be the play.
The Flyers are in possession of one of the league’s budding young defense cores and after spending a first-round pick in last year’s draft on defenseman Cam York, the back end is not an obvious need either. They have some players in need of a new contract but the draft is unlikely to yield a defender who can step in right away at the NHL level, even in the first round.
If the Flyers intend to select a defenseman first, it may behoove them to stay put at their spot in the mid to late 20s. This draft has a few high-level defensemen, but there is also some blue line potential to be had towards the end of the first. The benefit of not having any glaring needs is that it removes the necessity of selecting a specific position.
Carter Hart is the team’s starting goalie and that is unlikely to change any time soon. His recent level of play coupled with his potential has made it his job to lose. While Brian Elliot is Hart’s back up, there are a plethora of young goalies in the system for the Flyers to choose from.
Goaltending is one of the hardest positions to predict as far as development is concerned, so it is never a bad idea to stock up on prospects at such a pivotal role. Having said that, only one goalie is being seriously discussed as a first-round prospect, Yaroslav Askarov. It would not be surprising to see the Flyers take another goalie at some point in this draft, but with Hart in place, they are unlikely to invest significant draft capital between the pipes.
Best Player Available
There are several directions that the Flyers could take in this draft that could all make sense. Trading up for an impact forward while reducing salary would be a major victory for a team with significant players who are due for a raise sooner than later. Acquiring another blue-chip defenseman would provide breathing room with the Seattle Expansion Draft looming and some key defensemen at risk of being exposed.
Selecting a goalie is the least likely plan, at least in the first round, but if the top goalie in the draft is still available in the late 20s, the Flyers may pounce. If the plan is to stay at their original draft position, taking the best player available is a safe course of action when there are so few holes on the Philadelphia roster.