The Flyers caught a huge—and timely—break at the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, winning the second-overall pick despite their mere 2.4 percent chance of doing so. This is a great opportunity for the team to add a top-tier forward to their deep prospect pool. Most analysts predict that the New Jersey Devils will take Nolan Patrick with the first pick. The consensus number-two pick seems to be center Nico Hischier, a 6’1” Swiss 18-year-old.
The Flyers last picked second overall in 2007 but under very different circumstances. The previous season still stands as the franchise’s worst ever, and even though the Flyers finished well behind the rest of the league, Chicago jumped ahead of them at the lottery. Instead of Patrick Kane, the Flyers wound up with James van Riemsdyk. (So you’ll forgive Flyers fans if they don’t have much sympathy for the Avalanche.)
Although this year’s draft class is considered shallow, it still boasts some highly skilled players, particularly forwards. There may not be a generational talent like Connor McDavid or Auston Matthews, but drafting someone like Hischier would enable the Flyers to speed up their rebuilding process by complementing their defensive prospects. With any luck, he may even force himself into the Flyers’ lineup next year.
Hischier Climbs the Rankings
Hischier’s stock rose steadily throughout the 2016-17 season, thanks to exceptional performances in the IIHF World Championship and QMJHL. He is currently the second-ranked North American skater on NHL Central Scouting’s list.
According to Bill Meltzer, Hischier would be eligible to play in the AHL next year because his Swiss club, SC Bern, loaned him to the Halifax Mooseheads. If he were to do so, he would then be available to the Flyers throughout the season, even if he didn’t make the team out of training camp. Shayne Gostisbehere, for example, spent a month with the Phantoms before the Flyers called him up.
His offensive talent is obvious, but Dan Marr, director of NHL Central Scouting, is just as impressed with his passion:
“Hischier is definitely worth the price of admission. He has a high skill level, but what’s most impressive is the way he competes, his drive and work ethic. He is a player who is first on the forecheck forcing a turnover and when the play transitions, he’s the first player back. He’s in that category as a special player.”
With as many holes as the Flyers have right now, a complete player like Hischier could be instrumental in turning this team around quickly.
An Important Offseason
Whoever the Flyers pick will be under scrutiny as the season approaches. Although the team is in serious need of scoring depth, Ron Hextall continues to preach patience and he will have to balance that approach with the team’s current needs, especially if they lose a forward to Las Vegas in the expansion draft.
As patient as Hextall has been, the organization isn’t afraid to rely on a rookie if he earns it. Just ask Ivan Provorov and Gostisbehere, who both won the Barry Ashbee Trophy for the Flyers’ best defenseman as rookies. Here’s hoping that these prospects give Hextall a lot of tough choices to make for the 2017-18 season.