With the roster beginning to take shape after a flurry of moves, the Philadelphia Flyers are preparing for the next step of the offseason, the 2019 NHL Entry Draft.
Before the offseason, there was heavy speculation that the Flyers could dangle their first-round pick, the 11th overall selection, in a trade to upgrade the roster immediately. After the trades for Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun, the seven-year, $50-million extension for Kevin Hayes, and in-house RFA’s still needing to ink deals, the Flyers cap flexibility has shrunk considerably.
They are much more likely to hold on to their first-round pick now than they were a week ago. That provides us with the question – who will they take? After the first two picks in the draft, reserved for star prospects Jack Hughes and Kappo Kakko, the landing spots for the rest of the prospects is largely unknown.
What we do know is that the Flyers are in a position to select the player they deem the best available on the board, regardless of position. If they had to lean slightly in one direction, they may prefer to add to the defensive pipeline, only because all of their top prospects have graduated to the NHL.
We also know that they will land a high-quality prospect, despite the unrest at the top of the draft in terms of who slots where, there is no shortage of skill. Let’s take a look at some of the kids who could be the next to wear the Orange & Black.
Matthew Boldy, U.S. National Development Program
One of the most skilled forwards available in this years draft, Matthew Boldy, was over a point-per-game player for the U.S. National Development Program (USNTDP).
Some pundits are concerned with the fact that most of his ice time was alongside consensus No. 1 overall pick Jack Hughes, but Boldy’s shooting, playmaking, and vision speak for themselves, the kid can play.
There are also concerns about Boldy’s skating, which isn’t bad by any means, but certainly isn’t top-tier. Regardless, if the Flyers select Boldy with the 11th pick they will be getting a highly skilled winger who can easily develop into an impact top-of-the-lineup forward.
Peyton Krebs, Kootenay, WHL
The Flyers would be thrilled to have center Peyton Krebs drop to them on draft night. Krebs, who has been a near lock to be a top-10 pick, suffered a torn Achilles tendon which was surgically repaired on June 7 – a tough blow for a promising young player at an inopportune time. Krebs resume speaks for itself however, he should still easily be a top-15 pick, so his injury won’t cost him too dearly.
What’s most impressive is that with better linemates Krebs could have posted even better numbers. To be blunt, Krebs played on a poor Kootenay ICE team that didn’t do him any favors in the points department.
Whatever team decides to select Krebs can hang their hat on his enormous upside, strong skating, and tremendous hockey sense. The Flyers should snap him up if he slides down the board.
Philip Broberg, AIK Allsvenskan, Sweden
After a slew of graduations to the big club, the Flyers defensive pipeline is much thinner than in years past, and the front office has acknowledged that they would like to add an impact defenseman to the pipeline at this year’s draft.
I think as we go in the draft, we have some young defensemen that are in the NHL right now, and a couple coming, but we probably like to add defensemen depth to our organization going forward, whether it’s at 11 the second or third round, we will see.Brent Flahr, Flyers Press Conference, June 10, 2019.
Philip Broberg would fit the bill if they decide to take a defenseman early. Broberg’s biggest strength is his skating ability – already at an elite level and deadly fast with long, powerful strides – his upside based on his physical attributes alone is tantalizing.
The Flyers, whose scouting program has valued hockey sense more than anything else in recent years, may not be sold on Broberg. For all his physical prowess, he struggled at times with positioning and turnovers, but that could be overblown. If the Flyers scouting departments deems those problems fixable, they can hand their draft card in confidently to add Broberg to their prospect pool.
Cole Caufield, U.S. National Development Program
A lot of general managers are crossing their fingers hoping that sniper Cole Caufield drops to them, Chuck Fletcher should be one of them. Blessed with a rocket of a shot, Caufield potted 72 (72!) goals in 64 games for the USNTDP.
Where he gets selected is anybody’s guess, he seemed to shoot up the draft boards at the end of the year, easy to imagine considering his goal pace never waned. Draft rankings have him going anywhere as high as eighth overall and as low as 26th.
The biggest knock on Caufield is his miniature frame, weighing in at a slight 162 pounds, and standing at just 5-foot-7. Luckily for Caufield, the recent success of undersized forwards like Alex DeBrincat, Mitch Marner, Johnny Gaudreau, and others make him a much more enticing prospect now than he would be, say, 10 or 15 years ago.
Victor Soderstrom, Brynas, SHL
If the Flyers decide to choose another defenseman, Victor Soderstrom is a possibility. It’s rather common for teams to select from programs they’re familiar with and the Flyers have selected a few recent prospects from Brynäs IF including Felix Sandstrom and Oskar Lindblom.
Unlike Broberg, Soderstrom already has experience playing in Sweden’s top league against grown men. He posted 11 points in 44 games this season, tops among all U-18 SHL defensemen.
Soderstrom also boasts a right-handed shot, an ever-useful attribute to have, especially when playing from the blue line. He doesn’t have the greatest offensive chops but he is a well-rounded defender who does well getting the puck out of the defensive zone. In Soderstrom, the Flyers would be getting a prospect with a high-floor that should develop into a capable top-four defenseman.
Alex Newhook, Victoria, BCHL
Center Alex Newhook has the potential to be the biggest steal of this draft class. By that same token, he could also be the biggest bust. He finished last season with a robust 102 points in 53 regular season games; an additional 24 points in 15 playoff games brought his season total to 126 total points.
Looking solely at his production, Newhook is extremely talented by all accounts. The only issue is he played in the BCHL last year, an inferior league compared to where most top prospects come from.
Teams will learn quickly just how well Newhook’s skills translate to a harder level of hockey as he has committed to play for Boston College next season. Taking him would be a somewhat risky move for the Flyers, but could pay major dividends if he hits.
Kirby Dach, Saskatoon, WHL
Quite frankly, Kirby Dach is the best-case scenario for the Flyers at 11th if he falls to them, unless someone like Trevor Zegras, Dylan Cozens, Alex Turcotte, or Bowen Byram preposterously slips.
Dach is a sturdy, right-shot, two-way center standing at 6-foot-4. A jack of all trades type player, Dach is proficient in all areas of the game, but is at his best when he is setting up his teammates with slick passes.
Although the Flyers don’t have a real need for centers in the pipeline, Dach would be too talented to pass up on and would give the Flyers impressive depth up the middle.
Lots of Options
Two things are for certain, the Flyers will have an abundance of choices, and they will be picking up a talented prospect with immense potential no matter who they choose. There are so many different skillsets and playing styles at the top of the first round, it will be interesting to see which ones the Flyers value most.
Buckle up for an interesting night.