Ron Hextall and the Philadelphia Flyers sat at their table at the First Niagara Center last night preparing to select 18th overall in the first round of the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Circumstances could not have looked better for the brass of the orange and black as they witnessed some highly regarded forward prospects slide down the draft board.
By the time Philadelphia was on the clock, both Kieffer Bellows, and Julien Gauthier were still available just waiting for one of them to be scooped up by Mr. Hextall and throw the orange and black sweater over their head.
So who did the Flyers end up selecting with the 18th pick? Well, the answer is actually nobody. Shockingly, the Flyers decided to engage in a deal that sent their first round draft pick and a third rounder (No.79) to the Winnipeg Jets in exchange for the 22nd and 36th overall picks.
The Jets selected defenseman Logan Stanley 18th overall and some of the Flyers’ faithful had to be assuming that their wizard of a GM knew very well that either Bellows or Gauthier would still be around when they selected 22nd overall. However, that did not turn out to be the case. Bellows was drafted by the New York Islanders at 19 and Gauthier was taken two picks later by the Carolina Hurricanes.
With the 22nd Pick the Philadelphia Flyers Select…
Hextall decided that the speedy Russian center, German Rubtsov, was going to be his guy at pick number 22, leaving Flyers fans to scratch their heads in confusion for a little bit. Rubtsov will celebrate his 18th birthday on Monday, is 6-foot-1, and 185 pounds. He recorded 12 goals and 26 points in 28 games playing for Russia’s under-18 team last season.
Rubtsov is still under contract under contract for two more years. This, of course, may cause some issues for the Flyers but we should just expect him to be doing his developing in Russia. Two years is really not a long time when you consider that it generally takes some time for prospects to develop into an NHL-ready player.
Did They Get it Right?
There is a lot of debate surrounding whether or not the Flyers made the right move trading down to 22 and selecting Rubtsov. On one end, Philadelphia passed up on some great forward prospects that were sure to help their offense in the future. On the other end, the team now has three second-round picks to address more of their needs.
Personally, I sit on the side of the Flyers, unfortunately, got this one wrong. Rubtsov may very well develop into a valuable asset up front for Philadelphia. However, the Flyers got lucky having both Bellows and Gauthier available when it was their turn to make a selection and they did not capitalize on the gift that was given to them. Instead, they both landed in the laps of division rivals and could be giving Philadelphia fits for years.
Hextall moving down was just a case of trying too hard to Jedi mind trick the rest of the NHL and its fans. Sometimes making moves that are hard to understand at first turn out fantastically and that could end being the case this time around. Still, the Philadelphia Flyers would have been better off just sticking with their pick and taking either Bellows or Gauthier.
Oh well, Hextall is still a wizard and I could end up eating my words in a few years. Rounds two through seven will be held today starting a 10:oo a.m.
John Gove is an experienced hockey writer who admires the game at all levels. Currently, John is a contributor for The Hockey Writers, covering the Philadelphia Flyers.