Due to some scheduling changes, we ended up recording this week’s show on Monday. With the change in timing this week, we didn’t really get into any draft talk. We looked at the NBA Draft last week, but we haven’t touched on the NHL Draft, scheduled for tonight, at all. I don’t want to let the week pass without giving a little preview of what to look for, so that’s what I’m going to do here.
This draft has the potential to be a huge one in the history of the Flyers organization. With two first-round picks (their own at 7 and Tampa Bay’s at 29) and 7 of the first 100 picks in what is expected to be a very deep draft, the Flyers really have a good chance to upgrade the minor league talent in their system and set themselves up for years to come. I just want to give you a few names to look for with regard to their two first-round picks.
The following players could be on the board for the Flyers to take at 7:
Ivan Provorov (D, Brandon Wheat Kings, WHL) — Another defenseman? It sounds crazy that we could possibly ask that question just a few short years ago, but the Flyers have made a concerted effort to fortify their blue line with good, young talent. So why take another defenseman? Well, that’s because Provorov is that good. In fact, many talent evaluators feel that he would instantly become the Flyers’ best defensive prospect. Prospect may not even be the right word, because a lot of people feel that Provorov is NHL-ready right now, as an 18-year-old. He’s a two-way defenseman who is an efficient skater, accurate shooter, good passer, and a guy that can control the pace of the game and lay a solid hit on you despite his average size (6’0″, 201 lbs.).
Mikko Rantanen (RW, TPS, Finnish League) — Rantanen represents more of a need pick for the Flyers. This is an organization desperate for help on the top two lines, especially at the wing positions. My expectation is that the Flyers will go with either Provorov or Rantanen with the 7th pick. He offers size (6’4″, 209 lbs.), a good shot that will only get better as he fills out more, and good stick-handling skills. While not known for his defense, he makes the effort to chip in and will get better, making him a two-way winger who will likely be a top-six forward, which is the primary area of need for this team. The skating needs to improve, but at 18 years of age, he has time to make that happen.
Pavel Zacha (C, Sarnia Sting, OHL) — Zacha has played at center for most of his career, but some scouts see him more as a wing due to a lack of creativity with the puck. If that’s the case, he makes sense for the Flyers since he wouldn’t factor into their logjam at center. Zacha is considered to be a big power forward with skill, hopefully someone who can use his size (6’3″, 214 lbs.) to crash the net. The site thehockeywriters.com claims he is the hardest hitter in the 2015 draft class and has the best wrist shot. His numbers seem a little underwhelming for someone this skilled, but scouts still look at the package and see a guy that should be a top-line winger.
Lawson Crouse (LW, Kingston Frontenacs, OHL) — Like Zacha, Crouse is another big (6’4, 212 lbs.) power forward whose calling card is his physicality. Everything I’ve read about Crouse indicates that he excels in that muck-and-grind style that, while not aesthetically pleasing, still is a part of the game. Crouse uses his big frame to shield the puck and is hard to separate from the puck. He sounds like a max-effort guy that just wears out defenders. I don’t know if this is fair to say because I know many fans want to break from the past, but Crouse just sounds like a typical Flyer. If Bobby Clarke or Paul Holmgren were still running this team, I would bet the farm that Crouse would be the pick. We’ll see.
Mathew Barzal (C, Seattle Thunderbirds, WHL) — As a play-making center, Barzal doesn’t appear to fit what the Flyers’ need in this draft, but I’ve heard his name mentioned in this range. If Ron Hextall feels Barzal is the best talent on the board at that point, maybe he takes him at 7. Barzal gives you exactly what you’d expect from a play-making center: high hockey IQ, great ice vision, good speed, and he’s a strong skater. Despite his size (6’0″, 183 lbs.), he has deceiving strength.
Zach Werenski (D, University of Michigan, Big Ten) — If the Flyers take a defenseman at 7, I think it will be Provorov (I expect Noah Hanifin to be long gone by the time the Flyers pick). That said, Werenski is justifiably in this tier of players, as he offers decent size (6’2″, 214 lbs.) and is said to be even better with the puck then Hanifin and Provorov. He is said to be a smart and reliable two-way defenseman that kind of does a little bit of everything well. The one area where I’ve read that he needs to improve upon is his physicality.
Since the Flyers do have two first-rounders, I’ll also try to give you a few names for the 29th pick. I doubt they would double up on defensemen this early, but they could double up on forwards, especially wingers. I could easily see them taking one of each, with the outside chance of one of these picks being used on a goalie as well. Here are some names to keep in mind at 29:
Brock Boeser (RW, Waterloo Black Hawks, USHL) – Boeser already has an ever-so-slight connection to the Flyers; he had committed to play for Dave Hakstol at the University of North Dakota before Hakstol took the Flyers’ job. Boeser is a quick, agile forward with a good shot who appears to have the scorer’s mentality needed to thrive on the wing. I think he projects as a scoring wing on a second or third line.
Brandon Carlo (D, Tri-City Americans, WHL) – Carlo might resemble Flyers defensive prospect Samuel Morin to some people. I’m not sure if he shares Morin’s nasty streak, but Carlo is a big kid (6’5”, 185 lbs.) with an enormous wingspan who excels as a shutdown defender. Right now, Carlo’s primary development opportunity lies in his offensive game. He doesn’t contribute too much there, and would probably need to be paired with a puck-moving, offensively skilled defenseman. He could also probably stand to add a few pounds to his frame, but I’m sure that will come as his body matures.
Jake DeBrusk (LW, Swift Current Broncos, WHL) – Everything I’m reading on DeBrusk tells me that he is a pest that you will absolutely love if the Flyers take him, and absolutely hate if he gets picked by one of their rivals (one mock I saw had him going to the Capitals). He seems like a guy with good hockey sense, someone who will goad an opposing defender into taking a penalty. DeBrusk is a smaller guy (6’0”, 176 lbs.) who is pesky, agile, and has some scoring ability while being able to play in all zones of the ice.
Daniel Sprong (RW, Charlottetown Islanders, QMJHL) – Sprong is another small (6’0”, 192 lbs.) wing player, but one who appears blessed with an amazing skill set, particularly with regard to his skating and puck-handling. The issue appears to be his effort level, there appears to be times when he disengages easily.
Gabriel Carlsson (D, Linkoping, Swedish League) – Like Brandon Carlo, Carlsson is looked at as a shutdown defender who probably will not give you much on the offensive end. Apparently, the biggest thing he brings to the table offensively is that he makes a good first pass to start a rush. If he can do that and defend, I’ll take it at #29. I look at him as a third-pairing defenseman, which isn’t the worst thing in the world given what the Flyers currently have in their system on the blue line.
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