On June 21st, the NHL will hold it’s annual entry draft. The day is one of the biggest opportunities to change the organization’s fortunes by acquiring prospects that could be the next stars of their franchise. It is also one of the biggest days of the year for trading, as teams swap picks or players to improve their chances. The Philadelphia Flyers are one such team that could use a boost in this year’s draft. The team holds the 11th overall pick in the draft. With a near top 10-pick, Philadelphia has abundant options in the first round of the draft. The team could add a high-level prospect with the pick, but they could also look to move their first-round pick for help next year.
In recent weeks, there have been rumblings that a trade may occur with Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher saying he would be open to trading the Flyers first-round pick.
Fletcher on possibility of trading the No.11 pick: “It’s early. I’ve mentioned to teams that we’re in play but there hasn’t been a big push for the pick yet. If we keep it & stay at 11, we’re going to get a good player…It’s certainly a good chip that if moved, it could help.”
— Philadelphia Flyers (@NHLFlyers) June 10, 2019
With this insight, along with Fletcher promising an aggressive off-season, the Flyers look poised to make moves at the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. A trade at the draft would kick off what has already been a busy off-season in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia Flyers have already made two trades in the early days of summer. First, the Flyers acquired the rights to centre Kevin Hayes for a fifth-round pick, then swapped defenceman Radko Gudas for Matt Niskanen of the Washington Capitals.
Addressing Forward Depth
The former of these two trades could affect what the Flyers do with their first-round pick. Philadelphia acquired Kevin Hayes with the intention of installing him as their second line center; a role that Nolan Patrick was marked for, but has not been able to fulfill thus far. Though Philadelphia has the right to sign Hayes before anyone else can, TSN’s Frank Seravalli reported that Philadelphia is still not his first choice.
If the Flyers do not sign Hayes, they may look to trade the pick for forward depth. The Flyers have been connected to Andrew Shaw and Paul Byron of the Montreal Canadiens in recent weeks, though neither would be worth the first round pick by themselves. If the Toronto Maple Leafs have any interest in trading embattled center Nazem Kadri, that could potentially be a fit.
Shoring Up the Blue line
The Flyers could also look to add to their defensive depth. With the departure of Gudas and defenceman Shayne Gostisbehere being a name that has come up regularly in recent trade rumours, the Flyers would need to address needs on the blue line. One organization that could be a fit is the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks endured a nightmare season and are transitioning into a rebuild. A first-round pick is an asset that the Ducks need to speed that process. They also have a strong defence corps that presents a few attractive options.
In contrast to Gostisbehere who plays a free-wheeling offensive game, Philadelphia may target a defensive stalwart like Josh Manson. Manson is a physical presence that would replace Gudas’ defensive acumen while being able to play far more minutes. The defenceman could also be the partner the Flyers have needed to pair with young star Ivan Provorov. Manson or another one of Anaheim’s defenceman would help the Flyers blueline depth, but would not be worth a first round pick by themselves. Anaheim would have to sweeten the pot to get a deal done. Philadelphia and Anaheim are no stranger to NHL draft deals that involve defenceman as the two organizations linked up in 2009 when Anaheim sent Chris Pronger to Philadelphia on draft day.
It should be noted that these scenarios are purely speculative and are simply suggestions based on what would be mutually beneficial to both organizations. Though the Flyers have suggested they are open to trading the pick, no reports have yet to surface on what they may be interested in. If a worthwhile deal doesn’t materialize, Philadelphia could simply take the pick.
Taking the First-Round Pick
The Philadelphia Flyers don’t have to trade the pick. In fact, an 11th overall pick could yield a very solid prospect for an organization already loaded with young talent. With this year’s draft class being relatively strong, Philadelphia could have multiple options at #11. The Flyers will likely look to shore up their forward prospect depth; a stable of talent that already includes standout talents like Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, and Isaac Ratcliffe.
Even at #11 overall the Flyers would have a few interesting options. These options could represent a diverse array of talent that gives Philadelphia the choice of what attributes they covet most. Options that could include Alex Newhook, Matthew Boldy, or Cole Caulfield.
Alex Newhook was ranked #11 in our NHL draft rankings, making him a likely target for the Flyers. The Boston College commit is an elite skater, possessing some of the best high-end speed in the draft. He has spent the past two seasons playing for Victoria Grizzlies of the BCHL where he captured the league’s most valuable player award this past season.
Though Newhook possesses an elite package of attributes, his draft outlook has been affected by playing against weaker competition than most high-end prospects. Along with this downside, Newhook also faces questions about his physical attributes. At 5’10.5″ and weighing in at 190 pounds, the forward may not be big enough to play at centre in the NHL. He does not play a physical game but has shown the ability on defence despite his physical shortcomings.
Boldy could represent another option for the Flyers in the first round. Like Newhook, Boldy is committed to playing his NCAA hockey at Boston College. The left-winger came in at #10 on our pre-draft prospect rankings. Unlike Newhook, Boldy is more equipped for playing a more physical game at the NHL level. He is very hard to knock off the puck, has great balance, and has shown massive improvement in his defensive acumen. The Massachusetts native also has one of the best shots in the entire draft class.
Like all prospects, Boldy does possess some shortcomings. Though he is a solid skater, he is not terribly fast. He could also benefit from adding weight to his 6-foot-2 frame. This would make him even more adept at fighting off checkers. Despite these shortcomings, Boldy is still an elite prospect that would be a solid addition for the Flyers.
Cole Caufield is perhaps the most divisive prospect in this year’s draft. He possesses elite shooting qualities that make him one of the best goal scorers in this year’s draft. He put this ability on display last season when he scored 72 goals in 64 games for the US National Development U18 team. His goal scoring ability, smarts, and stickhandling have drawn comparisons to Alex DeBrincat.
Like DeBrincat, Caufield has faced questions about his size. The forward stands 5’7.25″ and weighs in at 163 pounds. Though the game is trending more towards speed and skill, Caufield is still undersized. He is also a good but not great skater. This can be a concern as most of the small players who excel in the NHL also have great skating. That said, Debrincat is one small player who has succeeded with good but not elite skating ability. Caufield may not be on the board for Philadelphia, but his talent would be worth taking the chance on if available.
Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher has already said he will be aggressive this off-season and that the team’s first-round pick is on the table. However, Philadelphia is already linked with multiple other trade rumours, and no reports have materialized on what deals could potentially be made for their first-round pick.
Fletcher should keep his options open while taking calls on the pick, but this year’s draft is deep. The Philadelphia Flyers may be better served by taking a talented forward as an addition to their already impressive system of prospects.
Main Photo: TORONTO, ON – NOVEMBER 09: Chuck Fletcher walks the red carpet prior to the 2015 Hockey Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at Brookfield Place on November 9, 2015 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)