After making the playoffs last season, the Flyers stumbled this year. The difficult season left Philadelphia with the 7th overall pick, one of two 1st round selections the Flyers have in the draft.
While there were no front office changes, first-year GM Ron Hextall hired former University of North Dakota Head Coach Dave Hakstol to take over behind the bench in Philadelphia. Hakstol had success in the NCAA, but is untested as an NHL head coach.
Philadelphia added some more defensemen in last year’s draft, padding the blue line. The Flyers still have a large pool of defensemen and two-way forwards, but could use depth and pure offense.
Top 10 prospects:
Philadelphia’s known for picking up strong, two-way players. But the Flyers are lacking elite scorers, and they don’t have quality depth on the wings. The team has several good centers at the NHL level, but only two center prospects, Nick Cousins and Scott Laughton. While both are good players, padding the position would help Philadelphia.
Goaltending is another issue for the Flyers. The position is slightly more stable now thanks to Steve Mason, who finished with a .926 save percentage during the regular season. However, the Flyers still expect Anthony Stolarz to be their goalie of the future.
Defense is Philadelphia’s best strength. The Flyers have stockpiled defensemen over the past few years and have 15 blue line prospects. While the Flyers might not have a stellar NHL defensive core, they have a mix of offensive and defensive defensemen prospects. Samuel Morin and Shayne Gostisbehere are two of those prospects, but much is expected of Travis Sanheim as well. Outside of those three, the Flyers could have future NHL defensemen in Robert Hagg, Mark Alt and Mark Friedman. Six of Philadelphia’s top 10 prospects are defensemen.
Philadelphia’s biggest weakness is offense and forward depth—especially at the center position. Philadelphia has very few quality left or right wing prospects. The last time the Flyers picked a winger in the first round was back in 2007, when they snagged James Van Riemsdyk with the 2nd overall pick. Since then, the Flyers have only drafted a forward in the first round twice: Sean Couturier and Scott Laughton—both centers.
The Flyers do not have many elite scorers, especially amongst the team’s prospects. Nicolas Aube-Kubel, drafted last year, has the most potential to bring that scoring touch.
In the past, Philadelphia has focused on defensemen and two-way forwards. The Flyers also picked mostly from major junior, but also drafted a few collegiate players. In his first draft, Hextall picked from a variety of leagues, and used Philadelphia’s 2nd round pick to draft Aube-Kubel, the highest Philadelphia has taken a winger since 2007.
The Flyers haven’t had many picks this high in the draft. They’ve had 12 picks at 7th or higher in the history of the franchise, the most recent in 2007.
Hockey’s Future Staff Mock Draft Results
7. Mathew Barzal C, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL)
Barzal could end up being one of the better centers in the draft. He’s one of the best playmakers available, and is a very skilled player with good skating and vision. Not only would Barzal give the Flyers depth at center, but he would bring offense with him.
Barzal finished tied for fifth in WHL scoring with 57 points (12 goals, 45 assists), despite missing playing time due a cracked knee cap. In the playoffs, Barzal added eight points (four goals, four assists).
The center played for Canada’s U18 team that won a bronze medal at the 2014 and 2015 U18 World Junior Championships. In 2015, Barzal had four points in seven games, and in 2015 he finished with 12 points (three goals, nine assists). The center also helped Canada win gold at the 2014 Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, with two goals and five assists in seven games.
With his playmaking skills, vision and offensive upside, Barzal would be a great fit for the Flyers. His only issue is the injury that took away a good portion of his ice time this season. It’s difficult to see if Barzal can produce consistently.
29. Daniel Sprong, LW, Charlottetown Islanders (QMJHL)
This year, Sprong finished with a career-high 88 points (39 goals, 49 assists) over 68 games. His total led Charlottetown and was 14th in the QMJHL. In his rookie season, Sprong netted 68 points (30 goals, 38 assists), earning a spot on the QMJHL’s All-Rookie team.
Sprong was born in Amsterdam, where he began playing hockey. His family moved to Canada so Sprong could pursue hockey. The 6’0, 180 pound right wing does everything he can to learn off the ice—watching video, and studying strengths and weaknesses.
Not only does Sprong bring work ethic, but he also brings a lot of skill and hockey sense. His creativity and playmaking skills would give the Flyers a higher-end winger to add to their prospect pool.