BOSTON: The Flyers brass came to Boston, armed with great intentions and a solid plan. But a step out of character by the hometown Bruins threw a monkeywrench into Bobby Clarke’s plans when they selected Nick Boynton of the Ottawa 67’s with the 22nd pick in Saturday’s draft. Unfortunately for Flyers fans, their fall back plan certainly left something to be desired. The Flyers selected Maxime Ouellet, a big, talented goalie from Quebec, who now gives the Flyers three “goalies of the future” in their system.
Clarke had his heart set on taking Boynton, who had re-entered the draft, after failing to come to terms with both the Capitals and the Hawks over the past two years since being drafted ninth by Washington in 1997. Boynton is coming off of a great season with the Memorial Cup champs and was named MVP of the final tournament. Being twenty years old, Boynton could have pushed for an NHL job or could have been sent across the parking lot to the Phantoms for some pro seasoning. The guy has the size and speed to go along with a nice offensive game. And Clarke was hoping that the potential contract battles with Boynton and his agent Anton Thun would have kept the poorer NHL teams from selecting Boynton.
He almost made it.
But the Bruins, playing the role of bad host, beat them to Boynton. One can’t blame Clarke for assuming that the frugal Harry Sinden would have taken a pass on the costly defenseman. He is far from a free spender but Boston was throwing the party and the team had to do something a bit more for the thousands of faithful on hand at the Fleet Center. It will be interesting how easily Sinden will be able to ink Boynton.
With their top pick gone, the Flyers table went into a frenzy. Clarke started to field phone calls from other teams to trade down and the scouts were making a pitch for who they feel the Flyers should take. Commissioner Bettman not only gave the Flyers a one minute warning but he also gave him two verbal prompts to make a decision. Finally he told them to call timeout and the team did as a NHL representative approached their table. Having called timeout prohibited them from moving the pick and after a frenzied mini debate over who to pick, they plucked Ouellet from Quebec.
The Flyers may have had good intentions for making Maxime their back-up plan after Boynton was taken, but history shows that picking so many stud goalers so close together is a mistake.
Sometimes (not always) less is more and that’s certainly the case when you’re talking about NHL teams grooming their number one future goaltender. The best scenario is to have your scouting department use a very high pick on a goalie maybe twice a decade. In other years, it would be prudent to use some mid-round picks to acquire the rights to more netminding prospects. But those two top picks should be groomed with kid gloves to someday assume the mantle of you goaltending responsibilities. Adding Oullet to Brian Boucher and Jean Pelletier just crowds the future a little too much for my liking, and Saturday’s pick would probably have been more wisely used to draft another positional need.
The Flyers have used their top pick in three of the last five drafts on top rated goalies. This is a very unorthodox approach to the NHL Entry draft. It is also the first time since the 1967 expansion that any team used that many top picks in such a short period of time on goaltenders. History even shows us that having two stud goaltenders coming up in the ranks stunts the growth of both prospects. Refer back to the Capitals (Kolzig and Dafoe) or the Avalanche (Thibault and Fiset) to see where having two guys needing the undivided attention of an organization retards the progress of both guys. Teams just don’t have the time or the resources to handle two kid goalies correctly and the Flyers are now going to have three goalies that should be ready in three years to take them into the next millenium. All reports say that the Flyers are still very pleased with the progress that Boucher and Pelletier have made this past year with the Phantoms.
I advise all three young goalies to rent instead of buy in the Philadelphia area, because there is a good chance that two of them will be gone in the near future.