Holmgren hopes to restock Flyers' cupboard at draft

Holmgren hopes to restock Flyers' cupboard at draft
June 23, 2011, 7:05 pm
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Thursday, June 23, 2011
Posted: 2:56 p.m.By Tim PanaccioCSNPhilly.com

MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. -- It can be extremely challenging, let alone frustrating, for a hockey scouting staff to go into an NHL draft for the third consecutive year knowing that, barring a last-minute deal, they wont have a first-round pick.

Thats business as usual for the Flyers here at the Xcel Energy Center, though, where the teams brass has congregated for the draft, which begins Friday.

We made the deal for Chris Pronger and still recognize to this day that it was a lot to give up, said general manager Paul Holmgren, looking back to the draft two years ago that brought Pronger here.

You kind of lose the opportunity to draft a pretty good player when you dont have a first-round pick. We havent had that ability for two years and it looks right now we wont have that opportunity this year, either. Between now and the draft you never know what can happen.

Moving forward here, we have to think about restocking our cupboard and the best way to do that is still through the draft.

Unless the Flyers move some salary to lighten their cap and gain some draft picks for this particular draft, they will be left with just five picks this weekend. Their first pick comes in the third round at No. 84.

If the Flyers were willing to move Jeff Carter to Columbus, they reportedly could have the Blue Jackets eighth pick overall, plus right wing Jakub Voracek. That apparently is what Columbus GM Scott Howson would part with for Carter, a player he feels he needs to get the Blue Jackets over the hump.

The Flyers dont seem inclined to move Carter to clear cap space. And since the cap is rising next year to about 64 million, they now feel they only need to clear a little money to re-sign recently acquired goalie Ilya Bryzgalov.

Still, Holmgren would like to get into the first round somehow. A deal figures to go down this weekend.

There isnt a true consensus whether Red Deer center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Skellefte AIK defenseman Adam Larsson is the best player in the draft.

Holmgren thinks that Kitchener right wing Gabriel Landeskog can play right now.

The Flyers arent in position to get any of those players, but there is a feeling the talent level is even through the top 14 picks after those three.

This is a good draft, Holmgren said. I wont lie. I would like to have a first-round pick. But we traded our first pick this year for Kris Versteeg and were happy with that. Kris, given the circumstances, played well, and I think he will play a bigger role on our team this year.

You never say never, but I am certainly looking forward to the first round in the next draft (2012).

When Holmgren mentions restocking the franchise, part of that includes knowing that the club allowed four players to go unsigned this June.

Its not a perfect system, Holmgren said. You draft players and sometimes they dont develop the way they need to in that time frame. It happened. But we signed the big Finnish goalie Niko Hovinen and sort of filled the hole created by the loss of two unsigned goalies.

We signed some college guys the last few years where we feel weve filled some holes there, as well. Theres a give and take there. But moving forward, we need to hold onto our draft picks as best we can.

Since taking over the GM duties from Bob Clarke on Oct. 22, 2006, Holmgren has traded 25 draft picks and acquired 17.

That many? I wasnt aware it was that many, Holmgren said. Its a lot.

And regrets?

Doesnt make sense to look back, Holmgren replied. We have a good team. We have a lot of good pieces in place. Theyre going to be here for a while. Doesnt make any sense to look back.

Several of their prospects, such as Mike Testwuide, Ben Holmstrom and Erik Gustafsson, would be playing in the NHL right now if they were on some other roster.

Theres a logjam to make the Flyers roster given the vets ahead of these prospects. Yet the prospect pool overall within the Flyers isnt very deep in terms of guys being ready to play right now.

Defense remains a priority given Pronger and Kimmo Timonen are two of the oldest players on the roster.

We have to look at all our positions, Holmgren said of re-stocking. We signed Sergei (Bobrovsky) last summer and thought we got a real good goalie in our system and we feel that way with the guy we signed, Hovinen, too. But we will still look at this draft and take a goalie in this draft some where along the road.

On defense, we signed Gustafsson and were high on him. We signed a free agent Brandon Manning, were high on him and excited to see how he does this year.

Up front, if you count the college guys from last year, Holmstrom, Testwuide, Andrew Rowe, those guys are still prospects. Whether they play or now well see. Were high on Holmstrom and Testwuide playing games for us this coming season.

Guys we signed this spring, Harry Zolnierczyk and Matt Read, are guys we like and feel will play games for us this coming season.

On the Flyers organizational depth chart that sits in Holmgrens office, they have already penciled Read into Ville Leinos spot only because they arent sure they will be able to re-sign Leino.

The threat Ville goes elsewhere is real, Holmgren said. Matt we signed to a one-way contract because of his age. He is out of the entry system. He picked our team.

Can he play now? Well see. He went into the American league and played very well, and scored over a point a game. Hes a good, young player who plays both ends of the ice and skates well. He has good puck skills.

Whether he is ready or not, I dont know. Its a big jump. But he made the big jump from college hockey to the American league and he was arguably the Phantoms best player in the final 11 games. He produced. Hell get an opportunity in training camp. If he goes down for a while, its not the end of the world. Its still a jump to the National League.

Holmgren takes issue with the notion that his farm system is depleted.

I would disagree with that, he said. If you go through the American league, every team has 4-5 guys who are prospects, and we can certainly make that same argument, in all honesty, that there are 4-5 guys who are going to play for us.

What we dont have is high-end guys because we havent had a first-round pick in the last few years. Chances are, if you draft high in the first round, that player wont play in the American league anyway. He makes your team right away or he finishes his junior career and goes right to the NHL.

We have Gustafsson, Kevin Marshall, Oliver Lauridsen those guys are all legitimate prospects on defense. Then we have Zac Rinaldo, Ben Holmstrom, Testwuide

Is there another Claude Giroux down there? Thats where not having a first-round pick comes in, in my opinion. Were in line with other organizations that have prospects who can play.

What the Flyers need to do, however, is get a few more.
E-mail Tim Panaccio at tpanotch@comcast.net. Follow him on Twitter at @TPanotchCSN.