Flyers still plan to draft best available at 11

Flyers still plan to draft best available at 11

June 26, 2013, 3:30 pm
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VOORHEES, N.J. -- Paul Holmgren has heard the criticism many times over the years: The Flyers never draft an impact defenseman in the first round.
 
The last defenseman they drafted and developed who had any career to speak of as a Flyer was Chris Therien in 1990. And he was a third-round pick –- not a first.
 
“I hear it all the time from Mr. Snider,” said Holmgren, the club’s general manager, Wednesday. “He is always telling me we have never drafted a top defenseman. I’ll say it again, from the depth of our franchise, probably it’s an area that we lack. But I am not going to waver.
 
“If we get to the 11th pick, and that is where we are picking in the first round, and the guy we like best is a forward, that is who we are going to draft.”
 
The team continues to draft via “best available athlete” even if it means overlooking a critical need elsewhere in the system.
 
The NHL draft is Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Flyers, who have six overall picks through seven rounds, have the 11th pick in the first round.
 
Many NHL personnel executives see this draft as the deepest since 2003, especially on defense. That draft produced no less than eight top defensemen, including Shea Weber, Ryan Suter and Matt Carle.
 
“Potentially, [this] is a deep draft for defensemen,” Holmgren said, adding that unlike forwards, it takes longer for D-men to develop. Forwards can have an immediate impact where defensemen take a few years to get onto the roster.
 
From the 11th spot, it’s unlikely the Flyers, who are razor-thin throughout their organization on defense, will find an impact player. Which is why Holmgren admitted they’d like to move up higher. Much higher.
 
“You gotta think down the road at 11th this year,” Holmgren said, adding that forward Justin Williams (2000, 28th overall), made the roster from a very low draft position, so it’s not impossible."
 
The other issue is, having patience with young defenseman. The Flyers haven’t had that over the years with prospects such as Janne Niinimaa, Joni Pitkanen and Dennis Seidenberg.
 
Holmgren said today the club needs to exercise more “patience,” especially, with their young defensemen.
 
“Absolutely,” he said. “Sometimes we do things out of immediate need. You look back at trades we made. Dennis Seidenberg we traded when [Keith] Primeau and [Peter] Forsberg were hurt and we needed a center. We got [Petr] Nedved. Sometimes you do funny things because of what you need at the time. We’ve always done, at least in our minds, what’s best for the team to win now.
 
“Maybe we have to be a little more patient. Generally, it takes [defensemen] longer [to develop]. The league is becoming younger and younger. There are certainly younger defenseman playing now more than five years ago. It will continue as they continue to get younger. There will be more [defensemen] put in there [lineup] to develop quicker.”
 
Some examples of younger defensemen (2007 or 2008 drafts) currently in the league are Tyler Myers, Ryan McDonagh, Adam Larsson, Zach Bogosian and Drew Doughty.
 
None of those players is older than 24; most are younger. But they’re everyday blueliners.
 
Portland’s Seth Jones remains the consensus top defensive prospect in this draft while Halifax center Nathan McKinnon appears to have eclipsed Jones as the top-rated overall prospect.
 
The Flyers have their sights on three defensemen who might be around at No.11 in Ryan Pulock (Brandon), Darnell Nurse (Sault Ste. Marie) and Finnish prospect Rasmus Ristolainen from TPS.
 
Flyers scouts have been saying for weeks they do not want Holmgren to lose his first-round pick in any trade.
 
Trades have become a common occurrence at the draft with the Flyers. What the scouts wouldn’t mind is moving higher to get into “impact” territory.
 
“You have to be prepared to do anything if the right thing comes up,” Holmgren said. “Every day there is more and more talk around the league. I’ve talked to more guys in the last few days. There is certainly potential for movement of picks up and down. I think some teams are looking to trade their pick for the right player.”
 
Colorado, which has the top overall pick, said it would move down. Florida is at No. 2. Calgary, picking sixth, has offered all three of its first-round picks to get the Avs’ pick.
 
Edmonton, picking seventh, reportedly would like to trade with the Flyers, but that would also involve the Flyers sending veteran defenseman Braydon Coburn to the Oilers.
 
Again, all Holmgren would say was he feels he needs to get higher than seventh to find an impact player.
 
“Where we are at, we’ll get a good player at 11,” he said. “If we can move higher, and get into the guys you really like who you feel are franchise players, you probably got to get up to the top four.”
 
Snider on Bryzgalov
Flyers chairman Ed Snider released a statement on Wednesday saying he backs Holmgren’s decision to buy out goalie Ilya Bryzgalov's contract.
 
Snider was among the most vocal supporters in signing Bryzgalov a couple summers ago.
 
“I fully support Paul Holmgren in his decision to use our final compliance buyout for Ilya Bryzgalov,” Snider said. “It was a very difficult decision from a financial standpoint, but if Bryz remained a Flyer, the dollars would be far greater in a shorter time frame. We now have cap space, which will allow us to improve our team.
 
“In the meantime, Bryz can try to find a situation where he can achieve true happiness.”
 
Draft at XFINITY Live!
If you’ve never watched an NHL draft, you might want to check this one out at XFINITY Live! this weekend, because the Flyers are hosting the NHL draft in 2014 at Wells Fargo Center.
 
The party starts at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday with Todd Fedoruk. This is a free event, with live music, prizes and special gift giveaways.