Without question, the last and most notable impact player the Flyers drafted during Bob Clarke's tenure as GM was Claude Giroux.
While the Flyers employ revisionist history in looking back at that 2006 draft in Vancouver -- and insist that the tiny center from Gatineaux, Quebec, was their target all along -- the facts don't support that.
Their target going into that draft was to get an impact defenseman. And the kid Clarke and the organization admired the most was South Jersey’s Bobby Sanguinetti.
To the Flyers' amazement, Sanguinetti was still on the board at No. 21 when Rangers general manager Glen Sather strode to the podium and plucked the defenseman. The Flyers were blindsided.
That explains how Clarke, somewhat flustered when announcing the Flyers' pick at No. 22, looked into the draft staging area, desperately seeking Paul Holmgren and stammered, “Ah, what’s our pick?”
“I didn’t think they were interested in me,” Giroux said earlier this year. “That Bobby Clarke forgot my name made it a little more funny.”
Sanguinetti, thought to be a “can’t miss” NHL defenseman, lasted just 45 games in the league with the Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes.
When Holmgren, who ran the draft at that time as Clarke’s assistant GM, spoke of Giroux that day, he labeled him “a smallish junior, but he has tremendous hockey sense, skill and intelligence. Claude was in the group of players we had targeted if available. He’s very competitive.”
Giroux said he was confused when he went to the stage at then-GM Place to accept his Flyers jersey.
“He said my team, and I thought he was gonna change his mind,” Giroux said. “I didn’t know to get up or sit down, I wasn’t sure.”
Giroux wasn’t even certain he would be taken in the first round at the time.
“I was kind of borderline on either the first or second round,” Giroux said. “The first day, [they pick] only the first round, and I was really hoping to get the first round and not be disappointed. I was really surprised the Flyers picked me.”
NHL Central Scouting had Giroux slotted 38th in its final pre-draft rankings.
He would eventually join the Flyers in the second half of the 2008-09 season, playing under John Stevens and displaying the kind of talent that turned heads later in the playoffs that spring against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Giroux became a two-time All-Star, and this past season, won his third Bobby Clarke Trophy as team MVP.
Who would have ever guessed that draft day in British Columbia that Giroux would win Philadelphia’s prestigious John Wanamaker Award and become both a Hart Trophy finalist and Ted Lindsay Award nominee for the Flyers seven years later?
And what does Giroux remember most about his draft experience?
“It’s a nervous day,” he said. “You don’t really know much. You are really not too sure of what to expect. Who really wants to take you.”