Which draft was Paul Holmgren's best?

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Which draft was Paul Holmgren's best?

Paul Holmgren has spent 12 years in the Flyers’ front office in many capacities. His first love always was -- and remains -- scouting amateur players who will make up tomorrow’s NHL.

Even when Bob Clarke was general manager, Holmgren was the voice at the Flyers' draft table. He was the one making the critical calls.

Clarke always had the final say, but traditionally deferred to Holmgren, who had a “hands-on” feel for players Clarke never saw play.

The Flyers will host this summer’s NHL draft Friday and Saturday at the Wells Fargo Center.

Holmgren was named director of player personnel in August 1997 and later moved to assistant general manager in 1999. Beginning with the 1998 draft through the 2006 draft, Holmgren was the man responsible for the players the Flyers were drafting as the guy doing much of the legwork.

When Holmgren moved to full-time GM in November 2006 after taking over for Clarke, he remained a force at the draft table. But by then, he had an army of people helping him, including his right-hand man Chris Pryor, whom he appointed director of scouting the second he took the GM reigns from Clarke.

In judging Holmgren’s draft lineage, you need to really go back to the 1998 draft and move forward from there.

Keep in mind that because of the Flyers’ success in winning games, making the playoffs, plus finishing high in the standings, they were never picking in the top 10. That can’t be understated.

They had to make tough decisions from the bottom third of the first round in most years.

To that end, Holmgren had several outstanding late first-round picks, beginning in his first draft of ’98 with center Simon Gagne (first round, 22nd overall).

Others: Justin Williams (first round, 28th overall) in 2000; Jeff Carter (first round, 11th overall) and Mike Richards (first round, 24th) in 2003; Claude Giroux (first round, 22nd) in 2006; and finally, Scott Laughton (first round, 20th overall) in 2012. The assumption now is that defenseman Samuel Morin (first round, 11th overall in 2013) will also pan out as a top first-round pick.

Among all those forwards, with the exception of Williams -- a right wing -- every player was a center.

Those players represent the best first-round picks under Holmgren when he was not choosing among the top 10.

The biggest obstacle to the Flyers' draft success over the last several generations has been their inability to identify, retain and develop a franchise defenseman.

Finding and securing an impact franchise defenseman is the hardest task in hockey.

“You could argue that,” Holmgren said in May when Hextall succeeded him as GM. “That's one of things, it has been a franchise goalie, a franchise centerman ... there's a lot of different things that you need to be a good team, and I believe that we have a lot of good pieces in place.

“Are there areas where we need to get better? Sure, but I think most teams would say the same thing. Nobody around here is allergic to hard work and we're going to continue to get better and win.”

Holmgren’s hard luck pick came at the 2007 draft -- his first draft wearing the GM title -- when the Flyers finished with their worst record (22-48-12) in club history, yet were cursed again by losing the draft lottery to Chicago.

The Blackhawks chose Patrick Kane first overall, while the Flyers tabbed winger James van Riemsdyk with the second overall pick. JVR would eventually be traded to Toronto for defenseman Luke Schenn.

Defensively-speaking, the Flyers have had disastrous drafts in that department since the beginning of the current decade in terms of developing a home-grown blueliner.

They remain the only NHL club that doesn’t have a single drafted and developed defenseman playing regular minutes for them over that span, which is astonishing.

That Chris Therien (drafted in 1990) remains the last such player of any longevity and ilk is embarrassing.

The Flyers had two defensemen playing significant minutes elsewhere this season -- Dennis Seidenberg and Luca Sbisa -- but they were part of trades to other clubs.

Holmgren, however, may yet have an impact on the Flyers' future even though he no longer is controlling the draft.

The organization actually appears on the verge of turning things around, provided it doesn’t fork over any more D-men via trade.

From the last two drafts, Holmgren pinpointed quality defensemen in Shayne Gostisbehere (third round, 78th overall) and Fredric Larsson (fourth round, 111th overall) in 2012; and Morin (first round, 11th overall) and Robert Hagg (second round, 41st overall) at last summer’s draft in New Jersey.

Larsson, however, was not signed this summer and will be going back into the current draft.

If you had to pick the single best draft under Holmgren’s guidance in terms of future potential, it would be the NHL’s 50th draft in 2012.

That day in Pittsburgh, the Flyers tabbed center Scott Laughton (first round, 20th overall); goalie Anthony Stolarz (second round, 45th overall); Gostisbehere; and forward Taylor Leier (fourth round, 117th overall).

And while he’s had just a small taste of the NHL, defenseman Oliver Lauridsen, who was chosen in the seventh round (196th overall) in 2009, could still end up being an NHL defenseman as a dark-horse pick.

One of these prospects has to become the organization’s stud No. 1, like so many other clubs already have.

“Probably the only way to get that guy is to draft him,” Holmgren said. “Maybe we have. Maybe Sam Morin or Robert Hagg or Shayne Gostisbehere. Who knows?

"Games change. There’s young players every year in somebody’s lineup. Do we have a couple next year? We’ll see. You never know.”

Over the past seven drafts (2007-13), Holmgren’s best impact player has been two-way center Sean Couturier, taken in 2011 (first round, eighth overall), as part of the Carter deal with Columbus that also saw the Flyers acquire Jakub Voracek.

Holmgren had no first-round picks in the 2009 and 2010 drafts because of the Chris Pronger deal with Anaheim.

His worst draft was 2004 in Carolina, when Clarke was still GM. That summer, the Flyers didn’t draft until the third round.

Not a single player from among the 11 the Flyers took in what was then a nine-round event ever made their roster.

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Shayne Gostisbehere suffers bone bruise on right hand in win over Stars

Flyers defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere took a shot off his right hand in the second period Saturday and has a bone bruise. 
 
The Flyers will watch it because sometimes the swelling prevents wearing a glove comfortably the next day.
 
Ghost, who has five points – all assists – over his past six games, was hit with a puck in the second period of a 4-2 win over the Stars. He went to the bench and tried to shake it off, but left for the dressing room shortly after a Flyers power play began in the period’s final three minutes.
 
He participated for part of the power play, then left the ice and did not return until the start of the third period.
 
“It was good by then,” he said. “Obviously, it hurt a bit.”
 
The Flyers play in Detroit on Sunday night. 
 
Ghost has 16 points (four goals) in 29 games this season. X-rays were negative, he said, adding he was not worried about the hand, which was badly swollen after the game. 

Brayden Schenn's power-play hat trick leads Flyers past Stars for eighth straight win

Brayden Schenn's power-play hat trick leads Flyers past Stars for eighth straight win

A power play hat trick.
 
Now that is truly something you don’t see every day in hockey.
 
Brayden Schenn is one of the very few Flyers to ever do it.
 
“Third [goal] was a lucky play where he [Jakub Voracek] broke a stick,” Schenn said. “Right place at the right time.”
 
Schenn’s diving third goal at 17:45 gave the Flyers a 3-2 lead and insured their eight-game win streak Saturday afternoon at Wells Fargo Center.
 
Only four other Flyers have had power play hat tricks in franchise history:
• Tim Kerr vs. Los Angeles, November 3, 1985
• Tim Kerr vs. Chicago, November 20, 1986
• Brian Propp at Minnesota, October 13, 1988
• Scott Hartnell at NY Islanders, January 19, 2008
 
Schenn pretty much doubled his offense in one game given he had just four goals coming in, and just one over his previous 13 games.
 
Think that’s something? 
 
Voracek had his second consecutive four-point game (empty net goal, three assists). The last Flyer to do that was Eric Lindros on Dec. 31, 1997 and Jan. 3, 1998.
 
Voracek has piled up 15 points during this Flyers streak. He’s got the blazing hot stick on this club right now.
 
“I don’t think I have necessarily changed my game,” Voracek said. “If I went without a point a couple weeks back, I’m not playing any different now. When you stick with it, work hard, the points eventually are gonna come.”
 
In this one, the Flyers changed up their power play moving Voracek into the right slot and having Schenn closer to the net on the opposite side.
 
“Sometimes it is open [the pass] and sometimes it’s not,” Voracek said of how team’s kill penalties. “Schenner had a free stick a couple times. I’m glad it worked.”
 
Just like other games during this streak, and the season itself, the Flyers had to come from behind. 
 
They trailed 1-0 early and 2-1 in the third period before Schenn scored back-to-back on the No. 2-ranked power play which went 3-for-6 on the day.
 
“Coming out in the third period, you see determination,” said coach Dave Hakstol. “That’s the word I would use. Just as an overall group, no matter what the situation is. Very tight, close hockey game all the way through.
 
“Different parts of our game have pushed us over the finish line on different nights. Most of our game was pretty good all the way through and when needed, the PP was the difference tonight.”
 
There’s a certain amount of confidence right now with the Flyers. Trailing doesn’t scare them. It invigorates them. They know it. They feel it on the bench.
 
“You have confidence that you’ve done it over and over again, you can do it again,” Voracek said. “It was a big chance to tie the game and we did. Big points for us. We never give up.”
 
The Flyers came into play two points behind second place Pittsburgh in the Metro Division.
 
Hakstol says Voracek’s play has been “pretty consistent” all season. 
 
“When you watch him most nights, very consistently without the puck, he is one of the hardest-working players getting back, reloading, getting on top of plays,” Hakstol said. 
 
“Coming out of the offensive zone.  When his line has the puck, or the PP unit, he is very confident in making plays.” 
 
The Flyers had just 21 shots in this one, including only five in the second period. Their offense came in bunches. 
 
Dallas had two goals from Devin Shore and led 2-1 at 10:32 of the final period before Schenn took over.
 
Steve Mason was the starter in net and looked fresher than he did against Edmonton. Mason starting was a surprise given this was the front end of a back-to-back. With Flyers playing in Detroit on Sunday, it seemed the perfect game to play Anthony Stolarz.
 
Give Mason a day of rest for a more important conference game tomorrow. 
 
Mason asked to play, however, and most coaches won’t say no to a goalie who has now won a career-high seven in a row.
 
“It was fun to watch from the back end there,” Mason said of the game. “Power play in general and two late goals to get us over the hump. 
 
“It’s fun right now to find different ways to come out on top. The boys aren’t satisfied. We keep pushing forward here.”