2017 NHL draft

Future Flyers Report: 10 thoughts on the 2017 NHL draft

Future Flyers Report: 10 thoughts on the 2017 NHL draft

This weekend did not disappoint from both a Flyers and entertainment perspective.
 
The Flyers entered the weekend with the No. 2 overall pick, seven draft picks in the first four rounds and 11 picks overall. That was before another June 23 blockbuster happened.
 
They left Chicago with more hope and intrigue going forward. There is plenty to talk about so let’s dig in with 10 observations on the Flyers and the 2017 NHL draft.
 
1. Let’s dive right into the Brayden Schenn trade because I think it has implications for what we may see for the rest of the summer and offers some insight into the No. 2 pick.
 
The Flyers traded Schenn to the Blues for the 27th pick (Morgan Frost), center Jori Lehtera and a top-10 protected conditional 2018 first-round pick. So, it’s essentially Lehtera and two first-rounders for Schenn with the possibility of adding a third-rounder too.
 
Does losing Schenn hurt? Yes. He’s a 20-goal scorer and was a staple on the power play. His 17 power-play markers were tied for the NHL lead. His 25 goals were second on the Flyers.
 
But Schenn had his shortcomings here too. Most of his goals come on the man advantage. The team would have benefitted more if he added 5-on-5 scoring as well. There’s also the positional fit. He never really found a consistent position and that bled into last year too.

He wasn’t exactly untouchable and I would guess trading him became a realistic option when the Flyers landed the No. 2 pick in the draft lottery.
 
It’s hard to look at the value and be disappointed. In fact, I never would have guessed Schenn would net the Flyers two first-round picks and a player. It’s an excellent return.
 
2. One of the first thoughts that came into my mind when the Schenn trade came across was how did the No. 2 pick factor into moving Schenn? Do they trade Schenn without it?
 
We’ll never know the answer but trading Schenn isn’t a decision made on a whim. This has to be something they were thinking about for a bit. Montreal was reportedly interested too.
 
Hextall said he wasn’t shopping Schenn but I find that hard to believe. This seems like a decision that was talked about potentially happening. Perhaps the Flyers weren’t looking to unload Schenn, but that conversation had to have happened prior to draft night.
 
What I think it suggests is Hextall believes Nolan Patrick is NHL ready (see Flyers' youth movement). I also would theorize he believed Nico Hischier was ready too, and therefore the groundwork for trading Schenn was laid.
 
I thought Patrick was already going to be here before they moved Schenn, but now, I just can’t imagine a scenario without injury where Patrick isn’t on the Flyers on Oct. 4.
 
3. Now let’s finally talk about Patrick, who became just the second player drafted with the No. 2 overall pick in franchise history. (James van Riemsdyk in 2007 was the other.)
 
It would have been really difficult for Hextall to mess this up. It was a no-brainer. Devils GM Ray Shero opted for Hischier at No. 1, leaving Patrick for the Flyers. Hextall didn’t overthink it.
 
We’ll talk plenty about Patrick but Hextall did the right thing. That deserves acknowledging. He didn’t trade the pick and wasn’t scared off by Patrick’s injury history.
 
Patrick is a Flyer and now the question turns to whether he’ll break camp with the team. He won’t be handed a spot but will have to earn it and he will. That seems to be the consensus.
 
Sure, we can look at how Hextall has handled prospects in years past but Patrick’s a different breed. As long as he stays healthy, he will wear orange and black in 2017-18.
 
4. The focus now turns to where does Patrick fit into the lineup? He’s a big, two-way natural center who would be a natural fit on the third line as a 19-year-old to start out.
 
With Lehtera and Patrick in the mix, the Flyers will have seven centers at training camp: Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, Valtteri Filppula, Mike Vecchione and Scott Laughton.
 
On Friday, Hextall said, “Someone has to play wing.” Filppula, Lehtera and Laughton can all play the wing — and there’s no guarantee Laughton will be on the team. I’d guess not.
 
It’s way too early to draw up potential lines, but I think we’ll see some variation of Giroux-Couturier-Patrick-Vecchione/Lehtera as the centers with Filppula shifting to wing.
 
Factor winger Oskar Lindblom into the equation and suddenly, the Flyers’ forward group has a lot of intrigue to it. It’ll be one of the most interesting storylines in training camp.
 
5. I did not foresee Morgan Frost as the player the Flyers were going to draft with the 27th pick from St. Louis, especially with Eeli Tolvanen and Klim Kostin available.
 
Frost, a 5-foot-11 center who also plays wing, was a projected second-rounder, but the Flyers “really liked the guy,” according to Hextall, and there’s one area they liked in particular: his hockey IQ.
 
“He’s an extremely intelligent player — his No. 1 asset,” Hextall said. “We believe he is a kid with a lot of upside. Good speed, but he dissects the game better than most players.”
 
We won’t see Frost in a Flyers uniform for a few years, but he’s the fourth forward drafted in the last three first rounds and sixth forward in the first two rounds of the last two drafts.
 
Don’t look now, but the forward future looks dramatically brighter than it did previously.

6. By many accounts, it appears Frost has been trending up in his draft year. Sound familiar? In Hextall’s first draft as GM, he took Travis Sanheim at No. 17. Sanheim also wasn’t projected to go as high as he did but has turned into one of the Flyers’ top prospects. Time will tell if they identified another riser in Frost, who is the second forward Hextall has traded back into the first round to select in the last three drafts (Travis Konecny).
 
7. Hextall isn’t one to trade draft picks, but he’s shown he’ll pull the trigger to move up for a player he really likes. He did so again Saturday to draft Guelph LW Isaac Ratcliffe. The Flyers traded pick Nos. 44, 75 and 108 for the 35th pick. That’s a lot of value to move up nine spots in the second round, but Ratcliffe was projected by many to be a first-round talent. Trading up for Ratcliffe says the Flyers are confident his raw skill will develop (see story).
 
Ratcliffe isn’t the best skater but that can be improved. He’s a huge body at 6-foot-6 and has a good shot. There’s plenty to like, but there’s also a reason he fell into the second.
 
8. Matthew Strome is a great value pick in the fourth round. He’s smart, he’s big, he can score, has a lot of tools, but watching him skate is painful. As a buddy of mine said, “It's like trying to watch Pat Burrell run the bases.” If he can learn to skate, this could be a home run.
 
9. There was a lot of chatter about Vegas' trying to move up into the top three Friday, but it made the right move. Trading assets — which for Vegas right now is draft picks — to move up for one player didn’t yell genius to me. Instead, Vegas stayed put and came away with centers Cody Glass and Nick Suzuki and defenseman Erik Brannstrom in the first round. It’s a good start.
 
10. The Flyers didn’t get a veteran goalie at the draft. That’s OK. If they really believe Michal Neuvirth is their starter for next season, it makes no sense to give up assets to sign a backup goalie. Wait until July 1 and sign a free agent. Simple as that. Hey, Steve Mason is still out there.

Loose pucks

From the L.A. Times: Jaret Anderson-Dolan is one of the best stories of the draft. The Kings' second-round pick was raised by two moms and once had WHL teams tell him they'd pass on him in the bantam draft because of it. Major props to the Kings' Mark Yannetti for this: "If anybody had a problem with his family situation, they should go screw themselves."

• How the Brayden Schenn trade is being received from a Blues' perspective: St. Louis Game Time's Dan Buffa and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon.

Via the AP's Stephen Whyno: "In 2000, Rod Brind'Amour and Keith Primeau were traded for each other. (Saturday) their sons, Skyler Brind'Amour and Cayden Primeau, got drafted."

• It was a great draft for the USHL: The 40 players drafted set a new league record. In total, there were 48 players drafted with ties to the USHL, including Primeau.

Ron Hextall, Flyers follow through with wingers on Day 2 of NHL draft

Ron Hextall, Flyers follow through with wingers on Day 2 of NHL draft

CHICAGO — If the Flyers had somehow managed to finagle a third pick in the first round of the NHL draft on Friday night, they had a specific kid in mind.

Guelph left winger Isaac Ratcliffe.

"When you really like a guy, you go after him and that's what happened," general manager Ron Hextall said after trading up in the second round Saturday at United Center to draft the power forward (see story).

"He fits the organizational needs at left wing. Real good size. He plays hard and can score goals. He is really raw, at the front end of the process. Some are average and some on the back end of the process. He's got work to do. We like his upside."

The Flyers swapped their own second-round pick, plus two more (75th and 108th overall selections) with Arizona to move from 44th to 35th and select Ratcliffe (see Day 2 draft tracker).

"He is a prototypical power forward," Hextall said of the 18-year-old. "Didn't quite have the power down yet in terms of his body. He needs to put some weight on and add strength. Real excited about him."

The Flyers came into the draft with 11 picks and ended up with nine because of a couple deals. They finished with seven forwards (three left wingers), one D-man, a goalie, and have 10 picks already stockpiled for 2018, too.

Speaking of goalies, Hextall didn't foresee himself taking one early in the draft. Yet he did, selecting Russian Kirill Ustimenko at No. 80 in the third round.

"I'm not gonna chase a goalie," Hextall said days earlier.

Did he chase this kid? Well, Ustimenko, 18, was considered to be a possible sleeper. NHL Central Scouting had him ranked fifth internationally. The Flyers saw a lot of him overseas.

"We did not chase him," Hextall said. "We were surprised he fell there. We actually talked about him much earlier. Our guys really liked him and our comfort level was better than other teams."

The 6-foot-3, 187-pound Ustimenko catches left and had some impressive numbers in 27 games for MHK Dynamo St. Petersburg this season with a 1.74 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.

If you are keeping track, that's Anthony Stolarz, Carter Hart, Alex Lyon, Felix Sandstrom, Matej Tomek and now Ustimenko.

That's an enormous number of Flyers goalie prospects at this point.

Left winger Matthew Strome fell into their laps in the fourth round, where the Flyers had back-to-back picks at 106 and 107.

They took Strome (No. 106), the third brother in recent drafts, joining Dylan (2015 draft/Coyotes) and Ryan (2011/Islanders), who has played 258 games for New York.

"Call a spade a spade — his skating has to improve," Hextall said of Matthew. "We all know it. He's a good hockey player with good size. He makes plays, scores goals and knows how to play the game.

"He's got one deficiency there he can focus on and we like where we got him. It's up to Matthew to put the work in."

A 6-3, 207-pound left winger, Strome, 18, was projected to go in the second round. Upset?

"Not really," Strome replied. "Just being drafted and being one of the top 300 players or whatever it is, just to be honored, it's very special.

"I'm going to use it as motivation to prove people wrong. If people did think I slipped down, I'm gonna prove them wrong, that they made the wrong choice."

He said "all" the attention in his family has been on his brothers. Now it's his turn. His brothers helped prepare him for the moment.

"Entering my first OHL year, they told me there would be ups and downs and I would have to work through it," Strome said. "The past couple weeks, they told me, 'Enjoy the moment, it goes by fast.'

"Once it's over, you're on that team for three years and you've got to make [sure] that first impression on them is really good."

At No. 107, the Flyers tabbed 18-year-old Russian right winger Maksim Sushko (6-0/185), who last season played for Owen Sound (OHL), where he scored 17 goals with 32 points in 54 games. He spoke through an interpreter.

"I model my game after [Nikita] Kucherov of Tampa Bay," he said. "I like a physical style of play and give out assists. I'd like to become a better sniper."

In the fifth round, at No. 137, the Flyers tabbed 18-year-old left winger Noah Cates, from Stillwater High School in Minnesota.

He served as captain of his team and scored 20 goals with 65 points in 25 games last season and has committed to the University of Minnesota-Duluth.

In the sixth round, at No. 168, the Flyers chose smallish (5-10, 163) 17-year-old Swedish center Olle Lycksell, who played for Linkoping last season in the Super Elite League where he had nine points in 29 games.

"He's a hard worker who understands the game and has good hockey sense," Hextall said.

Hextall had two final picks in the seventh round.

At No. 196, the Flyers took their only defenseman in this draft, overage Wyatt Kalynuk, who is 6-2, 186 and 20 years old.

"Really good skater," Hextall said. "Good mobility and size, good puck skills. He's been through drafts and he's going to Wisconsin, which we really like. So we have four years with him."

Ironically, Hextall traded their final pick at No. 199 to Montreal for a seventh-round pick next year so the Canadiens could choose goalie Cayden Primeau, who happens to be Keith Primeau's son.

Habs GM Marc Bergevin called and asked for the pick.

"I thought he would go sooner than he did," Hextall said.

Flyers move up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe, who is 'going to be a force in the future'

Flyers move up to draft Isaac Ratcliffe, who is 'going to be a force in the future'

CHICAGO — Isaac Ratcliffe was the biggest player in this year's NHL draft at 6-foot-6, though a little light at 200 pounds for that frame.

He plays like Wayne Simmonds at the net with a physical edge and he's a left winger, too.

How badly did the Flyers want him?

So much so, they moved their second-round pick (44) along with a third (75) and fourth (108) to Arizona on Saturday morning to take the Coyotes' pick at No. 35 and select the big winger from the OHL's Guelph Storm (see Day 2 tracker).

"They definitely showed interest and going through a trade like that to get me here, it definitely makes me feel happier where I am," Ratcliffe said.

"Even on top of all the emotions and the excitement I am feeling right now, being in this organization and city, it's definitely going to be awesome for the future."

He models his game after the Rangers' Rick Nash, who is 6-foot-4, 212 pounds.

"He's a big guy like myself and he moves well," the 18-year-old Ratcliffe said. "He has that offensive instinct but he plays well in the defensive zone. Any position on the ice, whether power play or penalty kill, he can take over any aspect of the ice with his size and abilities."

General manager Ron Hextall forecasted coming into the draft that the Flyers would be looking to beef up on the wings, given the lack of such on the organizational depth chart. Ratcliffe plays both sides of the ice.

He met with the Flyers at the NHL Scouting Combine, but most of the contact came before that with amateur scout Rick Pracey.

Ratcliffe seems like a prototypical Flyer.

"I'm a big guy, I think I can play both offensively and defensively," he said. "Really, that full-ice game and playing all areas in the zone. Adding that to their lineup, and being able to maneuver my way into their lineup, being with a lot of those guys ... I think I can bring a lot to the table."

He was ranked 15th by NHL Central Scouting.

"Coming into the draft, I didn't have any expectations," Ratcliffe said. "I knew how unpredictable it can be. I know there are a lot of great players in this draft. I didn't know if I'd go [Friday] or today."

His goal is to add more speed to his game and to fill out his tall frame.

"I'm definitely going to have to get a lot stronger, too, to try and make my way to the next level," he said. "I need to prove to them they made the right pick here. I'm still developing. I got the height now, I need to put on a little weight now to get that size."

Ratcliffe had a prediction for Flyers fans, too.  

"In the next one to two years, you're going to see that progress and start to see how big a player I can be and that I can be one of the top players in this draft with my size, with my talent," Ratcliffe said. "I can definitely be a player who's going to be a force in the future."