The first round of the NHL Draft was easy for Ron Hextall last year.
With the second pick in the draft, the Flyers GM was guaranteed one of the two projected superstars, Nico Hischier or Nolan Patrick. When the New Jersey Devils took Hischier, Patrick was the no-brainer pick for Hextall.
This year’s draft, which will be held on Friday and Saturday in Dallas, Texas won’t be as straightforward for Hextall. The Flyers have the 14th and 19th picks in the first round, and nine overall in the draft.
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For the second straight year, we caught up with prospect and draft expert Russ Cohen for his thoughts on what the Flyers will do. Cohen is a co-host on “Hockey Prospect Radio” which airs on Sirius/XM NHL Network and all TSN radio affiliates.
We ran Part 1 on Monday. Here is Part 2 of our interview:
The Flyers have drafted seven goalies in the last six years. Do they grab another one?
I don’t think so. The draft is defense and winger rich. I don’t think I want to go and get a goalie when I can still get a defenseman who can be a depth guy in my system. When you get to the later rounds, that’s all you can hope for.
So I am going to pass on goalies. They got Kirill Ustimenko last year and he’s a long-term guy. They also have Carter Hart, who is projected to be a No. 1 and then they have Felix Sandstrom, who at best is another No. 1 and at worst Hart’s backup. Matej Tomek is another wild card as he finally got some playing time last year. I saw him play and he looked good.
Plus they have Alex Lyon and Anthony Stolarz, who are restricted free agents and can be re-signed. They can survive without picking a goalie this year.
The Flyers have nine picks. Is this a draft with good depth?
In the later rounds, there are those guys who are bottom six forwards or bottom defensive pair guys. It’s rare to find a top defenseman in later rounds. A lot of teams are looking in Europe and you will see a lot of Swedish players picked. You are going to see a fair amount of overage junior players who were not selected last year but will give it another try.
This biggest misnomer of the draft is everyone thinks teams are drafting all players for the NHL but they are not. Teams are drafting for organizational depth in the ECHL and AHL.
If a player drafted in the later rounds develops into a great AHL player but not an NHL player, they are still helping the Flyers at Lehigh Valley with the Phantoms. You don’t want a team of all youngsters in the AHL – they need veterans there, too.
If you can hit with two-to-three players in a draft that reach the NHL, you are doing great. That is what fans should look at.
How would you grade Hextall’s drafts?
Organization wise, as far as prospects, they are not No. 1 in the NHL but they are in the top 5. I look at the NHL club and I don’t see bad contracts anymore. Hextall inherited and got rid of them. They have a problem in goal, but it’s a short-term problem. They believe they have a long-term solution in Hart and Sandstrom.
If Brian Elliott and Michal Neuvirth could stay healthy, they wouldn’t have a problem.
I think Hextall has done everything he said he was going to do. Some of the media has misrepresented him because the Eagles won a Super Bowl and the Sixers seem ahead of them even though I don’t think that is accurate given all of the years the Sixers toiled with losing seasons.
You can get better quicker in basketball because there are fewer players on the roster. If I look at that, I would give him a B+ as he is right on schedule.