This season was not a total loss for the Flyers. Although they remained home during the playoffs for the third time the last five years, they are assured to end up winners in the draft.
Originally slated to pick at No. 13, the Flyers bucked the odds and came out with the second pick in the draft lottery held in Toronto on Saturday. They had less than a 3 percent chance of moving up to the No. 2 slot.
So now, instead of taking a second-tier player and waiting a few years for him to mature, they will likely leave next month’s draft in Chicago with an elite forward who is projected to make an instant impact on their roster, possibly as early as this fall, and accelerate their rebuilding process.
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“Obviously we’re excited,” Flyers General Manager Ron Hextall told reporters on a conference call this weekend. “It’s a big day for our franchise.”
The players atop every team’s board are centers Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.
Patrick, who is listed at 6-foot-2, 200 pounds and was a teammate of Ivan Provorov’s in juniors, scored 20 goals and finished with 46 points in 33 games. His season was cut short due to sports hernia-related injuries. The year before, though, he had 41 goals and 102 points in 72 games.
At 6-foot, 175 pounds, Hischier tallied 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games en route to winning the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookie of the year this past season.
In its latest rankings, NHL Central Scouting has Patrick slightly ahead of Hischier.
“I’m not going to talk about who we’re going to pick,” Hextall said. “We know we’re going to get a good player.”
However, Hextall will just have to wait to see which 18-year-old the Devils, who won the draft lottery, decide to take with the first pick. Regardless, both players project to develop into exactly what the Flyers need — a top six forward who can put the puck in the net.
The only other time the Flyers had the second overall pick was in 2007, when they grabbed forward James van Riemsdyk. After a handful of subpar seasons, the Flyers traded him to the Maple Leafs for underperforming defenseman Luke Schenn. Schenn was dealt in January 2016 to the Kings, along with Vinny Lecavalier, in what was basically a salary dump.
Whether it’s with Patrick or Hischier, the Flyers are no doubt looking for a bigger return this time around.
“Sometimes you get some good luck and sometimes you get some bad luck,” Hextall said. “I feel like we had a lot of bad luck this year, and I’m hoping this is a turning point for us.”