Bad drafts are such a huge part of Phiadelphia’s checkered sports history. How many times have we screamed, yelled or thrown something at the TV when one of our beloved teams has made some inexplicable move on draft day? The Eagles trading up to the No. 12 spot in the draft and instead of taking what should have been Brian Dawkins’ replacement in Earl Thomas, they take Brandon Graham. Drafting Mike Mamula when Warren Sapp was still on the board. Drafting full back (A fullback!!!!) in Michael Haddix with the 8th overall pick in the 1983 draft when the likes of Dan Marino and Jim Kelly were still on the board. Taking John Harris in the first-round who was projected to be a fourth-round pick. The Phillies taking Jeff Jackson instead of Frank Thomas. The Sixers trading Brad Daugherty for Roy Hinson. This list goes on and on and on. It’s no wonder that Philadelphia teams have only won two championships in the last 32 years.
So with our history, it’s understandable that one would go into the 2015 NHL Draft with some trepidation. Sure, Ron Hextall had what seemed to be a good draft in 2014 but, Howie Roseman also had a good draft for the Eagles in 2012. Who’s to say 2014 wasn’t a fluke for Hextall?
The first five picks went off the board pretty much as expected. The Devils then made a surprising pick at number six taking Czech Center Pavel Zachra. I was thrilled with that because it meant that both Ivan Provorov and Miko Rantanen would both still be on the board for the Flyers to take. It took about two seconds for Hextall to get on the phone and get the pick in. You knew right then and there the player the Flyers wanted had dropped to them and they knew exactly who they were going to take. The thought that kept going through my head was “please don’t screw this up and reach.”
That they did not do. They selected Russian-born defensman Ivan Provorov with the pick. Provorov is listed at 6-foot-1, 201 pounds and has been descibed as a future Norris Trophy winner by many NHL scouts. Provorov can do it all. He’s a smooth skater, sees the ice extremely well, is physical and has a high Hockey IQ. He averaged over a point a game for the Brandon Wheat Kings last year. Great pick for the Flyers. Even with the stable of young defensman the Flyers already have in their system, Provorov is a guy you couldn’t pass on at No. 7. He is already at the top of the class of Flyers defensive prospects and is so good he has a shot to play in the NHL next year.
The Flyers then traded picks 29 and 61 to the Toronto Maple Leafs for pick number 24 and took Center/Winger Travis Konecny. Another slam dunk. Konecny was projected to go in the top 15 of the draft so getting him at 24 was great value. Konecny is an explosive skater with great hands. He has great skill but also has a high compete level. His lack of size at 5-foot-11, 177 pounds might be looked at as a minus by some but he plays much bigger than that. Konecny isn’t shy about going in to the corners and battling bigger men for the puck.
Hextall said the one disappointment he had with the 2014 draft was not coming out of it with a goalie. So with the 70th pick, the Flyers took Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom. Sandstrom is listed at 6-foot-2, 190 pounds. ESPN’s Corey Pronman had Sandstrom rated as the top goalie in the draft. Some scouts thought he was worthy of going in the top two rounds of this draft but his stock dropped because of some injury problems.
The Flyers then took another goalie with the 90th pick in the draft, Matej Tomek from Slovakia. Tomek is listed at 6-foot-3, 180 pounds and has commited to play at the University of North Dakota next year. He’s described as a butterfly goalie who is very tough to beat down low.
With the 98th pick, the Flyers drafted 6-foot-2, 207 pound center Samuel Dove-Mcfalls. He’s described as a two-way center in the mold of Jordan Staal.
The Flyers then traded the 99th pick in the draft to the Los Angeles Kings for pick No. 104 and a 2016 6th round selection. With the 104th pick the Flyers selected 6-foot-2, 194 pound Russian Center Mikail Vorobnov.
The Flyers next pick at No. 128 is a pick a lot of people are high on and is said to be a possible steal in this draft. David Kase is an undersized forward out of the Czech Republic. He was ranked 11th among European Skaters and 76th overall by Central Scouting, though some had him ranked him as high as 30. Not overly physical but described as a shifty skater, great playmaker, highly skilled and very good on the power play. High Hockey IQ and is said to be a potential home run for the team that lands him.
At pick No. 158 the Flyers selected winger Cooper Marody who has commited to the University of Michigan. Another intriguing pick with a lot of upside. Again, on the small side at 6 feet, 173 pounds. Chris Dilks of SBN College Hockey calls the pick a steal. Lots of speed and a smart, patient player in the offensive zone.
The Flyers last pick was 6-foot-6 191 pound Russian Goalie Ivan Fedetov. Fedetov was named the Goalie of the Month in the MHL in November of 2014.
For the first time in a long while, I feel as though we have a GM in Ron Hextall who has a real eye for talent. Obviously, it’s too early to know if this year’s or even last year’s draft will wind up being successful ones. But, for the first time in what seems like forever, the Flyers have some top end prospects in their system. Ivan Provorov, Travis Sanheim, Travis Konecny and Nicholas Aude-Kubel all project to be top end NHL players. Also, look at the common theme when it came to a lot of the players the Flyers selected in this year’s draft: not overly big but highly skilled with big upsides. For those who may doubt that smaller players can’t make it in today’s NHL, look no further than Tampa’s Tyler Johnson, Calgary’s Johnny Gaudreau and the Rangers’ Matt Zuccarello. Speed wins in today’s NHL. Chicago and Tampa have shown us that.
In my humble opinion, the Flyers are still a few years away from being a contender as they still too much dead weight on the roster that still needs to be cleared out. But, with the high end talent the Flyers now have in their system, the future looks bright.