On the same weekend that the city of Philadelphia hosted (and absolutely rocked) the NFL Draft, it was their hockey team that had the most fortuitous moment. The annual Draft Lottery took place Saturday night, and the Flyers moved all the way up to the second overall pick. Entering the lottery, the Flyers odds of landing this pick was a mere 2.4%. They had just a 7% chance of moving into the top three. If there was no lottery, the Flyers were slated to pick 13th.
Philadelphia had the largest jump out of any lottery team. The New Jersey Devils grabbed the first overall spot, moving up four spots. Dallas also moved in the top three after being slated eighth. Colorado, the worst team in the league by a wide margin, was bumped down to fourth. The Las Vegas Golden Knights, an expansion team, fell to sixth.
This will be the second time that the Flyers will pick 2nd overall. They previously selected James vanReimsdyk with that choice in 2007.
“This is a big day for our franchise,” GM Ron Hextall said shortly after the lottery. “We couldn’t be more excited.”
Unlike that ’07 draft that saw a drop off after Patrick Kane went first overall to Chicago, this year’s entry draft has a well defined top two. Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier appear to be the consensus best players. But Hextall was quick to note that the perception of this draft as shallow or weak might be overstated.
“This isn’t as bad a draft as people say it is. We’ve been preparing recently like we’ve had the 13th pick and we felt like…we were gonna get a good player…Obviously we’re moving up to 2 [so] we’re gonna get an even better player.”
Regardless of who falls to second, Flyers will be able to add a highly skilled center which is their weakest position in terms of future prospects. Should either of these young players make the team next year, it will bolster the team’s depth scoring both in the short and long term. It also gives the team a chance to bring in a replacement for Claude Giroux as the #1 center down the line. When asked if their first round pick will contribute right away, Hextall stayed true to his patient philosophy.
“I don’t know who that player is gonna be. Any player, as you guys know from my history, they gotta come in and they gotta earn [a roster spot]. If we draft a player at number two and he comes in an earns it, then he’ll be on our team. If he needs more time, he’s gonna need more time. The player in the end is gonna prove that.”
Looking forward, next year is shaping up to be an exciting time for the Flyers. The team learned this week that Swedish forward Oskar Lindblom will come to the NHL for the 2017-18 season. The 20 year old fifth round pick from 2014 scored 61 points in 62 games this year for Byrnas IF of the SHL, considered by many to be the third best league in the world. He’ll bring size and skill to a forward corps that desperately needs it. Ron Hextall has also said that some of their young defensemen will likely be on the team next year. The team decided not to bring back veterans Michael Del Zotto or Nick Schultz. Sam Morin, Travis Sanheim, Phillipe Myers, and Robert Hagg will compete for two spots on the blue line.
In total the Flyers will have 12 selections this year. The NHL Draft will take place June 23rd and 24th in Chicago.