July 06, 2022
The NHL Draft begins Thursday night in Montreal and the first round is anything but a lock.
The Flyers hold the No. 5 overall pick, have a lot of needs to fill, and a lot of talent that could be available to them. But exactly who will be available all depends on the four teams in front of them.
"We could use everything," general manager Chuck Fletcher said last week. "We could use a center, wing, a defenseman."
"In reality, there’s obviously a group of players, that a lot of you guys are aware of," assistant GM Brent Flahr added. "We have some guys higher than others. We are at the mercy of the teams in front of us a little bit, but we have a couple of players targeted that we’re hopeful are there at five. If that’s the case then we’ll make that decision."
Keep all options open.
The top five picks are shaping up to be a total crapshoot. 18-year old center Shane Wright from the OHL's Kingston Frontenacs has been the consensus No. 1 pick throughout the process, but with Slovak winger Juraj Slafkovský's stock rising from recent performances at the Winter Olympics and IIHF Worlds, even that idea has some uncertainty.
Meanwhile, prospects like David Jiříček, Šimon Nemec, Logan Cooley, Cutter Gauthier, and Matthew Savoie have all shuffled up and down the top five, and have each been mentioned as possibilities for the Flyers at one point or another.
With the clock counting down, the final wave of mock drafts have gone up, offering one last look at where things might stand before the ball (puck?) is put in the Flyers' court.
Here's where we're at:
Back when the Flyers' season just kept finding ways to hit new lows a few months ago, we took a look at Cooley and how he could address what had become a glaring need for a high-end, playmaking center.
Coming out of the U.S. National Development Program, Cooley is the second-ranked North American skater in this year's draft class by NHL Central Scouting.
Though a bit undersized at 5'10", the 18-year old out of Pittsburgh is fast, sees the game even faster, and attacks the net.
Consentino sees Cooley landing with the Flyers due to Arizona taking a leap on his U.S. teammate Cutter Gauthier, a big forward whose stock has also been on the rise of late, and it will all be to Philadelphia's benefit.
Wrote Sportsnet's junior hockey analyst:
"This pick will look brilliant as the Flyers are the beneficiary of Arizona’s curve ball." [Sportsnet]
Jiříček and Nemec are the top two defensive prospects in the draft without much question. Both have the potential to become cornerstone two-way defensemen, it's just a matter of whose game the immediate high-selecting team favors more and how big of a concern Jiříček's recent knee injury is for them.
In this scenario, TSN's director of scouting sees the Kraken going for Nemec, leaving the Flyers with Jiříček.
Gauthier to the Flyers has been popping up more frequently of late, and if available at No. 5, he may be the prospect most suited to help the club immediately, at least forward-wise. At 6'3" and 201 lbs., the big center does come with a well-rounded skill set, highlighted by a booming shot, and can slide to the wing if needed.
Wrote Pronman, one of The Athletic's prospect analysts:
"I’ve been hearing a lot about Gauthier and the Flyers as we get closer to draft day. I imagine this is a floor for Cooley if something surprising happens before this pick, such as Gauthier going at 3 or both defensemen being picked." [The Athletic]
Scouting and prospect tracker McKeen's Hockey sees Seattle taking Jiříček off the board, leaving Nemec to the Flyers, even with Gauthier projected to be still on the board.
The blueline becomes the more valuable position here.
From McKeen's publisher Robert Howard:
"The Flyers will be sorely tempted by Cutter Gauthier here as a fixture at center ice in the future, however, they could use depth at all positions. The most recent rumblings out of the organization are more about adding pieces to win now and perhaps short-term needs will outweigh future options. Nemec may represent the best player available at this point, and a potential future cornerstone on defense with solid two-way play and considerable upside on offense. Playing against men in Slovakia’s pro league for a second season, he scored 26 points in 39 games and set a league record for scoring by a defenseman in the playoffs. He could be making an important contribution on the back end within a couple of seasons." [McKeen's Hockey / Yahoo Sports]
Senior NHL writer Greg Wyshynski also has Gauthier to the Flyers, again for size and a great shot, plus a cool hockey name.
"Besides having a name that seems like it was created in a lab for a future Philadelphia Flyers player -- in reality, it's originated from his grandparents on his mom's side -- Gauthier is a 6-4 forward with an incredible shot release. He played with Cooley on the development team. If he's here, I think the Flyers opt to draft Gauthier over either of the defensemen." [ESPN]
Gauthier again, making him probably the most consistent pick for the Flyers at No. 5 in a draft class that has rarely brought a consistent line of thought.
From Robinson, Elite Prospects' director of film scouting:
"Yet another USNTDP U18 skater to hit the first round is hard-shooting forward Cutter Gauthier.
"The 6-foot-3 American has plus-rated skills across the board but it’s his blistering release that will really get fans out of their seats. He and Cooley were a dynamic duo on the program's top line this season, and Gauthier was able to show his quality skating and smarts to mesh with the speedy pivot.
"The Flyers jump on Gauthier early because they, like many, believe he can successfully play the middle of the ice. A centre with his size and skill combination does not last long on draft day." [EP Rinkside]
Kemell's a bit of a wild card here as he projects mostly just outside the top five. The 5'9" Finnish winger has a clear scoring touch through international competition and his first full season in the Finnish Elite League (Liiga), and he's the second-ranked European skater by NHL Central Scouting.
And although Gauthier and Jiříček would be on the board in this scenario, Red Line Report's chief scout has the Flyers reaching for him.
"A skilled and energetic scorer. Even a shoulder injury couldn’t slow his rise up the rankings. Scoring six goals in five games at the under-18 worlds enhanced his status." [Red Line Report / USA Today]
We also took a look at Savoie a few months back, and if the center prospect can translate his game to the pro level, it would be more than welcomed by the Flyers. He's quick, shifty, and has a wicked shot, which translated to 35 goals and 90 points with the Winnipeg Ice this past season.
Wrote Richardson for the Flyers at No. 5:
"A need to stock up their depth among their prospect centers could see the Flyers choose the 5'9”, 170-pound Matthew Savoie. The Winnipeg Ice center is a swift skater with excellent playmaking skills and had 35 goals and 90 points to finish seventh among Western Hockey League (WHL) scorers. His offensive abilities could one day make him a top-six NHL forward." [Bleacher Report]
The first round of the draft begins Thursday night at 7 p.m. ET. Rounds 2-7 will run Friday.
Here are all six of the Flyers' picks to use in the next two days:
*2nd-rd. pick (36 overall) and an additional 7th-rd.pick traded to Arizona with Shayne Gostisbehere
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