More Sports:

July 03, 2024

Jett Luchanko's speed makes him 'a special player,' and could make him a key piece to the Flyers

The 13th overall pick's strength is in his skating, and could go on to make him valuable center for the Flyers if he can develop the rest of his game.

Flyers NHL
Jett-Luchanko-Flyers-Development-Camp-2024-7.2.24.JPG Nick Tricome/PhillyVoice

Jett Luchanko, the 13th overall pick in the 2024 NHL Draft, on the ice for the Flyers' development camp at their training center in Voorhees this week

Riley Armstrong recalled going to check in on Oliver Bonk and Denver Barkey in the OHL last season.

At the time, Bonk and Barkey's London Knights were facing the Guelph Storm, and "going into the game, I never really – I'm not like 'Oh, who's the next draft class coming up?'" Armstrong, the Flyers' director of player development, said

But then the game started, and Armstrong said he constantly found himself checking Elite Prospects throughout, asking "Who's this No. 7 on the Guelph Storm?"

It was Jett Luchanko, who the Flyers went on to make the 13th overall pick in last week's NHL Draft, and who Bonk remembers from this past season just as clearly. 

"One-man power play break-in," Bonk said of Luchanko after Flyers Development Camp opened in Voorhees on Tuesday. "That's what we called him in London because they'd just sling it back to him, one against four, and he'd skate it every time. He's a special player."

And on Tuesday, on the rink inside the Flyers Training Facility, you could quickly see what he meant. 

The Flyers' prospects were run through some straightforward and introductory drills to begin camp, but Luchanko blazed right through all of them. 

Immediately, it's obvious that his speed is his biggest strength. He can fly up and down the ice, and at the junior level, can see the game just as fast and well enough also to really dictate a game at a high tempo. 

Now the next few years will be a matter of putting the rest of the puzzle together. 

Luchanko, who won't turn 18 until late August, had a breakout year in his second OHL season approaching the draft, scoring 20 goals and 74 points through 68 games, collecting the majority of them by either cutting straight through the neutral zone and to the net, causing (and capitalizing on) chaos near the crease, or from placing a snappy and decisive pinpoint pass on a teammate's stick blade – as you'll see in the highlight reel below:

But Luchanko developing his shot from further out, as well as building out and refining his overall offensive toolkit, will be key to him taking the next steps toward eventually – hopefully – the NHL and the Flyers. 

"It's definitely something that I want to work on and get better at over the summer and next year," Luchanko said Tuesday. "But for me, it's just trying to work on the total package."

And working off the early nerves.

"You can tell he's a little bit nervous," Armstrong said. "But I think that comes with the nature of the territory, too. His first little camp here and also being a first-round pick, so there's a little bit of added pressure there. But that's something that we talk with him through, help him adjust, and understand kind of who he is as a player, really. 

"But he looks good out here. I thought that the first little skate we did, you can tell his strength is his skating, he can fly up and down the rink, so I think when you add speed into any lineup it's a bonus."

And the Flyers are going to need that up the middle, definitely now and especially later. 

Entering the draft, their development pipeline was extremely thin at center, and they were very much aware of it. So when general manager Danny Brière made the call to trade one spot back with the Minnesota Wild from 12th to 13th overall, he said after the first round had ended that Luchanko was "their guy" – even when it was perceived as a reach with several more highly-touted prospects still available – that he was drafted as a center, and the plan is very much to keep him there. 

"The way he plays, the way he works, he's a complete player first of all," Brière said after the Flyers took Luchanko at the draft last Friday in Vegas. "Very young still, played on an OHL team, and what he did and how he got better and better as the season went on, we feel that, yes, he's a center, absolutely, and we feel he's just starting to tap his potential."

Now it's on Luchanko to start working with the coaches to fully realize it within a few years' time, in the hopes that his trajectory will line up with a Flyers team that could be ready to seriously compete by then, and with him as a high-flying key piece to it all at the top. 

The draft and the status of the 13th overall selection he got taken with won't affect his process, Luchanko said Tuesday. He's with the Flyers now, and his eyes are forward in trying to establish his path here in Philadelphia. 

"The draft doesn't change the way that I see things or go about my business," Luchanko said. "I think for me, I'm always just trying to work hard every single day. I think good things come from that, so I'm not really worried about where I went, just kinda worried on getting to work and getting started here."

Follow Nick on Twitter: @itssnick

Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports