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May 07, 2023

NHL Draft Lottery Primer: The Flyers' odds at the No. 1 pick and Connor Bedard

The Flyers will have a "critical" draft pick to make within the top 10, but they won't know where exactly it will be until Monday night.

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Connor-Bedard-CHL-NHL-Draft-Lottery-2023.jpg Anne-Marie Sorvin/USA TODAY Sports

Connor Bedard, the most anticipated draft prospect since Connor McDavid, stands to drastically change the fortunes of the franchise that lands him.

The Flyers aren't in denial about it anymore, they're in a rebuild, and the pace of it could be drastically dictated by the way a few ping-pong balls fall on Monday night. 

After a painful 31-38-13 season, Philadelphia would be picking seventh overall if the NHL Draft happened today, but luck in the lottery Monday night in Secaucus, good or bad, can change that, potentially to a generation-shifting degree. 

"It's going to be a critical pick for the organization moving forward, there's no doubt about it," interim general manager Danny Brière said during his exit interview last month. "As far as what we're going to do there, it's way too early. We're going to look. We're going to inquire to see what we can do, but the most likely is we're going to keep our pick and pick in the slot that we're going to end up with."

That pick could (most likely) be seventh, it could be nine, or, by some miracle, jump all the way up to No. 1 and give the Flyers a gift of a path straight to Connor Bedard. 

The NHL Draft Lottery's format can be a bit convoluted to understand, but the gist of it is this:

• All 16 non-playoff teams will be in the lottery but not all of them can actually win the No. 1 pick. A team can only move up a maximum of 10 spots, so only 1-11 in the current draft order are eligible for first overall. The Flyers are right in the middle of that pack. 

• There are going to be two drawings, so if a team(s) behind the Flyers moves up, they'll slide down to either No. 8 or No. 9, but two spots are as far back as they can fall in the worst-case scenario. 

• The lottery results will either keep Flyers at No. 7, push them back to 8 or 9, or move them up to No. 1, 2, or 3. Here are the odds for each via Tankathon:

*7 44.4% 

*Current standing

• The teams at 1, 2, and 3 heading into the lottery, and with the best odds to land No. 1: The league-worst Anaheim Ducks (25.5%), the slightly less brutal (only slightly) Columbus Blue Jackets (13.5%), and a Chicago Blackhawks club that finally realized it isn't 2013 anymore (11.5%).

So, depending on what happens Monday night, who would the Flyers pick?

• If somehow, someway, Philadelphia lands No. 1, it's Bedard. There's no argument. Anything saying otherwise is just overthinking it and would be a massive mistake. 

A generational prospect in the vein of Sidney Crosby and Connor McDavid, Bedard has been "on the way" since he was 13 years old and was so good that he was granted exceptional status at 14 to play major junior hockey early. At 17, he went and played for Canada at World Juniors, scoring nine goals and 23 points in just seven games, putting on an absolute show while doing it

He won't turn 18 until a couple weeks after the draft at the end of June, but he is ready for the jump. His skating, vision, and anticipation are off the charts, his stickhandling and creativity might be among the best anyone will ever see, and his shot release is so unbelievably quick that it's a goalie's new worst nightmare. Blink and you'll miss it... twice over. 

Bedard will dramatically change the outlook of whatever team that gets him for the better. The Flyers have a chance – not a great one, granted – but sometimes a chance is all you need...and a prayer. 

• Bedard is the crown jewel, but 18-year old center Adam Fantilli as the consensus No. 2 pick wouldn't be a bad consolation either should the Flyers land there instead. He lit up his freshman season at Michigan, putting up 30 goals and 65 points in 36 games against mostly older competition. 

The Toronto-born prospect is coming in as a pretty complete player already, boasting excellent skating and anticipation, a fierce shot of his own, plus his own brand of quick-thinking and creativity with the puck. Fantilli isn't a game-changer to the level of Bedard, but that's not a slight to him. He has face of the franchise-level potential, for sure. 

After Bedard and Fantilli lies a still pretty deep draft class full of forwards who could become potential All-Stars. In the event the Flyers end up at 3, remain at 7, or slide back to 8 or 9, they should leave the first round with one of them, it's just a matter of where, when, and who's left. 

• Center Will Smith – who would be very appropriately named for Philadelphia – headlines the prospects coming out of the US National Development program with an astronomical 51 goals and 127 points in just 60 games played this season for the U18 team. Right now, his stock seems to be on the rise and pushing him toward being the No. 3 selection, but that isn't quite a lock like it is for Bedard and Fantilli at 1 and 2. He's already committed to Boston College for next season, but whatever team picks him up will be more than willing to wait in that situation.

Oliver Moore and Ryan Leonard are two other talented centers coming out of the National Development Program and could go within the top 10. They also have college commitments for next season and may not be ready for the jump to the NHL right away, but should be good to go within a year or two. If the Flyers are in a position to pick either one, they won't be in a rush anyway. 

Andrew Cristall (Kelowna, WHL), Zach Benson (Winnipeg, WHL), and Colby Barlow (Owen Sound, OHL) highlight the top-end skaters coming out of Canadian juniors, while sizable two-way forward Leo Carlsson (Sweden) and playmaker Dalibor Dvorský (Slovakia) are two of the notable names who have been garnering interest over in Europe.

Matvei Michkov, an 18-year old winger for Sochi in the KHL, is proving a pure goal-scorer over in Russia, but it's the fact that he's in Russia that's giving teams pause, per TSN's Bob McKenzie. First, because of his KHL contract status, he won't be able to come over to North America for a few years, and second, because of Russia's invasion of Ukraine and the IIHF's subsequent ban of the country from international tournaments, Michkov hasn't been as heavily scouted as other prospects. There's a good player there, but one coming with conditions – out of his control – that teams need to be wary of and likely extremely patient with going in. 

There are a lot of names to consider leading up to the draft in Nashville at the end of June, and a lot of possibilities that could play out Monday night at the lottery, including a rare one that could change everything for the Flyers if a few ping-pong balls land just the right way.

Regardless of when the pick is, getting it right, as Brière said, is critical in the Flyers' long journey to becoming competitive again, and the plan to do so can begin to take shape at 8 p.m. ET Monday night.

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