Giving grades to the NHL Draft one day after the draft is an effort in insanity.
How anyone who doesn’t spend their time scouting teenage hockey players around the globe could even suggest that one team’s draft is either excellent, good, fair or poor at this point is absurd.
Anywhere you read draft grades for any team at this point, please do so on a lark, with an entire salt shaker in hand, and use it for entertainment purposes only.
Because there’s no way any such grade, positive or negative, can be assessed on this draft until 2016 at the earliest.
For example, I think we can finally look back at the 2009 NHL Draft and determine who did well and who didn’t.
And even then, it would be subject to argument as 15 players (50 percent) drafted in that first round have less than one full-season of NHL experience.
As a matter of fact, only four of the 30 third round picks have played in at least 25 games, and only two of those – Tyson Barrie and Cody Eakin have played more than a half-season’s worth of games.
So, to sit here and debate the merits or lack thereof of each individual pick from yesterday is nothing more than time-filling chatter in the offseason, but nothing with any bona fide substance behind it.
That said, looking at the Flyers draft is definitely interesting.
Let’s start in the first round with defenseman Samuel Morin. There’s no question the Flyers drafted a guy they liked a ton and coveted at the spot where he was chosen.
A little behind the scenes for you here: while teams do have a draft list that they make that is numbered 1-through-210, they try to identify and eventually focus in on about three players they hope to be there at the spot where they are drafting.
So, to suggest that the Flyers – or any team for that matter – “should have” moved up or “should have” moved back is commentary based in a very shallow pool of understanding.
Teams may be willing to move up or backwards in a draft, but it is a complex science to make it actually happen. First, they have to find a trade partner who is also a competitor.
Next, they have to come to an agreement on a deal that is palatable both ways. These deals take several weeks – sometimes months – to come to fruition as they often involve players who have to be scouted a few times. There are other roadblocks, like salaries, or filling a need by creating a weakness elsewhere.
Simply put, it’s not fantasy sports here where trading happens at a finger snap. It’s far more complicated, and for every trade that actually happens, there are a dozen that reach varying degrees of negotiation and die – most of which never become public.
It can be assured here that Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren had several of these conversations leading up to yesterday, and then again on the actual draft floor.
Nothing happened either way.
Whatever any possible deal had in place was determined by either Holmgren – or his potential trading partner – as not being in the best interest of the team at the moment.
So, the Flyers stayed put. They had three guys they identified that they liked at No. 11. Two were forwards and one defenseman – Morin.
The forwards went earlier in the draft, so it was Morin, or bust for the Flyers.
They did consider moving down – Paul Holmgren did discuss it with Montreal minutes before the Flyers selected Morin, but he balked at the last minute. Why, exactly, isn’t 100 percent known at this time, but Canadiens general manager Marc Bergevin told La Presse, a French-language newspaper, that if they could have moved up to the Flyers spot they would have drafted Morin.
You can put the two and two together…
Morin is definitely a prospect with upside. But fans need to understand, his NHL arrival is likely not until 2016 – if then.
He is on a developmental path though that should make him an excellent defenseman in the NHL.
His offensive game is still developing, but he already has excellent skill on the defensive side of the puck and is a plus-skater, especially for his size.
Many reports argued the Flyers should have taken Ryan Pulock (No. 15 to the New York Islanders) or Nikita Zadorov (No. 16 to the Buffalo Sabres) instead, but neither had the long-term defensive projections that Morin did.
It’s easy to fall in love with Pulock’s howitzer or Zadorov’s hitting ability, but when it comes to a complete game, the Flyers think Morin is ahead of them both – and we know at least one other team felt the same way.
While he idolized Chris Pronger growing up, there shouldn’t be that expectation. If he becomes that 10 years from now, it’s a bonus. But if he becomes a reliable, 20-minute-a-night rearguard who provides occasional offense, it’s a win for the Flyers.
The second round selection of Swedish defenseman Robert Hagg at No. 41 was lauded by many – but only because he was projected as a possible late-first round choice.
But Hagg, like Morin, is at least a few years away from making an impact himself. He actually has a lot more development ahead of him than Morin. He may have better offensive skills now, but he is far behind Morin on the defensive side of the puck – and considering he is a defenseman, well, that’s kind of important.
Hagg has good size himself at 6-2, 193, and plays physically as well, but he needs to improve his hockey sense and will have growing pains as he plays against men in Sweden in the Elite League next year.
The Flyers now have drafted eight defensemen in the past two years, re-stocking the system at a position that always seems to be in demand in the NHL.
Adding Morin and Hagg along with last year’s third round pick Shayne Gostisbehere, a slick, puck-moving defenseman, the Flyers have three top tier defensive prospects, and five more in a more long-term development stage. Not bad.
The biggest criticism the Flyers are getting after the draft is their third round selection of Tyrell Goulbourne of the Kelowna Rockets in the WHL.
The argument being made is that the third round is too early to take a player who might end up being an energy guy in the NHL.
Maybe that’s because the Flyers drafted Rinaldo in round six, and this looks like a complete stretch.
However, the Flyers don’t view it that way, and Chris Pryor, the director of player development made a very salient argument in Goulbourne’s favor.
“We didn’t have a fourth round pick and we knew [from talking to other teams] that he wouldn’t have been there when we picked in the fifth round,” Pryor said. “He may only be a role guy in the NHL, but we think he has a real good chance to play in the NHL, which is the biggest thing. Look at the percentages of guys playing in the league. It gets less and less each round. So, we wanted to jump up a little bit to grab him because we feel he’s going to be in the NHL and anytime you can get a guy who’s going to play at that level, it doesn’t matter where you take him.”
To Pryor’s point, In the draft years between 2003 and 2008 (players who would be between 23 and 28 in the NHL currently) only 33 out of the 186 players selected in the third round have played at least 100 NHL games.
That’s a success rate of a mere 17.7 percent.
So, to identify a player who they feel will make it to the NHL, regardless of his role, and be confident that he’ll fall into that small percentage was a good enough reason to draft him at pick No. 72.
But it wasn’t the only reason.
The Flyers made a point to go after high school kids late in the draft who they think can develop, albeit in a longer time frame.
“We really wanted to grab [Terrance} Amorosa in the fifth round because we knew a couple other teams liked him too,” Pryor said. “He’s just another defenseman for us down the road and we knew he was going to the USHL for a couple years before college, so we would have some time to watch him develop.”
The same can be said for goalie Merrick Madsen, also a high schooler headed to the USHL in the Fall before eventually matriculating at Harvard University.
Pryor said he compares to last year’s second round pick Anthony Stolarz, who played U.S. Junior hockey before enrolling in college en route to the CHL, where he shined this year.
Ditto seventh round pick defenseman David Drake who only played 12 games in the USHL this past season.
It’s a draft philosophy that the Flyers did not deter from. And it makes sense right now.
However, we’ll wait a few years before we actually give a grade to this draft. Until then, it’s best to sit back and watch them grow as players.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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