In the two weeks since the NHL Draft, a lot has been written or said about the Philadelphia Flyers.
And while most of it has been positive, the one negative assessment that keeps cropping up revolves around the selection of Tyrell Goulbourne in the third round of the draft at No. 72 overall.
First of all, I have to admit that it’s exciting to see people care so much about the NHL Draft – especially third round picks – because as recently as a decade ago, the draft was an afterthought in the public eye, and now it’s scrutinized excessively.
In some ways, that’s good. In others, it’s a negative.
As far as the Flyers drafting of Goulbourne, well, I think there’s been a bit of an overreaction.
That’s not a knock on Rinaldo, who has become an integral piece to the Flyers roster, but much rather a knock on reputation.
Let me explain.
See, the Flyers have developed a bit of a rep for drafting big, tough forwards or guys who are scrappy, like to fight and fit third or fourth line roles more than first or second line roles.
Many people call it the “Broad Street Bully” mentality, as if the Flyers brass still drafted players thinking it’s the 1970s.
Of course, that’s a misnomer, but it doesn’t stop people from saying it or believing it anyway.
If it was up to the skeptics, the Flyers would find top line talent in ever round of the draft. Unfortunately, there’s a science behind drafting and it’s certainly not over-reactive like that.
Nevertheless, the Flyers decision to draft Tyrell Goulbourne in the third round in the most recent draft has been a lightning rod of sorts on the InterWebs.
Whether it’s a fan blog complaining that the Flyers drafted him too early, or it’s an overtly detailed analysis by a writer comparing him to other available players and claiming it was a misstep by the Flyers, it’s all guess work.
Just like drafting players is guess work. Sure, having scouts watch players for a couple of years in junior hockey – or wherever they are playing when they are draft eligible – makes the guess substantially more educated, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be right.
As a matter of fact, come the third round, often it’s wrong, or at the very least, takes even longer to pan out.
In a previous story, I outlined that there was only a 17 percent success rate for third round picks – within certain parameters – drafted between 2003 and 2008.
So, the vitriol that has emanated about this pick and continues to do so this week is confounding to say the least, but I think I know why.
Had General Manager Paul Holmgren simply described Goulbourne’s game and not compare him to Rinaldo – as he did at the draft – most people would have been none the wiser.
He would have just been a third rounder who skates, kills penalties, competes like the dickens, blocks shots, is a great teammate and will run through a wall for his team – and everyone would have loved the description.
But comparing him to Rinaldo – who was a sixth round pick by the way – leaves many to believe there was more skilled players available at that point in the draft.
Maybe there was, maybe there wasn’t. We won’t know for several years. But here’s what I can tell you: On the Flyers draft board, the team had him rated in the exact spot where they picked him.
I know, I know… teams always say that. They always say they got their guy. But believe me when I tell you, that’s where he was. Those of you who are doubting Thomases still, I will offer video proof on this web site soon (Teaser Alert!)
But if that’s not enough, let me offer you another description for comparison’s sake.
There was a player the Flyers once drafted who had an identical description to Goulbourne. He was tough. He was physical. He would be the first player through the brick wall. He had some skill, but he was mostly known for his fighting and toughness.
The Flyers drafted him, to no fanfare whatsoever.
His name: Rick Tocchet.
Yes, he was drafted in the sixth round, three rounds later than Goulbourne. But, when Tocchet was drafted, there were far fewer teams in the NHL and he went No.125 oveall.
Sure, Goulbourne was drafted No. 72 overall, and that is a difference of 57 slots, but what if, when Holmgren stepped up to the rail to be interviewed he said that Goulbourne had a little Rick Tocchet in him instead of Rinaldo? What would the reaction have been then?
Probably a lot more positive.
And that’s all he wants to be.
“I believe I’m a hard-nosed player who brings a lot of energy to the game,” Goulbourne told me. “I’m not afraid to step up and fight anybody – no matter how big they are.
“While I feel like fighting is a part of my game, I don’t want to be labeld that way. I’m not one-dimensional. I can put up points as well and I’m reliable on the penalty kill and responsible in my own zone as well.”
Goulbourne admitted he didn’t expect to hear his name in round three – saying he was waiting for rounds four and five – but he also admitted a number of teams were interested in him, so to go where he did – and to the franchise he went to – was simply an honor.
“They saw something in me to pick me in the third round. It’s a blessing, for sure,” he said. “It allows me to come in here with more confidence and play my game rather than try to be something I’m not. That’s the reason they drafted me.”
And they drafted him, as Director of Scouting Chris Pryor has said repeatedly, because they are confident he will be an NHL player someday, and NHL talent, regardless of their role at that level, is a success no matter where they are drafted.
“To be compared to any NHL player is an honor,” he said. “They had to work their butts off just to get to that level, so that’s special to me and it shows me what I have to do to get there as well.”
It sounds like, for the Flyers, he’s going to be Tyrell Goulbourne, and that just might be good enough for them.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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