O.K., maybe it’s not. It’s been two long months since we had any Flyers hockey and we have three more months-plus to go before we see a Flyers game that matters.
But, in the interim we have days like next Sunday as we try to see how the Flyers are going to be reshaped into a contender once again.
A lot of times that starts with the NHL Entry Draft. The Flyers have a great pick at No. 11 in what is a deep draft. The last time they picked No. 11 they selected Jeff Carter in 2003, also a deep draft. So, it’s safe to say the odds are better than most years that the Flyers are going to land an impact player next week.
Will they stay at No. 11? Well, there’s a lot of speculation about that as well. There’s been all kinds of buzz about moving up, or trading the pick for an established player. Either way, general manager Paul Holmgren’s iPhone is going to be blowing up next Sunday and he and his staff are going to have to decide what the best course of action might be.
We have seven days until we find out. Until then, there are mock drafts aplenty out on the Interwebs telling you who each team is going to take and why.
I figured, why not throw my hat into that ring?
I like the prediction biz, even if I’m only average at best at it, but it’s still fun for discussion purposes, and of course for bragging rights.
We’ve ran a bunch of predictions in recent weeks from our colleagues at NHL.com who put an inordinate amount of time into studying this draft. Those guys did a nice job.
Now here’s a mini-mock draft (first 11 picks) from me, a guy who knows a lot less than those NHL.com experts, but likes to think he can read tea leaves a whole lot better.
So, without further ado…
1.Colorado Avalanche – Nathan MacKinnon, C, Halifax - At first I thought Joe Sakic was blowing smoke about the whole forwards thing over defensive stud Seth Jones. Especially since Jones is a Denver guy who Sakic has a pre-existing relationship with. But I never considered the Patrick Roy factor – until now. The new Avs coach has been coaching Quebec of the QMJHL for several years and was able to see that Halifax team play a lot. Both MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin tore up the Q. Roy would love to coach one of them. That’s why ultimately I think Colorado trades this pick to drop down a couple spots and still gets their guy.
2.Florida Panthers – Seth Jones, D, Portland – Maybe the best talent in this draft, Florida may have to swing a deal with Colorado to prevent either Tampa or Nashville – or a surprise team – from joining the fray. Either way, the Panthers are going to get a franchise defenseman they so desperately need.
3.Tampa Bay Lightning – Jonathan Drouin, LW, Halifax – Just the notion of pairing Drouin together with Steven Stamkos for the foreseeable future is a scary proposition, and the Bolts will be happy to continue to add firepower to an already potent offense. Drouin can play in the NHL as an 18-year-old, no doubt.
4.Nashville Predators – Alexsander Barkov, C, Tappera – The Predators have long had a history of drafting brilliantly on defense, but not so much on offense. They can’t go wrong here as Barkov has been playing with men in Finland for a couple years and more than held his own. Another, NHL-ready player who can be the lynchpin in the Preds offense for more than a decade.
5.Carolina Hurricanes – Valeri Nichushkin, LW, Chelijabinsk – This is where the Draft may start to get interesting. I think this kid goes here as he has a world of talent, and a lot of confidence to play in the NHL right away. I’m just not sure the Canes are going to be the team taking him. I think Carolina has other holes they’d like to fill immediately and could be a willing trade partner for a crafty team looking for a draft day score. Could that be the Flyers? Possibly.
6.Calgary Flames – Sean Monahan, C, Ottawa – Another team that could be looking to move, but if they stay put they’ll be happy to grab Monahan. He’s got good size and a scorer’s touch, but needs to grow into his body a little bit. Nevertheless, he’ll be a top flight player, and the Flames are bereft of any right now.
7.Edmonton Oilers – Darnell Nurse, D, Sault Ste. Marie – For everyone who wanted Donovan McNabb’s nephew to play in Philly, I’m sorry, he won’t be there at No. 11. However, the Flyers do like him a lot and could move up in this range to draft him. If not, he will be beloved in Edmonton where he is the type of player that new GM Craig MacTavish loves – big, physical, athletic and a whole lot of nasty.
8.Buffalo Sabres – Zach Fucale, G, Halifax – Some may say this is a reach. And it might be at this spot, but I know the Sabres would like to find another franchise goaltender like they did with Ryan Miller, and Fucale is the best available. Another key cog on the Memorial Cup winning Halifax squad, Fucale could be ready in a couple seasons and start a new renaissance in Buffalo. I can see them moving down a few spots too and getting him later.
9.New Jersey Devils – Elias Lindholm, C, Brynas – The hometown fans will go crazy at the Prudential Center if Lindholm falls to the Devils here. Originally thought to be a top five guy, he’s slid on a couple draft boards, but is still a top tier talent. He will be a thorn in the side for the Flyers for many years if he ends up with the Devils.
10.Dallas Stars – Nikita Zadorov, D, London – I know the Flyers like this kid a lot. He has size, he is rangy, and he pounds you defensively. He also has a nice shot from the blue line and can move the puck well for a big man. But Dallas has a similar need and could fill it one spot ahead of the Flyers.
11. Philadelphia Flyers – Sam Morin, D, Rimouski – I honestly don’t think the Flyers pick in this spot. But if they do, and Morin is there, holy cow! Morin is a monster at 6-7. He can be a daunting presence on the blue line and, like Zadorov, plays angry and hard. Zadorov has better offensive skills, but Morin has the size you just can’t teach and that makes him a hammer – and a strong pick – if the Flyers stay here.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37