The first to admit that goaltending is an area that the club needs to fill a crucial hole on their prospect depth chart is GM Ron Hextall
So the team will most likely take a goaltender, possibly even two, in this year’s draft.
“It’s important. We’ve talked long and hard about it. I’d be very surprised if we got out of this draft without a goalie or two,” said Hextall.
The question is when… First, Second, one of the two Third or Fourth rounders?
To answer that question you have to look at the draft class. “I think it’s good, not great, but good,” added Hextall on whether this year’s draft is full of strong goaltending.
Is it possible the club uses a high pick on a netminder? Sure, but as Hextall explains that’s a high-risk scenario.
Flyers have chosen just five goaltenders in their previous 48 draft years in the
2nd round or earlier…
2nd rd: Anthony Stolarz, 2012 - 45th overall
1st rd: Maxim Ouellet, 1999 - 22nd overall
2nd rd: Jean-Marc Pelletier, 1997 - 30th overall
1st rd: Brian Boucher, 1995 - 22nd overall
2nd rd: Pelle Lindbergh, 1979 - 35th overall
“Goalies are risky. Period. You pick a goalie, you might hit a home-run like [New] Jersey with Brodeur or you might go with the five strikeouts. That’s why I think it’s moved back [to later rounds]. Now as soon as someone hits on one, then all of a sudden they start going in the first [round]. If you look, there’s a trend. I don’t look at it like that. If we want a goalie at a certain place and we like them enough we’ll take a shot at them.”
Tops of NHL Central Scouting charts on this year are Mackenzie Blackwood (OHL, Barrie) and Callum Booth (QMJHL, Quebec) in North America.
Blackwood finished his second season of junior hockey with the fourth-most wins in the OHL (33), while posting a 33-14-2 record with a 3.09 goals-against average, .906 save percentage and two shutouts in 51 appearances.
Likewise Booth completed his second year of junior hockey going 23-15-0 with a 3.05 GAA, two shutouts and a .900 save percentage in 41 games, but also helped lead the Remparts to the QMJHL Finals and elimination round in the Memorial Cup Tournament behind starter Zachary Fucale.
On the European side, Ilya Samsonov tops the list after going 11-4-1, with a 2.66 GAA and .918 save percentage with two shutouts with Magnitogorsk in the Russian junior league, while even appearing in a KHL game as an 18-year-old.
Beyond that, you can view NHL's Central Scoutings list of eligible goaltenders HERE...
However, the Flyers have not chosen a goaltender in the first round of the NHL Draft since 1999 when they selected Maxime Ouellet 22nd overall.
In fact, if the Flyers use one of their high picks on a goaltender it would be just the third time in Flyers history that they have done so in the first round. Beyond Ouellet, the only other time came in 1995 when they selected Brian Boucher in the first round, also 22nd overall.
Boucher would appear in 328 regular season games, posting 120 wins as a Flyer, in addition to 43 Stanley Cup playoff games where he posted a 21-18 mark. Ouellet on the other hand appeared in just two games for the Flyers and saw a total of 12 NHL games - he was traded to the Washington Capitals in 2002 in a deal that had Adam Oates join the Flyers.
Of course should the Flyers go in a different direction with their two first rounders, even a second round goaltender selection would still be rare.
Anthony Stolarz, the club’s only top prospect between the pipes, was the most recent after being selected 45th overall just three years ago and is one of just two goalies chosen by the Flyers in the last five NHL drafts (Merrick Madsen, 6th rd, 2013).
Having played the position himself also gives Hextall a little more insight into drafting a position that is on display every minute on the ice.
“I’ve seen some of the goalies but it’s almost like you see a guy on a regular basis and you start figuring out: does he make big saves at big times, does he bounce back from a bad game, all the little things that kind of add up to being mentally strong. And you can’t hide a goalie - he’s in the net. He’s either good or he’s not good.”