NHL drafts are hardly ever predictable, and this year’s is no different. Nevertheless, even with all the uncertainties and surprises that come throughout the seven rounds, Ron Hextall maintains a simple philosophy. Take the best player available.
With the 17th overall pick, as well as five additional picks, the first year GM knows most of the players in this class are a few years away from seeing NHL action. He’s not looking to fill the team’s current holes. Instead, Hextall is trying to find the most talented, skillful pieces he can to help build for the team’s future.
“You’ve gotta approach it that you take the best player,” said Hextall. “I think the teams with the top few picks might be a little different approach because there are a lot of good players up top, and they’re really a similar level with not a lot of separation. So, if you’re drafting the top few picks, you might think 'I need a defenseman, or I need a center, or I need a wing to score or whatever.' But, where we’re picking, it’ll be about the best player.”
Drafting the best player available is a philosophy that has not gone unused by the Flyers in the past. Merely three years ago, Sean Couturier was chosen eighth overall, a shocking grab for the team, after he fell a few spots on the scouting list. Clearly, picking the best player available in 2011 worked well for the Flyers, who gained an NHL-ready, defensive forward.
Although choosing outside the top ten this year, the Flyers have had repeated success when drafting in this position, selecting players such as Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, and current Conn Smythe winner Justin Williams.
“A lot of the guys who are drafted later in the draft are typically guys that are willing to put in the time and the effort and do what it takes to be an NHL player, and Justin Williams is a good example,” Hextall said of having a later first round pick. “He’s still ticking, and really you look at Justin Williams and you say there’s a kid who’s always willing to play the game. He’s always put the time in. He’s dedicated, and quite honestly loves to play the game. That’s the type of character that we will be looking for.”
However, this philosophy isn’t firmly set in concrete and neither is the Flyers taking at right at No. 17. Hextall admitted to not being opposed to trading up in the draft if the right offer comes to the table. Weighing the pros and cons, gains and losses will ultimately be the deciding factor.
“We’ll look at trading up if we can,” Hextall said. “But we won’t trade up if we’re going to get a similar player at whatever we trade up to as opposed to 17. But, there is separation from where we are to ahead of us. We would look to trade up.
“It’s not something that you can put in black and white,” added Hextall about moving up in the draft. “It’s gonna come to you at the time. There’s been some talk, but those things come to you right at the time, and you just gotta be prepared.”