Goalies bloom late. A number picked by other teams much earlier than the Flyers ever have taken one – the highest was Maxime Ouellet at 22 in 1999– have been busts, a reminder that it’s not post-to-post that best determines success at that position as much as ear-to-ear.
All that acknowledged, you would think that the team of Bernie Parent, Pelle Lindbergh and Ron Hextall would know a goalie when it saw one, especially now that the overseeing eye of the organization’s talent belongs to Hextall.
The Flyers, who haven’t had a home-grown goalie star since young Hexy in the eighties, who haven’t even had their own draft pick start a single game in the nets since Roman Cechmanek in 2003 -- threw some numbers at the problem Saturday, taking three netminders on the second day of the draft.
“It was weakness of our reserve list that we firmed up today,” said Hextall.
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Not yet apparent are the precise cap-room clearing implications of Saturday’s deal sending Nick Grossman and Chris Pronger’s contract to Phoenix for Sam Gagner and a mid-round pick. The Flyers have left the decision for later after they review their cap situation.
We will know about that a lot sooner than we will whether the Flyers found a gem amongst Felix Sandstrom, Matej Tomek or Ivan Fedotov. Perhaps one of them will play, maybe even two. The law of averages suggests the organization is due.
Henrik Lundqvist’s once seventh-round selection by the Rangers notwithstanding, goalies are not appreciably different than defensemen or centers. The higher they are taken, the more talent they have, the more likely they are to make the NHL.
Sandstrom and Tomek are only the 10th and 11th goaltenders the Flyers ever have selected in the first three rounds so there you go, perhaps one reason they haven’t been more fortunate.
Sandstrom, taken 70th, was rated the third-best international goalie prospect in this year’s draft by NHL Central Scouting. Tomek, selected 90th, had a shot to go much higher until he forgot to stop the puck the second half of the season.
“Quite frankly we didn’t think [Sandstrom and Tomek] would be there in the third round,” said Hextall. “The third one (Fedotov, pick No.188) was a shot in the dark; (scout) Kenny Hoodikoff really liked him.
“He’s kind of an unknown, a 6-8 goalie with good athleticism and skill who has come a long way in the last year.”
That Tomek was on his way to play for new Flyers coach Dave Hakstol at the University of North Dakota was strictly a coincidence, according to Hextall.
“We did talk to Dave a couple times about [Tomek], but our guys liked him enough that he was on our radar long before that,” said Hextall. “The first half of the year he was lights out, the second half he fell back.
“If he had continued to do what he did in the first half he might have gone in the first round or certainly the early second. We got him when we got him because he did tail off.
“He’s a young player from Europe, who played a lot of games (for the first time) and there was a big adjustment for him. We thought we saw enough ability, enough of a track record, in the first three or four months to take a bit of a gamble.”
It wasn’t the only one of the Flyers draft and certainly not the most critical. Having found it too expensive to trade up to guarantee the availability of Ivan Provorov, the Flyers held their breath hoping the defenseman would fall to seventh and indeed he did.
Loving all 175 pounds of Travis Konecny, the Flyers sacrificed a second-round pick to move up eight places to 21st and nab another ball of hate, an organizational trademark.
The draft went as well as Hextall thought it could go, just not exactly according to plan. But does it ever?
“Going in, maybe I expected to [draft] one more defenseman,” said the GM.
“With our next pick at 29th, we didn’t think we would come out with a guy like Konecny.
“I thought we would take two goalies and, the way they fell, ended up taking three, which I am comfortable with.
“We thought we needed to add some size and up-and-down and coveted (6-2, 207 pound center-left wing Samuel) Dove-McFalls.
“(Center-right wing Cooper) Marody is a real solid all-around player. He has a lot of filling out to do, but we feel like he has upside going to college (Michigan], so we got some time with him.
“Quite frankly we thought (center-winger David) Kase would go a lot earlier. Obviously his size (5-10, 159) is the reason he didn’t but we’re excited about him.”
Most exciting of all was the landing of a potential cornerstone defensemen, however long it takes for Ivan Provorov to completely mature.
“At that age you look for weakness,” said Hextall. “Does the kid get outmuscled, make poor reads, or bad decisions with the puck?
“But there are not a lot of weaknesses there with Ivan. He is a very well rounded player, strong on his feet, competes hard, defends real well, moves the puck real well.
“Now he has to continue.”
And the Flyers’ bad luck drafting goalies cannot continue. Long live Steve Mason. Indeed, he may have to if the Flyers don’t get a little fortunate in the nets at last.