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Greenberg: Second Round Gold

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers

Second-round picks long have been prime currency for obtaining valuable veteran help at trading deadlines. But there is price to be paid in the long run.

“Eventually, you miss not having them,” said Ron Hextall.

Ten times in 13 drafts between 1999 and 2011, the Flyers did not choose in the second round. Therefore, it is not astounding that Zac Rinaldo, a No. 6, was what they had to show for later-than-first-round selections for a decade until third rounders Shayne Gostisbehere and Nick Cousins joined the team last season.

The deeper into the draft, the longer the shot, of course. But the Blackhawks wouldn’t have won three Cups without a second-round pick named Duncan Keith, nor would the Bruins have paraded in 2011 without David Krejci, Patrice Bergeron and Milan Lucic, all No. Twos. Not only is there ample evidence that you can find star players between picks 31 and 60, but reason to believe you must do so in order to win a championship.

Janne Niinimaa and Chris Simon were Flyer second-round selections who had lengthy NHL careers after being traded. But the last Philadelphia No. 2 to stick and thrive was Scott Mellanby, who was drafted in 1984.

That is a long time ago—just nine years short of the last Stanley Cup, in fact. So although it will take four or five seasons for center-winger Pascal Laberge, goaltender Carter Hart and right wing Wade Allison, taken Saturday by the Flyers at picks Nos. 36, 48, and 52 respectively, to surface, you had better hope that one or two or three of them will be worth the wait.

If Hextall didn’t believe they could be, he wouldn’t have traded down from 18 to 22 on Friday night to move up in the second round and take Laberge.


“I know some people didn’t think it was that deep of a draft but we loved the second round,” said Hextall. “Getting a pick in the thirties was our goal all along.

“We thought having the picks at 48 and 52 would increase our chances of moving up for a higher one. But when we moved back in the first round (trading with Winnipeg), it was perfect.”

At least it was from a strategic standpoint. The proof will be in the pudding that comes out of the oven in about 2021 or 2022. But, with few exceptions Hextall’s scouts—most of whom also were Paul Holmgren’s and Bob Clarke’s scouts—have been choosing well for many years.

Hextall wouldn’t reveal exactly how much deeper than three was the list of second rounders they liked, only said, “It was not a lot bigger than that.”

“Laberge was one of two guys we had side-by-each and he ended up being there,” said the GM. “It worked out well for us. All three we got were highly coveted by us.

“For Pascal to stay focused (despite a father’s battle with cancer and a stepmother’s death from the disease within the last year) and work his way to the top of the second round is pretty amazing. We feel we got high-end character.

“Hart is a 17 years old and still growing. Technically he is very sound, very athletic. The one thing our guys kept saying is that he is mentally strong. Brady Robinson, our development goalie instructor, had been on the ice with Hart the last couple of weeks at Team Canada camp. We had some inside info that was valuable.


“We weren’t sure Allison would be there. We wanted size (6-2, 205), speed, and skill in this draft and he has some of all three so we’re extremely excited. He is a big, up-and-down gritty winger, with a really good shot. I’m not saying his skill level is elite, but he has a nice skill level.”


So does Nicolas Aube-Kubel, the second rounder two years ago, who scored 84 points with Val-d’Or in 2015-16. Goaltender Anthony Stolarz, the No. 2 in 2012, is coming off a 2.50 GAA and .916 SP in his second pro season at Lehigh Valley, and defenseman Robert Hagg, (No. 2 in 2013) remains a prospect.

Not all these kids are going to make it, but the more of these picks the Flyers have, the merrier might be their next decade.

“We don’t expect to have three second round picks every year but we are going to continue to hold onto as many picks as we can,” said Hextall. “There will be years we don’t have seven and years we will have more than seven. But I really believe in the draft and in our staff here.

“We are getting a lot of assets. It would be nice to get another Scott Mellanby.

“Second-round picks are valuable.”


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