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Greenberg: Why #29 is important

by Jay Greenberg / Philadelphia Flyers

It is a surprisingly thin list of 29th overall picks that have made it to the NHL: Mike Green, Patrick Eaves, Nicklas Kronwall, Teppo Numminen, Stephane Richer, Steve Downie and Jonathan Cheechoo.

Of course, that’s not the absolute means to evaluate the chances of success for the second first-round selection -- obtained from Tampa Bay for Braydon Coburn -- that the Flyers will execute tonight. Corey Perry was drafted 28th, Randy Carlyle went 30th.

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To project what the Flyers could be both smart and lucky enough to grab tonight, better to make a sample list of winners who were picked 25 to 50:

Bob Nystrom, Jim Watson, Rod Langway, Pelle Lindbergh, Mats Naslund, Neal Broten, Mark Messier, Chris Chelios, Claude Lemieux, Joe Nieuwendyk, Mike Richter, John LeClair, Eric Desjardins, Doug Weight, Mike Peca, Nicklas Kronwall, Patrice Bergeron, Shea Weber, Milan Lucic, P.K. Subban.

All these guys went at either the end of the first round, during the second, or in the third when the NHL had many fewer teams. Obviously, none of these players were considered blue chip prospects. All proved that there is a range of big-time talents that extends far past the tip of NHL Central Scouting’s nose.

Essentially this pick -- the next-to-last in the first round -- is a primo second-round choice that upgrades by nine selections the 2015 No. 2 (37th overall) the Flyers gave up in the trade for Andrew MacDonald.

The Flyers might not have made the 2014 playoffs without the MacDonald trade. He is a better player than demonstrated last season and will provide value in the five remaining years of his contract. That said, it was the kind of deal that Ron Hextall, committed to building through the draft, will be loathe to make going forward, unless he has a team capable of going deep into the playoffs, plus stockpiles of picks.

Next year, the Flyers will have two No. twos -- Chicago’s and their own. It is not in their plan, or the Blackhawks, for these choices to be near the top of the round, all the more reason this 29th selection is not exactly an annual opportunity. Most scouts believe this to be not only the most top-heavy draft since 2003, but one deeper than usual, too.

The Flyers have an additional selection Saturday in the third round, where history had demonstrated you have to get considerably luckier to land a better-than-marginal NHL player.

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Of course, there have been gems amongst picks 61 to 90 -- David Krejci, Kris Letang, Jonathan Quick, David Backes, Jimmy Howard, and Brad Marchand -- in recent seasons.

The Flyers share of sleeper hits include incredible good fortune in the sixth round -- Rick Tocchet, Ron Hextall, Paul Holmgren Don Saleski, Dennis Seidenberg, Roman Cechmanek, Antero Niittymaki , Dmitri Yushkevich, Dmitri Tertyshny and Zac Rinaldo. Even over 46 years of drafting, that’s a lot of guys taken that late to have made one NHL team.

In fact, it is a far deeper list than of Flyer second rounders who have made an impact.

We use the term deeper, not better, because the greatest Flyer of them all, Bobby Clarke went in the second round (17th overall) in the very first universal entry draft. Otherwise, only these No. 2 Philadelphia selections ever made it: Bill Clement, Tom Bladon, Tom Gorence, Peter Zezel, Scott Mellanby, Chris Simon, and Janne Niinimaa.

That list is so short in part because 16 times in 46 drafts the Flyers traded their second-round choice. In years they kept it, they also were choosing at the end of the round, not the beginning.

Most of these same Flyer scouts who will reach a consensus tonight have done well enough over the last 16 years with first-round picks that fell in the twenties – Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Justin Williams – to build belief that they will choose two eventual nucleus players tonight, not just one with the seventh overall selection.

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