(Voorhees, NJ) - The task remains the same - draft well and draft for the future. But looking back to one year ago, the dynamic of this year’s draft has changed quite a bit.
Last year at this time, when faced with the enormous task of turning around a team that had the League’s worst record, Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren pulled off several deals that shaped the future of the organization.
On Monday, Holmgren sat down in an informal setting with the media to discuss the upcoming draft, which is set to kick off this Friday in Ottawa. Among the differences he explained, was that this year’s draft has a lot more depth, as opposed to the 2007 Draft in Columbus, Ohio.
“This draft is probably deeper than last year’s class,” said Holmgren. “There are more of what I would call blue chip guys, which I think makes a deeper draft, lot of good defensemen.”
|Comcast-Spectacor President Peter Luukko and General Manager Paul Holmgren at the draft table in Columbus a year ago. (Flyers Photos) |
Should they choose to stay put, the Flyers’ first-round pick in this year’s draft is at the number 27 position. From there, they don’t have another pick until the fourth round (118th overall), but as in any draft, that may not be the case by the weekend.
“I think we are going to get a really good young prospect,” said Holmgren, when asked whether he likes the first pick being near the end of the round or if they would try and trade up for a higher pick. “We are exploring moving up [or] moving back.”
That depth is also a big reason why they may hold onto their pick in the first round rather than trying to trade up the ladder. There is not one specific player or position that will likely be chosen. It may just boil down to the most talented player available.
“I find it difficult to veer away from that,” added Holmgren. “I think if you have a defenseman, a forward, and a goalie, and it is your turn to pick, and the forward is clearly the better player, even though we’re strong at forward, am I just going to take a defenseman or a goalie because we have a strength at forward? I would have to say no.”
It’s reasonable to expect that higher first-round picks can turn out to be major impact players in the League, but the Flyers have certainly found some gems when choosing later in that round, considering that Steve Downie (29th overall), Simon Gagne (22nd overall) and Mike Richards (24th overall) were all drafted by the Flyers. Even Danny Briere
himself was a 24th overall pick in 1996 when Phoenix drafted him.
Just two years ago, the Flyers selected Claude Giroux
22nd overall. He is one player that Holmgren, along with many other scouts, feel is ready to challenge for a spot in the lineup for the upcoming year, following a sensational final season in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and 2008 World Junior Championship in January. Restricted/Unrestricted Free-Agent Update
Among the many other factors that come along with the draft is the situation concerning free agents, both restricted and unrestricted.
Throughout the offseason, it has been the club’s priority to sign their restricted free agents, which includes Jeff Carter, R.J. Umberger, Randy Jones and Riley Cote among others.
Although there is only a slight chance all of these players will be signed by the week’s end, Holmgren did state that talks are going on with these players and he remains confident that a deal can be reached.
“We’re still trying to sign our guys. With Jeff [Carter], it becomes a little more difficult because he doesn’t have arbitration so he’s a little more of a wild card.”
This doesn’t necessarily count out the possibility of the Flyers making another free agent splash, similar to last season with Briere, but the intention seems to be on the defensive side of things.
“Signing defensemen in that tax bracket would be difficult without having to strip down in other areas. It would be difficult to do. Does that mean were not going to look at it? No, I think were going to look at it. If it can make us a better team then we’re going to look at it.”