There is good news and bad news about the spot where the Flyers will make their first selection in the 2019 NHL Draft. First, the bad news. Lottery luck was not on the Flyers' side in Toronto on Tuesday. The team will pick 11th in the first round of the 2019 NHL Draft; one spot down from their default position at the conclusion of the 2018-19 season.
Now for the good news: Beyond the highly touted top three candidates for the 2019 Draft (forwards Jack Hughes, Kaapo Kakko and Vasili Podkolzin), there is a lot of depth to this year's first round.
"The top end of the draft I believe is strong. The top three picks have gained a lot of notoriety, and from what I've see, justifiably so. To me, it looks like really good players in the first half of the first round. In particular I think the depth looks pretty good and even into the second round you're getting players better than you would most years. I believe if our scouts were here, they would tell you it is an above-average draft," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said on Monday, prior to departing to attend the lottery drawing in Toronto.
Each and every year, there are good prospects to had beyond the first few picks -- look, for example, at what incoming Flyers prospects Joel Farabee (14th overall selection in 2018) and Morgan Frost (27th overall in 2017) have done since their Draft year -- but picks beyond the top five or so usually require a little more pre-Draft projection and a little more post-Draft time and patience to develop. What makes this year's Draft a bit better than average is that there's a bit less projection involved on the front end, although the developmental cycle on the back end could be similar.
Within the pool-at-large of candidates for the 2019 Draft, there is a lot of skill, mobility and two-way upside to be had. In some instances, size and/or physical frame will have to be sacrificed (or at least projected out over a number of years), but that has already become increasingly commonplace in recent Drafts.
"There seems to be the trend the last few years you're seeing more and more, not undersized defensemen, but you're seeing a lot of 5'11" or 6' defensemen. Puck-moving guys seems to be the new breed of defenseman. We've seen a lot more of that the last couple of years. Same with 5'10", 5'11" or 6' forwards," Fletcher said.
"Certainly above average and a good draft year, which is great because we have 10 picks and a high quality staff. I'm excited about that. I'm very impressed with the work of this group, looking from the outside. To have 10 [total] picks in a draft like this bodes well."
Fletcher noted as well that there is an above-average goalie pool this year. The Flyers GM said there could be at least one, and possibly two or more, goaltenders who hear their names called in the first round of the 2019 Draft. Keep in mind that internal pre-Draft rankings inevitably vary from team-to-team and vary even more widely from the publicly available rankings posted by Central Scouting and International Scouting Services as well as by a host of hockey publications.
Last year's Draft pool was deep in terms of US National Team Development (USNTDP) products and collegiate track prospects in general as well as European league players. It was below average in terms of prospects from the Canadian major junior leagues (OHL, WHL, QMJHL), and an especially weak year for the Western Hockey League. This time around, there is a better pool from the Western League in particular along with it being another good crop from the USNTDP and Europe.
The array of prospects who are roughly projected to fall within the Flyers' draft range once again feature both USNTDP and Swedish candidates as well as CHL players.
As the NHL Combine and the 2019 Draft draw closer, we will profile an array of potential candidates. Some of the names include USNTDP products Trevor Zegras, Alex Turcotte, Matthew Boldy, pint-sized but dynamic Cole Caufield, defenseman Cam York, Swedish prospects Victor Söderström, Philip Broberg and Simon Holmström, OHL scoring standout Arthur Kaliyev and Barrie Colts center Ryan Suzuki as well as some CHL puck-moving defensemen.