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NHL Draft

Flyers looking for infusion of youth at 2017 NHL Draft

Will take Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier at No. 2, but anticipate host of quality prospects with 11 picks

by Adam Kimelman @NHLAdamK / Deputy Managing Editor

Philadelphia Flyers general manager Ron Hextall certainly is excited by what he can add to the organization with the No. 2 pick of the 2017 NHL Draft presented by adidas.

But he also takes a big-picture approach. The Flyers could have as many as six rookies in the lineup next season, which means having 11 picks in the draft provides an opportunity to replenish the prospect pipeline.

"You've got to keep the prospects coming," Hextall said. "You've got to keep the young guys coming [on] entry-level deals. We need entry-level deals. You need young players. … There's going to be years where we don't have 11 picks, we're going to have five picks or seven picks. We have to make hay right now."

The Flyers have built an enviable group of prospects, and are expected to add to it with Brandon center Nolan Patrick or Halifax center Nico Hischier, the top two North American skaters, respectively, in NHL Central Scouting's final rankings.

Philadelphia is expected to take one of them in the first round of the draft at United Center in Chicago on Friday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN). Rounds 2-7 are Saturday (10 a.m. ET; NHLN, SN).

Patrick was limited to 33 games this season in part because of an undiagnosed sports hernia, but he averaged 1.39 points per game, 10th in the Western Hockey League, and was named the best professional prospect in the Canadian Hockey League.


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Hischier, born in Switzerland, excelled in his first season in North America, leading all Quebec Major Junior Hockey League rookies in goals (38) and points (86) in 57 games.

"They're both two-way players, they both make plays, they can both score goals," Hextall said. "They both compete hard. Hischier has a little bit more quickness and speed to his game. Patrick's a little bit more, looks for the right play and makes the play. They're both really good players. Both should be top NHL players."

Hextall said he and his staff spent time with both players during the NHL Scouting Combine in Buffalo on May 29-June 3, and also since then.

"You just get a better feel for them," Hextall said. "We had dinner with both kids. And we met with them at the combine. So we got certainly more information on those two than some other guys. There were some other guys we had more time with too. You are just trying to get to know them."

Whoever the Flyers select at No. 2 will be able to compete for a spot at second-line center next season. Philadelphia never found a consistent scoring option there to support No. 1 center Claude Giroux, alternating between Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier, Nick Cousins and Valtteri Filppula.

Filppula likely will have the lead in that race but there will be other competitors, including two other rookies. Oskar Lindblom (2014, No. 138), who was fourth in the Swedish Hockey League with 47 points (22 goals, 25 assists) in 52 games this season, also should be in the mix, as should Mike Vecchione, the Hobey Baker Award winner who made his NHL debut in April.

Video: Hextall discusses draft lottery and number two pick

The Flyers also are expected to have at least two rookies on defense next season. Samuel Morin (2013, No. 11) and Robert Hagg (2013, No. 41) each made his NHL debut in April, and they'll be in the mix for roster spots with Travis Sanheim (2014, No. 17) and Philippe Myers (2015, free agent).

Goaltender Anthony Stolarz (2012, No. 45), who played his first seven NHL games this season and was protected in the NHL Expansion Draft, is expected to be at least the backup next season.

Hextall said in an ideal world, he'd like to have 2-3 rookies on the roster each season because of the energy and enthusiasm they add, but said it will be a meritocracy. The best players will play, regardless of age. He showed that this season when he kept defenseman Ivan Provorov and forward Travis Konecny, each 19, on the roster; each earned significant ice time.

"It's not about putting young players in the lineup," he said. "It's about the young kids making us a better team."

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