Green’s Annual Seven-Round Mock Draft for the Philadelphia Flyers
With the NHL Draft Lottery now being a thing of the past, and the Philadelphia Flyers faithful having to come to grips with the fact that all their previous hopes and dreams of possibly moving up to select the young phenom Connor Bedard or Hobey Baker Award winner Adam Fantilli have been crushed; they are now forced to sit and wait to see whom their teams’ newly appointed management of Keith Jones (President of Hockey OPS) and Danny Briere (General Manager) will be picking at the league’s 61st NHL Entry Draft down in Nashville come June 28th and 29th.
We all know that this team and its fans have suffered multiple losing seasons in a row. Ownership has come out and said they are set to commence a complete rebuild this offseason. Probably, because they currently have no franchise player on the roster. They have little to no cap space to bring anyone new in. The team is loaded with a roster full of albatross like contracts that are going to be impossible to move. And to boot their 2022 top five draft pick (Cutter Gauthier) is unwilling to sign with them for the upcoming season. Therefore, it is imperative that the previously mentioned latest crop of good old boy hiring’s from Flyers past get this year’s seven overall selection right.
Lucky for them, this draft is chalked full of high-end talent, so even with Philadelphia not making their selection until seventh overall, they should still be able to acquire a future NHL star. The only question that remains is, just who should they select with their first pick? If the Flyers brass wishes to draft from a position of need, landing a center would be the way to go.
Especially since Sean Couturier should now be labeled as injury prone after missing most of the past three seasons; moreover, the Flyers also have a very inconsistent Kevin Hayes lining up at center. If you paid attention, he is a player who went goalless for a stretch of 23 games after making the All-Star Game this season. That said, you would think the Flyers would look to draft a player like one of the many great Team USA centers, Will Smith, Ryan Leonard, or Oliver Moore. But Smith (the World Junior Championships reigning MVP) will most likely be gone by the time Philadelphia makes their way to the podium. Then there’s Moore, who has excellent speed and playmaking ability but cannot finish at the rate a player drafted in the top ten should. As for Ryan Leonard, everyone seems to favor him as the teams’ pick, especially since he is due to attend Boston College and will play alongside Cutter Gauthier next season. Still, I fear his numbers may have been a bit inflated from getting to play on one of the best lines in hockey (outside of the NHL) this season. Think about it, he had two 2023 future first-round picks in Will Smith and Gabe Perreault, feeding him the puck all season long. Both players finished the season scoring at a rate of over two points per game! Now, ask yourself, if drafted by the Flyers, are you confident that Ryan is still going to be capable of producing at that level without the help of his former linemates when he gets to South Broad Street?
Andrew Cristall- Kelowna Rockets
That’s why if it were up to me, I would select Andrew Cristall from the Western Hockey Leagues Kelowna Rockets. Cristall is one of the most dynamic offensive talents in this draft class. So much so that he managed to score 39 goals and 56 assists for 95 points in just 54 games played this year. Those numbers were good enough for him to rank second to only the great Connor Bedard (for draft-eligible players coming out of the WHL this season) in points per game average, with Andrew scoring at a rate of 1.76 P.P.G. When you look at his totals from this season you will see that Cristall basically did it all himself when you factor in that the mean (or average) of the other 29 players point totals on the roster that dressed for the Rockets this year only came out to them scoring an average of just 16.5 points on the season.
Throughout this long season, Cristall has proven that he can be counted on time and time again to carry his team single-handily to victory. I mean, come on, Cristall even scored more goals this season than the overhyped Zach Benson who played for a very stacked Winnipeg Ice team. That’s why I say the Flyers have to get out of the same old mind set of drafting quality two-way players who do a little bit of everything well and nothing extraordinary. They instead should go after an elite offensive talent (like Andrew) who possesses star qualities like his ability to stick handle through all five players on the ice from the opposition just to finish by deking the goalie right out of his pads for a goal. Now, doesn’t that sound more like the superstar player we need to help bring the Flyers back to contention?
Here’s a look at some of his highlights
Still can’t get enough of Cristall? Here’s an article I did on him
much earlier in the season.
Now I know what you’re thinking, BUT LANCE, THE FLYERS DON’T HAVE A SECOND ROUND PICK! My answer to that would be you are correct, FOR NOW! For weeks Briere has been rumored to want to move some potential big-name Flyers to regain some salary cap space. Names like Provorov, Hayes, Konecny, and yes, even Hart have been rumored to be available for the right bounty. So, it is feasible that the Flyers could acquire a 2nd round pick in this upcoming draft.
Etienne Morin- Moncton Wildcats
So just in case they can pull that off, here is a viable option for them to consider. And that player is Etienne Morin from the Quebec Major Junior Hockey Leagues Moncton Wildcats. Morin is a 6’0 183, pound left-hand shot defender who offensively doubled his point production from last season when he was able to average over a point per game this year, totaling 21 goals, and 51 assists for 72 points in just 67 regular season games. Etienne was also among the league leaders this year in plus-minus when he finished the season with a + 29 average—proving that Morin is one of the most well-rounded defensemen available in this draft. Offensively, Morin can make the nice long outlet passes that spring his wingers on a breakaway. Also, if a pass is not there, he has no problem jumping up into the zone and scoring a goal himself. Defensively Etienne is a rare breed in today’s game. He takes pride in maintaining a stronghold at the blue line where he administers some of the most bone-rattling open ice hits I’ve seen since maybe Scott Stevens was patrolling the Devils blueline.
If you like what you read about Morin. Come check out both the article I just wrote about him and the latest episode of Prospect Watch, where he found time to join us to answer some questions.
Now to the third round, where the Philadelphia Flyers will get to make two selections. Knowing this, I believe the first of the two should be used on Nick Lardis, a 5’11 winger who spent time playing for two teams this year, seeing that he was traded mid-way through the OHL season. Lardis, who has elite speed with the puck on his stick, finished the year playing for the Hamilton Bulldogs, where his combined totals from the two teams equated to him scoring 37 goals, and 28 assists for a total of 65 points in 69 games played. Although still a work in progress defensively, Nick’s offensive talents easily compensate for his backend shortcomings. As they did for Team Canada at the recent World Junior U18 Championships, where Nick was able to net four goals in seven games.
Scott Ratzlaff- Seattle Thunderbirds
With their second pick of the 3rd round, I believe the Flyers should look to acquire a goaltender. Let’s face it, the Flyers’ goaltending depth has been a problem for the team for some time. And one could argue that it still should be considered a problem today. Carter Hart was the first goalie taken off the board in the 2016 Entry Draft, and despite his fantastic pedigree before turning pro, these last five years have been anything but impressive. To date, Hart has only averaged winning .41% of the games he’s played in. His career goals-against-average is a less-than-respectable 2.96 G.A.A., and his career save percentage is barely hanging above .900% right now. Folks, those kinds of numbers will get you fired if you’re a backup in this league, let alone a starter. So, if Hart does not improve upon those numbers next season, the club could look to move him by the trade deadline to acquire more picks because his contract is set to expire. Not to mention that their star Russian goalie prospect Ivan Fedotov has come out and said upon completing his military service in the Red Army, he will return to play in the KHL for the foreseeable future.
So, the Flyers should look to draft a guy like Scott Ratzlaff, who plays for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League (WHL). Scott, who stands at 6’1 and 172 pounds, is a butterfly goalie who is very calm and poised in the net, and because of that, Scott is always in an excellent position to stop the puck. The 17-year-old Ratzlaff won 25 regular season games this season and, on top of that, led the entire WHL this year in shutouts despite having to share the crease with the Thunderbirds’ 20-year netminder Thomas Milic. More impressive still is that Scott was able to total all of these wins and shuts outs despite having to play so many future 1st round picks on a nightly basis: Connor Bedard of the Regina Pats, Zach Benson of the Winnipeg Ice, Andrew Cristall of the Kelowna Rockets, Riley Heidt of the Prince George Cougars, and Brayden Yager of the Moose Jaw Warriors. So, just think what kind of totals he will be able to come up with next season when he has the net all to himself.
Here is a video of his play and an Article I featured him in earlier this season.
Moving on to the fourth round of the draft, the Flyers are again due to pick twice. So, why not look to bring an immense physical power forward like Zach Nehring? When you look back to the Flyers’ history, some of their most successful years have come when they have had a legitimate power forward on their roster. When the team had guys like Wayne Simmonds, Scott Hartnell, Mike Knuble, John LeClair, Tim Kerr, and/or Rick Tocchet on their roster, they were considered a force to be reckoned with. So why not go and try and recreate that success with a guy like Nehring, who played this season for the Shattuck St. Mary’s U18 Prep Team? Zach stands at an impressive 6’3 and weighs 179 pounds. If you watched any tape on him, you would have seen that he never passes up the opportunity to complete a check. To go with that, Nehring loves to get into board battles and often takes up residency in front of the oppositions net so that he can ensure that he will be in the best position possible to either redirect a shot from the point or knock home a nice juicy rebound left in the goal mouth. In saying that, Zach’s hard work and gritty play simply embody what used to be a requirement from a player who dons a Flyers sweater. Zach has committed to play for Western Michigan University next season, where Wade Allison, Ronnie Attard, and the team’s newly appointed President of Hockey Ops, Keith Jones, all are considered alums.
Don’t believe me on how forceful this player can be, then watch this game tape I provided.
Aiden Fink- Brooks Bandits
With the second of their fourth-round picks, I would urge Danny to draft a player whose game reminds me a lot of his. That player is none other than the 5’9 Aiden Fink from the Alberta Junior Hockey Leagues Brooks Bandits. If you know anything about the Bandits, you would probably agree that they are an AJHL powerhouse that gave the NHL and NCAA such players as the great Cale Makar, Ryan McAllister, TJ Hughes, and Zach Bookman. All players that Fink must have been taking notes from because he just got done helping the franchise win their seventh AJHL Championship, as well as being named the league’s MVP after he finished the season scoring 41 goals and 56 assists for a league-leading 97 points in only 54 games played (which averages out to him scoring 1.80 points-per-game). What’s better still is with nothing else to prove in the AJHL, Aiden has decided to bring his talents to our own backyard next season (better known as State College, PA) as he will be playing for the Penn State Nitty Lions.
As you watch some highlight reels and a video of him joining us earlier this year on Prospect Watch, you’ll see that the Flyers should not pass him up.
As we begin to get into the later rounds of the draft, it is critical that this club continue to land players that will be a vital part of their future like Philadelphia did with Alexis Gendron, who the Flyers took last year in the 7th round.
Zaccharya Wisdom- Cedar Rapids RoughRiders
A player left on the big board at this time that I believe still possesses that kind of potential is Zaccharya Wisdom from the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League (USHL). And before we get too far, I’m sure a few of you are wondering, Wisdom? Is that the Flyers 2020 4th round pick Zayde Wisdom’s brother? The answer is yes, but I’m not just suggesting the Flyers draft him simply from the point of nepotism. Zaccharya is an outstanding young player in his own right. He just turned 19 back at the end of April and scored 28 goals and 20 assists for 48 points this season. Like his brother, Zac is a solid player who laid some of the biggest hits this season that the USHL has ever seen. Although their games are very similar, playing with a good mix of passion and fearlessness, they differ in one way. Zaccharya stands at 6’1 and 172 pounds, whereas his brother (the bulldog that he is) is lucky if he reaches 5’11 with skates on. Zaccharya commonly uses his size to knock people off the puck, win board battles, and establish body position in front of the net. Therefore, Wisdom would make a solid prospect for the Flyers to add to their depth chart. One that would surely continue to grow his game over the next couple of seasons.
If you find this player intriguing, feel free to click on the links, I provided below with an article I wrote about him in the past and an interview myself and Steel had with him earlier in the year.
In the sixth round, the Flyers will again be able to make multiple selections. With the first, I believe the Flyers should try and obtain something their club has been lacking for some time: a little European flare.
Andrei Loshko- Chicoutimi Sagueneens
Ergo, one of Belarus’ top prospects this year Andrei Loshko, an 18-year-old winger who stands at 6’1 and currently weighs in at 170 pounds. Andrei is already comfortable playing the North American-style game after spending the last two seasons playing for the Chicoutimi Sagueneens of the QMJHL. While playing in 67 games this year, Loshko utilized his great on-ice awareness to score 22 goals and 48 assists for 70 points. And I think if the Flyers could get a dynamic player who averages over a point-per-game in the 6th round, their time spent on the current rebuild will significantly drop.
Sam Court- Brooks Bandits
The second player I think the Flyers should draft in the 6th round is another Brooks Bandit. This time a defenseman who goes by the name Sam Court. Sam is a 5’10 190, pound right-hand-shot defender who, before joining the Bandits this year, spent time playing for the prospective Power Plant Avon Old Farms School that so many NHL players have attended and played for in the past. I don’t know if that’s where the Bandits’ scouts found this player, but folks, there is a reason why this team just won their third consecutive Centennial Cup. They simply go out and find exceptional players everyone else has overlooked. Example: I did not think that after losing a record-breaking blueliner like Zach Bookman to the NCAA this past season, the Bandits would be able to find an equal and adequate replacement for him. I was wrong! Sam came into the Bandits this year and simply took over the blueline. But he did not only solidify their defense; he also managed to be a significant factor in their offense. With him scoring 13 regular-season goals and dishing out 59 assists for 72 points in only 52 games this season, Sam’s impressive 1.38 points-per-game average has helped his stock rise immensely as of late, as well as allowed him to play for the University of New Hampshire next season.
Sam is the kind of player who would check off a lot of boxes that the Flyers need right now, and at this late in the draft is a low-risk, high-reward type player that should not pass up on.
As I indicated, the Flyers need to do in the final round of my mock draft back in 2020, where I suggested they take a little-known goalie I was very high on named Devon Levi from the CCHL. I am suggesting they do so again, only this time they should use that pick on a Netminder with a Hockey Hall of Fame pedigree.
Calvin Vachon- Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep
That player is none other than Calvin Vachon, who is the grandson of the great LA Kings goalie Rogie Vachon. Calvin was classically trained by Rogie, and it shows. At just 17 years of age, Calvin was able to go undefeated this season for the Shattuck St. Mary’s 18U Prep team. Where this 6’0 goaltender was able to win 22 games (six being by way of a shutout) while somehow being able to maintain a 2.00 goals-against-average (G.A.A.) and a .929 save percentage (SV%). And let me tell you, these numbers are no fluke. An example of this would be his 18-19 season where playing in 57 games for the Los Angeles Jr. Kings he was able maintain a GAA of just 0.59! Calvin has been dominant in the blue paint since he first strapped on the pads.
That’s why, with such a depressing goalie depth chart as the Flyers have, it would be wise for them to draft and develop a proven winner in Vachon.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article. Unlike most writers that cover this team, I do not simply look to the many mock draft sites a couple of weeks before the draft to put this type of article out every year. I study hundreds of hours of game tape and interview prospects year-round to bring you the most informed opinion I can. Thanks for the read! Go Flyers!
I’m a lifelong Flyers fan who has been playing the sport of Ice Hockey we all know and love competitively for over 30 years now. I grew up playing in-between the pipes where I was able to take in the whole game and analysis just what the team needed to do to help us win. Over the years I always enjoyed reading and gaining as much knowledge as possible about this great sport, but always thought it lacked something. A players prospective!