The Flyers Must be Patient with the Rebuild to Avoid Settling for a Regained State of Mediocrity
Photo Credit: MS Films
The Philadelphia Flyers’ newly promoted President of Hockey Operations, Keith Jones, and General Manager, Danny Briere, sure have done a lot in a short time to help this team move forward. But to ensure they don’t end up settling for a regained state of mediocrity, the powers at be, must remain patient.
This can sometimes prove challenging, though, especially with star prospects like first-round picks Tyson Foerster, Cutter Gauthier, and Matvei Michkov already developing rapidly in their system. But if they genuinely wish to get back to being considered cup contenders, management will need to continue to stock the cupboard for a few more years, and here’s why.
There’s no guarantee that all those names mentioned above will be NHL superstars. Hell, Gauthier has already refused to sign with the team when given the opportunity last year and turned down the chance to come into Development Camp this year. Plus, we all know that Michkov is extremely talented and has shown a strong desire to come over and play for the Flyers, but there is still the issue of him being signed to a KHL deal for the next three seasons.
So as much as it drives up the stomach acid into the back of my throat to even type this, I think the Flyers need to follow the Pittsburgh Penguins model from the early 2000’s. A time when the Pens. inconsistent play led them to be able to draft future hall of famers like goalie Marc-Andre Fleury with the first overall back in 2003, Evgeni Malkin second overall in 2004, Sidney Crosby first overall in 2005, along with Kris Letang in the third round, and finally Jordan Staal with the second overall pick in 2006. Remember, it was only after they drafted and got this new core group of players on the ice simultaneously that their fate began to change. Because of their efforts, Pittsburgh became a dominant force for the better part of a decade and was then afforded the opportunity to raise three Stanley Cup banners into the rafters during their reign. To prove that this course of action was no fluke, you just have to look to the Chicago Blackhawks and the Tampa Bay Lightning, who followed a very similar blueprint when piecing their dynasties together.
So, if the orange and black were to continue on this journey to redemption with that same mindset, we should begin to look ahead at the next couple draft classes to see just what kind of players could be brought to South Broad Street in the not-so-distant future.
The 2024 NHL Entry Draft
Next summer’s first round will be loaded with potential elite defenders. So, therefore I think the Flyers should try and snag one of them with their first selection. One defender who should be considered an ideal fit for the Flyers inside the top ten next year would be Sam Dickinson of the Ontario Hockey Leagues (OHL’s) London Knights. Sam was this past year, and will likely be again this upcoming season, the defensive partner of the Flyers first-round pick Oliver Bonk. Currently standing 6’3 and 194 pounds, Dickinson is the perfect left-hand-shot defender to bring into the teams’ system. He is mobile and has been known to rocket a shot into the back of the net from time to time. That said, I believe Dickinsons overall game and ongoing chemistry with Bonk next season will see Sam’s stock rise in the eyes of the Flyers brass, leading them to call his name at the draft next summer.
For their second first-round pick that Philadelphia acquired from the Florida Panthers in the trade for Giroux, I would suggest a player named Liam Greentree, who plays for the OHL’s Windsor Spitfires. Liam is a player who I think will surprise many people this upcoming season—seeing that in his rookie campaign last season, this 6’2 194 pounder managed to score an impressive 25 goals and 20 assists for 45 points. Given his size and the mass exodus of a large majority of his teammates that aged out of junior hockey, the sky is the limit for this young prospect next season. And with the aforementioned multitude of quality defenders to be had in his draft class, Greentree is looking more and more like a potential steal late in the opening round of next year’s draft (where the Panthers are projected to finish).
As I stated above, this rebuild must be ongoing and will take a few years to see it through. So, we will keep it going by now, taking a look into the 2025 Draft, which appears as though it is going to be chalked full of some pretty amazing offensive talent. But while this draft is going to be highlighted by names like Michael Misa, Owen Griffin, Zach Morin, Cullen Potter, Malcolm Spence, and Cooper Dennis, I feel as though the team will begin to get a little better so I’ll give you a couple of names that I think most so-called experts are currently sleeping on, and therefore could still be available when the Flyers are due to make their selection.
William Horcoff is the first prospect from this draft class, whom I think both Jones and Briere will be keeping an eye on. My thought process stemmed from the current Flyers administration’s recent draft, where they showed a love affair with prospects that came from NHL Bloodlines (ergo, their decision to select Cole Knuble and Alex Ciernik earlier this summer).
William also fits that mold, seeing that his dad Shawn played in over 1,000 regular season NHL games that spanned over 15 seasons for three different teams. In this case, the only difference between father and son is that William, who is 6’3 and 170 pounds, looks to be far more offensively talented than his dad ever was. And here’s proof throughout the last two seasons while playing for the prospect factory known as the Little Caesars AAA 14U and 15U teams, Horcoff has been able to showcase his innate finishing ability netting an unbelievable 150 goals and 138 assists for a total of 288 points all in only 142 games played. Now, if you do the math, that equates to him maintaining an average of 1.05 goals per game and over two points per game during that time.
That said, the only thing that currently holds him back from being mentioned in the same conversations as the other elite players in his draft class is Will’s skating ability, or lack thereof, which he still has time to work on.
And the way I see it, any power skating/strength and condition coach worth his weight in broken sticks could help Horcoff improve on that part of his game, but what you can’t teach is his unmatched ability to put the puck in the back of the net.
Another name from this draft class who currently finds himself grossly underrated is Ryan Hedley from the Carolina Jr. Hurricanes. This natural center, which is only 15 years of age, is not projected by the masses to go in the first round of the 2025 NHL Entry Draft, so if this holds true, he should be considered a steal in the second or third round. Why??? You might be asking. Well, over the last three seasons playing for the Jr. Canes, Ryan has been able to amass a total of 151 goals and 375 points! Now if you wanted to break down his game, the only way possible would be to compare him to legends. As he has shown, he can dangle like Datsyuk, protect like Jagr, accelerate with the puck on his stick like Modano, and finish with Gaborik’s accuracy.
The final year I think the Flyers will need to afford themselves a top draft pick before any real shot at contention would be in the 2026 NHL Draft. Now, with it being such a long way out, it’s hard to tell who will stand out from above the rest, considering that most of the prospects involved in this draft class are still just 14 years old. But if I had my pick of whom would fit best within the Flyers system, I would have to take Joe Iginla.
Yes, if his last name rings a bell, it’s because he is the latest offspring of the former Calgary Flames legend turned Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla to make a name for themselves playing the game their dad dominated at for so many years in the NHL. As his older sister Jade and brother Tij did before him, Joe was entranced with the game of hockey from a very young age. The only difference is that while both of his siblings are playing at a very high level, Joe appears destined to be the best out of the bunch.
At just 14 years of age, Joe already looks to possess his dad’s proficiency around the net and gritty style of play. So much so that in a combined 88 games played last season, Joe produced an incredible 118 goals and 91 assists for a grand total of 209 points!
Now with that kind of point production, it’s easy to see why the Western Hockey Leagues (WHL’s) Edmonton Oil Kings decided to take Joe with their first-round pick this past May.
For, if he turns out to be even half of the player his dad was, then the sky is the limit as to how far he will go in this great sport.
With the addition of these prospects over the next couple of seasons being brought into the fold, I believe the Flyers could have a chance at regaining their rightful spot alongside the leagues’ elite teams who find themselves fighting for a chance at Lord Stanley’s Cup year in and year out.
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!