What to Make of the Flyers Draft Haul

Photo Credit: AP Photo/Steve Marcus

Coming into this weekend, the Philadelphia Flyers were already defeated. They had tried to create cap space by attempting to trade their 35-year-old underachieving diminutive winger Cam Atkinson, who they were due to be still on the hook for $5,875,000 this season. But after working out a deal to send him to the San Jose Sharks. Cam quickly rejected it thanks to his modified no-trade clause.

Resulting in the team having to place him on waivers with the intent to buy him out. Doing so will save the Flyers over $3.5 million in salary next season but will cost them nearly two million in 2025 for him not to play for them.
Now, I know that Atkinson is a veteran player who is coming into the final years of his career, but to NOT be able to find any other trades for him, even if they were to retain some of his salary, seems laughable.

Especially since the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to create $11 million in salary cap space mid-draft by trading one of their overpaid blueliners in Mikhail Sergachev to Utah, who is signed for seven more years at $8.5 million a season, and Tanner Jeannot to the Kings. Mind you, both of these trades came with no mention of Tampa Bay having to retain any salary. These sudden draft day deals are the ones that create championships or at least keep teams competitive year in and year out. Case in point: because of these masterful moves on the draft floor, the Lightning will be able to re-sign both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Something that before today seemed highly unlikely.

Also, leading up to the draft, we heard rumors about Philadelphia desperately trying to make a deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets, among others, to try to secure a top-five selection. It was a move they could have clearly made with all the draft assets that they had previously acquired, but when it came right down to it, the Flyers were unwilling to ante up and make a deal with them giving up or folding on their pursuit. They lost out on the chance to select their prized prospect, Matvei Michkov’s former teammate and friend Ivan Demidov, whose elite passing skills would have paired perfectly with Michkov’s innate finishing ability.

Only to later pass on the opportunity to select a multiple World Junior Championship gold medal-winner/ NCAA National Championship award-winning defenseman in Zeev Buium. And the most lethal scorer in this draft in Cole Eiserman, whose 127 career goals for the Red, White, and Blue saw him surpass the likes of Auston Matthews, Patrick Kane, Phil Kessel, and Cole Caufield to become the National Development Program’s new all-time goal scorer. For them to only to reach for a center at 13, which wasn’t even projected to go until the mid to late twenties overall.

Jett Luchanko- 1st Round Pick 13th Overall from the Guelph Storm

So, who is this guy the team passed on so many other seemingly excellent prospects to select? Well, that would be none other than Jett Luchanko—a fast-rising prospect who opened a lot of eyes late in the season. Being one of the youngest players in this draft class, Jett started the year as a virtual unknown, but with each passing game, he gained more and more respect from scouts around the league. Why? You may be asking, well, let’s just say he is a player who undoubtedly lives up to his name.

Because every time, Luchanko steps on the ice, the opposition is left saying who was that or what just happened. That’s because Jett (pardon the pun) is known to turn on the afterburners as soon as he touches the puck. Seriously, Jett is hands down the fastest player in this draft class. Now, while he can score goals, as evident by the 20 lamp lighters that he was able to accumulate this season, he is more of a playmaker. A setup artist, if you will, who achieved 54 assists on the year.

And, if you’re on the ice with him, please pay attention and keep your stick down. Because, as they say about some gifted shooters, the puck doesn’t stay on his stick long. The only difference is that Jett is not just going to throw it at the net immediately. His excellent on-ice vision allows him to play two steps ahead of everyone else, so if a shot is not there, he is going to find his target instantly and launch an absolute cruise missile to an awaiting teammate’s stick blade.

These are all good things if your name is Matvei Michkov.

After making that selection, the Flyers made another head-scratching move when they chose to trade away their second-first round pick, 32 overall, that they received from the Panthers when they dealt away their long-time captain Claude Giroux. They dealt that pick that they waited so long to receive to the Edmonton Oilers for a future 1st round pick in either 2025 or 2026, depending on where the Oilers finish next season. A move that could possibly leave the Flyers with three first-round selections in 2025.

Jack Berglund- 2nd round 51st Overall

So, with that, Philly had to wait until the 51st pick to make their next selection, which they used to select another center. This time, it was a 6’3, 207-pound Swedish one that goes by the name Jack Berglund.

Now, if you don’t know Berglund, he is a 200-foot center who doesn’t put up a ton of points but has sneaky good hands and a surprisingly high finishing rate. Obviously, with his size, he does well in board battles and can drive the puck to the net with ease without even noticing his opponent’s attempts to strip the puck from him. But as far as where he could fit in terms of the NHL, I think his ceiling is a third-line gritty center.

There are a lot of other players I would have selected here, but Danny Briere said he thought the center position was a need for them, so another center he went out and got.

After making this selection, the Flyers saw a guy they really liked still on the board, so they traded back into the second round to take a defenseman this time.

Spencer Gill- 2nd round 59th Overall from the QMJHL Rimouski Oceanic

Spencer is a big-bodied defender who likes the offensive side of the game. He possesses a pretty decent shot, and he pairs it with a good release. This season Spencer was able to score 12 goals and 34 assists for a total of 46 points in 65 games played.

He needs to clean up his skating and work on his decision-making.

If they wanted to take a blueliner this high, I would have taken a guy like Charlie Elick with the 32nd overall pick and not traded it to Edmonton. I think they would have gotten a much better defender who skates well and makes much better decisions on the breakout.

Heikki Ruohonen- 4th Round 107th Overall Pick U20 SM-Sarja

Without a 3rd round pick because of all the trades, the Flyers’ next selection came in the 4th round, where they took yet another center. This time, it was Heikki Ruohonen from Finland. A 6’2 204 pound center who scored 20 goals and 27 assists for 47 points in 37 games played at the junior level.

Now, Rouhonen is not the most physical player, and he won’t blow you away with any one skill over another player, but what he will do is outwork you. And what apparently is a must now if you want to be drafted by the Flyers is he is a 200-player. One that will play you just as hard in the defensive zone as he will in the offensive zone. Fun fact here is that Heikki is committed to playing for Harvard University in the coming years.

If they wanted to take another center with this pick, I would have suggested a very underrated player in Tomas Mrsic, who scored nearly a points-per-game for the Medicine Hat Tigers of the WHL this year.

Noah Powell 5th Round 148th Overall Pick RW USHL

In the 5th round, we saw the Flyers take their first winger, Noah Powell. He is an overager who was able to triple his point production from last season. Noah, who exemplifies what it is to be a late bloomer, went from scoring just eight goals last year to leading the league this past season, scoring an awe-inspiring 43 goals, with 16 of them coming while on the power play, which was also a league-best total.

Like Ruohonen, Powell is an intelligent player who loves to use his 6’2, 201-pound power forward frame to drive to the center of the ice and get a scoring attempt closer to the paint.

He is committed to playing for Ohio State next season, and I think his game should transition well there.

If it were up to me with this pick, I would have taken a chance on a 17-year-old 5’8 diminutive forward by the name of Justin Poirier from the QMJHL. Poirier was still on the board when the Flyers made this selection, and he is nothing but a pure goal scorer. This season, Poirier put up a league-leading 51 goals. He averaged 1.20 points per game while still maintaining a +40 average. Just my opinion, but I would much rather take a chance on Poirier, who is a pure goal scorer, rather than a guy who couldn’t put up numbers in his draft year, so he decided to stick around and accumulate huge stats playing against much younger prospects.

Ilya Pautov 6th Round 173rd Overall Pick

In the later rounds, you begin to take more chances, and Pautov is just that. While he will do some things that impress the heck out of you, there are still many areas where his decisions will have you shaking your head.

Despite all that, his puck handling is strong, and his point totals reflect that. With him scoring 15 goals and 30 assists for 45 points in 46 games played in the MHL (Russia’s junior league)

But, as impressive as those stat lines are for a 6th-round player, he tends to shy away from contact, and that simply won’t bode well for him if he ever wants to come over to play in North America.

Again, while I don’t necessarily hate this pick, I would have rather seen them take a chance on a guy like Nathan Free. A player who scored 32 goals and 33 assists for 65 points in 60 games played this season for the Brooks Bandits of the BCHL.

Scheduled to follow his former teammate Aiden Fink to Penn State next season, I think Nathan Free is going to have a breakout year in the NCAA next season.

Austin Moline 7th Rd. 205 Overall Pick

For their last selection this year, the Flyers took a 6’4 194 pound right-hand-shot defender by the name of Austin Moline from Shattuck St. Mary’s—a big-bodied defender who has good mobility and isn’t afraid to jump up into the rush.

He will play next season for the Brooks Bandits of the BCHL and has agreed to attend and play for Northern Michigan University after that.

If it were up to me, I would have selected Christian Humphreys from the United States National Development program with this pick. No, they don’t need another center after drafting so many, but he is a PA native who is scheduled to play for the University of Michigan and was able to post 23 goals and 35 assists for 58 points in only 52 games played this year.

In closing, I would give the Flyers a draft grade of C-. They had a lot of picks that they could have used to move up to select a real game changer, but they didn’t pull the trigger on a deal. Instead, they settled for a lot of guys who like to make their way to the center of the ice to the high-scoring areas. And, even though they had the chance to draft a franchise-changing offensive talent like Cole Eiserman, they passed on him so they could draft even more two-way centers that play a 200-foot game but will never blow you away with their offensive production. Call me crazy, but don’t they already have a bunch of those with guys with Sean Couturier, Scott Laughton, Morgan Frost, Ryan Poehling, and Noah Cates all being on the roster for next season?

Lance Green

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!