Saturday night, the Flyers had their biggest win of their 50th season. They won the second pick in the upcoming draft.
First, let me say, I think the lottery sucks. I understand the idea–if teams aren’t guaranteed the top pick, they won’t tank. Except, the NHL isn’t the NBA. Even when teams struggle, “tanking” isn’t as easy as sitting one or two talented players, claiming they’re injured and trotting out a bunch of no-names.
Colorado was by far the worst team in the National Hockey League last year and it’s a travesty they, not only aren’t picking first, but don’t even have a top three pick.
All that said–HOLY SHIT THE FLYERS ARE PICKING SECOND.
Sorry, I’m just excited.
This is the highest the Flyers have drafted since 2007 when they took James vanRiemsdyk, a pick after Patrick Kane. They still haven’t had a number one pick since 1975 when they took Mel Bridgman. Even though they have one team in front of them, the Flyers are guaranteed either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. So who would the Flyers rather have.
For months, the Winnipeg native was considered the number one. At 6-foot-3 and just shy of 200 pounds, it’s his size that has me interested. If taken, he would be one of the biggest players on the team already.
Watching his film, there’s plenty to like about his offensive talent. He drives hard to the net, makes smart, crisp passes and has a great released, as witnessed below.
Future considerations said “A lethal combo of size, speed and skill” while ISS hockey said he’s an “exceptional” two-way player that can play in all three zones. Patrick plays for the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL, the same team Ivan Provorov and general manager Ron Hextall played with.
In 2015-16, the 18-year-old posted 41 goals and 61 assists for 102 points in 77 games with Brandon. This past season, Patrick dealt with multiple injuries and his numbers are far less eye-pooping at 20 goals and 26 assists for 46 points in 33 games. The injuries are an obvious concern, but should the drop in production be as well? Ryan Kennedy from The Hockey News points out that the decrease isn’t huge, but the fact is players like Provorov, Jayce Hawrlyuk (FLA), John Quenneville (NJ) and Tim McGauley (WSH) all were missing this year, so was his production partly because of the talent around him?
Aside from the fact that he played with a team that Hextall knows and is comfortable with, Hextall has extolled the virtues of centers being good defensively as well. It’s why he traded for Valtteri Filppula. Hextall loves centers and especially ones that are responsible defensively. If you need further proof this is a guy Hextall and Dave would love to get their hands on, here’s a comparison from Jeff Marek of Sportsnet:
“Think Jonathan Toews-lite.”
Dave Hakstol coached Toews at North Dakota. If Patrick isn’t taken by New Jersey, you can bet the Flyers staff will basically be sprinting to the podium with their pick.
A guy that jumped draft boards, the Swede is fun to watch. His highlight reel shows a mix of skills including speed, vision and determination. I didn’t watch him and think “wow he’s fast” but he blew past defenders like they were cones in practice.
There’s lots to like watching Hischier. One thing I noticed was how much he liked to have the puck on his stick. It wasn’t selfish play, it was knowing he was open for a shot, knowing he could beat a defender or just waiting for the perfect moment to make a pass. One of his best highlights is below.
Yes, he just danced between two defenders while shrugging off contact, outskates a third defender then calmly tucked the puck five-hole. You can’t teach that kind of hockey.
Sportsnet talked with a couple of NHL representatives talked about the prospects. They all seemed to like Nico’s speed, skill and one said he continued to get better and better, meaning, even with all the talent he’s shown, he may still not have hit his ceiling. With the Halifax Mooseheads this past season, his first in North America, the 18-year-old posted 38 goals and 48 assists for 86 points in 57 games.
He’s another center but has some experience at wing, which means he’s versatile and easy to fit into the lineup. I’ve been clamoring for too long about a “scoring winger” and Hischier, while able to play center, could be shifted over to play alongside the likes Giroux. If that doesn’t get you excited, check your pulse, you may be dead.
There are (obviously) other options for the Flyers at two. But they’re going to have the chance to take either of these two and they’d be fools to pass on either one. But which would they rather have?
It’s a tough question. I think Patrick, being widely considered the number one pick for some time, is the type of player the Flyers organization idolizes. He’s big, defensively responsible and plays the game right. His injuries scare me, for sure. If he’s already dealing with injury issues now, what would that mean for him at the next level and as he ages?
Hischier doesn’t have the same defensive pedigree as Patrick, but offensively came alive his first year in North America and shows plenty of talent up front. His skill is noticeable and one thing he has that Patrick doesn’t is speed, an area the Flyers lack, in my mind, severely.
Knowing what Hextall likes and having heard him talk about the importance of centers, I think the Flyers are leaning Patrick. From what I’ve seen, it’s the choice I’d make too, but if the Flyers end up with Hischier, you won’t see me throwing a pity party.