PHILADELPHIA, PA – The Philadelphia Flyers head into St. Paul, Minnesota on Friday and Saturday for the 2011 NHL Entry Draft in a bit of an odd situation for themselves from past seasons. Usually the Flyers go into a draft looking to move draft picks for quick fixes to their team, leaving the scouts sitting idly by on draft day.
From the “What the heck was I thinking when I took this job?” department, one has to feel for Director of Player Development Don Luce, who took the job from GM Paul Holmgren after Holmgren was promoted to his current position. Luce is known for his ability to work with scouts and the draft during his days in the Buffalo Sabres. Since taking the job, he has spent most of his time watching the GM trade away picks for quick fixes (see Steve Eminger for details), significantly diminishing Luce’s importance.
This time around, however, the Flyers actually have a high draft pick (eighth overall) thanks to the pre-draft trading frenzy put on by Holmgren that sent Mike Richards and Jeff Carter away in separate trades. Instead of trading picks away the Flyers had to acquire draft picks because they had to make room for the eventual signing of Ilya Bryzgalov (whose cap hit is roughly $5.6 mill). The Flyers couldn’t take current roster players back in trade and had to instead take top prospects and draft picks in return.
All of that fun stuff aside, the Flyers now have the eighth overall pick in Friday night’s draft. So what will they do with the pick if they stay put?
If the Flyers are looking for a defenseman than they will have a ton of quality players to choose from. The hope is that Dougie Hamilton falls to them. He’s got the size and the offensive ability that the Flyers desperately lack. Nathan Beaulieu is not a bad second choice. Both could potentially make the rosters in the fall, especially Hamilton. Some think he is a better defenseman than the guy who most expect to get taken ahead of Hamilton, Swedish rearguard Adam Larsson.
Regardless of what anything thinks about either player, Hamilton will not get taken above Larsson, and that much we know for sure. To get a crack at Larsson the only way to guarantee you get him is to trade with Edmonton who has the first overall pick. If you’ve been paying attention to PHN’s mock draft that won’t happen. We feel that Larsson won’t drop below fifth overall where the Islanders are sitting and they won’t trade with Philly you can bet on that.
Florida is in the same situation as Columbus, in that they need to start making the playoffs. They have the third overall pick. If they can be convinced to move down to eighth and take someone like Kris Versteeg and/or Matt Carle, a deal could be in place. Even if Larsson is not there at three, someone like center Jonathan Huberdeau would be a great constellation prize to replace Carter’s offense.
If the Flyers stand pat at eight some options at the center position is Ryan Strome and Mika Zibenajed. At least one of those players is expected to be there when the Flyers pick. On defense Beaulieu should still be available as is Ryan Murphy, Oscar Klefbom and a Tyler Myers clone in 6’ 7” Jamieson Oleksiak.
Our gut feeling however is, based on our mock draft, expect to hear the following announcement come draft day:
“With the eighth overall pick in the 2011 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers select, from the Memorial Cup Champion Saint John Sea Dogs, defenseman Nathan Beaulieu.”