Will the Flyers Stay Put at Pick #20?

PHILADELPHIA, Pa. – The Philadelphia Flyers survived the 2011-12 season thanks in large part to a group of rookies that in a lot of ways played a bit above their collective heads, as well as some veterans who had career years. This time around the Flyers have the 20th overall pick heading into Pittsburgh and will try to make some noise before it’s all over.

General Manager Paul Holmgren has made a habit over the past few years of trading first round picks at the draft. It is a wonder the scouting staff has anything to do once they gather at the draft year after year. Even after the draft Holmgren has made a habit of trading away high draft picks. Let us count the ways shall we?

Michael Chaput – The Flyers first pick in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft was taken in the third round has since been traded to the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Flyers didn’t have a first round pick in 2009 and 2010 thanks to the Chris Pronger trade. Chaput was recently named Memorial Cup MVP and led his team, the Shawinigan Cataractes, to the Memorial Cup championship.

Luca Sbisa – The Flyers first pick in the draft taken in the 2008 NED, 19th overall, but was traded as part of the Pronger trade as well. He is now a member of the Anaheim Ducks blueline. Not only did the Flyers send Sbisa to Anaheim but they had the 27th overall pick but they moved out of the first two rounds to the third round. The Flyers sent the pick to Washington for Steve Eminger, who in turn selected defenseman John Carlson.

Oh don’t feel bad, it gets worse. The Flyers could have selected goaltender Jacob Markstrom who went four picks later to Florida and is sure to become the future starting goaltender in south Florida. Ask the Flyers if they would have liked to have Carlson on their blueline and Markstrom. Why did they pass on Markstrom you ask? Ask Neil Little sometime. He should know. He talked the Flyers out of it.

James van Riemsdyk and Kevin Marshall – They were the Flyers top two picks in the 2007 draft. JVR is potential trade bait at this year’s draft and Marshall has already been traded. No one else from that draft will ever make the roster.

Steve Downie – The Flyers top pick in 2005, 29th overall, who the Flyers actually traded down to get. He was traded to Tampa By and has since been move on to Colorado.

The 2004 draft – Not one player from that draft was ever in a Flyers uniform. Enough said.

Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Colin Fraser, and Justin Williams – Ask the Los Angeles Kings for details on all four players. The first three were the Flyers top three picks in 2003 and Williams was the Flyers first round pick in 2001.

Joni Pitkanen – He was taken fourth overall in 2002 and did not survive playing in Nega-delphia.

Jeff Woywitka and Patrick Sharp – Woywitka never played for the Flyers after being taken 27th overall in 2001. Sharp was taken in the third round since the Flyers did not have a second round pick and only played in 63 games for the orange and black. He was moved to Chicago and became and all-star.

I think you get the picture. The Flyers can brag all they want about the current group of rookies but let’s face facts, the salary cap finally caught up with them and moved Carter and Richards in large part because of it. Since the lockout and the institution of the salary cap, the Ducks are the only teams who have won the cup who had less than 10 players on their roster. If the Flyers want to become one of those teams they will need to change their philosophy in a hurry and recent history suggests that it will not happen.

The Flyers have the 20th overall pick in this year’s draft and the Flyers just might move up or down in order to take a defenseman they like. Last year Philadelphia passed on defenseman Dougie Hamilton with the eighth overall pick last year to take Sean Couturier. The Bruins snatched Hamilton up with the ninth overall pick.

The Flyers would love to move up to the top 10 to take Griffin Reinhart but they will not only have to part with JVR but the 20th pick as well to do that. The truth is this is a very defensive laden draft and the Flyers should be in a good position to take a quality d-man if they stay at 20. There is a ton of really good defenseman in the draft.

The Flyers also have a dire need to take a goaltender. The Flyers could have the pick of the litter since this is not a great year for goaltenders. The top two are Andrei Vasilevski and Malcolm Subban, brother of P.K Subban who Flyer fans love to hate. Philadelphia does not have a second round pick this year so taking a goalie might take priority over a defenseman but these are the Flyers after all so don’t expect it happening.

Here is the list of defenseman who could become available at 20: Derrick Pouliet, Brady Skeji, Olli Maatta, Matthew Finn, Dalton Thrower, Hampus Lindholm and Ville Pokka. The Flyers need a right handed shot from the point, which is why they went out and traded for Pavel Kubina. If being a right handed shot matters to them Matt Dumba, Jacub Trouba, Cody Ceci, and Pokka all fit that bill, but only Pokka should be available at #20 so if the Flyers want one of the other three they will have to move up to get one of them.

Skeji would be the perfect fit as a future replacement for Pronger once he retires, which could be sooner than the Flyers hope. The Flyers know Maatta well since he plays for the London Knights. The Flyers organization knows the franchise well since they have a stake in the arena.

If the Flyers decide to go for a forward it will most likely be for a winger not a center. Nik Cousins is a center who looks like he could be a Flyer in a year or two but will need a year in the AHL before that happens. Philly does have Brandon Ranford who looks like he could play left wing should the Flyers move JVR and/or don’t resign Jaromir Jagr.

The Flyers do have some defenseman that should crack the lineup in October regardless of whether or not Matt Carle re-signs with the team and becuase of Pronger’s playing status. Erik Gustafsson and Marc-Andre Bourdon head the list with Brandon Manning as a dark horse.

If Skeji is already taken by the time the Flyers pick at 20, that leaves Maatta, Finn, Thrower, and Pokka as leading candidates for the Flyers pick. The best player available is the Russian goaltender Vasilevski but again don’t look for it to happen.

Since we don’t take trades into account unless they happen before the draft, the highest rated North American skater on the board according to Central Scouting is Maatta, followed by Pouliet. Among European skaters it is left winger Pontus Aberg, who is also the top rated player at this point by ISS (International Scouting Services). Pouliet is the highest rated player left on our board according to The Hockey News.

The Flyers have a tough choice to make. Will they go against previous draft history and take the goaltender in the first round or take a defenseman? If I were with the Flyers organization I’d take Vasilevski, but since I am not, and this is the Flyers, expect the Flyers to take a defenseman. Pouliet and Aberg are only 5’ 11” but so is current Flyers Kimmo Timonen and either could be seen as his replacement since he is pushing 40 and is in the last year of his contract.

Aberg is intriguing because he is a left winger and scored 29 goals in 36 games in 2010 but has tailed off since. If JVR gets traded and if Jagr returns it will only be for one more year. The need for left wing help will be increased. The Flyers also need a right winger in their system since they don’t have a blue chip right winger. Aberg is a right handed shot and could be converted to right wing with Vorecek, who is a left handed shot, be converted to left.

In reality the Flyers will most likely move the pick, but just in case let’s make the pick at 20 for Holmgren. As mentioned before I would take Vasilevski but my spider sense is tingling, which means it won’t happen. Either Pouliet or Maatta would be a good fit but Maatta is taller and the Flyers need to add more size to their lineup, which gives Maatta an edge over Pouliet.

“With the 20th overall pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers select, from the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League, defenseman Olli Maatta.”

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