By Dan Silver (@dsilver88)
The Philadelphia Flyers will pick 2nd in the 2017 NHL Draft, to be held June 23 at the United Center in Chicago.
**This is not a test. Repeat. This is not a test.**
Sunday, April 9 I was in attendance as the Flyers closed out their disappointing season at home against the Carolina Hurricanes. Down 3-2 with 10 minutes left in the 3rd period, at least Flyers fans knew that a loss would vault them up to the 10th or 11th draft position heading into the NHL Lottery.
Then, in true Flyers fashion, the team launched a comeback and came away with the worst possible result, a shootout loss. Not only was this a loss, but the point they received gave them one more point than the opposing Hurricanes and tied them with the Winnipeg Jets.
The result was that the Flyers dropped down to the 13th draft position heading into the NHL draft lottery, which was held tonight (April 29).
With a 2.2% chance to pick 1st, a 2.4% chance to pick 2nd, and a 2.7% chance to pick 3rd, the typically pessimistic Flyers fanbase didn’t go into the selection process.
And then it happened…
— Dan Silver (@dsilver88) April 30, 2017
With the announcement that the Jets were picking 13th in the draft, the Flyers were guaranteed to pick in the top three (and also my head exploded from jubilation).
Being greedy, however, I immediately began thinking that the top three was not enough, especially since this year there are two clear-cut top players in this year’s draft, Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick.
Sure enough, the Dallas Stars ended up with the third overall pick, and the Flyers secured the second pick in the draft, guaranteeing themselves one of Hischier or Patrick. Of course, the Devils parlayed an 8.5% chance into the top pick, but really who cares – they’ll assuredly mess it up anyway!
So let’s take a brief look at the consensus top two players in this year’s NHL Draft – one of whom the Flyers will likely be adding to the fold!
A Swiss-born, 6’0″, 180-lb center, Nico Hischier scored 38 goals and added 48 assists in only 57 games this season for the Halifax Mooseheads to finish 10th overall in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with 86 points.
While I didn’t get to see too many Mooseheads games, I was able to watch most of Switzerland’s games in the 2017 World Junior Championships, and I was blown away by Hischier.
The best players elevate their games in big spots, and in the quarterfinals against the United States, as a massive underdog, the Swiss almost pulled off the shocker, losing by a score of 3-2.
Hischier was literally the only reason the Swiss were in the game. He put his teammates on his shoulders, putting on a display of stickhandling, skating, shooting, tenacity, and leadership that left me in awe. He scored both Swiss goals and made dazzling play after dazzling play.
You can take a look at his highlight reel from the entire WJC in the below tweet:
Check out #18 on the far half-wall https://t.co/FsWpAJCrkY
— mbhoya (@mbhoya) April 30, 2017
I’ve seen Patrick play a lot, and I’ve never seen him take over a game like Hischier did against the United States in the WJC. For that reason I give him a slight edge over the other prospect challenging to go #1.
Last year I bought the Western Hockey League playoff package to watch Ivan Provorov’s playoff push with the Brandon Wheat Kings. One of the nice bonuses was that I got to watch the then-17yo Nolan Patrick excel during the team’s run to winning the championship.
A 6’3″, 200-lb center, Patrick is a very complete all-around player who was extremely clutch during the Wheat Kings title run. He put up monster numbers last season with 41 goals and 61 assists to finish 5th in WHL regular season scoring with 102 points. He then led Brandon in the playoffs with 30 points in 21 games.
Patrick’s 2015-16 season was so good that it left him as the unequivocal #1 draft prospect for 2017. An all-around center who can play in any situation and put up monster offensive numbers.
However, this year was a disappointing one for Patrick. He missed most of the season after undergoing sports hernia surgery, finishing with 20 goals and 26 assists in 33 games.
His talent is undeniable, just take a look at his four-assist game below…
— Anthony Lenting (@ALentingHP) February 5, 2017
He’s the complete package, and you can see it on those assists, using his hockey IQ to strip pucks, his strength to protect it, and his vision to find the open man.
A sports hernia and some nagging injuries are nothing that an 18yo can’t recover from, but with the great strides that Hischier made, it’s a much closer race to be the #1 pick than it was going into the season.
The bottom line is YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!
The Philadelphia Flyers got extremely lucky tonight and are now going to have the opportunity to draft a player who has the potential to make the team next season and take over in a few years as the franchise forward.
Combine the elite level young defense prospects the team has stockpiled (Provorov, Gostisbehere, Myers, Sanheim, Morin, Hagg) with a young offensive core that boasts Konecny, Lindblom, Rubtsov, Vorobyov, Couturier, Schenn, and now one of Hischier/Patrick?
It’s a fantastic day to be a Flyers fan!!
Enjoy it everyone!!