Flyers social media exploded Saturday, April 29th. The fans, coming off a lackluster and disappointing season, were unsatisfied with the Flyers and where they ended the season. After being eliminated from playoff contention, the Flyers won several games to end the season with the 13th worst record.
The Flyers dropped from 10th place to 13th with their final game. Fans had been hoping for a top 10 draft selection to somewhat make up for a confounding season and help build the bridge to the future which will include blue chip defense prospects as well as a handful of highly rated forwards.
The Flyers core has been together for 5 years now and they have not produced. Giroux is almost 30 and Voracek will be 28 this season. The Flyers have a couple very good forwards in the prospect pool. This season the Flyers expect to see the debut of Oskar Lindblom on wing. Lindblom was possibly the steal of the 2014 draft.
Taken in the 5th round, Lindblom has been developing in the SHL and lead his team to the championship series losing in 7 games this season. He ended the season with 47 points in 52 games 1 point out of 3rd place as a 21 year-old.
The Flyers also have Russian forward German Rubtsov who is 1-2 years away.
What the Flyers truly need is a future number 1 center to replace Giroux. The Flyers and their fans had hoped to capitalize on their down season to possibly find that player in this year’s entry draft.
April 29th was the night of the NHL Draft Lottery. The Flyers had a 2.2% chance of winning the #1 pick and a 2.4% chance of moving up to the top 3. The low expectations for moving up and the heart ache of another disappointing season combined to cast a pall over Flyers social media and fan base.
The Flyers with a 2.4% chance of success moved up to the top 3 and ended up with the 2nd overall pick. Flyers social media has been celebrating ever since.
It has been reported that Ron Hextall jumped off his couch when he saw what happened.
There is consensus that the top two picks will be Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier. They have been the top two all year long. The overwhelming assumption is the Flyers will take whichever of those two the Devils do not take with the 1st overall pick.
We have examined both options for the Flyers with our first two columns. Flyers GM Ron Hextall has indicated that they will most likely use their pick however he would listen to potential offers to trade for the pick.
He could also surprise and not select the remaining of the top two that NJ does not select. With that in mind, we will take a look at a player Hextall might be interested in.
WITH THE NUMBER 2 PICK THE FLYERS SELECT – Gabe Vilardi!!!
Weight: 192 pounds
Team: Windsor Spitfires
Hometown: Kingston, ON
2017 Stats: Games: 49 Goals: 29 Assists: 32 Points: 61 +/-: +13
2016 Stats: Games: 62 Goals: 17 Assists: 21 Points: 38 +/-: -7
- 2014/15 HEO Player of Year
- 2015/16 Second All Rookie Team
- 2015/16 U-17 Gold Medal
- Drafted 2015 2nd overall CHL draft
- Future Considerations – 3rd
- NHL Central Scouting – 4th
- Mckeen’s Hockey – 5th
- Hockey Prospects dot Com – 4th
- ISS Hockey – 3rd
Vilardi is the next highest rated player in the entry draft after Patrick and Hischier. He is the only other player in the top 5 for all of the five major rating sites. His average rating is 3.8.
Vilardi is a natural center, but also plays on the wings. He has good size. Depending on the site he is either 6’2” 192 pounds or 6’3” 201 pounds. Either way, at 17, he has a good frame to grow into and he is already fearless on the ice. He is strong and uses his size to fight off attacking players to maintain possession and either attack the net or set up his line mates.
“”The enhanced stats tell us [Vilardi] is the engine on this team because whoever plays with him, their Corsi numbers go straight up and are increased,” [Windsor coach Rocky] Thompson said. “Without him, they drop significantly. The one common theme has been Vilardi’s ability to make the players with him even better.”” – Rocky Thompson Windsor coach
Vilardi is a hard working, cerebral player. He has great vision and awareness on the ice. He is mature and poised in all situations and all 3 zones. He has great hands and is a dynamic playmaker.
“A puck-possessing workaholic with skilled hands and outstanding awareness. A right-shot forward, Vilardi (6-3, 201) has excellent hockey sense and puck-handling ability, is very composed with the puck and able to influence the game in all three zones.” Mike Morreale NHL.Com
Vilardi is very highly touted for a 17 year old. He will not be 18 until August. He has tremendous growth potential. He has a solid frame for a young man and could easily continue growing and will certainly fill out as he matures and adds muscle to his frame.
The Flyers have always liked big rugged 2 way centers. While Giroux does not fit that mold, looking back over the years at guys like Lindros, Primeau, Carter to name a few of the bigger names and several mid tier guys not to mention Sean Couturier.
It is not hard to imagine Vilardi growing another inch or two and adding ten to twenty pounds of muscle. That would make him a force to reckon with on the ice. He already possesses a solid 200 foot game and has high end skills across the board.
He is a leader on and off the ice who always works hard and never gives up on the play. He is just as dynamic as an offensive attacker or using his skilled hands to make timely passes to his linemates.
His gifts on the ice along with his composure and hockey IQ will almost certainly transform him into a top line producer and leader in the NHL.
Vilardi could be exactly what the Flyers need. If Hextall decides against taking who NJ does not of the consensus two players Gabe Vilardi should be the next in line for consideration as leading contender to lead the Flyers in the future.