By Wes Herrmann (@Wes_Herrm)
When Paul Holmgren was general manager of the Philadelphia Flyers there were a number of things he was bad at calculating. One of the biggest was drafts, where he would often enter with little draft picks due to trading many of them at the trade deadline months before.
That wasn’t much of the case at the 2013 Draft where Holmgren and company had both first and second-round picks, a strict abnormality during the Holmgren area. The draft also ended up being the last for Holmgren as Flyers GM. He was replaced by Ron Hextall in May of 2014 after being promoted to president.
While it was his last draft, Holmgren sure did leave his mark on the Flyers’ draft selections. Even though it’s only been four years and too soon to judge some picks, it’s easy to see where the former Flyer made some erroneous selections already.
With Philadelphia’s first-round pick at 11th and highest pick since 2007, Holmgren selected Samuel Morin, a 6-foot-7 defenseman from the QMJHL. The reasoning for it was that the Flyers scouting staff liked Morin for his “meanness”, among other abilities.
Holmgren was a GM who employed Riley Cote, Jay Rosehill, Zac Rinaldo and Jody Shelley. His affinity for tough players was clear and evident.
But at the time, Shayne Gostisbehere was the only Flyers’ prospect on defense that showed any above-average ability. That warranted the Morin pick somewhat, but the Flyers should have taken the best player available, as most teams do at the NHL draft. If they had, that probably would have meant Max Domi was selected by Philly instead of Morin.
Domi ended up going to the Phoenix Coyotes with the next pick. Since then, the now-22-year-old has played 140 NHL games and scored 90 points. He would have had more if it wasn’t for a hand injury this season that kept him out six weeks.
Morin has played just one game and while he still has NHL player potential, he’ll likely never be a top-pairing or top-three defenseman. Removing him and adding Domi to a forward corp that includes Travis Konecny, Oskar Lindblom, German Rubtsov, among others seems like a better deal for the Flyers.
Philadelphia’s next pick can be excused, though, in Robert Hagg. The Swedish defenseman was seen as a potential late first-round pick, but the Flyers nabbed him in the second. He’s only played one NHL game, but he’s on the road to a full-time NHLer next season.
However, it is important to point out that the New Jersey Devils selected defenseman Steven Santini with the following pick. He played 38 games with the Devils last year on a weak defense corp. Hagg still has the same potential as Santini and would have seen more games in the big league if it wasn’t for so many defensive bodies in Philly.
The Flyers’ third-round pick was classic Holmgren. Reaching off the board, he chose Tyrell Goulbourne, a winger with 27 points and 135 penalty minutes in 64 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL that year.
This past season, Goulbourne split the year with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms and the Reading Royals of the ECHL. Any NHL potential he might have had has quickly evaporated.
Three picks later, the New York Rangers chose Pavel Buchnevich, who scored 20 points in 41 games with the team this past year and looks to be a top-six winger down the road.
Even if Holmgren, for better or worse, wanted a gritty player, Anthony Duclair was still on the board. The Coyote split time between the AHL and NHL this season, but is easily more skilled than Goulbourne.
Other NHLers selected after Goulbourne in the third round include Jake Guentzel, who was a Conn Smythe Trophy candidate with the Penguins, Sven Andrighetto and Oliver Bjorkstrand. Simply put, this was a huge miss by Holmgren.
The Flyers had just three picks left from there. They took Terrance Amorosa in the fifth round, a prospect largely forgotten about, and David Drake in the seventh. Both are still in college. The good news, though, is that no NHL players have formulated in the picks directly following them.
In the sixth round, Holmgren made what looks like a valuable pick in goalie Merrick Madsen. The Harvard netminder has sported save percentages above .923 and goals-against-averages below 2.11 for the past two seasons with the Crimson.
On the bright side, Holmgren selected what could be two NHL players. That isn’t usually a guarantee in the NHL Draft. But it’s easy to see he could have had more and better players in the system.