14 June 2007

NHL draft - #2 pick: Philadelphia

As a reminder, I'm not intending these to be predictions on who will be selected - simply evaluating who I would take if I were in each club's position, and basing subsequent picks on my previous phantom picks. In other words, it's complete bullshit. :-D

Coming off a shockingly disastrous season - only one year removed from finishing with 100 points - the Philadelphia Flyers may not be as bad-off as other teams in the top (actually, bottom) 5. Anything good that developed in the first post-lockout season completely unraveled last season, as promising second-year players like Jeff Carter and Mike Richards suffered through the sophomore jinx, both missing extensive time with injuries. Goaltending was a disaster for the Flyers as neither Antero Niittymaki nor Robert Esche provided support behind what was frankly a terribly immobile defence. The late-season trade with Buffalo that gained them veteran Martin Biron (whom they subsequently signed to a 2-year deal) shored up the goaltending, although Biron isn't the kind of keeper who can carry a bad team.

They own the 2nd-overall pick next week, and will be able to claim a top talent no matter what...although defence is where they need the most help, and this draft is definitely weighted towards offensive talent, at least at the top end. Gaining Braydon Coburn at the trading deadline for Alexei Zhitnik was an absolute steal, but there is still a need for a more veteran presence (Darien Hatcher doesn't count) on the blueline. Regardless, I'd be a little surprised if the Flyers took Karl Alzner or Keaton Ellerby (who, although is only listed at 187 lbs. stands at a towering 6'4") when there are still elite-level forwards available - even though I could see the physical Ellerby being a fan favourite.

I'm going to assume that Philadelphia will be aggressive and successful in signing one of the better unrestricted free agent centers on the market within the next few weeks - they have just over USD$30 million committed to the cap next season with only a few potentially integral free agents to deal with. Therefore drafting someone who may be just a bit more of a long-term solution would be more palatable with a veteran like Daniel Briere or Scott Gomez centering their top line for the next four years.

UPDATE - 18JUNE: After the trade-and-sign with Nashville to obtain Scott Hartnell and Kimmo Timonen, the Flyers appear to stand at just over USD$42 million for next season, which certainly stands to limit much more off-season spending.

Patrick Kane has rightfully earned a lot of praise for his fantastic first season in the OHL for London, but his 5'9" frame doesn't exactly fit into how the Flyers have historically built their roster. With other sizeable forwards like Mike Knuble, Jeff Carter, Scottie Upshall, and RJ Umberger, I see Philadelphia steering more towards James VanRiemsdyk but I personally like the idea of them taking Halifax's Jakub Voracek. Voracek is ranked as the #7 prospect by Central Scouting but his showing after one year in the QMJHL (having arrived from the Czech Republic speaking no English) was nothing short of dominant in every way, with 86 points in 59 games and adding 24 in just 12 playoff games. Voracek is ready to make the next step and join a Philadelphia organization that hopes to rebound from the worst season in their history.

No comments: