NHL draft preview: Flyers trying to continue successful first-round pattern

The Flyers did well when they landed both Ivan Provorov, center, and Travis Konecny, right, in the same draft in 2015.

DALLAS – With their first pick in the draft Friday night, will the Flyers get a player who becomes as dominating as Brian Propp or as much of a flop as Claude Boivin or Danny Lucas?

The Flyers have the 14th overall pick in the draft, and the only other times they had that selection in the first round they chose Lucas (1978), Propp (1979), and Boivin (1988), a trio of wingers.

They had, uh, different types of careers.

Propp finished with 425 career goals, including 369 in his 10½ stellar seasons with the Flyers.

Camera icon FILE PHOTO
The Flyers struck gold when they took Brian Propp, shown at the right in this file photo with Peter Zezel (left) and Tim Kerr, with the No. 14 overall pick in 1979. They pick 14th in Friday’s draft.

Lucas, who once had a 57-goal season in juniors, played six games in the NHL, and Boivin had a total of 11 goals in parts of three seasons with the Flyers.

With that as a backdrop, the Flyers have the 14th pick in Friday’s first round, along with the 19th selection. The 14th pick was acquired as part of last year’s Brayden Schenn trade.

The Flyers are trying to continue a pattern. They have excelled in recent history when they have had two first-round selections, drafting Jeff Carter (No. 11 overall) and Mike Richards (24) in 2003, Ivan Provorov (7) and Travis Konecny (24) in 2015, and Nolan Patrick (2) and Morgan Frost (27) last year.

There are many intriguing players who may be available at 14, including left wingers Joel Farabee and Grigori Denisenko; right wingers Serron Noel and Martin Kaut; and centers Isac Lundestrom, Ryan McLeod and Joe Veleno.

>> READ MORE: Will the Flyers deal Wayne Simmonds on draft night? 

Those players, and defensemen Bode Wilde, Rasmus Sandin, and K’Andre Miller, could be on the Flyers’ radar at No. 19.

The first round will be held Friday, and rounds 2-7 will take place Saturday at the American Airlines Center. Defenseman Rasmus Dahlin is the consensus No. 1 overall pick, which is held by Buffalo.

There is a chance Flyers general manager Ron Hextall trades up in the draft and tries to get a righthanded defenseman such as Noah Dobson, Evan Bouchard, or Adam Boqvist, or perhaps a center like Barrett Hayton.

Camera icon DAVID MAIALETTI / Staff Photographer
Flyers GM Ron Hextall.

Hextall said he anticipates making the picks but that he is keeping an open mind for a last-minute offer.

“I don’t even know in my own mind what might come our way, but I know something will at some point,” he said the other day.

The Flyers have nine picks in the seven rounds. Hextall views all of them as important. Since he became general manager four years ago, he has had four outstanding draft classes.

Hextall has made numerous strong early-round selections like Provorov, Konecny, Travis Sanheim, Carter Hart, Wade Allison, Nolan Patrick, Morgan Frost, and Isaac Ratcliffe. He has also done well in the later rounds, selecting players like Oskar Lindblom (fifth round, 2015), Mikhail Vorobyov (fourth round, 2015 ), Connor Bunnaman (fourth round, 2016), and Matthew Strome (fourth round last year).

“Pulling guys out of late rounds is important … when you look at the cycle of a hockey team and the depth and everything we need,” Hextall said.

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He cited Strome, a 6-foot-4, 206-pound left winger, as an example. He fell to the fourth round last year because of skating deficiencies.

“He’s got one flaw; everything else is pretty good,” Hextall said. “So you look at Matthew, and if he can just improve it — he’s never going to be a great skater, but if we can just ramp him up two levels – he’s got a real good chance at playing in the National Hockey League.”

Strome, 19, had 37 goals in 65 games in the Ontario Hockey League last season.

Hextall will be trying to uncover another late-round “find” this weekend, but first he hopes to draft someone in the first round Friday who turns out to be a highly productive NHL player.

Someone in the mold of Propp would suit Hextall just fine.

Breakaways

The NHL announced that the salary cap for 2018-19 will be $79.5 million, a $4.5 million increase from this season. … It’s a weak draft year for goalies, and don’t expect one to get selected until the second or third round. Olivier Rodrigue (6-1, 157) of Drummondville of the QMJHL, could be the first goalie picked. The Flyers have drafted five goalies over the last three years.