General manager Ron Hextall anticipates keeping both his first-round picks – the Flyers have the 14th and 19th overall selections next weekend in Dallas – but is listening to offers.
“Certainly, we would move up if the right deal were there, and we’d look at moving back if the right deal were there, too,” he said in a news conference Thursday at the team’s practice facility in Voorhees.
Hextall has interest in a righthanded defenseman, but the three best blue liners who fit that description in this year’s draft – Noah Dobson (6-foot-3, 180 pounds), Evan Bouchard (6-2, 193), and Adam Boqvist (5-11, 168) – are not expected to be on the board when the Flyers make the 14th overall pick.
If he doesn’t move up and those defenders are not available, Hextall will have a host of highly skilled forwards who might be left, including center Barrett Hayton, speedy left winger Joel Farabee, big right winger Serron Noel (6-5, 200), centers Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Isac Lundestrom, and Rasmus Kupari.
Hextall has drafted several big wingers, including 6-6, 200-pound Isaac Ratcliffe, in recent drafts. With that need filled, that may cause him to go in a different direction this year.
“Right-shot defensemen are hard to find,” he said. “You look at the draft, there’s not a ton of them.”
He later added that he likes his teams to be strong down the middle. “You can’t have too many centers,” he said.
The Flyers have nine picks in the seven rounds of the draft, including two selections in the fifth and seventh rounds. They do not have a third-round pick because it went to Detroit in the Petr Mrazek trade.
The first round will be held on Friday, June 22 (NBCSN, 7:30 p.m.), and the second round will be Saturday, June 23 (NHL Network, 11 a.m.).
Last month, Hextall called it a “better-than-average draft” and said he would be “comfortable” if the Flyers stood pat and stayed at 14 and 19 in the first round.
He said he would select the best player available, but if two players had similar talent he would lean toward taking the “best fit” for a Flyers need. “That said, you have to be careful to be drafting for position at this level,” he said last month. “You draft a kid and he may not be ready for three or four years and your dynamics on your team might change.”
Because the Flyers’ farm system is so deep, Hextall was asked if he might be more inclined to trade a draft pick.
“That’s fair to say,” he said. “We’d at least look at it harder. If our prospect depth pool was shallow, I’m sure we’d make all our picks. The way it is right now, we’d at least listen. Again, I don’t know what’s going to come along, whether we’d flop a pick to next year. We would listen to those ideas.”
The Flyers have several quality prospects on defense, but Hextall said “we need to restock a little bit. Within a year or two, a lot of the young guys will all be playing, I believe. So where do you go at that point? We need that next layer coming. We’re not going to shy away from defesnemen because we have a lot of good defensemen.”
Hextall, who gave high marks to 6-3½ 217-pound defenseman Mattias Samuelsson – the son of former Flyer Kjell Samuelsson, now a player-development coach with the team — is mindful Seattle is expected to join the NHL in the near future and knows it could select a defenseman from Philadelphia.
“At some point, expansion may be coming up,” he said. “We have free agency, you lose a guy, you move a guy to fill another position. Everyone looks at our D and says you’re good for the next 10 years, but that’s inevitably not the way it’s going to work out.”
And that is why, if the right opportunity arises, he could trade up in the draft and go after a quality righthanded defenseman.