Flyers again choose talent over need | Sam Donnellon

New Flyers Joel Farabee (left) and Jay O’Brien-22062018-0001
The Flyers’ first round picks in Friday’s draft: Joel Farabee (left) and Jay O’Brien.

The bad news from Friday’s first-round of the NHL draft is that the Flyers obtained neither the right-hand defenseman or sniper-like scorer in the mold of Travis Konecny that was said to be their primary targets.

Instead, they opted for a pair of high-end high school smurfs, both of whom are headed to college to beef up and, well, grow up. They hope.

“We go for the best player,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall explained to the NHL network moments after 19th pick Jay O’Brien followed 14th pick Joel Farabee to round out the Flyers first-round selections. “And two forwards just happened to fall where we had them.”

There’s also this: With seven picks remaining in Saturday’s later rounds and a draft filled with players in need of a few years of seasoning, Hextall said, “I imagine we will draft at least a couple of defensemen.”

Barely 6-foot, at 162-pounds, Farabee is a Cicero, N.Y. native who kills penalties, is notoriously smart, and according to TSN expert and NHL Network contributor Craig Button, “can play throughout your lineup.”

He also is a master penalty killer who, said Button, “Gets advantage down the ice beyond just killing the power play.”

“To play with top-end players, you have to have high-end hockey sense. And that’s what Joel Farabee has: That ability to read off a player, the ability to take advantage of what a top-end player will give you. … He compliments so many different type of players.”

Despite his size, Farabee’s selection was in line with where many experts had slotted him. O’Brien, on the other hand, was seen as a slight reach, ranked by several including longtime hockey writer and analyst Bob McKenzie as an early second-round selection. To Hextall’s point, though, O’Brien was named USA Today High School player of the year at Thayer Academy, a prep school in Braintree, Mass., that is a mere eight miles from his hometown of Hingham.

 

 

Both are at least two years away from even having a chance to crack the Flyers lineup, not unlike the spot Morgan Frost was when the Flyers used the first of the two picks they acquired in trading Brayden Schenn to St. Louis prior to last year’s draft. Picked 27th overall in 2017, Frost  had an explosive season at Sault St. Marie, finishing second in scoring in the Ontario Hockey League and more importantly, proving he could transition into a two-way hockey player.

With 112 points in 67 games, Frost finished a plus-70.

Farabee will attend Flyers development camp next week, then join Boston University in the fall. O’Brien will head to Providence College, a rival in the often contentious Hockey East, this fall.

That could be dangerous except for one thing:

For the time being, neither seems big enough to do much damage to the other.

 

 

Odds and ends

Some other random thoughts while watching the draft coverage from Dallas:

*Does anyone doubt that if this draft was held in Philadelphia, the incessant booing of Commissioner Gary Bettman before every pick, and the continued booing (for awhile) of each representative of rival organizations, would not be more prominently mentioned as a not-so-subtle dig at our lazily overstated reputation. I’m from New York originally. The “Bronx Cheer” is not a description of the discontent in South Philly. “Da Bums” is a description of many good Brooklyn baseball teams that fell short in Brooklyn, not Philly. Sigh.

>>READ MORE: Czech winger pretty angry that he slipped to sixth

*Many people I respect in the NHL office rave about Bettman’s savvy and smarts. I don’t doubt it, and the proof is in the league’s expansive pudding. But if he’s so smart, why not take a public speaking course? Whether it’s in individual interviews or delivering what should have been a touching tribute to the Humboldt bus crash victims, Bettman speaks in public each time as if it’s his first. He makes Adam Silver, and the dolt in charge of the NFL,  seem like the late Bart Giamatti in comparison.

*Favorite moment: An Islanders representative thanked their “Passionate fans back in Long Island.” You may recall those fans were so damn passionate that the Islanders left for Brooklyn for awhile. And they hope to leave them again for Queens in a few years when a new arena is built there.