NHL draft: Which centers are on the Flyers' radar?

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Sweden forward Isac Lundestrom (center) will be on the Flyers’ draft radar this weekend.

With the Nos. 14 and 19 overall picks in the first round of Friday’s NHL draft, the Flyers are in an advantageous position.

The extra pick gives them flexibility to make a deal and move up or down in the draft, depending on what they deem as the best-case scenario for the club.

As it stands, the Flyers have nine picks in the seven-round draft. Expect some of them to be centers.

“You can never have enough,” general manager Ron Hextall said last week.

>>READ MORE: Flyers’ picks, TV/streaming info and fun facts about the NHL draft

The Flyers could trade up to take a top center or righthanded defenseman, or they might trade down for extra picks because they believe there’s a lot of parity after the first dozen selections or so.

“They’re not all going to hit. I’d love to say that all of our guys are going to hit, but the reality of it is, history shows that they’re not,” said Hextall, who has three selections in the top 50 picks. “You can never have enough at any position.”

Hextall said he likes drafting centers because they can also easily slide over and play wing.

Right now, Sean Couturier and Nolan Patrick are the team’s top two centers. The Flyers are likely going to add another center via a trade or free agency, and Scott Laughton will probably be their fourth-line center. Hotshot prospect Morgan Frost, assuming he isn’t converted to wing, figures to be one of the Flyers’ centers in 2019-20.

Some outsiders “want to sit and project and say, ‘Well our middle is good for the next 10 years,’ but we don’t know that for certain,” Hextall said. “So, if there’s a centerman there [they like], we’re going to take him.”

Here’s a look at the top centers in the draft, which will have its first round on Friday night and rounds 2-7 on Saturday in Dallas:

Jesperi Kotkaniemi

Assat Pori (Finland), 6-foot-2, 181 pounds.

Stats: 10 goals, 29 points in 57 games.

Skinny: Though just 17, the powerful Finn has risen to the top of the board among centers in the draft.

Draft projection: 5 to 15 overall.

>>READ MORE: Carter Hart is still at the heart of the Flyers’ ‘process’

Barrett Hayton

Sault Ste. Marie (OHL), 6-1, 190.

Stats: 21 goals, 60 points in 63 games.

Skinny: Hayton is a strong two-way center who some scouts compare to a young Patrice Bergeron. Enough said.

Draft projection: 7 to 13 overall.

Rasmus Kupari

Karpat (Finland), 6-1, 183.

Stats: 6 goals, 14 points in 39 games.

Skinny: Known as the Flying Finn, Kupari is a powerful, swift skater with a high hockey IQ.

Draft projection: middle of first round.

Isac Lundestrom

Lulea (Sweden), 6-0, 182.

Stats: 6 goals, 15 points in 42 games.

Skinny: A strong-skating two-way player, Lundestrom has terrific playmaking ability and has the potential to be a second-line center.

Draft projection: Middle of first round.

Joe Veleno

Drummondville (QMJHL), 6-1, 194.

Stats: 22 goals, 57 points in 64 games for two teams.

Skinny: He has dropped a bit in the rankings, but he revived his game after a midseason trade and has the offensive skills to be a third-line player.

Draft projection: 15 to 25 overall.

>>READ MORE: All you need to know about Ron Hextall’s draft plan, explained in one trade 

Ryan McLeod

Mississauga (OHL), 6-2 206.

Stats: 28 goals, 70 points in 68 games.

Skinny: He has good (but not great) speed, size and stickhandling ability and strong leadership qualities. He’s regarded as a future top-six forward.

Draft projection: Late in first round.

Ty Dellandrea

Flint (OHL), 6-0, 184.

Stats: 27 goals, 59 points in 67 games.

Skinny: He needs to gain strength, but Dellandrea’s offensive skills and his quickness make him an intriguing prospect.

Draft projection: Late in first round or early in second.

Akil Thomas

Niagara (OHL), 5-11, 177.

Stats: 22 goals, 81 points in 68 games.

Skinny: A fast skater and solid playmaker, Thomas may play wing in the NHL.

Draft projection: Late in first round.

Jacob Olofsson

Timra IK (Sweden), 6-2, 189.

Stats: 10 goals, 21 points in 43 games.

Skinny: A strong two-way center who has drawn comparisons to a young Anze Kopitar.

Draft projection: Late in first round.

Benoit-Oliver Groulx

Halifax (QMJHL), 6-1, 190.

Stats: 28 goals, 55 points in 68 games.

Skinny: The French-born center is a strong five-on-five player and an outstanding defensive forward with impressive penalty-kill qualities.

Draft projection: Late in first round or early in second.

Couturier, Simmonds among nominees

Couturier and Wayne Simmonds are Flyers nominated for awards that will be presented Wednesday in Las Vegas. Couturier is a finalist for the Selke Trophy, given to the forward who best excels in the defensive aspects of the game. Los Angeles’ Kopitar and Boston’s Bergeron are the other nominees.

Simmonds, along with Vegas’ Deryk Engelland and Winnipeg’s Blake Wheeler, has been nominated for the Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, presented for on- and off-ice leadership and to someone who also plays a leading role in the community.