"You'd think in a year when we were crappy, there would be a top player in the draft. But it's not a great draft. We can't lose to win."
- Former Flyers executive Ron Ryan on Feb. 3
The Flyers still can't lose to win.
Yesterday, the Chicago Blackhawks - with just an 8 percent chance of success - won the NHL draft lottery, automatically slotting the Flyers into the second overall pick.
The Flyers' chances of winning the top pick in the draft through the lottery were 48 percent.
"That's the luck of the draw, I guess, or the unluck of the draw," said a dejected Paul Holmgren, the Flyers' general manager. "But what are you going to do? We knew we were going to be one or two, so this changes that a little bit but not a whole lot."
On the bright side of this 40th-anniversary disaster, there are no Sidney Crosbys or Alex Ovechkins in the draft, to be held June 22 and June 23 in Columbus, Ohio. No player in the first round projects to be an NHL starter next fall.
So did it really matter whether the Flyers had the No. 1 pick?
"I'm not sure it really matters," Holmgren said. "The thing about having the first pick is you get the first pick, as stupid as that sounds. Now, we don't, but I'm confident we're still going to get a good player. As I've said all along, I'm not sure there's an immediate impact guy there, anyway."
The most recent rankings from McKeen's Draft Digest have right winger Patrick Kane of the London (Ontario) Knights rated No. 1. After Kane were, in order, center Kyle Turris of the Burnaby Express of British Columbia, Russian right winger Alexei Cherepanov, defenseman Karl Alzner of the Calgary Hitmen, and center Logan Couture of the Ottawa 67's.
The Flyers' rankings differ in that left winger James van Riemsdyk, who played on the U.S. national team, is among the top five.
Holmgren has said he is open to trading one or both of his first-round picks.
The Flyers, who have holes to fill at forward and defense via free agency, also have Nashville's first-round pick as part of the Peter Forsberg deal.
Where Nashville picks depends on how the Predators do in the playoffs. If they are among the final four, the pick could fall between 27th and 30th.
"I think everyone views this draft pretty much the same," Holmgren said. "I think everybody considers it to be a decent draft with no immediate impact guys."
He said he'd be more upset had there been a Crosby or an Ovechkin available.
Holmgren will leave for Finland next week to scout the under-18 world championships. As many as seven prospects the Flyers have looked at could be in the tournament.
Unlike his predecessor, Bob Clarke, Holmgren's strength has always been scouting talent through the amateur ranks. He has always seen firsthand the players the Flyers draft. At least half the NHL's general managers have never done that on an annual basis.
"That's something that I've always liked to do," Holmgren said. "I've always had more of a desire or penchant for the amateur side of our business. I think that's the lifeblood of the franchise.
"That's not to say that I sit in the room with our scouts and say, 'We're taking this guy because he played well when I saw him.' These are the guys that see him 20 or 30 times a year. I'm not like that. I more or less just like to go and put a face to a name."
Assuming the Flyers keep their picks - a huge assumption - Holmgren stressed that their philosophy would not change. They will draft the best athlete available and not do so by position.
Most players rated among the top 10 are forwards, so the Flyers would likely draft a forward.
The Phoenix Coyotes, who had the second-worst record in the league, are picking third. Rounding out the top 10, in order, are the Los Angeles Kings, Washington Capitals, Edmonton Oilers, Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues, and Florida Panthers.
Here are the second overall picks in the NHL draft over the last 10 years:
2006: Jordan Staal, center, Penguins.
2005: Bobby Ryan, winger, Ducks.
2004: Evgeni Malkin, center, Penguins.
2003: Eric Staal, center, Hurricanes.
2002: Kari Lehtonen, goalie, Thrashers.
2001: Jason Spezza, center, Senators.
2000: Dany Heatley, winger, Thrashers.
1999: Daniel Sedin, winger, Canucks.
1998: David Legwand, center, Predators.
1997: Patrick Marleau, center, Sharks.
The Flyers have never drafted second overall.EndText