What the Flyers Could Do With the #11 Pick
With the Stanley Cup Finals now underway, the NHL offseason is as close as ever. In less than three weeks, all 31 teams will gather in Vancouver and select 217 of the world's best young talent, hoping to find the pieces that will lead them to the Cup in the future. Shortly after, free agency begins, as GMs throw boatloads of money at players who often deserve way less cash or/and term than they are getting. And of course, the possibility of a trade is always looming.
But since the NHL Draft is the first key point of the Flyers offseason, it makes sense to start there. After narrowly missing out on winning the draft lottery (the Flyers were one number away from winning the #1 pick, and would've picked #3 had they won one more game in the season), Philadelphia holds the eleventh pick in the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. It's a selection that holds a lot of value, both in terms of the prospect it could turn into and what other GMs might be willing to pay for it.
So, what will Chuck Fletcher and company look to do on draft day? Here are there three main options, why each makes sense (and doesn't), and what I think the Flyers brass will ultimately wind up doing.
Option 1: Trade for Help
It is no secret that the Flyers are expecting to take a step forward in the 2019-20 season. It has also been well documented that CEO Dave Scott wants the team to acquire immediate improvements, citing a "bias for action" when asked about what he wanted in Ron Hextall's replacement.
One way to show that bias would be by moving the Flyers first round pick. The Flyers current prospect pool is one of the deepest in the NHL, boosted by having selected in the first round seven times in the last four years - only twice under Hextall (2014 and 2016) did the Flyers make one first round pick. So it's not as though losing the pick means the cupboard is barren.
The obvious advantage of putting pick eleven on the block is that the Flyers should be able to get a solid player right now, especially if they are willing to add more picks or prospects. With needs down the middle, the right side on the backend, and still looking for a 1B goalie to share the crease with Starter Hart (though the last weakness can probably be solved internally), there's a strong case to be made for dealing 11 to improve Philadelphia's short-term outlook.
Option 2: Trading Up
With a ton of players at the top of the draft board that project as high-end future NHL stars (as always), there may be a few people that want Fletcher to consider moving up. While most are willing to acknowledge moving into the top two, and therefore being in Hughes/Kakko range, is unrealistic, there are some intriguing prospects just beyond them that the Flyers could use.
However, this is probably the least likely scenario to play out. For starters, most draft "experts" don't see a big difference between picks 5-12ish. The Flyers are still at a spot before the draft supposedly "drops off," so it's not like moving up a half dozen spots or less garners a significantly better player. And moving up to the top five is very unrealistic, as the Flyers would need to give up a plethora of assets in order to move up far enough to make a difference.
Option 3: Trading Down
On the other hand, there is always the option of trading for a first round pick on the other side of eleven. If Chuck Fletcher and his staff either identify a target that is projected to go later in the first round or do not like any of the players available at eleven, moving down is a realistic option. The Flyers could gather a few more assets, likely in the form of mid-round picks that could be flipped for aforementioned immediate help.
But as mentioned previously, most draft analyists believe that the quality of talent starts to drop off a few picks after the Flyers are slated. So while any extra assets gained would be nice, there is the chance that the Flyers get stuck with a prospect that is clearly not as good as who they could have had at eleven if they move down any more than two to three spots.
Option 4: Making the Pick
This is the safe option. We all know there are going to be some talented options at number eleven that could make an NHL impact in the not so distant future. Fletcher has a solid draft pedigree from his days as Minnesota, so it's not incredibly likely he makes a mistake here.
Yes, we have been told that the Flyers days of playing things safe are over. But the draft can be an exception to this rule. By taking a player at number eleven, the Flyers instantly gain a future NHLer likely to be projected as a top-six forward or top-four defenseman. Said player can either continue to develop or be shipped off in a move to gain short-term assistance.
As for who they should take at eleven, I'm not the best to say. Being a high school student doesn't exactly give me a lot of time to watch film on this year's draft class, which is the only way to gain an opinion for yourself.
From what I have read, if Cole Caufield, an American winger with an incredible shot and great offensive instincts is still there, I would love the Flyers to jump on him. Problem is he has been playing so great recently he might have performed himself out of the Flyers range. Defense is the main weakness in the Flyers pipeline, so if Caufield is off the board and the Flyers stay pat or choose to move down, I could easily see them deciding on a blueliner.
Whatever decision Fletcher and staff come to at the draft floor, believe it or not, mostly isn't up to them. How the draft board falls and what other GMs are willing to give up (or not) will determine Fletcher's finally course of action. But I know you want a straightforward answer, so here's the best I can give you.
5% - Trade Up
10% - Trade Down
25% - Trade for Help
60% - Make the Pick