This year’s NHL Draft will be in sunny Florida in the home of the Florida Panthers. Ironically, the Panthers received the first overall pick last year, being stud defenseman Aaron Ekblad. This year, the Panthers will not be so privileged. With two potential franchise-changing talents up for grabs this year, it is no secret that the top two teams will select Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel in that order. The Edmonton Oilers and Buffalo Sabres, respectively, are getting some future Hart Trophy candidates both on the ice and off. With both teens likely to become franchise icons and captains, the rest of the draftees are no slouches in their own rights. As this is a blog slanted in the favor of the Philadelphia Flyers, let’s take a look at some possible draft options for the Boys on Broad at pick 7. This article would not be possible without statistics and scouting reports from The Hockey News Draft Preview Issue, Bleacher Report, and of course the NHL’s own International Scouting Services Department. Let’s begin.
Lawson Crouse (LW, Kingston Frontenacs)
Crouse is a Flyers’ Flyer. A big power forward with some weight behind him at 6’4″ and 212 pounds, Crouse wrapped up a string of successful seasons for Kingston in the OHL. Crouse uses his frame to his advantage; he made a good impression at the CHL-Russia Super Series as a netfront presence. One scout quoted, “Top-six potential… those power forwards are hard to come by… Worst-case scenario he’s a third-liner… you need that scoring.” With the Flyers thin at left wing both on the NHL roster and in the prospect pipeline, Crouse would not only be a valuable pick based off his skill, but he would fill a positional need as well. Crouse is a good skater for a big man, lending a comparison to the New York Rangers’ Chris Kreider in that regard. Crouse has also been compared to Wayne Simmonds, a name very familiar with Flyer fans. Potentially having Simmonds on the right and Crouse on the left at even strength is an attractive option, not to mention it being near impossible for a goalie to see through those two on a double-screen Power Play setup. The Flyers’ stiffest competition could come from the Carolina Hurricanes and New Jersey Devils, two teams in need of a big winger like Crouse. If Crouse is available though, I feel that he fits the Flyers’ needs to a T. Likely pick.
Mikko Rantanen (RW/LW, TPS Hockey Club)
Rantanen is another name that has been closely associated with the Flyers before this year’s draft. A Finn, he played for TPS in the Finnish League and made an impact come playoff time. However, he had a profound defensive impact with growing offense. This two-way play already presented at a young age makes Rantanen a hard pick to pass up. Rantanen stands as tall as noted power forward Lawson Crouse, and is top-six material. With speed a plus and his nose for the net prevalent, Rantanen is another solid option for the Flyers to consider. A comparable player could be Corey Perry or even Jake Voracek. Rantanen would fill the franchise’s hole at wing and could become a younger version of Matt Read at a young age before becoming something even greater. Plan B forward choice.
Ivan Provorov (D, Brandon Wheat Kings)
If the Flyers decide rather surprisingly to draft a defenseman in the first round for the third year in a row, Provorov would be a good bet to be that guy. Provorov hails from Russia, but dominated in the WHL for the Brandon Wheat Kings. With Noah Hanifan thought to be a superior defenseman in this draft, Provorov could slip to where the Flyers could pounce. Provorov has a cannon of a shot and is more physical then his 6’0″, 201 pound frame would lead you to believe. A scout said he “brought stability to (Brandon’s) back end”. Stability is needed in the Flyers’ defense for sure, but with 4 blue-chip prospects already in the system, Provorov could be passed up on due to positional depth. A comparison could be Oliver Ekman-Larsson or Drew Doughty (best-case scenario). It would be mildly surprising, but if the Flyers were to choose Provorov, they would definitely be choosing a winner.
The Best of The Rest
While the aforementioned trio are the most likely Flyers Draft Picks this year, there are others who could surprise and sneak into a Flyers jersey. These include playmaking center Matthew Barzal if he slips and two-way defender Zach Werenski. Barzal has supreme talent and a true playmaker’s passing ability. Barzal could fall do to a off-ice knee injury. While the Flyers are set at the NHL level with centers, the prospect corps. could always use another, especially one with the ability of Barzal. Werenski, on the other hand, is simply a younger American version of Provorov. Werenski was merely a freshman at Michigan, but controlled the offensive portion off the blue line expertly. He could stand to be more physical at his size, but is a nice fallback option to consider on D.
Overall I would be surprised if the Flyers did not draft a forward with their pick at 7th overall. The organizational need is there, and so too are the players. Crouse and Rantanen are almost NHL ready now, which speaks volumes of their skill levels. The Flyers cannot mess up this pick with so much talent to choose from.
Lawson Crouse becomes a Philadelphia Flyer.