In a bizarre, unlikely, and ironic twist of fate, the Philadelphia Flyers have been awarded the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. Despite just a 2.4% chance at nabbing the second pick, the Flyers leapfrogged teams with far better odds, such as the Colorado Avalanche, Vancouver Canucks, Arizona Coyotes, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The New Jersey Devils also saw a dramatic rise, and will choose first in the draft. The Flyers have had a history of bad luck with the NHL Draft Lottery System in the past, but their karma finally bounced there way, as the team rose 11 spots and will have a chance to acquire a game-breaking player in either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
But who’s better: Patrick or Hischier? Let’s meet the two players who will become the new faces of the Flyers-Devils rivalry.
With the second overall draft selection, the Flyers will be able to select virtually anyone they want. However, it really comes down to either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. Either way, the Flyers will be getting a player they never thought they had a chance at getting. The Flyers essentially got rewarded with a top prospect out of nowhere, the type of prospect that can supplant Claude Giroux as the top center and captain of the Flyers down the road. The best part? The Flyers didn’t have to give anything up to get here, thanks to a lucky ping pong ball.
Nolan Patrick entered the year as the consensus best prospect in North America, but his stock fell a bit with an injury-plagued season. Still, Patrick is a game-breaker. He is a bigger player than Hischier, and has more intangibles: he is viewed as a future captain, can play all situations, has excellent puck skills, and makes room for his teammates to succeed on the ice as well.
Patrick put up tremendous numbers when he was healthy for the Brandon Wheat Kings, and is most often compared to Jonathan Toews. The knock on Patrick is that while he is really good at everything, he doesn’t have one facet of his game that is truly world-class, like Sidney Crosby, Nathan MacKinnon, Connor McDavid, or Auston Matthews had in their draft years. Still, there is very little risk and potentially sky-high reward with Patrick.
Nico Hischier, on the other hand, rose exponentially up the pre-draft ranks this season, starting with a tremendous performance in last year’s World Junior Championships. He played a full season of junior hockey for the Halifax Mooseheads this year, tallying 38 goals and 86 points in 57 games, rising all the way to the top of some draft boards. While Patrick was busy sitting in the press box trying to get healthy, Hischier was racking up points and boosting his stock.
Hischier is thought of as a Pavel Datsyuk-type player: a two-way center that is impossible to move off the puck and makes his teammates better when he’s on the ice. Although the Swiss center is a bit smaller than Patrick, he is a better skater.
All told, the Flyers really can’t go wrong here. It all comes down to consistency versus electricity. Patrick is the type of player that most teams love to build their franchise around, a future captain in the Toews or John Tavares mold. However, Hischier is the more dynamic player, more akin to Datsyuk or Patrik Laine. It’s a bummer that this year’s draft is not as strong as those of years past, but neither the Devils nor the Flyers ever could have imagined that they would be able to be in this position at all, which is a massive gain for both franchises. No matter who the Devils take, the Flyers will be more than grateful to snatch up the other prospect with the second pick.
The Draft Lottery results will hopefully go a long way in re-igniting the Flyers-Devils rivalry. At least four times a season, Patrick and Hischier will have to face off against each other, with one of them feeling entitled as the top pick in Devils red, while the other feels scrappy and plays with a chip on his shoulder after being passed over by New Jersey and getting to play in Philadelphia for the Flyers in orange. As the Battle of the Jersey Turnpike has gotten a bit stale recently, this storyline will be sure to spice up the rivalry. It’s almost a given now that the Flyers and Devils will open the season at Prudential Center on national television with the top two draft picks staring across at each other before the opening puck drop, right?
This unforeseen rise for the Flyers is a bit of payback from the hockey gods, who robbed the Flyers of a chance to select Patrick Kane in the 2007 Draft and instead chose James van Riemsdyk second overall, a player who the organization was impatient with and never really gave a chance.
Fittingly, the 2017 NHL Draft will take place in Chicago at the arena Patrick Kane calls home on June 23, a very fateful day in Flyers history. Over various years, the Flyers have made many huge moves on June 23, including the trades of Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in 2011, the trade of van Riemsdyk a year later, and the 2014 swap of Scott Hartnell and R.J. Umberger.
And in 2017, the Flyers will have the chance to be able to add to that day’s dubious legacy with the selection of either Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier. Here’s to hoping that the Flyers can get it right this time around.