American Kids: Flyers Have Time for Development with 2018 Draft Class
There was a theme to a number of the Flyers picks as the NHL Draft progressed throughout the weekend.
It was no surprise to see the Flyers select winger Joel Farabee with the 14th overall pick. Farabee was a top member of the USA U18 National Development Team Program and projected to be selected right in the middle of the first round.
With the 19th overall pick, they took another USNTDP prospect, forward Jay O’Brien. They took two more American-born defensemen on Day 2, Jack St. Ivany and Wyatte Wylie. They also added an American forward, also from the USNDTP, in the sixth round, selecting Gavin Hain.
In total, the Flyers took five US-born players in the 2018 Draft, a run on Americans that has not been seen in recent years. It was the first time in team history they did not take a Canadian player in a draft year.
“I know, I’m hearing it at my table,” GM Ron Hextall said. “[Assistant GM] Chris [Pryor] and [amateur scout] Nick [Pryor], they’re all over me.”
In all seriousness, it was probably more of a coincidence that they ended up with five Americans. But the US has seen more and more prospects taken at high stages of the draft. The Flyers were no different with two in the first round and three more on Day 2.
“It’s funny, we don’t have many Americans in our organization,” Hextall said. “You look at it and you go ‘why?’ I don’t know why. They’re good players. A lot of good players are coming from the states and certainly we added to our group.
“For sure, US Hockey has grown. In terms of Canada, the Western league this year was really weak. That’s kind of where I take my pride because that’s where I’m from, so that’s the debate at the table, but it was a tough year for the [WHL] and next year looks like a good year. There’s some cycles that go on, but the US is doing a good job producing players.”
In reviewing the Draft and the Flyers eight picks, it was a solid draft with a lot of potential, but this is more of a development class than in recent years and not one that jumps out as an impact class.
Farabee was a solid first-round pick with a well-rounded game and a lot of upside. O’Brien wasn’t so much a reach as a player that has a lot of upside but still needs to work to reach potential.
Swedish defenseman Adam Ginning received mixed reviews. Some draft rankings had him as a possible first-rounder and an underrated player. Others had him being more of a late-second, early-third type of pick.
The fourth through seventh-round picks are more or less taking flyers on players. St. Ivany and Wylie are two more defensemen with a lot of potential in a shutdown role, but wildcards at this point. Hain could be a solid pick down the road, but has a long road ahead.
Selecting a goalie, as the Flyers did with Swedish netminder Samuel Ersson, is more of a long-term development plan than anything, especially with the number of goalies in the system. Swedish forward Marcus Westfalt is also more of a project as well.
So for the first time in a while, this was not a draft where Hextall and company were at the class of the draft. At least not today. What happens as these players develop will determine how successful this draft was for the Flyers.
It’s worth noting that in drafting five Americans -- and three Swedes as well for that matter -- that the Flyers don’t have to jump to sign anybody from this class.
Farabee is committed to Boston University. O’Brien is committed to Providence. St. Ivany is committed to Yale. Hain is committed to North Dakota. All three Swedes are playing professionally in the SHL. Only Wylie is playing in the CHL and has a smaller signing window of two years.
This gives the Flyers some extended time to focus on the players in the system that have already signed entry-level deals. As college players, all four could essentially play an entire four-year career in college and still sign with the Flyers if they do so before an June 1 deadline after their college career ends.
The same goes for the three Swedes. European prospects also have a four-year signing window, so there is no rush on entry-level deals for, really, any of the 2018 picks.
In viewing this as more of a class with time to grow, the Flyers had a solid weekend overall, using their picks effectively to fill some organizational needs in the prospect pool above all else. If they can hit on both first-rounders and one of their Day 2 picks, then this draft can still be a successful one down the road.
So while it lacked the flare and fanfare of other drafts, the Flyers had a plan and stuck to it, mixing players and positions well and perhaps focusing on the long-term future and the fact that no one from this class needs to be signed effective immediately.