Draft Still Remains Priority in Flyers Build
It is a date Flyers fans have circled on the calendar for the last several years. The NHL Draft begins on Friday night and the team will have the 14th and 19th overall selections.
The draft has become such an event because, simply put, it is Ron Hextall's time of year.
The Flyers GM has been an ardent curator of draft picks over the years and has made the most of several of those selections, with many of his selections reaching the NHL ranks over the last few seasons.
With two more picks available in Friday's first round, the draft remains a priority for the Flyers. Things have changed with the makeup of the roster and the way this team has been built to this point. But not much has changed about the approach. The draft is still the foundation of future success.
When you look at how the 2017-18 Flyers came to be, you can look to Hextall's successful drafting as a focal point. Sure, Nolan Patrick making the team as a second overall pick was not a surprise in his first year. But there were others as well.
Travis Sanheim made the jump to the NHL last season and was Hextall's first selection in the first round as Flyers GM in 2014.
Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny went in the first round in 2015.
Oskar Lindblom was a fifth-round pick in 2014.
Additionally, outside of Hextall's tenure as GM, Shayne Gostisbehere, Robert Hagg, Scott Laughton and Sean Couturier were all Flyers draft picks of the previous six years from 2011 to 2017.
When you think of the future core of this team, which is quickly becoming the present core, you think of Hextall's recent top picks -- Patrick, Provorov, Konecny, Sanheim.
For the Flyers, two more prospects will be available for the taking in Friday's first round and while there may not be an immediate impact and development will be required, this is how the Flyers have built up their prospect pool and started to build a successful NHL team.
The build is not complete yet. There are players waiting in the wings that are near reaching the NHL and being a part of the team's blueprint. There are certainly going to be opportunities to compliment the foundation that was built through the draft with win-now solutions in free agency, though perhaps not this offseason.
But for the Flyers to remain on the right track in building a contender, they need to keep taking the proper preparations in keeping the prospect pipeline strong and prosperous. Under Hextall, they have gone from minimal draft picks year after year to having multiple picks in several rounds. The 2018 NHL Draft will be the fifth for Hextall as GM of the Flyers. In three of them, including Friday night's first round, Hextall will have more than one first-round pick.
Under Hextall's eye, the Flyers have built one of the league's best prospect pools on their way to building a contender. It is a slow process, but one that needs to be, yes, trusted.
There will come a time for Hextall to make the aggressive move. It might be a part of draft weekend, making a trade using picks as chips instead of making all the picks. But there's nothing wrong with Hextall's philosophy to keep the prospect pool well stocked.
Friday night is just another chance for Hextall to show off at one of his strengths, building through the draft and making smart selections with the many picks he has accrued over the years.
Kevin Durso is Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.