Fletcher’s 1st Draft with Flyers Turns Out to Be a Good One
It's GM Chuck Fletcher's first offseason with the Flyers, and it's safe to say he hasn't pulled all the right strings to please fans starving for competitive hockey. Trading for the rights to Kevin Hayes and signing him to a seven-year deal, and making two more trades for Matt Niskanen and Justin Braun are not moves that move the needle and generate a whole lot of interest up front for a fan base that feels like they have seen this episode before.
So on Friday night when 72-goal scorer Cole Caufield fell into Fletcher's lap not only at the 11th overall pick, but again at 14th after a trade, there was understandable disappointment when the Flyers selected defenseman Cam York instead of the exciting prospect in Caufield.
For fans, it was another strike. But to a lot of people in the business, it was a home run. York is regarded as arguably the second-best defenseman in the draft behind Bowen Byram, who was selected fourth overall, and gives the Flyers a new headliner on the blue line in the prospect pool with so many prospects having graduated to the NHL.
As disappointing as it was that the Flyers passed on Caufield, it wasn't lost on Fletcher that scoring is a need. In moving down to still get a player like York, he re-acquired a second-round pick he had traded to get Braun from San Jose, then packaged it in a deal to Nashville to move up from 45 to 34th overall, just three picks into Day 2. The Flyers drafted 5'8" scoring winger Bobby Brink, a first-round talent that had slipped to Day 2.
Over the rest of the draft, Fletcher did what is typically expected. He acquired players at each position. The team took two more defensemen, including one in Ronald Attard who scored 30 goals in the USHL and with some good training, could be on the fast track to the pros since he is 20.
The sixth-round pick on Egor Serdyuk is also one for another winger with great scoring potential. He added another goalie to the system in the sixth round. In total, there were three wingers, three defensemen and a goalie selected. And on most of the picks, the potential with the prospect was evident and there was logical reason to take the player when they did.
But the later picks are usually a gamble anyway, and there's no guarantees that you sign those players at all. It's in the first 50 to 75 picks where you can really make an impact. The Flyers got three viable prospects for the future. It's not out of the question to see York and Brink eventually make it with the Flyers down the road.
Fletcher's first draft as Flyers GM wasn't flashy or exciting at all. On Friday night, that looked like a mistake. But Fletcher made up for it on Saturday with an aggressive trade to move up early in the second round and take the exact type of player everyone was looking for the night before. That didn't seem possible 24 hours earlier when the Flyers didn't have any picks between 11 and 65.
In that case, Fletcher had a good draft with that move and taking a calculated risk on other players in the middle rounds. As always, it won't be for a while if we know that those decisions really paid off.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.