Philadelphia Flyers: 2023 NHL Draft Preview
The day has arrived. The 2023 NHL Draft is here. For the Flyers, this is very much the crown jewel of the offseason. Trade possibilities remain up in the air, the front office remains hard at work trying to get yet another first-round pick, and it all culminates on Wednesday night when the first round takes place.
As the teams gather in Nashville for the 2023 NHL Draft, the Flyers currently have 10 picks over the two days, including the seventh and 22nd overall picks on Wednesday night.
Regarded as one of the deeper draft classes in recent memory, the headliner of the group is Connor Bedard, the generational phenom expected to go first overall. There are other names commonly heard among the top prospects beyond Bedard, including Adam Fantilli, Leo Carlsson, and Will Smith.
From there, the possibilities are endless. The Flyers could take two players that they believe will help shape the future of the franchise. They could look to package picks to trade up, potentially into the Top 5. They could look to trade down to gain more draft capital. They could try to acquire a third first-round pick by the end of the night that further sends those possibilities flying.
Let’s take a closer look at it all, from targets for the Flyers with each pick, recent history of the seventh and 22nd overall picks, and the possibility of trading a first-round selection.
5 Targets at 7th Overall
- RW Matvei Michkov - Outside of Bedard, there was a lot of discussion that Michkov was potentially the prospect with the next highest ceiling. He’s got a lot of potential as an offensive forward that can score, be a playmaker, and competes at a high level. The question marks on him are partially out of his control. The Russian prospect has to navigate the political environment of his home country, particularly after signing a three-year extension with SKA St. Petersburg that would keep him there through 2025-26. If a team is willing to wait that out, and the Flyers certainly fall on the time frame, he could become a steal at seven if he lasts.
- RW/C Ryan Leonard - If Benson is the small forward of the group, Leonard has the tenacity of a power forward. It’s clear he’s got the scoring chops, but the motor never stops and he’s constantly moving. He may be attractive to the Flyers for another reason. He’s one of several prospects near the top of the draft committed to play next season at Boston College, right alongside last year’s first-round pick Cutter Gauthier.
- LW Zach Benson - The first round is loaded with talented forwards, and Benson may be among the most talented. His offensive skill set is creative, deceptive, and possesses all of the qualities you want in a scorer. But his game is also well-rounded, a playmaker for his teammates and a strong defensive forward at that.
- C Dalibar Dvorsky - Each of the first three forwards on this list all stand out for their offensive prowess. Dvorsky can certainly provide the skill needed to be a production forward, but his two-way ability can make him a well-rounded player that is hard to pass up.
- D David Reinbacher - As mentioned, the top of the draft is going to be heavy with forwards, but teams are always looking for defensemen that they can build around. Reinbacher may fit the bill. The right-handed defenseman probably won’t light up the scoresheet by any means, but he’s as steady as they come defensively. His skating is smooth, and he can transition well that his offensive production could frequently come off the rush.
5 Targets at 22nd Overall
- LW Gabriel Perreault - The numbers on Perreault are eye-popping, 53 goals and 132 points in 63 games for the US National Team Development Program. That's more points for a USNTDP product in his draft year than Auston Matthews or Jack Hughes. Perreault's scoring and playmaking should carry to the NHL level, maybe not at near as high a clip, but for a team looking for skill, he's certainly one to watch.
- RW Gavin Brindley - An all-situations player who possesses the skill needed at both ends of the ice. He had a high motor, is tenacious on the forecheck, reliable defensively, strong skater. All of the foundational qualities are there for the Michigan product.
- D Dmitry Simashev - A smooth skating defenseman that also possesses great size at 6'4", 201 pounds. He moves with power and agility. Simashev is also a physical specimen in this draft, and his size and physicality all project well in the NHL. If anything, his defensive foundation is so strong, it's his offensive prowess that could use some improvement, and could come with time and development.
- C Brayden Yager - The signature of Yager's game is his shots. It's quick, powerful, explosive. There's no denying he'll be able to score at the next level. He can set up goals as well, but could be a prime candidate at this pick because he's not as creative as some of the forwards at the top. There's some fine points that need to be worked in his game, but he could become a solid NHLer.
- D Mikhail Gulyayev - If you're looking to build from the blue line and looking for defenseman who can skate well, Gulyayev could certainly be an option. Strong on his feet at both ends of the ice, he can flat-out explode with acceleration. Being quick on his feet can also help in his defensive ability, though there are some areas to improve there, as well as in offensive awareness to use his skating to join a play.
Recent Picks at 7th Overall
You don’t have to look too far into the past to find the last time the Flyers had the seventh overall pick. They just traded him this offseason. In 2015, the Flyers selected defenseman Ivan Provorov with the seventh overall pick.
The Flyers have picked seventh overall three other times. In 1992, they selected Ryan Sittler, a forward who ultimately never made it past the AHL. In 1978, they selected Ken Linseman. In 1972, they selected Bill Barber.
Other recent picks at seventh overall include Dylan Cozens (2019), Quinn Hughes (2018), Clayton Keller (2016), Darnell Nurse (2013), Matt Dumba (2012), Mark Scheifele (2011), Nazem Kadri (2009), Jake Voracek (2007), Kyle Okposo (2006), and Ryan Suter (2003).
Recent Picks at 22nd Overall
Once again, the Flyers most recent 22nd overall pick is in recent memory. In 2016, the Flyers drafted German Rubtsov with the 22nd overall pick. He played a total of four NHL games before ultimately being included in a trade last season with another former 22nd overall pick, Claude Giroux.
The Flyers have had the 22nd overall pick five other times. In 1979, they selected defenseman Blake Wesley. In 1984, they selected another defenseman, Greg Smyth. In 1998, the Flyers selected Simon Gagne at 22nd overall. They have also taken two goalies with the 22nd overall pick. Brian Boucher in 1995 and Maxime Ouellet in 1999.
Other recent picks at 22nd overall include K’Andre Miller (2018), Kailer Yamamoto (2017), Ilya Samsonov (2015), Kasperi Kapanen (2014), Olli Maatta (2012), Jordan Eberle (2008), and Max Pacioretty (2007). Other notable 22nd overall picks include Rick Kehoe in 1971, Bryan Trottier in 1974, Adam Graves in 1986, and Adam Foote in 1989.
Will the Flyers Trade Up?
The dream for Bedard was finished as soon as the draft lottery was over. But is there another player in the Top 5 that could be of enough interest to the Flyers to make a trade up? What if Michkov is available at the fifth pick and the Flyers feel compelled to move up?
That’s the decision the Flyers are facing. They can just as easily retain the two picks they currently have, look to accrue more, and make multiple selections. They could also try to get a future superstar by taking a swing with a trade.
If the Flyers are to trade, it’s going to at least require the two picks they have in the first round at the moment. It’s the reason they are so hard at work on potential trades to get another first-round pick. That would create more flexibility for the Flyers to use two first-round picks to move up two or three spots and still allow them to have another pick in the first round. But it’s going to require a lot of things to happen, and feels like a longshot at this point.
Will the Flyers Trade Down?
If gaining more draft capital is the name of the game, the Flyers could look to move down from the seventh overall pick in a trade. The same goes for the 22nd overall pick. Either pick could allow the Flyers to move back a handful of spots and potentially get a second-round pick in the process.
Danny Briere expressed an interest in either getting back into the first round or the second round. To do so in the first round would likely involve moving more than just picks at this point. A second-round pick could be had if the Flyers decided to move back, especially at 22nd overall.
Everything is on the table, so it wouldn’t be surprising if the Flyers look for ways to make gather more draft picks from the draft floor.
The NHL Draft gets underway on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. with the first round. It continues on Thursday, starting at 11 a.m., with Rounds 2 through 7.
Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.