Throughout the day on Sunday, the NHL was seeing plenty of wheeling and dealing. It’s been a trend to get the trade deadline work completed early, as many of the contending teams have already made their significant move of the midseason. During this wave of activity, the Flyers were mostly bystanders.

That was until Sunday night, when the Flyers did make a move. However, that move didn’t involve anybody on the active NHL roster. It was a minor move, as Isaac Ratcliffe was sent to Nashville for future considerations.

The move isn’t completely insignificant, as it does free up a contract slot bringing the Flyers to 47 instead of 48. That leaves them with three open contract slots. That said, the move did carry another significant meaning. Yet another 2017 draft pick didn’t come to fruition in Philadelphia, another example of the Flyers poor development of prospects over the years.

Ratcliffe was taken with the 35th overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft. By that point, the Flyers had already made two selections. Their second pick of that draft, at 27th overall, was used on Morgan Frost. Frost is still with the Flyers obviously, but while his 11 goals and 29 points in 60 games are career-high marks, Frost has not developed into the forward that he was envisioned to become after a very successful junior career. 

The other pick ahead of Ratcliffe in the 2017 NHL Draft was the second overall pick. It was Nolan Patrick. Patrick was traded two offseasons ago, also to Nashville and later to Vegas, as part of the Ryan Ellis trade. Patrick has played just 25 games since the trade and was forced to miss the entire 2022-23 season, the second full season he has missed due to injury.

For all of the attention on Chuck Fletcher, and rightfully so, that 2017 draft was still part of the Ron Hextall era as Flyers GM. Out of Hextall’s five drafts with the Flyers from 2014 to 2018, 12 of his picks are still part of the Flyers’ NHL roster. By percentage, that should be a success. However, a closer look reveals just how far the Flyers have missed the mark.

In 2014, Hextall made six total draft picks. Only first-round pick Travis Sanheim remains from a class that included Nicolas Aube-Kubel, Oskar Lindblom, and Mark Friedman.

The 2015 class is more complicated. At the top, the Flyers drafted Ivan Provorov and Travis Konecny in the first round. In the third round, they selected Felix Sandstrom. Sixth-round pick Cooper Marody was traded by the Flyers, but re-acquired this past offseason to be back in the minor-league system.

The 2016 class was headlined by Carter Hart. Outside of Hart, only Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski remain as players within the system. 

From 2017, with the departure of Ratcliffe, only Frost, Noah Cates, and Olle Lycksell are left. 

The only players from the 2018 draft that have reached the NHL level are Joel Farabee and Sam Ersson.

In a time when the NHL Draft was like Christmas morning – after Hextall’s first draft in 2014, the Flyers never had fewer than eight picks in the draft from 2015 to 2018 – the Flyers could have established a strong core. They had hoped to. They were expected to based on the assessment of players they had selected.

Instead, questions surround the futures of Provorov, Konecny, and Sanheim. There are questions emerging about Joel Farabee’s future, both in health and status with the Flyers. Allison and Laczynski have shown flashes of NHL ability, but struggled to stay healthy. Hart, Ersson, and Sandstrom have all reached the NHL, but just as the Flyers get one position in order, the rest are weakened by the misses within the draft. 

If you are looking for an explanation as to how we got here with the Flyers, this is it. It’s not making questionable trades and signing long-term contracts. These are things that can certainly trap a franchise, but the foundation of building comes through the draft and developing those players to be at their best. 

Too many times, the Flyers made a pick and whiffed on the opportunity to build something more than just a highly-graded draft class.

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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