(NOTE: Updated with lottery chances with games played through Feb. 25.)
The NHL draft is scheduled for July 7-8 in Montreal, though the site may be moved because of potential COVID-19 attendance restrictions in Quebec. It also could end up being held virtually for the third consecutive year.
Wherever it takes place, the Philadelphia Flyers should get a high pick. As of Feb. 25, they have the 28th-worst points percentage in the 32-team league.
As things stand, only four teams have a worse winning percentage than the Flyers, who currently have a 8.5% chance to win the draft lottery and get the No. 1 overall pick, according to Tankathon.com. Montreal, the league’s worst team, has a 16.6% chance. The odds could change, of course, as teams play the final two-plus months of the season.
Brock Otten, director of scouting for McKeen’s Hockey, calls it an average draft, one that is strong on defensemen and centers. Otten doesn’t see any generational players like Connor McDavid or Sidney Crosby in the draft, but he believes center Shane Wright — who is rated as the No. 1 prospect – will be a very good player who could turn into a Jonathan Toews or Patrice Bergeron. Toews is a four-time All-Star, and Bergeron is a four-time Selke Trophy winner as the league’s best defensive forward.
Yes, the Flyers would gladly take that type of player, and many of their fans have joined in the #TankForWright pleas on Twitter.
While Wright is the consensus No. 1 overall pick this year, it’s important to keep in mind that most experts – but not Flyers scouts, according to Bob Clarke – had Nolan Patrick ranked No. 1 or 2 before the 2017 draft, and you know how that turned out.
McKeen’s has nine forwards ranked among the top-10 prospects, including five centers. It has 10 defensemen among the 32 players in the first round.
Based on the evaluations, the Flyers would do well to select one of the following players with their top pick. Here is McKeen’s top 10, with Otten’s thoughts:
1. Shane Wright, 6-foot-1, 190-pound center, Kingston (OHL): 46 points (17 goals, 29 assists) in 34 games.
Otten’s view: A high-end player, he will eventually be one of the best on his NHL team. He’ll be really important and integral, but not someone you’d consider a top-10 player in the league or even close to being a generational player. Has a hockey IQ that is off the charts, but he hasn’t had an eye-popping season.
2. Simon Nemec, 6-1, 190-pound RH defenseman, HK Nitra (Svk): 23 points (1-22) in 32 games.
Otten’s view: A really smart defender who is good at both ends of the ice. Projects as a minutes-eater and can be a reliable, top-pair guy at the NHL level. What he’s doing against men in the Slovak league hasn’t really been done before by a young player in that league – and he’s playing against men who are upwards of 15 years older than him.
3. Matthew Savoie, 5-9, 180-pound center, Winnipeg (WHL): 55 points (19-36) in 38 games.
Otten’s view: Some scouts like him and some are hesitant to rank him so highly, and I think a lot of that has to do with his size. That’s not saying he can’t be a star. He excels on the power play and is a physically aggressive player.
4. Logan Cooley, 5-10, 180-pound center, USNDT (USHL): 15 points (5-10) in 12 games.
Otten’s view: Like Wright, he is a well-rounded player who projects as a strong two-way center. A high-level skater who is creative with the puck, he is starting to draw attention for the top three – and even pushing Wright because he has so many tools. (He’s a Pittsburgh native.)
5. Danila Yurov, 6-1, 175-pound right winger, Magnitogorsk Metallurg (MHL): 19 points (5-14) in 15 games.
Otten’s view: A prototypical, well-rounded Russian forward. There’s really not a weakness in his game, per se. Projects as a top-six player on an NHL team. He has played sparingly in the KHL and has shown lots of promise internationally and in Russian juniors.
6. Joakim Kemell, 5-11, 175-pound right winger, JyP (Fin-Liiga): 18 points (12-6) in 25 games.
Otten’s view: He’s a potential high-end goal scorer whose biggest strength is his shot. He’s one of those quick-strike players. Quick feet, quick hands, really good shot. Early in the season, he was playing really well in the Finnish men’s league and was having one of the best seasons all-time for an under-20 player. But then an (undisclosed) injury occurred and he faltered a bit.
7. Juraj Slafkovsky, 6-4, 225-pound left winger, TPS (Fin-Liiga): 4 points (1-3) in 21 games.
Otten’s view: A big power forward who combines speed, strength and skill. His ability to drive the net and work through traffic is really good. You look at him as someone who can dominate the middle of the ice at the NHL level. The biggest question is his vision and how well he sees the ice.
8. Conor Geekie, 6-4, 205-pound center, Winnipeg (WHL): 40 points (12-28) in 38 games.
Otten’s view: Another big kid who is a strong-two way player. He brings physicality and has a solid overall skill set. The big drawback for him is his skating. So do you think that the skating can get to the point that he can play at the NHL level? That will be the big thing – improving those first few strides to be more explosive.
9. Brad Lambert, 6-0, 180-pound center, JyP/Pelicans (Fin-Liiga): 7 points (3-4) in 31 games.
Otten’s view: He may be the quickest player of the top-10 prospects. His skating ability, creativity, and hands make him an intriguing prospect. He hasn’t had the best of seasons, but he has loads of potential. A few years ago, he and Wright were projected as the top players in this draft.
10. Ivan Miroshnichenko, 6-1, 185-pound left winger, Omskie-Krylia (VHL): 16 points (10-6) in 31 games.
Otten’s view: He has big scoring potential; he entered the year as someone who was viewed as a pretty consistent top-five ranked player across the board by most publications, but he hasn’t had a great year. He had COVID and it affected his conditioning a little bit, and he ended up not making the Russian World Junior team. But he’s big and skates well and has that goal-scoring potential from the wing – and those players are rare.