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At No. 5 in the NHL draft, the Flyers will pick …



draft logo, Philadelphia Flyers

The Philadelphia Flyers didn’t fare well in the NHL draft lottery Tuesday, dropping from No. 4 to No. 5. They could have climbed as high as No. 1 or fallen as low as No. 6.

But they still should get a high-quality player when the draft’s first round is held July 7 in Montreal.

Generally, the top six forward prospects are center Shane Wright, center Logan Cooley, left winger -Juraj Slafkovsky, center Matthew Savoie, center/left winger Cutter Gauthier, and right winger Joakim Kemell.

The Flyers are guaranteed to get one of them if they go for a forward.

And, remember, more than one of the above will drop to No. 5 because a team or two drafting ahead of them will likely pick a defensman (Simon Nemec? David Jiricek?).

Assistant GM Brent Flahr, who runs the Philadelphia Flyers’ draft, said his team will take the best player available. From here, the Flyers need an impact forward in their system more than they need an impact defenseman. (Yes, they could use both.)

Here are the teams at the top of the draft and which players they might pick in Round 1:

1. Montreal: Center Shane Wright (6-1, 191).

This is a no-brainer. Wright excels in all three zones, is a responsible two-way player, and scored 94 points (32-62) in 63 Ontario Hockey League games. Wright has a terrific shot, and his hockey IQ is off the charts. He has been compared to Patrice Bergeron and Jonathan Toews. In other words, he looks like a future All-Star.

2. New Jersey: Defenseman Simon Nemec (6-1, 192).

For the third time since 2017, the Devils will get a top-two pick. And with lots of gifted forwards on their team and in their farm system, New Jersey is expected to bolster its defense. New Jersey struggled mightily in that area this season. You have to go back to 1988-89 for a full season in which the Devils allowed more goals than this year.

Nemec excels at both ends of the ice, and would be a good building block for the Devils, who picked Michigan defenseman Luke Hughes No. 4 overall last year.

3. Arizona: Center Logan Cooley (5-10, 174).

Cooley, who is headed to the University of Minnesota, will be given a long look by New Jersey. But if he falls to No. 3, the Coyotes are getting a gem. He starred for the highly respected United States National Team Development Program. The Pittsburgh native does everything well — think Mitch Marner — and some scouts believe he is the most complete two-way player in the draft.

4. Seattle Kraken:  LW Juraj Slafkovsky (6-4, 218).

What’s not to like? He has the size, the strength, and the talent to become a dominating NHL player.  He was the best player in the Beijing Olympics as he scored seven goals in seven games for Slovakia. Slafkovsky, who has good hands and a great release, may not drop to No. 4. It would be downright shocking if he fell to the Flyers at No. 5. Seattle GM Ron Francis says he is considering six or seven players here, showing the equality of the draft.

5. Philadelphia Flyers: Center Matthew Savoie (5-9, 179).

His size shouldn’t scare you. Or the Flyers. Savoie has the speed and craftiness with the puck to make him a great fit for a team that lacks in those areas. He is not an accomplished defensive player, but his offensive skills can be breathtaking: 90 points (35-55) in 65 Western Hockey League games for Winnipeg this season.  A comparable: Flyers-killer Mathew Barzal.

If the Flyers pass on Savoie, there are several other intriguing options, including Gauthier (6-2, 190),  who is headed to Boston College; Kemell (5-11, 171), and defenseman Jiricek (6-3 189).

Teams will get a chance to see most of the top prospects at the NHL Draft Combine in Buffalo from May 29 to June 4.  How they perform and interview in Buffalo could alter some of management’s opinions.

History lesson

The best player ever drafted at No. 5 overall was Jaromir Jagr. The Flyers would settle for a Brayden Schenn type at No. 5. Schenn was also drafted at that spot.

Both players, of course, are former Philadelphia Flyers who were drafted by other teams.

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