The Philadelphia Flyers’ scouts and members of their management team are still finalizing their decisions, and they have exactly a month to decide which player they will take, if available, with the NHL draft’s No. 5 overall selection on July 7.
There is also a possibility they could trade up — in an effort to get, say, big left winger Juraj Slafkovsky (6-4, 218) or center Logan Cooley (5-10, 174). Or trade down because they think the players available in a certain range are all equal.
“You never say never,” Danny Briere, who is a special assistant to general manager Chuck Fletcher, said about a deal. “It’s always tough to do, so the chances are probably slim. There hasn’t been much talk to this point, but if there’s something that makes sense, we would definitely listen.”
If the Philadelphia Flyers keep their pick, they will choose the best player available and not base the selection on his position, according to Brent Flahr, the assistant GM who runs the team’s draft.
Briere and the Flyers’ staff returned Saturday from the scouting combine in Buffalo. He said it was beneficial “getting to know the kids a little better, getting to know their personalities a little bit.”
The Flyers interviewed a slew of prospects, spending 20 minutes with each player.
“You get a sense of who they are,” Briere said on Monday night, “and create a relationship a little bit. You never know. Some of these guys, even if we don’t draft them, three, four five years from now you may make a trade for one of them, or maybe they become a free agent. It’s a lot of good information.”
Center Shane Wright, Slafkovsky, and Cooley are expected to be the first three picks in the draft.
After that, it gets a little sketchy.
At No. 4, Seattle will probably choose between righthanded defensemen Simon Nemec and David Jiricek.
That would leave the Flyers with some interesting choices. They need help in so many areas that almost any player they pick at No. 5 will give their farm system a major upgrade.
So who will it be?
Probably one of the below six.
Remember these names
Simon Nemec (6-1, 192): He is regarded as the best defenseman in the draft. Nemec plays a strong two-way game and is a very good skater. In 39 games, he had 26 points in Slovakia’s top professional league. If he is there at No. 5 — which is doubtful — look for the Philadelphia Flyers to grab him.
David Jiricek (6-3, 189): The smooth-skating, all-around defenseman was not at the combine, but he impressed Flyers scouts while representing Czechia in the World Championships. He only played half of the 2021-22 season because he had left knee ligament surgery in January before returning to play in March.
Matt Savoie (5-9, 175): The speedy center/right winger is expected to be the most dynamic player left on the board at No. 5. Savoie came across as a very confident, poised player in his interview. “It doesn’t seem like he feels his size is an issue,” said Briere, who added that the fact Savoie (90 points in 65 WHL games) couldn’t do any of the fitness tests because of a late-season shoulder injury was not a detriment.”He’s very comfortable with his game.”
Joakim Kemell (5-11, 176): Like Savoie, the right winger is regarded as one of the most dynamic skaters in this draft class. Kemell, who turned 18 about six weeks ago, is also a big-time scorer and is still growing into his body. He won the squat-jump and no-arms jump competition at the combine.
Cutter Gauthier (6-2, 194): The physical center/left winger, a product of the outstanding United States National Team Development Program, is headed to Boston College for a year or two before he is expected to reach the NHL. He has the size, the speed, a terrific shot — and is also regarded as a solid defensive player. Gauthier, who had 34 goals in 54 games for the NTDP, finished in the top 10 in four fitness categories at the combine.
Jonathan Lekkerimaki (5-11, 172): A play driver with a high hockey IQ, the right winger is the top-ranked Swede in the draft. He has a deadly shot and also gets his goals by his dirty work in front of the net. If the Flyers trade down five or six spots and Lekkerimaki is still available, it wouldn’t be surprising if they nabbed him.
As it now stands, the teams that draft ahead of the Flyers are, in order, Montreal, New Jersey, Arizona, and Seattle.
“We don’t know what the teams in front of us are going to do,” Briere said. “Are they going for the centermen? Will the defensemen be involved? We don’t know and can’t control that. But we know that at five, we will be getting a pretty darned good player.”
Briere’s wife, Misha, recently delivered a boy named Caiden. Briere now has four sons. … Cam Atkinson finished No. 15 Monday in the Lady Byng Trophy voting. Winnipeg’s Kyle Connor won the award, which is presented to the player who best combines sportsmanship, gentlemanly conduct, and ability.