Flyers Could Draft One of These Right-Handed Defensemen
The Philadelphia Flyers have lots of options when the opening round of the NHL draft is held Thursday in Montreal.
They could trade down, trade up, or keep the No. 5 overall pick and select someone who will reach the NHL in perhaps two seasons.
Simon Nemec and David Jiricek are among the players who fit the latter description. Both are righthanded defensemen. Both are talented. Both are safe picks.
One of them will probably be gone when the Flyers make their pick.
Nemec is expected to be drafted by Seattle at No. 4 — just before the Flyers make their selection — so that means Philly would probably pick Jiricek if they want a defenseman early in the draft.
The Flyers, coming off the second-worst season in franchise history, desperately need to bolster their farm system and get this pick right.
Brock Otten is the scouting director for the well-connected McKeen’s Hockey, whose panel ranks Nemec as the No. 4 overall prospect and Jiricek at No. 5. The publication projects the Flyers will select Jiricek, who had left knee ligament surgery in January but returned to play in March.
Here is Otten’s evaluation of the two defensemen:
Height and weight: 6-foot, 190 pounds.
Stats for HK Nitra in Slovakia last season: 1 goal, 25 assists, 26 points in 39 games.
Otten’s evaluation: “We graded him a little higher than Jiricek because his hockey sense is his best tool. He sort of has the same mobility as Jiricek, and probably has similar potential. But he has one of the highest hockey senses of anybody in this draft. He thinks the game as well as anyone.”
Nemec is a strong defender. He is also smooth skater and a puck-mover who does a great job setting up a play with his zone entries. The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler says he will become “the best defenseman out of Slovakia since Zdeno Chara and a true No. 2″ on a team’s blue line.
“I’d be shocked if he doesn’t develop into a top-four defenseman,” Otten said. “Jiricek doesn’t have a a high ‘plus’ potential, but there’s a chance that things come together for him, where Nemec is such a smart player that I’d be shocked if isn’t an NHL defenseman in some capacity.
Otten believes Nemec could reach the NHL in 2023-24.
Height and weight: 6-3, 190.
Stats for HC Plzen (Czech Republic) last season: 5 goals, 6 assists, 11 points in 29 games.
Otten’s evaluation: “A two-way defenseman who has a really good point shot. Pretty good mobility. Moving forward (up ice), he’s probably only average, but the overall mobility is quite good. His lateral mobility gives him a projection of a possible power-play quarterback when you factor in his big point shot.
“He defends pretty well and shows some physical aggressiveness. He’s that well-rounded package that’s kind of hard to define, and that’s sort of why he’s locked into that top-seven range (in the draft).
“I don’t think he’ll be a world-beater five-on-five; there are some limitations to what he can do. … There’s a lot of differences in opinion on his offensive potential. Some think he has a very high upside in the draft, and there are others who feel he’s a safe pick, more of like a No. 4 (defenseman), so I think the way he develops next year will be very telling. I project him as a solid No. 2 or 3. I don’t think anyone in this class really has a projection as a No. 1 defenseman.
“In terms of how long he needs to get to the NHL, he’s pretty close. He’s already playing in the Czech (Extraliga) League against men, so I would say probably another year and then he’d probably be ready to come over. And if he plays real well in that league next year, there’s a chance he could come over and be eased into a top-five or six role pretty quickly (in the NHL). Otherwise, maybe he’ll need a year in the AHL to sort of build up confidence.”
Coming up: Otten ranks the forwards who are on the Flyers’ radar at No. 5.