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Injuries Aside, Many First-Round Draft Picks Have Crippled Flyers



German Rubstov, Philadelphia Flyers
Center German Rubtsov was one of many first-round busts for the Philadelphia Flyers under GM Ron Hextall..

Earlier this week, German Rubtsov, 24, officially joined a line of first-round busts for the Philadelphia Flyers.

Rubtsov, who was sent to Florida late last season as part of the Claude Giroux deal,  signed with Spartak Moskva in Russia’s KHL after not being tendered a qualifying offer from the Panthers.

As general manager of the Flyers and presiding over the draft from 2014 to 2018, Ron Hextall made some shrewd selections after the first round, including Carter Hart (second round, 2016), Oskar Lindblom (fifth round, 2014), Noah Cates (fifth round, 2017), and Ivan Fedotov (seventh round, 2015).

But with his first-rounders, well, many of them were disasters — and it has sent the Flyers waaaaaaaay back because of it.

Granted, injuries played a factor in several of the prospects not developing close to their expectations. But the bottom line is that too many of the No. 1 picks didn’t cut it.

Here are Hextall’s first-rounders for the Philadelphia Flyers and my grades for them at the moment:

2014: Travis Sanheim, defenseman, No. 17 overall.

Comment: Sanheim finally showed consistency in the second half of last season and is a solid second-pair defenseman. At No. 25 overall that year, Boston picked David Pastrnak, who has turned into a superstar.

Grade: B.

2015: Ivan Provorov, defenseman, No. 7 overall.

Comment: A No. 7 overall pick should be able to be the top guy on the first pairing. Provorov has been a good player, but he struggled being the lead guy unless he has had a high-quality partner. At No. 10 in the 2015 draft, Colorado took right winger Miko Rantanen, a prolific scorer.

Grade: B.

2015: Travis Konecny, RW, No. 24 overall.

Comment: Like Provorov, Konecny has been a good player but hasn’t taken the next step to stardom. After three straight years with 24 goals, he has regressed over the last two seasons.

Grade: B-minus.

2016: German Rubtsov, center, No. 22 overall.

Comment: Injuries hindered him, but he struggled mightily with the Phantoms, scoring a total of four goals in his last 79 games for Lehigh Valley. At No. 39 in 2016, Chicago took a scoring machine named Alex DeBrincat.

Grade: F.

2017: Nolan Patrick, center, No. 2 overall.

Comment: Through no fault of his own, head injuries have prevented him from being the dominating player the Flyers (and many other NHL GMs) expected to see. Now with Vegas, Patrick could miss the entire 2022-23 season. Many other players taken after Patrick have become noteworthy, including Cale Makar (No. 4 overall), Miro Heiskanen (No. 3), Elias Pettersson (No. 5), and Nick Suzuki (No. 13).

Grade: F.

2017: Morgan Frost, center, No. 27 overall.

Comment: It’s way too early to call Frost a bust, and he has shown flashes of looking like an important contributor. But overall, he was below average in 55 games last season and needs to play with more assertiveness and confidence. Frost, who dominated the junior level, has 23 points in 77 NHL games. So far, 13 players drafted after him have been more productive.

Grade: D. (This could change, of course, as Frost has a make-or-break season in 2022-23.)

2018: Joel Farabee, LW, 14th overall.

Comment: One of Hextall’s best picks, Farabee plays a strong two-way game and is trying to bounce back after having neck surgery. This draft selection is a keeper.

Grade: B-plus.

2018: Jay O’Brien, center, 19th overall.

Comment: Injuries have slowed him down, and he is in his senior year at Boston University after undergoing offseason hip surgery. Maybe he’ll bloom into a big-time player. Maybe. But his inability to stay healthy is a concern. The Flyers bypassed defenseman K’Andre Miller — he was selected three picks later by the Rangers — and instead chose O’Brien.

Grade: D-plus.

Bottom line

In a salary cap world, you can’t miss on a first-round pick, especially those in the early or middle part of the opening round.

The Flyers have had too many players who turned into duds. They also have had bad luck with injuries, especially Patrick and Samuel Morin, a towering defenseman who was taken in the first round (11th overall) of the 2013 draft under GM Paul Holmgren.

Torts: Flyers Should Be Motivated Because Outsiders Think They’ll Stink 

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