The jury is still out on Chuck Fletcher bypassing a chance to select Cole Caufield in the first round of the 2019 draft. Twice.
But the early returns don’t favor Fletcher, who is in his fifth season as the Philadelphia Flyers’ general manager.
Caufield was an electric scorer going into that draft.
And the 5-foot-7, 174-pound right winger has been sizzling during most of the time he has been in the Montreal Canadiens’ lineup.
This season, he has 11 goals and 19 points in 18 games for the Habs (9-8-1), who defeated the visiting the Flyers (7-7-4) in overtime, 5-4, on Saturday night. Caufield had two goals and an assist, and he scored with 1.9 seconds left in regulation to tie the game at 4-all.
In 95 career games, he has 38 goals. That translates to 33 goals over an 82-game season.
In other words, the diminutive Caufield, 21, is just the type of player the offensive-challenged Flyers need.
Instead of drafting Caufield, Fletcher made a pair of deals and got two players early in the 2019 draft. The first player was defeneseman Cam York, the second was Bobby Orr Brink, a smallish right winger who was regarded as a Cole Caufield Lite.
The Flyers had two cracks at Caufield, a player most fans wanted them to take, based on social media comments before the 2019 draft.
They could have picked him at No. 11 overall. Instead, they traded down three spots in a deal with Arizona. They could have chosen Caufield at No. 14. Instead, they chose York at that spot — one pick before the dynamic Caufield went to Montreal.
Philly, thanks in part to the second-round pick they got from Arizona while moving down in the first round, then moved up 11 spots in the second round to draft Brink (No. 34 overall)
The Flyers had Brink ranked at No. 20 overall in that draft, not far behind where they rated Caufield.
Caufield, a Wisconsin native, was the best pure scorer in that draft. He had 72 goals in 54 games for the U.S. National Team Development Program in his final season before the draft.
Now it looks like Caufield is going to be a bona fide NHL scorer, Montreal is happy the Flyers twice passed on him.
At the time, Flyers’ thinking was this: York + Brink > than Caufield.
York, 21, showed promise in a 30-game stint with the Flyers last season. He did not, however, impress new coach John Tortorella during training camp and was sent to the Phantoms, where he is playing well this season (nine points in 12 games).
“This isn’t a bad thing,” Tortorella said when York was demoted. “… This is the right thing for Yorky.”
He has a chance to be a very good NHL defenseman and a power-play quarterback, but he needs to build up strength and get more snarl in his game.
Nation’s top scorer
Brink, 21, led all NCAA scorers in points (57) and assists (43) for NCAA champion Denver in 2021-22. The 5-8, 166-pounder then had four points, all assists, in a 10-game stint with the Flyers late last season.
But he suffered a left hip injury while training in the offseason and had surgery. Brink recently began practicing with the Phantoms, and could be ready to play in late December.
The injury-ravaged Flyers aren’t expected to be in the playoff race in this season’s second half, so it would be wise to have York and Brink in the lineup at that time. Let them gain some valuable NHL experience.
It will also be a chance for them to show that Fletcher made the right move by bypassing on Caufield.
Will they be able to do that?