Random Flyers thoughts as the NHL season reaches the quarter pole:
1. The 2017 NHL draft has always been a hot topic among Flyers fans and the team’s No. 2 overall pick. But the SECOND round deserves more questioning.
Revisionists point to that draft and complain that the Philadelphia Flyers took Nolan Patrick at No. 2 overall. Most top scouts around the league, however, had him No. 1 or 2.
Lots of people complain that the Flyers didn’t pick defenseman Cale Makar (he went to Colorado at No. 4 overall), who appears to be the second coming of Bobby Orr. Or that they bypassed on Miro Heiskanen, a standout defenseman who went to Dallas at No. 3.
But, again, it’s hard to fault the Flyers because scouts universally loved Patrick, and you couldn’t have foreseen all the head injuries/concussions that have plagued his NHL career.
But the real crime was in the second round, where general manager Ron Hextall and his staff took left winger Isaac Ratcliffe at No. 35 overall — four picks before Dallas grabbed left winger Jason Robertson. In fact, Hextall traded up nine spots with Arizona and gave up second-, third- and fourth-rounders to get Ratcliffe.
Ratcliffe has played just 10 NHL games in his career, and is now struggling in the AHL. This year, he cleared waivers before going to the Phantoms.
Robertson, a power forward, has 16 goals and 31 points in 20 games this season for Dallas. He had 41 goals last season, and is just the type of finisher and elite power-play performer the Flyers lack.
2. It’s becoming clear that it’s going to be impossible to evaluate the jobs done by the Flyers and their coaching staff this season.
The reason, of course, is injuries. Lots of injuries. Most of them to key players, including their entire top line and their best defenseman.
How do you fairly evaluate the players and coaches when almost everyone is playing on a higher line than usual? Third-liners are on the first line (hello, Morgan Frost), some players on special teams have been elevated only because of injuries, and players who should be in the AHL are with the big team.
The good news is that many players are getting experience they wouldn’t have received, and the Flyers are finding out who they want — or don’t want — as part of their future.
3. Scott Laughton, James van Riemsdyk, and Travis Konecny should be back in a couple weeks. Is that good or bad for the Flyers?
Good: The Philadelphia Flyers, who have lost eight straight heading into Friday’s game against visiting Pittsburgh, will be more competitive.
Bad: Philly has gained ground in its draft position because of its skid, but the return of those three forwards — plus Sean Couturier in January or February — will probably take the Flyers out of the Connor Bedard running.
But remember, this is a very deep draft, filled with generational players and future All-Stars. So even if the Philadelphia Flyers finish at, say, No. 5 in the draft lottery, they are going to get a great prospect,
The future will look better if, like in the last draft, they make a smart top-5 selection — or wherever they select. GM Chuck Fletcher drafted a winner when he took center Cutter Gauthier at No. 5 overall in the 2022 draft. Don’t be surprised if Gauthier, who is off to a terrific start at Boston College, is the Flyers’ No. 3 center next season.