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Flyers Won’t Take Vegas’ Unique Route To Roster Building

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Carter Hart. (AP Photo/Nick Wass)
Carter Hart

With the Flyers rebuilding their team, it’s interesting to see how the Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights built their team in six years.

The traditional way to rebuild a hockey team is through the draft. You select good players, work with them, develop them. If enough players are good enough, you might have something.

Draft, draft, draft. General managers’ career have soared or have been ruined by draft classes.

You also build out through the goaltender, too. That’s a given, right? Contending teams must be strong in the game’s most valuable position.

Except Vegas blew up those theories.

Vegas took an unconventional route to winning its first Stanley Cup. In their Cup-clinching Game 5 victory, the Golden Knights had one player on the ice they had drafted. That was defenseman Nicolas Hague, a second-round pick in 2017, their first draft class.

Conn Smythe Trophy winner Jonathan Marchessault came to Vegas in the expansion draft. Jack Eichel was traded from Buffalo. Vegas grabbed William Karlsson from Columbus in the expansion draft.

Alex Pietrangelo was a free agent. Mark Stone, who scored a hat trick in the Game 5 clincher, was traded to Vegas from Ottawa in 2019.

Fourth-String Goalie

The goalie was another story, an amazing one. Adin Hill, who was a serious contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy, didn’t even play in Vegas’ first-round series win over Winnipeg.

Laurent Brossoit was Vegas’ starting goalie. But Brossoit was injured in Game 3 against the Oilers in the second round. Hill stepped in and ran the table, so to speak. He had a strong lineup in front of him but still, he made so many important stops that it became clear Vegas was winning because of him.

Hill played the remaining games and went 11-4. He had a 2.17 goals-against average and a .932 goals-against average. Until 2023, he had never appeared in the playoffs in six seasons.

He was traded to Vegas from San Jose in August 2022. The price? A fourth-round pick in 2024. He was the Golden Knights’ fourth-string goalie coming into season.

Now, The Flyers

The Flyers appear to taking a more universally accepted rebuilding route.

They appear to want to trade players to acquire draft picks, build through the draft, develop the young players they have, build from the goal out (well, maybe). Along the way, hit the free-agent market when prudent.

This is a tried and true method to NHL rebuilding. This would appear to be a conventional and safer way to relevancy rather than the jackpot that Vegas hit.

Let’s start in goal. Many, including me, have advocated for not trading Carter Hart. Logically, a team shouldn’t trade its best asset and best player at the most important position on the ice.

Then, there’s Hill, a 27-year-old journeyman who set a career high in games played this season with 27. In four years in Arizona, he started 41 games. He is not Carter Hart, not in pedigree and not in expectations.

Yet, this morning, Hill wakes up a Stanley Cup champion. Las Vegas had a parade yesterday and Hill was a big reason why. A guy the Golden Knights acquired for a future fourth-round pick.

In the Flyers’ final regular-season game on April 13, 12 of the 19 players in their lineup were their own draft choices. Eight of their 12 players were first-rounders. That’s the traditional template. That’s how teams rebuild. That’s how the Flyers are doing it.

Conclusion

When a team has success, other teams try some version of the same methods. In this case, Vegas is unique. Its unorthodox team building was helped by an expansion rules change that allowed Vegas to draft the eighth-best forward, fourth-best defenseman or second-best goalie from each team.

And being only a 6-year-old team, many Vegas draft picks are working their way through the system. Still, only one of their own draft picks in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals? One?

The Golden Knights latched onto a goaltender on his greatest career heater and rode Marchessault’s goal streak. He had 11 goals in 12 playoff games.

Teams rebuild traditionally because they are so committed to their drafting apparatus. They spend fortunes scouting kids and developing them. It’s difficult to believe teams could try the Vegas path. Not the Flyers, not anyone.

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Flyers, In Case You Missed It:

Speaking of the draft, if the Flyers want to take a defenseman at No. 7, David Reinbacher might be their guy.

Oliver Moore would bring speed and a two-way game to Flyers and he might be available at No. 7.

ESPN doesn’t think much of the Flyers going into next season.

Some Flyers fans are feeling OK about the offseason, so far.

Around The National Hockey Network:

Boston Hockey Now: Bruins coach Jim Montgomery admits he misread his team’s body language as they collapse against Panthers in first round.

Buffalo Hockey Now: Could the Sabres move up in the draft? They have the 13th pick and two seconds and a third to bargain with.

Chicago Hockey Now: Taking a look at general manager Kyle Davidson’s first draft in 2022.

Colorado Hockey Now: Devils forward Yegor Sharangovich is the classic Avalanche trade target.

Detroit Hockey Now: Red Wings defense prospect William Wallinder is the 2022-23 European Hockey Club’s Young Player of the Year. It’s the third consecutive year the award has going to a Red Wings prospect.

Florida Hockey Now: Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad will miss start of next season due to injuries.

Montreal Hockey Now: The Canadiens will maintain a strong waiver-wire priority through the offseason.

Pittsburgh Hockey Now: Coach Mike Sullivan figures to have significant say in the personnel decisions president of hockey operations and interim GM Kyle Dubas will make for the Penguins this summer.

San Jose Hockey Now: Ten teams that might want to trade for defenseman Erik Karlsson.

Vegas Hockey Now: Stanley Cup champion Golden Knights getting no love from oddsmakers for next season.

Washington Hockey Now: The Hershey Bears, a former Flyers’ affiliate, is one game away from winning the Calder Cup.

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