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Carchidi: Flyers Ousted, so What’s Next? Drafting a Hotshot Forward?

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The Flyers can't wait to get dynamic forward Matvei Michkov to Philadelphia from the KHL, where he is under contract for two more seasons. Photo: AP.

The Philadelphia Flyers will not be in the playoffs for the fourth straight season. That’s the simple truth after Tuesday’s wild developments.

There is, however, more fulfillment from this season than the previous three. That’s because several young players made strides, and the Flyers have four picks in the first two rounds of this June’s draft. In addition, the fact they got to a meaningful Game No. 82 is a credit to the players.

They energized the Wells Fargo Center for most of the rebuilding season and brought a hard-working identity back to Philadelphia.

That’s not to say there isn’t some heartache and disappointment. The power play, which was 0 for 23 over the last nine games, was abysmal. The offense was lacking, and the defense was too inconsistent.

The Flyers fought through their shortcomings and overachieved for most of the season. Based on their first 71 games, they deserved to be in the playoffs.

But an epic eight-game collapse in which they went 0-6-2 – including an unfathomable 0-5 record against lightweights Montreal, Chicago, Columbus and Buffalo — sealed their fate.

The Flyers fought hard Tuesday but dropped a season-ending 2-1 decision to visiting Washington. In a bizarre development, the Caps broke a 1-1 tie with an empty-net goal with three minutes left. The Flyers had pulled goalie Sam Ersson because they needed a regulation win to stay alive. (They also needed Detroit to lose in regulation, but that didn’t happen, either.)

Washington thus goes into the playoffs as the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card team.

What now?

So where do the Flyers go from here?

Well, the franchise has had its share of late-season agony and has rebounded in the past. In 1972, for instance, a goal by Buffalo’s Gerry Meehan with four seconds left in their season finale cost the Philadelphia Flyers a playoff berth. They used the memory of that loss as a motivator and reached the post-season the next year, winning the franchise’s first playoff series (vs. Minnesota) and then playing very competitively against the powerful Canadiens in Round 2.

The next year, they won the Stanley Cup. So that 1972 tragedy turned into a 1974 triumph that brought two million of Bernie Parent’s closest friends to a parade down Broad Street.

No one is saying the current Flyers are close to winning a Cup in two years, but there are signs they are on the upswing.

To continue on that path, they must get the next two drafts right. They have eight picks in the first two rounds in 2024 and 2025. They need to hit home runs, or at least stand-up doubles, especially since they traded unhappy Cutter Gauthier, a forward who is just the type of sniper the Flyers need to take the next step.

The Flyers will likely select 12th in this year’s draft, and they need to upgrade their offense. The player(s) they pick in Round 1 could be ready by the time dynamic forward Matvei Michkov arrives from Russia’s KHL for the 2026-27 season.

That’s when the Flyers hope to be legitimate contenders, though the Carter Hart situation has muddled things.

So who are the forwards who could be available and might attract the Flyers in this year’s draft?

Good bloodlines

Tij Iginla is an interesting name. A lot of draft boards have him being chosen in the 10-16 area of the fist round, so there’s a decent chance he will be around for the Flyers. The 6-foot, 185-pound center is the son of Hall of Famer Jarome Iginla. Tij has a great shot, soft hands, and an off-the-chart hockey IQ. He has good (but not outstanding) speed, plays with an edge, and looks like a future star.

In 64 games this season with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, he had 47 goals, 84 points and a plus-17 rating.

If he’s available, the Flyers should pull the trigger. If he’s gone, they may turn their attention to left winger Cole Eiserman (U.S. Development Program)  or right winger Liam Greentree (OHL) if they are available. Both would be future power-play staples.

The Philadelphia Flyers will also have a late first-round pick, acquired from Florida in the Claude Giroux trade. The top forwards who could be available: center Michael Hage, and right wingers Emil Hemming and Maxim Masse.

This is a critical draft for Danny Briere and Co. With Gauthier gone, they need some future snipers. The Flyers can’t afford to make first-round mistakes like they did when they drafted German Rubtsov in 2016 and Jay O’Brien in 2018.

Those forwards should be in their primes. Instead, they turned into busts, contributing to the Flyers’ four-year playoff-less streak, one shy of equaling the longest stretch in franchise history.

Sam Carchidi writes a weekly column for Philly Hockey Now. He and Jeff Hare are working on a TV series on the Flyers’ glory days, tentatively called “Bullies.” Carchidi can be reached at samcarchidi55@gmail.com.

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