The Philadelphia Flyers have spent a bulk of the last decade trying and failing to build through the draft. The biggest failures typically emerging as swings and misses during the first round, where the stars are typically drafted. Ron Hextall’s “safe” approach to drafting produced no star power and very little worthwhile talent at all. Chuck Fletcher has seemingly done a better job, but with most of his picks yet to make the jump to the professional level, it’s too little too late to save the organization. So as the Flyers prepare to draft fifth overall in 2022, Let’s take a look back at the last ten first round picks the franchise has selected and see just how they’ve panned out.
Worst: Jay O’Brien
Jay O’Brien was a prime example of Ron Hextall trying to be the smartest guy in the room and it backfiring miserably. O’Brien was ranked 32nd by Central Scouting for North American skaters, quite a climb from his 44th ranking at the midterms. That essentially boils down to a mid-round pick, but the Flyers took him 19th overall. His career since has been rather lackluster to say the least. He struggled through his first year at Providence College, so much so that he joined the BCHL, a Canadian-based Junior A league, in 2019-20. He returned to the NCAA scene in 2020-21, this time for Boston University where he’s had 18 goals and 38 points in 40 games over the last two seasons. He’ll turn 23 in November and is still unsigned by the Flyers as of this writing. To make his selection worse, he was picked three spots ahead of defenseman K’Andre Miller.
Number 9: German Rubtsov
German Rubtsov wasn’t necessarily an off the board pick when the Flyers selected him 22nd overall in 2016, but it was a curious move considering he was one of the players other teams were refusing to touch. He ranked fifth on the European skaters list by Central Scouting but thanks to a doping scandal with Russia’s U-18 team, where the entire team was replaced just days before the tournament after testing positive for Meldonium, a banned performance enhancer, his stock fell quite a bit heading into the draft.
He may have been a top ten pick otherwise, but the Flyers were “grateful” they guy him at 22nd overall. In the years since, he has been an injury-riddled mess who struggled to create offense the second he stepped on North American ice, dating back to his first QMJHL season in 2016-17. For some reason the Flyers re-signed him in 2021 and after yet another completely ineffective season in the AHL, he was dealt to the Florida Panthers at the 2022 trade deadline.
Number 8: Nolan Patrick
13th overall to second. The Flyers’ rebuild finally seemed to gain some luck when they won the second overall pick in the 2017 draft, and moreover, scored Nolan Patrick, who was the concensus number one pick going in and was passed up on by the New Jersey Devils. Ron Hextall was so confident that Patrick was the center of the future that he dealt away Brayden Schenn the same day. What proceeded was four years of lackluster hockey and a long stint on IR which forced him to miss the 2019-20 season altogether. He recorded a disappointing 30 goals and 70 points in 197 games with the Flyers before he was traded during the 2021 offseason.
Number 7: Morgan Frost
There couldn’t be a bigger disparity in the hype-to-production ratio for the 2017 27th overall pick. His two seasons in the OHL post draft year were incredibly impressive to say the least, recording a whopping 221 points in 125 games. Though when he made the jump to the AHL in 2019-20, his small size and underwhelming defensive ability limited his success. Even though he’s a full-time NHLer these days, his offense is still underwhelming on a game-to-game basis and his two-way ability just isn’t up to snuff. He’s still just 23 years old, but things aren’t looking good for Frost.
Number 6: Tyson Foerster
Foerster hangs around the middle of this list because we haven’t seen much of him yet at the professional level, but he seems to have all the making of a top NHL winger. He was a beneficiary of the pandemic putting a halt of the 2020 CHL season, so he got to jump to the AHL and get his feet wet with the pros. He posted 10 goals and 17 points in 24 games in 2020-21 though a miriad of injuries limited him. He started the 2021-22 season in the AHL, being grandfathered in, and recorded two goals and three points before a shoudler injury forced surgery and ended his season early. He returned to his junior team, the Barrie Colts, late in they year and had seven goals and 15 points in 19 regular season and playoff games.
He’ll return to the AHL on a full-time basis on 2022-23 and, barring he stays healthy, we’ll finally get a good idea of what exactly he can bring to the big leagues.
Number 5: Cam York
Cam York was Fletcher’s first pick as GM of the Flyers, and he started his drafting fairly controversially when he traded back three spots to select Cam York 14th overall, one spot before his fellow USNTDP member Cole Caufield. York has looked good at the collegiate level, the AHL level and during his brief NHL stint as well. He was a full-time NHLer from March to the end of the season and posted three goals and 10 points in 30 total games in 2021-22. He doesn’t seem to get overwhelmed easily, looking cool, calm and collected at all times. His offensive ceiling it the thing that is most intriguing moving forward. If he continues to develop that aspect of his game, he may become one of the better two-way young defenseman in the league.
Number 4: Travis Konecny
Ron Hextall had 42 draft picks during his five seasons at the helm of the Flyers, and Travis Konecny was his most notable forward selection to date. His overall offense is relatively pedestrian, 110 goals and 271 points in 428 games, which should speak to just how poorly Hextall was at drafting, but he does have a slight physical edge to his game and serves as pest on the ice, for whatever that’s worth. He’s six years into his career and is still looking for that defining moment to elevate himself to stardom, but each year that passes, that rise is more and more unlikely.
Number 3: Joel Farabee
Joel Farabee was the first of two first round picks in 2018, the last overseen by Ron Hextall, and may go down as one of his best selections. His offensive totals haven’t been anything overly impressive yet, with his career best 20 goals and 38 points in 55 games during 2020-21, he appears to possess the raw talent to be a true producer in this league. Injuries have limited him over the last calendar year and a relatively lackluster roster around him has capped his potential as well. Though he is just 22 years old and seems to have all the basic skills to be a top forward for the Flyers, provided the organization builds a competitive team around him.
Number 2: Travis Sanheim
It’s been a bumpy road in the NHL for 2014 first round pick Travis Sanheim. Some nights he looks like a bright two-way star on the blueline, others he looks like a newborn baby giraffe on skates. He was the first selection made by Ron Hextall, 17th overall in 2014. With the benefit of hindsight, his early time in Philly should’ve been a precursor to how Hextall would handle development. He spent two more years in juniors, two seasons in Lehigh, wasn’t properly transitioned into the NHL, instead he was bounced between the NHL and AHL, and often found himself in the press box, before finally landing a full-time NHL gig in 2018-19, where the wildly inconsistent play emerged. He finally seemed to put the pieces together during the 2021-22 season, so we’ll finally get to see if Sanheim can establish himself at the NHL level, or if we’ll get more of the same.
Best: Ivan Provorov
One of the top reasons the Flyers entered their rebuild in 2014 was to acquire a top defenseman via the draft, and in that sense, they accomplished their goal with the seventh overall pick in 2015. He made his NHL debut during the 2016-17 season and immediately stepped into the team’s top defenseman role, averaging a team-leading 21:59 of TOI per game, and by far led the team with 1,802 of total minutes played. He would only take more on his plate in the years following, regularly eclipsing the 25:00 mark in TOI for the season. He’s always functioned better with an actual defense partner, something the Flyers have more often than not failed to provide him, but at just 25-year-old, there’s a good chance the best is yet to come for Provorov.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.com