Now that the Flyers’ front office is set and a rebuild is supposedly underway, the 2023 NHL draft is the first stop for Danny Briere and Keith Jones, who could very much look to make a major splash during their first offseason at the helm.
Briere has talked about considering moving up in the draft. The problem is, the top three picks probably aren’t going to be on the trade block, and it doesn’t make much sense for the Flyers to move up from seven to the four, five or six spots if it means giving up a big asset or two for a player that may not be substantially better than who they’d be getting at seven.
Though there is one situation where moving up a spot or two could be worth the price of admission, and that’s to select Russian sensation Matvei Michkov, the talented player whose draft position is in limbo due to the uncertainty of his future as a Russian player. He’s under contract for three more seasons with SKA St. Petersburg of the KHL, and after the Flyers witnessed Ivan Fedotov get detained and was not allowed to leave the country, it has made some skeptical that Michkov ever makes the jump to the NHL.
He could very well be the second overall pick if all else was equal, but in a year with so much talent, some teams may pass up on the risk of drafting him and opt for a North American player who will impact their franchise immediately.
Connor Bedard is expected to go first, Adam Fantilli the consensus second overall and Leo Carlsson expected at third overall and the question of where Michkov falls beyond that will be the big story.
If Briere is intent on moving up in the draft, what if the Flyers move up to fourth or fifth overall (currently held by San Jose and Montreal respectively) to select Michkov if he falls that far?
It’d be a huge risk for the Flyers to draft Michkov at seven (let alone moving up a few slots and giving up extra assets to do so) given how badly they need this pick to be a home run. If they select him and he, for one reason or another, never makes the trek to North America, they essentially wasted their top ten pick in a stacked draft. But in the chance the Flyers snag Michkov and he actually comes over after his contract ends in 2026, he could end up being the game-changing force the Flyers are missing.
What does it cost to move up? Well the seventh overall and one of their two first round picks next year is at least the starting point. For the most part, tippy top prospects don’t get traded in deals like these, so Tyson Foerster and Cutter Gauthier are off the table, but it wouldn’t be surprising if the Flyers had to throw in a guy like Joel Farabee to make the deal happen, a young NHL ready guy who could quite frankly probably use a change of scenery.
The 2023 draft will be Danny Briere’s first opportunity to make his mark as GM of the Flyers, and what a first move it would be for him to him to walk up to the Flyers’ table on draft day, zip down his pants, whip out his beachball sized nuts, demand the Flyers trade up to fourth overall then select a risk like Michkov. It’s the kind of risk that this organization hasn’t taken in a long time. It’s the kind of move that will make him look like a genius if Michkov comes over and pans out, but will be criticized for the rest of time if his takes that kind of swing and Michkov never plays for the organization through his own volition or that decision being made for him.
It’s such an intense decision as some dude sitting at his kitchen table coming up with this theory that I can’t even imagine the pressure Briere and every other GM in the top ten is going to feel when it comes to them selecting Michkov.
There’s also been a few whispers that Swedish center Leo Carlsson could potentially fall out of the top three. The 6’3, 194lb 18-year-old would also be a worthwhile trade-up candidate if he does indeed fall further than expected.
With any luck, Danny Briere will not be like his predecessor and not cower at the idea of leaving his mark on the club. The Flyers are going to need someone with a spine to make a big decision or two in order to save their sinking ship. Inactivity and ignorance just isn’t going to fly this time around. He and Jones have far more trust from the fans than expected given their inexperience, but a blockbuster trade for a top prospect on their first big stage would certainly help their image and sell a rebuild to the remaining skeptical fans out there.
Does Briere get his wish and move up in the draft? I guess we’ll all just have to wait until June 28 to find out.
By: Dan Esche (@DanTheFlyeraFan)
photo credit: nhl.nbcsports.com