Pumping the brakes on Flyers’ prospect expectations

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It’s a complicated time in the city of Philadelphia regarding their professional hockey team.

The Flyers have been borderline mediocre the past few seasons. This year, they have toed the line between bad and horrendous. Although the NHL roster continues to provide the fanbase with very little pleasure, the saving grace continues to be the plethora of quality prospects developing in the farm system.

Throughout the Ron Hextall era, the future was not just the primary focus, it was the only one. The former General Manager put very little effort into improving the franchise’s NHL roster and appeared content to wait for all of his former draft picks to mature and one day occupy the ice at the Wells Fargo Center.

The organization has since removed Hextall of his duties but a large portion of the team’s fan base demonstrate hesitation with acquiring NHL-ready talent in the fear of blocking a prospect’s position on the roster. Although the idea of just bringing up a bunch of homegrown youth to improve the state of the organization sounds amazing, it is a jaded train of thought.

Allow me to drop some knowledge on you.

Anything Can Happen

First, let’s take a minute to develop the understanding that simply getting drafted does not necessarily translate into a successful NHL career. Think of all the players that are selected each draft. A very small percentage of them actually experience long and prosperous professional careers. Of course, there are plenty of factors that play into this, but it is important to remember that being a highly-regarded prospect only means so much. There are still a lot of “unknowns” that can alter one’s plan of wreaking havoc on the ice. I bring this up because even though the Flyers have some promising prospects, they are still young and developing. A lot can happen that could result in a few of them not panning out.

Similarly, development occurs differently for every player. Some come out as stars right from the beginning while others take years to reach their full potential. Placing a bunch of young talent on an NHL roster before they are ready can do more harm than good. Take a look at the Edmonton Oilers for example. They received a top draft pick year after year and always rushed them onto the NHL roster. How many of those top picks aren’t living up to former expectations? The answer is a whole lot of them. Even the ones having respectable careers aren’t putting together the performance of a former first-overall draft pick. Obviously, this does not include Connor McDavid or Taylor Hall. Asking too much of young players negatively impacts their developments and sometimes leads to them getting used to a losing environment.

Two at a Time

Finally, the best way to successfully acclimate prospects to the NHL is to surround them with capable veterans. Think about it. No matter what facet of life we are talking about, positive supports are always beneficial. Capable players that take pressure away from the youth can only help a prospect reach his full potential. This way the player does not feel rushed and attempt to accomplish too much.

Ideally, the Flyers will look to fill some holes with NHL-caliber talent this offseason and plan to promote two prospects a year. This way, the youth that occupies Philadelphia’s farm system has the appropriate time to develop. Additionally, the NHL team can attempt achieving success in the meantime.

Yes, the future still looks bright in the City of Brotherly Love. Still, we simply can’t rely on all the members of the prospect pool saving the day all on their lonesome.

 

Mandatory Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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