Heading into the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers were slotted for the thirteenth pick before the draft lottery. Then, defying odds, the Flyers jumped up to the second pick in the NHL draft after the lottery. With that pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft, the best North American skater available was selected. Philadelphia drafted Nolan Patrick with the second overall pick.
The first overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft went to a Metropolitan Division rival. Nico Hischier, the second-best North American skater, was selected first overall by the New Jersey Devils. After the Philadelphia Flyers selection was the Dallas Stars. Miro Heiskanen was drafted by the Stars and was the first defenseman selected in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Defying odds set the tone for the Philadelphia Flyers, who had a 2.4% chance of landing the second overall pick in 2017. The Flyers had an 84.3% likelihood of remaining at thirteenth overall. How different would the 2017 NHL Entry Draft be for Philadelphia if they stayed at the thirteenth pick as the probability suggested? Welcome to another installment of “Flyerthetical,” where we manipulate just how different the Flyers would have been in an alternate universe.
Nolan Patrick’s Immediate Impact
In the 2017-2018 NHL season, Nolan Patrick made an immediate impact with the Philadelphia Flyers. Patrick played in 73 games that season and finished ninth in scoring on the team. His quality of play was good enough to be a fourth-line center in his first season, trading time with Valtteri Filppula.
Nolan Patrick established himself as a young playmaker with the Philadelphia Flyers. In his 73 games played, Patrick tallied 30 points. Eight of those points came on the powerplay and most of the overall points were assists, but he did score two game-winning goals. In the faceoff circle, Patrick showed his worth early on, winning 50.6% of his overall faceoffs in 2017-2018. This was a successful pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft.
Who Would The Flyers Take At 13?
Since the Philadelphia Flyers selected a forward with the second overall pick, we’re going to stay in the same school of thought with the thirteenth pick. The actual thirteenth pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft was Nick Suzuki. The center, now with the Montreal Canadiens, was selected by the Vegas Golden Knights. Suzuki made his NHL debut this season, playing in 71 games and totaling 41 points. In his rookie campaign, he is currently fifth in goals and fourth in assists among all NHL rookies.
Another option that I believe the Philadelphia Flyers had on their draft board was Robert Thomas. Drafted twentieth, Thomas was selected by the St. Louis Blues. This season, Thomas has tallied 42 points, which is an improvement from 33 in his NHL rookie season. He’s still with the Blues, who he contributed to a Stanley Cup championship in 2018-2019. Thomas garnished enough of a reputation in his rookie season to finish seventh in the NHL 2018-2019 All-Rookie Team voting.
The Philadelphia Flyers decision at thirteenth overall should come down to being between these two players. I believe that the Flyers would have selected Nick Suzuki, who I would have to assume would receive more votes for the 2019-2020 All-Rookie team than Robert Thomas did in 2018-2019. Now that we are rewriting the 2017 NHL Entry Draft with the Flyers selecting Suzuki at thirteen, how does this decision shape Philadelphia?
On this “Flyerthetical” 2019-2020 Philadelphia Flyers team, Nick Suzuki scores as many points this season as Kevin Hayes did. Suzuki and Hayes would be tied for fifth on the team in scoring. The Flyers fans wouldn’t be discussing Scott Laughton as the most improved player this season. “Hollywood” Hayes would probably lead talks as the breakout star in his first season with Philadelphia, but not without Suzuki being mentioned too.
There is a strong possibility that Morgan Frost, Mikhail Vorobyev, and Connor Bunnaman get significantly less playing time with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2019-2020. There is also a high probability that no trades are made for Nate Thompson or Derek Grant. A lot of those moves were dependent on Nolan Patrick’s health due to his migraine disorder. In this scenario, that isn’t a hurdle because Suzuki is playing 71 games.
Overall, the Philadelphia Flyers were blessed to jump to the second overall pick in the 2017 NHL Entry Draft. With the right decision making, which the Flyers weren’t far removed, Philadelphia may select Nick Suzuki. Nolan Patrick offered an immediate impact and proved his worth straight out of the gate. The same can be said for Suzuki, but it was two years removed. With a full disclaimer on recency bias, it is arguable that Suzuki would be more beneficial now than Patrick with the Flyers.
Mandatory Credit – © David Banks-USA TODAY Sports