We’ve explored who the Philadelphia Flyers should target in the first four 2021 NHL Entry Draft rounds. Who should be targeted in the fifth?
Versatility becomes a focus as the rounds become later. Usually, a center is the most versatile forward of the bunch. The ability to effectively play wing while having a penchant for winning faceoffs is critical in the NHL. Coaches value the opportunity to steal possessions in the defensive zone or extending in the offensive. Many bottom-six forwards in the NHL carve a career out of those aspects.
In the fifth round, expectations should focus on players who can out-hustle the opposition. As a forward, that means showing the tenacity to win puck battles and ride a forecheck. Alain Vigneault will not sacrifice a two-hundred-foot game. It’s crucial to his offensive system.
The following three targets are centers. There are more question marks at this position than before 2020-2021. Following the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft, Philadelphia must navigate the 2021 NHL Entry Draft precisely because there isn’t enough space in the wallet to bid in free agency.
Side note: the Flyers have a fifth-round pick because of the 2021 NHL Trade Deadline exchange with the Washington Capitals. Michael Raffl was exchanged for this pick, originally from the Vegas Golden Knights.
Notre Dame is no pushover. Take a gander at some of the current NHL players who developed there:
Anders Bjork, Ian Cole, Vinny Hinostroza, Anders Lee, Kyle Palmieri, Bryan Rust
There’s a ton of potential with Strand as a fifth-round selection. He’s a left-handed shooter and could develop as a potential left-wing in a secondary role. Once he improves upon his skating, Stand could be a bottom-six roleplayer who scores. Throughout his hockey career, he’s shown natural goal scorer traits.
Bill Placzek notes Strand “will need to polish his skating before he is considered a legitimate NHL prospect.” That’s acceptable in the fifth round. Last year, that indictment was out on Tyson Foerster, taken in the first round by the Philadelphia Flyers. Strand has exceptional hockey intelligence on offense. When possessions extend, he curates scoring plays.
A Potential Raffl Replacement For the Flyers?
Standing in at 6′ and 176lbs, Liam Dower-Nilsson was the captain of the recent U18 Sweden World Junior team, winning a bronze medal.
In seven U18 World Junior games, Dower-Nilsson tallied four points (1G, 3A) with a plus-two rating. Before the tournament, Frolunda HC loaned him to Hanhals IF after a blank stat line in six games. With Hanhals IF, he averaged a point per game, scoring fourteen points (6G, 8A) in as many games.
He’s a two-way defenseman that can find a home on the fourth line in Alain Vigneault’s system. His leadership can help any team in a bottom-six role.
Players don’t become captains of a national team by accident. Dower-Nilsson has intangibles that could influence the pace of a game. Usually, if the bottom-six is buzzing, the Philadelphia Flyers keep themselves in games. Dower-Nilsson could rightfully replace effort from Michael Raffl, the reason the Flyers have a fifth-round pick.
Standing in at 6’2″ and 174lbs from HC SKA-1946, Daniil Lazutin has elite athlete DNA. His mother is an Olympic cross-country skier.
On the ice, Lazutin usually benefits his teammates with his play. In the MHL, he’s never finished with a minus rating. This season, Lazutin tallied nine points (8G, 1A) in 31 games with a plus-three rating. He’s a well-rounded player when he’s in on the action. Part of his 2020-2021 journey featured a silver medal with the U18 Russia World Junior team.
Of these three forwards, is Lazutin a fit for Alain Vigneault? Once he bulks up, Lazutin could be more comfortable with the physical aspect of the game. He may not lay in the big hit, but he knows how to utilize his size to win board battles.
Lazutin could be off the board as early as the late third round. In transition, he’s elusive. The NHL is a game of one-timer scoring in the odd-man rush. That is a strength playing in Lazutin’s favor.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre