Draft day is like night one of a bender at a casino. The front office has their guard up, holding their cards in closely. No one wants to show their hand, and everyone is vying for a jackpot draft class at the same table. There was a lottery that literally assembled the draft order. When luck is for losers and the best general managers make their own history, it’s time to go all in.
Staying out of a hole means knowing what you want and executing your plan. Twelve other franchises will give their tell before you make a decision. If one prospect isn’t on the board, you better have a backup plan. If each of the first-round prospects is off the board, then it’s time to get in cahoots with another general manager.
Chuck Fletcher tells his signs. Right now, it’s the NHL’s worst-kept secret that the Philadelphia Flyers are shopping for a top-pair defenseman aside from Ivan Provorov. Pending on who they’re interested in, one team could receive a decent haul from Fletcher.
There are many different avenues Philadelphia could assume throughout the 2021 NHL Entry Draft to shock their system.
Out of the gate, Chuck Fletcher has to know what he wants, 2020-2021 was always going to be problematic when Erik Gustafsson was the only NHL personnel decision made in the offseason. It’s time to address with a sturdy defensive defenseman or find a game-changing forward.
Don’t worry about a defenseman in the first round. This draft class is a deep one for the blue line. If Mason McTavish or Aatu Raty is on the draft board, pull the trigger. Those two forwards will into develop into top-six mainstays.
If not those two options, it’s time to make a blockbuster trade in the first round of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Seth Jones is the target with the most buzz. All the fanbase wants, ultimately, is the right trade for the right kind of defenseman.
McTavish is a highly regarded center in this draft, likely off the board midway through the first round. Raty was the consensus top prospect about a month ago.
Between the two, if they’re both available, Raty is worth the gamble.
After the first round, the Philadelphia Flyers will have acquired the best available forward or made a blockbuster trade. No more tears about Cole Caufield. It’s splash or bust before the second round.
As we all know, Carter Hart needs a backup goaltender. Brian Elliott will be on his second 35+ contract in the NHL if he plays in 2021-2022. The problem is there isn’t a stable rotation with Hart. Alex Lyon likely isn’t the insurance. No other goaltender in the system has played for the Flyers.
In the second round, Philadelphia must be able to secure an important piece to compliment the defense. A top prospect defenseman is available; so is a top prospect goaltender. Chuck Fletcher could select between Anton Olsson and Sebastian Cossa. Because of the deep defensive talent pool, Cossa may be the right idea.
Olsson has what Fletcher should want. A defensive defenseman who could be a late first-round pick.
Cossa could be the best goaltender in the draft, which works nicely in a flat-cap era alongside Hart.
Now, the Philadelphia Flyers make their sure-fire defensive selection in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Through this mock, Chuck Fletcher creates a sense of stability by selecting quality forward, defense, and goaltending prospects in the first three rounds.
The undisputed selection in the third round has to be Kirill Kirsanov.
Remember, the object of making a trade for a top-pair defenseman is to find one who protects the defensive zone. Paired defensemen must complement their partner’s game, not duplicate it. Kirsanov is a defensive defenseman. For the Flyers, that’s a rarity.
Fair warning; Kirsanov is to play in Russia for the next two seasons. Being unable to play for a few seasons usually deters franchises from spending draft capital on a prospect. Philadelphia shouldn’t worry; a third-round pick isn’t an overpay for his potential.
Without suggesting a trade happens in the first round, the Flyers strike with prime potential picks in each of the first three rounds. Now, Chuck Fletcher must react to the Seattle Kraken’s damage from the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft.
If James van Riemsdyk is the one who belongs to the Kraken, then Jalen Luypen makes sense. He’s a scorer and one of the best underdog stories in the 2021 NHL Entry Draft. Luypen was a WHL longshot. He then averaged more than a point per game this season. The idea would be to maintain scoring potential akin to van Riemsdyk.
Dave Hakstol unleashed Shayne Gostisbehere, and Ron Francis knows that. If someone besides van Riemsdyk is selected, Sean Tschigerl is the right man for the job. Tschigerl was supposed to be a WHL top prospect. He’s the more well-rounded product in comparison.
It’s likely a deal to take a player making good money strikes. Luypen personifies Philadelphia in the cliche, gritty way. It’s beautiful to see a prospect overcome adversity, especially when it’s your own.
Remember when the Flyers traded Michael Raffl to the Washington Capitals at the trade deadline? The Capitals sent the fifth-round pick they received from the Vegas Golden Knights in exchange.
Replacing a penalty killer on the fourth line in the NHL requires a specific set of skills. Raffl was a fourth-line player who could float between the middle-six lines. It earned him an eight-year career with the Flyers before he shipped at the right time for draft capital. In the fifth round, Chuck Fletcher should be looking for a penalty-killing forward. Enter Liam Dower-Nilsson and Daniil Lazutin.
Dower-Nilsson was the captain of the U18 Sweden World Juniors team. In a fifth-round pick, a dash of leadership helps. Lazutin has a big frame and wins puck battles along the boards often. He’ll fill out his frame without doubt due to his family’s elite-athlete DNA (his mother was an Olympic cross-country skier.)
Here, Lazutin is the better selection. He’ll fit in transition on offense because his style complements Philadelphia’s on the odd-man-rush. With high frequency, the one-timer is the go-to option in the NHL, and that benefits Lazutin.
Six rounds in, and I can refer to my casino bender analogy once again. Now, the 2021 NHL Entry Draft becomes a game of roulette. Players could be a lot better than advertised late in this draft. The sixth and seventh rounds will harbor many OHL players who hadn’t played since 2019-2020. As a product of that, they’ll slip past the active prospects taken in earlier rounds.
Braeden Kressler finished second in team scoring amongst all first-year Flint Firebirds in 2019-2020. He is a balanced scorer (9G, 9A) who boosts the play of his teammates. More impressive than his scoring measurements is his plus-sixteen rating. Once everyone is buzzing, the rest follows.
Before you cash out, be sure to play the slots. Lining up for a gem in the seventh round may pay a bonus. For Chuck Fletcher and the Philadelphia Flyers, that could be Charles-Alexis Legault. He’ll generate interest from other teams, notably the Seattle Kraken.
Legault is a defenseman who should be gone before the seventh round. Injury dropped his draft stock, but what’s a seventh-round pick for a defenseman? Erik Gustafsson, basically.
There’s enough lingering polish on Legault to shine. Ian Laperriere could have another inspiring project on his hands.
After addressing the defensive defenseman earlier, the Flyers can afford to take a chance in the seventh round on another offensive defenseman, such as Legault.
Photo Credit: Alex McIntyre