As Flyers Tail Spin Continues, Is Bad Drafting to Blame?

NHL: FEB 17 Flyers at Red Wings
DETROIT, MI – FEBRUARY 17: Detroit Red Wings forward Tyler Bertuzzi (59) and Philadelphia Flyers defenseman Travis Sanheim (6) skate after the puck during a regular season NHL hockey game between the Philadelphia Flyers and the Detroit Red Wings on February 17, 2019. at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Scott Grau/Icon Sportswire)

The Philadelphia Flyers lost their thirteenth straight game and continue their second ten-plus game losing streak of the season. That is the first time in team history and only the ninth time in NHL history that a team has gone on two ten-game skids. They’re not a good team; winless in 2022. Scoring woes are solved, and their powerplay is about as useful as the penalty kill.

In this and subsequent articles, I will be taking a look back and dreaming of what may have been. It won’t change anything with the current state of the Flyers; however, it may provide some insight as to why Philadelphia is in this current state. Who is to blame for this?

Legend on Legend

The Flyers Alumni rarely eat their own; however, that is basically what happened when Bobby Clarke spoke of Ron Hextall on the “Cam and Strick Podcast.” Clark claimed the Flyers scouts did not want to draft Nolan Patrick and that they all wanted Cale Makar (correcting himself later that the scouts actually wanted Miro Heiskanen.) He also spoke of Hextall alienating the scouts and staff, choosing to do things on his own. Also mentioned were the Brayden Schenn trade and the firing of Craig Berube. To be fair, Patrick and Nico Hischier were the consensus top two picks of that draft.

Clark was consistent in talking about the team. The consummate team-first guy, he could not understand why Hextall operated in an isolated fashion. He claimed it was completely against Hextall as a player, who was the ultimate team guy. What other picks from Hextall were misses, like Patrick?

2014: Hextall’s First Draft

Here is the first miss from Hextall: Travis Sanheim. When I posed this as a miss, Eric Reese of Philly Sports Network questioned. “Sanheim, a miss?” Well, not in the fact of missing on him as a player, but more of who was left on the board.

Going into the 2014 NHL Entry Draft, Sanheim had a lower draft profile. The Calgary Hitmen (WHL) defenseman held the highest rank (22nd) by Bob McKenzie. NHL Central Scouting had Sanheim ranked at 53rd, projected to be a second-round pick.

You can’t blame Hextall for going defense here. Though Sam Morin was selected the previous season, Philadelphia’s defense was getting long in the tooth. The defense housed 38-year-old and fan-favorite Kimmo Timonen, 36-year-old Mark Streit, and 38-year-old Hal Gill. They traded away Andrej Meszaros; it would be the last season in a Flyers uniform for Timonen and the last that Braydon Coburn would play in Philadelphia.

The Flyers reached with their selection of Sanheim. Has the gamble paid off?

By The Numbers: Sanheim

You can say that Sanheim has paid off as he is playing where he was projected (top-four defenseman.) He’s still with the team that drafted him. His game continues to evolve but still shows inconsistency in the defensive zone.

In his career, Sanheim (24G, 75A) has played in 296 games. He averages just under twenty minutes of ice time per night. This season he totaled 2G and 12A in 41 games. Hopefully, his career path continues to climb in the right direction.

When Sanheim is confident, he is very noticeable on the ice. He gets his legs moving and is not afraid to jump up into the play. There are times he looks lost and is overtaken by skilled forwards, however. To date, he wasn’t a great pick.

The Big Miss

David Pastrnak was taken with the 25th pick by the Boston Bruins. “Pasta,” as he is now known, is a superstar in the NHL. Playing most of his career on the now-famous “perfection line,” one can only wonder, how did so many GMs get this wrong? Pre-draft, Bob McKenzie ranked Pasta as the 22nd best in the draft. Central Scouting had him as the fifth-best European skater.

Pasta was drafted out of Allsvenskan, the second-best league in Sweden behind the Swedish Elite League. The Czech Republic native was scouted as having an offensive upside that was described as “First Line Scoring Dynamo,” according to The Hockey Writers’ draft series, “The Next Ones.” So why did everyone seem to miss on Pasta?

Looking at his size at the time of the draft, 6′ 160lbs, his size was in question. Although he displayed a tremendous upside offensively, scouts reported although Pastrnak didn’t mind rough play, too much of it could cause him to become more of a perimeter player.

By The Numbers: Pastrnak

So what are 23 teams who passed on Pasta missing? Well, he has only played 477 games for the Bruins, registering just under a point per game average with 464 points. His point production is pretty evenly spaced at 220 goals and 244 assists. This season in 40 games, he has scored 37 points, 20 goals, and 17 assists. He’s a perennial Flyers slayer.

Pasta’s numbers would make him the leading scorer on the Flyers. As it stands, he is second on the Bruins, behind Brad Marchand. Pasta carries a cap hit of $6.67 million, which is pretty low considering his productivity and age; he’s only 25. Having Pasta’s point productivity would be the equivalent of adding another Claude Giroux; however, Pasta is more of a goal scorer.

Another One

I know it is easy to look back with the knowledge we have now and critique the efforts of the Flyers front office. However, it is their job to find these players. This draft, the Flyers did find one in the fifth round in Oskar Lindblom. As Lindblom continues to get back to his 2019 form, let’s talk about the one player in the draft that should have been responsible for a lot of scout and GM firings, two-time Stanley Cup Champion Brayden Point.

Point was selected by Tampa in the third round with the 79th pick. Every team passed on Point until he fell to the Lightning, and the rest is history. Point came from Moose Jaw, where he was third in the WHL in points behind Sam Reinhart and Leon Draisaitl. So what was the knock-on Point? Size? The 5’9″ 160lb Point was playing in the WHL against the likes of Sanheim, who is 6’5″. Add that with the fact that smaller players were having success in the NHL at the time, think Marchand, who also stands 5’9″.

By The Numbers: Point

Point is a budding superstar. He has skill, speed, tenacity, and the puck seems to attract him. Point is averaging just under a point per game average, averaging .88 points per game. His career numbers are 338 points in 380 games, with 155 goals and 183 assists. His 28 points in 29 games this season ranks him fifth on the Lightning. He would rank third on the Flyers behind Giroux and Cam Atkinson.

The bottom line is the Flyers and Hextall missed on two forwards that put up points, namely scoring goals, which the Flyers have struggled with this season. Again we can’t control the past, and articles like these serve no legitimate purpose. Here is to hoping that the Flyers can fix their drafting issues. But Hey, there is now a Gritty game app.

Lastly, congrats to Keith Yandle, who passed Doug Jarvis for the Ironman Streak. Yandle has played in 965 straight games, becoming the all-time Ironman.

(Photo by Scott Grau/Icon Sportswire)