It’s that time of the year. The Philadelphia Flyers know their placement in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft, selecting seventh overall. Whiffing on the ‘Connor Bedard Sweepstakes’ is tough, but the Flyers will nab a top ten talent.
Daniel Briere could address the ‘best available,’ and fulfill a team need with the seventh overall selection.
Who will make their arrival in Philadelphia? Here is the ‘day after the NHL Draft Lottery’ gut-reaction 2023 Flyers Mock Draft:
1) Will Smith; C; USHL
Smith is likely off the board between the fifth and seventh overall picks. He could be available if another team reaches for a defenseman, or the Montreal Canadiens and Arizona Coyotes prefer Dalibor Dvorsky and Zach Benson.
In 2022-2023, not including the U18 World Juniors, Smith competed in 80 games between the U18 USNT and the USNTDP in the USHL, scoring a combined total of 169 points (66G, 103A). In the U18 World Juniors, he added another 20 points (9G, 11A) in seven games. Smith helped Team USA win the U18 World Juniors gold medal while being named the MVP.
He was the standout in the USNTDP. Smooth handles, game speed, and playmaking ability, including goal scoring, make Smith a validating consolation prize from the ‘Connor Bedard Sweepstakes’ if the Flyers select him. John Tortorella harped on situational hockey throughout 2022-2023. With his linemates, Ryan Leonard and Gabe Perreault, everyone produced exceptionally well because of the ability to recognize situations, like when to enter and when to dump. Smith deceptively approaches defenses, creating time and space in the offensive zone, accentuating his playmaking skill.
But what about defense? After all, he is a center, and Tortorella will demand those defensive responsibilities. According to a report from Scott Wheeler, Smith wants to jump on the penalty kill at Boston College in 2023-2024. That trends well with the Flyers, especially after Tortorella had success with new forwards on the penalty kill who hadn’t killed penalties before.
3) Trey Augustine; G; USHL
What will the Flyers do with Carter Hart? Briere stated he wants to be aggressive, but will it cost the starting goaltender? If not Hart, will Felix Sandstrom or Sam Ersson package with a player like Ivan Provorov or Kevin Hayes to perform a pick swap in the first round? Nothing is concrete, and negotiations will be wide open.
Or maybe nothing happens with the goaltenders. Alexei Kolosov hasn’t signed an entry-level contract, and Ivan Fedotov will not arrive in Philadelphia. The Flyers could hold Hart, Sandstrom, and Ersson while drafting another.
Augustine is a quality snag, and in 2023-2024, he will play at Michigan State University.
In 2022-2023, Augustine lost three games in regulation, including the 2023 U20 and U18 World Juniors. He was 40-2-2 with the U17 and U18 USNT and USNTDP in the USHL. Augustine helped Team USA to a U18 gold medal and a U20 bronze medal. Every goaltender that started for the Flyers this season will be a free agent in some capacity after 2023-2024, making this selection somewhat urgent.
3) Dylan MacKinnon; RD; QMJHL
Something has to change with the defense. The Flyers’ defense ranks 14th most expensive in the NHL, ranking as high as 11th before the 2023 NHL Trade Deadline. For a defense ranking 23rd in the NHL, it is awful cap management, reflecting poor decisions made by Chuck Fletcher, but it is repairable through addition by subtraction.
Subtraction means dipping into the prospect pool for some answers. The Flyers have healthy LD depth, learning to be flexible at RD. Ronnie Attard was the only true RD to earn his recall in 2022-2023. Egor Zamula and Cam York learned to play their ‘off side.’
MacKinnon thrives in the neutral zone of the ice; his defensive awareness, aggression, and conservative style are exactly what the Flyers lack in their offensive defenseman-heavy lineup. He had a solid season with the Halifax Mooseheads, tallying 23 points (6G, 17A) and a +31 in 61 games and earning the gold medal at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup with the U18 Team Canada.
4) Jake Fisher; LW; USHL
We’re taking Smith in the first round of this mock, meaning the Flyers must address the LW. In 2022, Cutter Gauthier was the fifth overall selection, who can play both LW and C. When Fletcher was the GM, the focus was to develop Gauthier into a C.
Fisher was a Mr. Hockey Finalist in MN. The captain at Cretin-Derham Hall HS, he scored 63 points (34G, 29A) in 29 games.
At his age, Fisher possesses an impressive combination of size and speed. His 6’2″ and 187lbs frame helps with puck possession and drive plays.
He finished 2022-2023 with the Fargo Force, lighting the lamp once in 12 games.
4) Carter Sotheran; RD; WHL
More RD depth, please!
Sotheran collected 23 points (4G, 19A) with a +14 rating in 68 games with the Portland Winterhawks. He is a sizeable defenseman, 6’3″ and 185lbs, who plays a physical brand.
With the puck, he plays with poise. Sotheran is a balanced two-way defenseman who can make a sudden impact by extending possessions or banging bodies. His potential is a steal with a fourth-round selection.
5) Zaccharya Wisdom; RW; USHL
It would be interesting to see how the Wisdom brothers develop together in an NHL system.
Zayde went to Philadelphia in the fourth round of the 2020 NHL Entry Draft. Zaccharya projects as a fifth-round selection after improving in his second season with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders. He scored 48 points (28G, 20A) in 59 games.
Zaccharya and Zayde bring a lot of the same game; physical with a nose for scoring. He is a two-way forward that can use his body to create space or disrupt possessions in the neutral zone along the boards.
6) Tristan Bertucci; LD; OHL
Bertucci totaled 50 points (11G, 39A) with a +12 rating in 63 games with the Flint Firebirds. He competed for Team Canada in the U18 World Juniors, earning the bronze medal.
He isn’t one to take many miscalculated risks on defense. The Flyers like a defenseman who has the ability to quarterback a powerplay, which Bertucci showed. His shot needs improvement, but his advanced trait is his deceptive skating and vision, quickly moving the puck north and south.
6) Kalle Carlsson; C; SHL
Carlsson finished his 2022-2023 in the SHL but spent most of his time with the J20 Orebro HK. He scored 35 points (11G, 24A) in 44 games in the J20 Nationell but blanked in three games with the big club in the SHL.
The powerplay would be the best usage for Carlsson, who displays playmaking potential.
In 2022-2023, Carlsson went head-to-head with MacKinnon in the finals of the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Carlsson did not get onto the stat sheet but earned the silver medal with the U18 Team Sweden.
7) Zeb Forsfjall; RW; SHL
Forsfjall also received a silver medal with the U18 Team Sweden at the Hlinka Gretzky Cup. Unlike Carlsson, Forsfjall did contribute to the stat sheet. During the Hlinka Gretzky Cup, Forsfjall accumulated five points (2G, 3A) in as many games.
Where Carlsson is an asset on the powerplay, Forsfjall can excel on the penalty kill; he just needs to become stronger as an undersized winger.
The captain of his J20 Nationell team, J20 Skelleftea AIK, Forsfjall scored 22 points (8G, 14A) in 34 games. Then, with the big club in the SHL, he added a goal in 17 games with Skelleftea AIK.
(Ryan Remiorz/The Canadian Press via AP)