There seems to be a buzz around Philadelphia regarding the Flyers and their potential liking to trade up to the #1 pick tonight.
The talk is there for a few reasons.
1) The draft is here in Philly; some Flyers fans would love to make that big splash.
2) Ron Hextall has been GM for a month and a half and has made it clear he’s not afraid to make moves. Hextall said on Tuesday, there is a “significant drop off after the top 10”, thus leading some to think he wants someone high.
3) The current group of defenseman on the team right now is not young. And isn’t particularly that good.
But, should the Flyers trade up to the top spot? My answer is absolutely not. Here’s why.
If the Flyers were to trade up to #1, the presumption is they would be selecting Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad, of the Barrie Colts, says he’s ready to play in the NHL this upcoming season and make an immediate impact. Since being granted exceptional status at 15, he’s improved every year with a significant increase in production this year.
The 6’4” – 216 lbs. defenseman already has the size and skills, so what’s the problem?
The problem isn’t with Ekblad himself, but take a look at defenseman taken in the top three picks in the last ten years.
2004: Cam Barker
2005: Jack Johnson
2006: Erik Johnson
2008: Drew Doughty and Zach Bogosian
2009: Victor Hedman
2010: Erik Gudbranson
2011: Ryan Murray
Murray hasn’t done enough to be critiqued yet so we will set him aside for the purpose of the argument. Drew Doughty has solidified himself as a superstar but other than that, none of the names have proven themselves as the elite defenseman they were drafted to be. Yes, Bogosian, Hedman and Gudbranson still have the potential but they aren’t GREAT NHL defenseman as of now.
On the other hand, check out the forwards who have been taken in the top three over the last ten years.
2004: Alexander Ovechkin, Evgeni Malkin.
2005: Sidney Crosby, Bobby Ryan.
2006: Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews.
2007: Patrick Kane, James van Riemsdyk, Kyle Turris.
2008: Steven Stamkos.
2009: John Tavares, Matt Duchene.
2010: Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin.
2011: Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Gabriel Landeskog, Jonathan Huberdeau.
2012: Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk.
2013: Nathan MacKinnon, Aleksander Barkov, and Jonathan Drouin.
Kyle Turris is the only name that sticks out in the picks before 2011, but as you can see it is a little easier to predict the success of a forward taken in the top three as opposed to a defenseman.
With this being a weaker draft class, it just makes me that much more skeptical of Ekblad.
Furthermore, to move up to #1 the Panthers would have to receive at least one of the following and multiple more picks/players from Philly:
A Young Defenseman (Morin, Gostisbehere, Haag)
Couturier is already the Flyers third line center and has nailed down that spot for quite some time. He’s only 21 and is becoming revered as one of the best shutdown forwards in the league. He finished 9th in Selke voting this year and at this rate he will for sure be a finalist (if not winner) for the trophy sooner than later.
Laughton is expected to be a similar presence when his time to join the Flyers lineup comes. He’s blossomed with Oshawa the last four seasons including a solid 87 points in 54 games this season. The highlight of his style of play is still his two-way ability and many remember him from his five game stint with the big club in the 2012-2013 season. To me, Laughton is even more exciting than Couturier and Sean has been an awesome piece to the orange and black so far.
In terms of the three young defensemen, don’t even think about dealing them. The core of Morin, Gostisbehere, and Haag is so exciting to think about if you are a Flyers fan. Give it a few years and these three guys could be all playing 20+ minutes a night. (I don’t think Hextall would even think about dealing any of these three but Florida might ask.)
There’s no shame in staying at #17 and I hope moving from that position doesn’t cost Philadelphia one of their future studs.