End to End: Is It Really a 2-player Race Atop the NHL Draft? - NBC 10 Philadelphia

End to End: Is It Really a 2-player Race Atop the NHL Draft?

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    End to End: Is It Really a 2-player Race Atop the NHL Draft?
    CSNPhilly.com
    End to End: Is it really a 2-player race atop the NHL draft?

    Throughout the offseason, we'll ask questions about the Flyers to our resident hockey analysts and see what they have to say.
     
    Going End to End today are CSNPhilly.com producers/reporters Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone.
     
    The topic: Is it really a two-player race atop the NHL draft?
     
    Dougherty
    Maybe it's because the Flyers have the No. 2 pick and we tend to put the top prospects under an unfair microscope in years that do not include bona fide picks atop the draft.
     
    Maybe it is as simple as whoever the New Jersey Devils do not draft.
     
    Maybe we're overthinking this. Maybe we're not.
     
    These are the questions that Flyers general manager Ron Hextall and his staff are asking themselves in the weeks leading up to the June 23-24 NHL entry draft in Chicago.
     
    It appears to be a two-player draft, or at least that is what we've talked ourselves into. All the chatter has been around Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier.
     
    "I would say it's pretty accurate," Devils director of amateur scouting Paul Castron recently told the team's website. "They're both excellent players. … I think the media maybe has it that way, but I think there are other players that could come into play as well."
     
    I am on the record saying the Flyers should get an immediate impact player at No. 2 in either Patrick or Hischier, unlike the last time they picked in this slot in 2007.
     
    So, I believe the Flyers will be coming away from Chicago with either Patrick or Hischier, but I also don't believe it is as much of a slam dunk as we've made it out.
     
    By many accounts, it is not a projected deep draft class. ESPN's Corey Pronman recently told TSN Radio 1040 he doesn't believe the two are "completely clear of the pack."
     
    "The last time we had a draft like this - say 2012," Pronman said. "I think many scouts had Alex Galchenyuk, Filip Forsberg, Ryan Murray, Griffin Reinhart, Morgan Rielly … it all depended on which teams were picking where. I think this is another one of those years.
     
    "I do think Hischier and Patrick are the likely No. 1 and 2, but if somebody else snuck into there, I wouldn't really be surprised."
     
    There also doesn't appear much separation between Patrick and Hischier themselves. Hischier has been trending up, while questions remain about Patrick's durability.
     
    While both the Devils and Flyers have publicly downplayed injury concerns about Patrick, we don't know what goes on behind closed doors. If New Jersey decides to draft Hischier with No. 1, I could see a scenario in which the Flyers opt to go another route than Patrick.
     
    In early May, Hextall said with "any young player who has had injuries, you do background checks." What if the Flyers find something in those background checks they don't like?
     
    Therefore, I don't think we're overthinking it too much to take a look at other top prospects in this class, such as Windsor center Gabriel Vilardi, Portland center Cody Glass or Owen Sound center Nick Suzuki. Because I do think there is a legitimate possibility the No. 2 pick could be someone other than Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.

    Hall
    The Flyers, in an overly advantageous position, should not get cute here. 

    Depth at center is so vital to any organization. The Flyers have been lacking just that and it has shown the past three seasons.

    With this draft, a high-end center is falling into their lap at the No. 2 pick. From all indications, Patrick and Hischier are at the head of the class.

    Sure, the Flyers should do their homework, and they will. They'll be thorough in their scouting and preparation leading up to June 23.

    To me, though, this is pretty simple. The Flyers' decision will essentially be made by the Devils' choice at No. 1 - and that's the odd convenience of the second overall selection.

    Unless Hischier goes to New Jersey and alarms sound on Patrick's health, the Flyers need to make the obvious call and add one of these two centers.

    Paone
    Let's break this question down into simplest terms.

    Could the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2 come June 23 in Chicago? Of course, they could.

    As Tom mentioned above, Vilardi, Glass and Suzuki are all up there at the head of this class with the projected top two, though seen by many as a slight level down from Patrick and Hischier.

    A lot of times, decisions like these come down to team preference of a certain player. But don't expect Hextall to make that preference known until he steps to the podium to announce the Flyers' pick on draft night.

    But could and should are two very different questions.

    Should the Flyers take someone other than Patrick or Hischier at No. 2?

    Nope.

    Let's be honest, the Flyers fell backward into this No. 2 pick. And with that, they have the chance to select a potential stalwart forward with a strong knack for putting the puck in the net, which both Patrick and Hischier possess. And each should be able to show that off in the NHL sooner rather than later. Remember this: The Flyers' "Big 4" of Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Jakub Voracek and Claude Giroux scored 90 of the Flyers' 212 goals last season. That accounts for 42.5 percent. Immediate scoring help is needed and both Patrick and Hischier should have the ability to bring that to the table.

    Yes, the questions about Patrick's durability are legitimate. And yes, Hischier is trending even further upward.

    But, to me, this goes back again to simplest terms.

    The Flyers should pick whomever New Jersey doesn't out of Patrick and Hischier.