After Nolan Patrick Or Nico Hischier at No. 2, Flyers Open to Trading Into Late 1st Round

CHICAGO – Tonight's the night.

Barring an unforeseen trade, the Flyers will pick No. 2 overall in the NHL draft at United Center, which begins at 7 p.m.

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 The only question at this point is whether New Jersey sticks with what most scouts feel will happen and selects Brandon's Nolan Patrick, a native of Winnipeg, at No. 1.

That would leave Swiss forward Nico Hischier of Halifax for the Flyers at No. 2.

So what will Devils general manager Ray Shero do? During his 10 years as a GM, Shero chose a European skater just twice among nine chances when he had a first-round pick with the Penguins or Devils.

Will he deviate here and go European?

"I have absolutely no idea what they're going to do," replied Flyers GM Ron Hextall. "No idea."

While this draft isn't loaded in the first round like last year's was with Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine, etc., it is stronger at the forwards' spot than elsewhere.

Hextall said there aren't "a ton" of prospects from this draft who are expected to immediately make the jump to the NHL this coming fall.

Also, there were nine defensemen chosen in last year's first round alone. That's unlikely to repeat this Friday, although NHL Central Scouting ranks six North American defensive prospects to go in the opening round.

"There are some good centers, some good wingers," Hextall said. "There are a couple guys, who will probably end up playing the wing that are centers right now. There's a variety of positions."

Whether the Flyers get Hischier or Patrick, it's not likely either could be converted to wing where the organization has a pressing need.

Recall the Flyers did that in 1998 when they chose natural centerman Simon Gagne in the first round, but eventually converted him to a left wing. Gagne was arguably the most successful wing "conversion" among any Flyer first-round pick in history.

"I don't know," Hextall said of converting either Hischier or Patrick. "I think probably the top two guys, probably four of the top five guys, are centers."

The Flyers have 11 picks in this draft. Five are in the third and fourth rounds. Their second round pick (No. 44) is wide open because, at that point, the talent level doesn't seem to vary all that much.

Hextall feels the parity goes even deeper in the draft this year.

"They're very interchangeable, there's not a lot of room between them," Hextall said. "That said, you've got four picks in the top 80. Would you want to try to move up a little bit, into the back end of the first round. Or are you comfortable with wherever you are at second round?

"Once the names start to fall, that's when you figure if you try to move up. In fact, we can move back. Like with the [German] Rubtsov pick. We felt comfortable, like OK, the names are falling, now we can move back a little bit. So, until the names start falling you don't know.

"It's kind of based on our list. But depending on how many names fall, we think 'OK, 44, there's half a dozen names left that we like and there's eight picks between us and them', then maybe we can move back a little bit.

"And still get one of the guys we like. Until the names start to fall, you really don't know. You have to be prepared."

The Flyers have three consecutive picks (Nos. 106-108) in the fourth round.

With so many picks, it wouldn't surprise anyone if Hextall packages those picks to either move up into the late first round or early second, or use them as trade bait to get a veteran goalie with a year or two left on his contract (see story).

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