NHL Draft Preview: Targets for Flyers at 17

All eyes are on Philadelphia on Friday night for the first round of the NHL Entry Draft. The hockey world fixates on the first overall pick, as some of the NHL’s current stars are products of the top pick in the draft.

For fans of the Orange and Black, the focus is on the 17th overall pick, where the Flyers select first on Friday night. 

There are plenty of options for the Flyers to look at with the 17th pick at several positions, barring a trade of course. Here are a few names to pay attention to on draft night.

Forwards: 

  • RW Kasperi Kapanen (KalPa, FIN) – The son of former Flyer Sami Kapanen, this forward has a high level of skill. He’s been called a playmaker, with creative tendencies in 1-on-1 play. His shot could use some work but otherwise, if you’re looking to add speed and skill, you can’t go wrong with Kapanen. He only had 14 points in 47 games with KalPa this season, but struggled with a shoulder issue. The season before in 2012-13, he had 29 points in 36 games in KalPa’s under-20 league.
  • RW William Nylander (Sodertalje, SWE-2) – Sticking with a father-son group, William Nylander is the son of Michael Nylander. Again, this is a skill player with great goal-scoring ability. Essentially there is nothing offensively that needs work. His defense is a concern, however, and that will likely require a few years of adjusting to the change in competition levels. Nylander has also said he will not play in juniors, so this is a dangerous pick if you aren’t ready to bring him to the NHL within the next season or two.
  • C/RW Alex Tuch (USA U-18, USHL) – This big strong forward is projected to fall right around the Flyers pick at 17.  There is a lot to like about Tuch’s work ethic on the ice. He’s been regarded as an good forechecker with a sizable frame used to protect the puck. As for skill level, he scored 29 goals and adding 35 assists for 64 points in 61 games with the US National U18 team.
  • LW Sonny Milano (USA U-18, USHL) – Another player who is all speed and skill. A good puck carrier, Milano is one who dazzles on the ice with dangling ability and quick changes in direction. He’ll go to Boston College next season but his numbers with the US National U18 team speak for themselves: 29 goals and 86 points in 58 games.
  • C Dylan Larkin (USNTDP, USHL) – A gritty center with a good skill set, look for Larkin to be a target if the Flyers want to with a straight center rather than a versatile forward. Larkin is an interesting mix of finesse and power, with good offensive skills but the ability to drive the net for scoring chances. He’ll go to the University of Michigan next season. He averaged nearly a point per game between the USNTDP Juniors and US National U18 team.
  • C/RW Josh Ho-Sang (Windsor, OHL) – Even though he’s projected as a mid-to-late first round pick, many thought Josh Ho-Sang could be one of the most impressive players to come out of this draft class. Despite his size – just 5’11” – he is incredibly skilled in skating and puck movement. He can get creative with his chances but for the most part can jump into a play and be there to get goals in the dirty areas. His defense is an area of concern, as he needs to take some strong offensive instincts and apply them outside of the offensive zone. With Windsor in 2013-14, he scored 32 goals and had 85 points in 67 games.
  • C Robert Fabbri (Guelph, OHL) – Fabbri enters the draft with a solid resume already, as the OHL’s playoff MVP and helping Guelph reach the Memorial Cup. While in the Memorial Cup, he scored two goals and added four assists in four games, padding his regular season numbers – 45 goals, 42 assists and 87 points in 58 games. He has below-average size but his work ethic makes up for it. He has good hands, a quick shot and can get creative as a skill forward with quick motion.  

Defensemen: 

  • Anthony DeAngelo (Sarnia, OHL) – The Flyers are very high on this defenseman and he is a projected first round pick. There’s just one problem. He’s 5’11” and offensive-minded. The Flyers really need more of a defensive-minded player with size on the blue line and unfortunately, his size has created problems defensively, making this pick a risky one for the Flyers. Still his offensive skills are very appealing and he has the ability to be a fixture on the power play. With Sarnia in 2013-14, he scored 15 goals, but averaged more than an assist per game with 56 in 51 games.
  • Jack Dougherty (USA U-18, USHL) – If the Flyers are looking for a skill defenseman that protects the net, this may be the guy. Dougherty grew greatly in his last two seasons offensively and as a puck carrier, but it didn’t take away from taking care of his defensive play and his strong ability to read developing plays. He’ll attend the University of Wisconsin.
  • Roland McKeown (Kingston, OHL) – For a defenseman with size and durability, there may be no better in the draft than McKeown. He’s 6’5” and 195 pounds and is credited for simply knowing his position. He’s not creative in making plays. He simply makes the smart plays and his strength is a plus. With Kingston in 2013-14, he wasn’t half bad offensively either to the tune of 11 goals and 32 assists while being a plus-38 in 62 games.
  • Haydn Fleury (Red Deer, WHL) – Chances are Fleury will be off the board by the time the Flyers pick at 17, but if he slips, it will be hard to pass him up. The 6’3”, 201-pound defenseman has big build and great balance with a strong ability to read developing plays and remain focused in the defensive zone.  His size also adds and ability to play the man, even on bigger forwards with similar physicality. He also has strong offensive instincts, scoring eight goals and adding 38 assists in 70 games.

Goaltender:

  • Thatcher Demko (Boston College, H-EAST) – GM Ron Hextall said he was not opposed to selecting a goalie in the first round. If any goalie goes in the first round, it will be Thatcher Demko. The Boston College goalie had a .919 save percentage and 2.24 goals against average in 24 games in 2013-14. A butterfly goalie with great size – 6’4”, 180 pounds – he takes up space in the net and has great coverage along the ice with his style. He’s also a strong lateral mover with excellent ability to go post-to-post. He tends to be aggressive and challenges shooters but his game revolves around positioning, another area where he succeeds.

Kevin Durso is the lead beat writer for Flyerdelphia. Follow him on Twitter @KDursoPhilsNet.