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Flyers Luck Shifts with Top Pick at Draft

By Kevin Durso, Sports Talk Philly editor 

The 2017 NHL Draft wasn’t going to have the headline players there were in 2016 or 2015. Chances are there wasn’t going to be an Ivan Provorov on the board that was so close to NHL ready as the Top 10 was rounded out and the middle picks of the first round were selected.

So when the Flyers were projected to pick 13th overall, it was comparing apples to oranges essentially. There would be a nice, quality prospect available, but nobody to get overly excited about immediately. There would be the usual development process and the excitement, in the upcoming season at least, would be more about the kids from drafts in 2013 and 2014 getting closer to playing in the NHL.

And then Saturday night happened and the Flyers luck changed. The lottery handed them a Top 3 pick at second overall. And suddenly, the Flyers were gifted a top prospect that could be a game-changer in the long run and NHL ready next season.

"This is a big day for our franchise," GM Ron Hextall said. "When the 13th pick went by there and we knew we were one, two or three, that was a huge move for our franchise. We couldn't be more excited."

As in years past, there is a very clear top two in the draft class. It may not be on the level of McDavid-Eichel or Matthews-Laine, but it’s two future stars for sure. Those two players would be Nolan Patrick and Nico Hischier.

There are certainly a lot of quality players in the Top 5, but these are the two getting all of the buzz and playing the best throughout the year. The Flyers are going to have the choice of one of them come June 23.

Patrick is the projected top pick for 2017 and has been for over a year. When the page turned upon completion of the 2016 NHL Draft, all focus of draft eligible players for 2017 shifted to Patrick, who was already being given the title of projected top pick in 2017.

Patrick had earned it too. In his 2015-16 season with the Brandon Wheat Kings, Patrick scored 41 goals and had 102 points. That was in Ivan Provorov’s last year at juniors as a teammate on the Wheat Kings.

But the projected top pick did see his stock take a hit this past season. His numbers still exceeded point-per-game play, but a series of injuries didn’t help matter. He nearly missed the start of the season after having surgery for a sports hernia in July. He played five games before missing more time for both Brandon and the entire World Junior Championships with an upper-body injury.

Despite that, Patrick still scored 20 goals and had 46 points in just 33 games.

When Patrick didn’t participate in the World Junior Championships, it opened the door for another top prospect to shine. That was Nico Hischier.

Hischier burst onto the scene with seven points in five games for the Swiss. Once the tournament ended, he continued his strong play in the second half of the season. On loan by his Swiss team to the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL, Hischier scored 38 goals and had 86 points in 57 games in CHL play. He added seven points, including three goals, in six playoff games with Halifax.

There is so much more to dissect with these two players, but ultimately they have top-line potential, good scoring pedigree and tremendous potential and upside. And one of them, most likely, will be a Philadelphia Flyer on June 23. Talk about a huge turn in fortune for the Orange and Black.

"This isn't as bad as a draft as people say it is," Hextall said. "We felt with the 13th pick, we would get a good player. It's probably an average draft. The last couple drafts have been better but this is a good draft. Obviously, moving up to No. 2, we're going to get an even better player.

"We had a lot of bad luck this year. I'm hoping this is a turning point for some of that to be turned around. This is a big point for our franchise. We're obviously going to get a very good player and hopefully in years, we'll look back on this as a turning point for us."

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