The Flyers are in a position to get one of the top two players in the draft with the second overall pick, and there are two very obvious choices that stand out above the rest.
That said, teams tend to covet players that have such a bright future straight out of the draft, so what if the Flyers were to entertain an offer from a team looking to acquire the second pick and move down? Who would they pick then.
In the next part of our series on draft prospects, we look at a few players the Flyers could look at if they choose to move out of the top two. We start with Windsor Spitfires forward Gabriel Vilardi.
Vilardi caught the attention of a lot of people in the Memorial Cup, helping lead the Spitfires to the title. For Windsor, Vilardi had 29 goals, 32 assists and 61 points in 49 games this season.
Vilardi is a well-rounded player in his own right. The 6’3”, 201-pound center has great size and strength, is strong with the puck and is a very good playmaker. He also has great awareness in the defensive zone and plays well without the puck.
The biggest issues for Vilardi are his skating ability. It’s not up the NHL standards just yet, so more development is needed, but if he can work on his speed and acceleration, he could become one of the better prospects out of this draft. Everything else in his game is solid at this point, making him a desirable player, but he needs to deliver on a more consistent basis.
“High-end offensive forward,” ISS scout Marc Berry said in the ISS Hockey Draft Guide. “Excelled at protecting and controlling the puck down low. Intelligent and creative. Great shot. Puck jumps off his stick. Good size and uses his frame effectively. Skating is developing. Smooth stride, but needs to improve quickness and power.”
The big question with Vilardi is just where he will go in the draft. A strong performance at the Memorial Cup could vault him as high as third, especially with his stock up at the moment. But he’s also been projected to go closer to the latter half of the top 10.
“He could go anywhere in the top 10,” a scout said for Recrutes Draft Guide. “You like everything about him except his feet. Some teams will really like him, some don’t. From the blue line in, he’s really good. His feet will come around where he can play. I don’t think they’ll ever be great, but they’ll be good enough. He can hold guys off, he’s smart. Those guys can figure it out even if they’re not fast.”
Vilardi is another player who, like Nico Hischier, really started to catch the eye of scouts later in the season. In October, there were scouts that saw his skating ability as a big holdup that could cause teams to hold off on selecting him. He took his game to another level from January on and hasn’t let up, really raising his stock.
Most of all, his skill jumps off the page. Vilardi is a very elusive player with the puck skills and ability to shed defenders in tight with a tenacious work ethic. Even if the skating is a bit of a problem, he’s done enough to prove that the rest of his skills are already built for the NHL. Vilardi also proved versatile, playing center and wing at times.
Vilardi has a really good chance of being the next player picked after Nolan Patrick and Hischier, but if the Flyers should move back, he’d be a player to watch. The skill may not be on the same level as Hischier, but it’s still very good and Vilardi would be a quality first-round selection.
You can watch highlights of Gabriel Vilardi below.