By Jeff Quake, Sports Talk Philly staff writer
It could be worse, the Philadelphia Flyers will pick fifth overall in the 2022 NHL Draft. Last Tuesday night, the Montreal Canadians won the Draft Lottery, however the reason Philadelphia dropped one spot is because the New Jersey Devils jumped three spots to second overall after having the fifth-best odds to win the first overall pick.
The Flyers had entered the night with the fourth-best odds of receiving the first overall pick at 9.5 percent, a 9.8 percent chance of receiving the second overall pick, a 15.4 percent chance of receiving the fourth overall pick, a 44.9 percent chance of receiving the fifth overall pick, and a 20.5 percent chance of receiving the sixth overall pick.
This is the first time in franchise history that Philadelphia will select fifth overall.
Now that the Orange and Black know where they are picking in the upcoming draft on July 7, let’s take a look below at some of the top prospects that could be available at fifth overall, and why they could be an important asset to add. (Disclaimer: Each comparison is based on what parts of these prospects’ game I see in current NHL players.)
C Logan Cooley – Cooley is a pure goal scorer, with elite speed and an impressive hockey IQ. Even though he isn’t a winger, I see a little bit of Mitch Marner in Cooley’s game. Their hockey IQ is what stands out to me the most always being able to make plays that most other players wouldn’t.
C Matthew Savoie – An all-around complete 200-foot player, great shot, and exceptional creativity. Although Sebastian Aho is certainly the Carolina Hurricanes first line center, he is just 6'0", 176 pounds compared to Savoie’s 5'9", 179-pound build. Both have the speed, and elusiveness to succeed. Neither have the true build for a first-line center, but neither is afraid to get to the dirty areas of the ice. The 18-year-old St. Albert, Alberta native plays with quite a chip on his shoulder making him a thorn to deal with for the opposition.
D Simon Nemec – It is quite possible Philadelphia will draft a defenseman. If any GM or scouts are looking to bolster their defensive core, look no further than Nemec. The 6'1" 192-pound Slovakian has a remarkable hockey IQ with the ability to jump on the play. Scouts should certainly consider taking a good a look at him, like they did when Brent Burns was drafted 20th overall in 2003 – albeit as a right winger – weighing in at 6'4", 188 pounds. Both players not only have a great shot, but are right-handed which is an added bonus for the Flyers. Some cons when it comes to Nemec's game is he likes to take risks, such as pinching too much or at the wrong time and could get burned by it. From time to time, he is also inconsistent when controlling the puck.
D David Jiricek – Another strong option on the blue line, Jiricek has a heavy slap shot and can be a physical player. The 6'3" 190-pound right-handed defenseman has the ability to play both sides of the blue line, while handling the puck well. Overall, he has good speed once he starts moving, however he needs to improve his skating. A large part to that is he had a serious knee injury in December that required surgery. As noted in Corey Pronman’s Top 29 prospects in the 2022 NHL Draft for The Athletic, Jiricek’s speed is not ideal and does not have the swiftness at an NHL level. His strong vision and brutality delivering bruising hits is a style that coaches would kill to have on their roster. He reminds me a bit of Rasmus Ristolainen or Dougie Hamilton as neither are exceptional skaters but have the opportunity to deliver crushing hits while delivering some offense. Jiricek certainly has the better vision, more like Hamilton, and opportunity to become an overall better defenseman.
RW Joakim Kemell – He is probably the only winger in the top five that the Flyers should consider drafting. Kemell will be available with an explosive pro-release shot, and great playmaking abilities. He has quite a bit of Markus Nasland in him, as both players are around the same height – Kemell is 5'10", Naslund is 5'11" – however Naslund weighed about 24 pounds more (195 pounds) than Kemell does now (171 pounds). In 39 games played in Liiga this past season, Kemell scored 15 goals and eight assists for a total of 23 points as an 18-year-old.
C Conor Geekie – This is a stretch, since the Flyers would likely trade down to not only take a player like Geekie, but also have the chance to gain more draft capital. A trade in this scenario could absolutely include a second-round pick that Philadelphia does not have in this year’s draft as part of last offseason's trade with the Coyotes including Shayne Gostisbehere. Geekie is 6'4", 205 pounds with average skating, but plays a hard-driving, physical game while adding the scoring touch. Sean Couturier was a pretty similar player, especially in his first few seasons in the NHL. One con towards Geekie’s game is his skating, but the tools he has in his game can help him become that impact player down the road.
What is the possibility for any of these players to get drafted by Philadelphia?
Cooley is a major stretch as I don’t see him dropping more than to third overall. Why is he on this list then? It’s no secret Shane Wright will likely be the first overall pick to Montreal. However, the second and third overall selections could get very interesting. Cooley may be the next best available player in the draft after Wright, but looking at the Devils roster, and prospect pool, they could use more wingers and defensemen than another center. The Devils currently have wingers Alexander Holtz, Tyce Thompson, and Nolan Foote, and defensemen Luke Hughes and Reilly Walsh as their top five prospects, according to The Athletic’s Scott Wheeler from his February breakdown of each team’s top players in their prospect pool.
Cooley could drop down to third overall, and I believe the Arizona Coyotes would take him, while the Devils would use the second overall pick to draft Juraj Slafkovsky. It would be a big stretch for the Coyotes to take anyone but Cooley especially at this point, and although Savoie is a very good player, he shouldn’t get drafted third overall. It’s possible that if Cooley starts to drop, Flyers GM Chuck Fletcher could explore a trade up to steal him from Seattle.
Savoie is my ideal selection for the Flyers at fifth overall, not an aggressive pick or a move that is a stretch. The Flyers desperately need to restock the center position in their organization. The Flyers have just seven players under 25 in the system that are listed as centers, and only Morgan Frost, Tanner Laczynski, and Jackson Cates have played at the NHL level.
Nothing against any of these young players, but the Flyers need another legitimate young prospect who is a center. Savoie brings so much to the table, and could get the chance to crack the opening night roster. He can also go back to the WHL for another season to properly develop.
Out of the two defenseman between Nemec and Jiricek, the better choice for the Flyers is Nemec. The Flyers have multiple defensemen in the system under 25, including Ivan Provorov, Cam York, Egor Zamula, and Ronnie Attard.
Kemell is one of the best wingers in the top 10 that is available, but it is somewhat unlikely for him to play in South Philly. He is a great option for a left winger, and the Flyers have very few of those, just four who are 25 or younger – Oskar Lindblom, Noah Cates, Isaac Ratcliffe, and Elliot Desnoyers.
Below is my 2022 May NHL Mock Draft for the top 16 picks.
Part three of my four-part offseason preview for the Flyers will focus on free agency.