Even though the Philadelphia Flyers did not win the top overall pick in the 2017 NHL draft on Saturday night, they were still probably the biggest winner of the day when they moved up to the No. 2 overall pick after starting at No. 13.
That means they will have an opportunity to come away with one of the top-two prospects in this year’s class, whether it be Nolan Patrick or Nico Hischier.
For a team that has missed the playoffs in three of the past five seasons and hasn’t advanced beyond the first-round since 2012, it is a nice change in fortune.
General manager Ron Hextall was feeling pretty good about it on Saturday.
“We had a lot of bad luck this year,” said Hextall, via CSN Philly. “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.”
There is every reason to believe that it can be.
First, the Flyers are not your typical team picking at the very top of the draft that is full of holes and is basically starting over from scratch. This is a team that was in the playoffs a year ago and was at least in contention for a spot this year until the final month of the season. They already have established core players in place (Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Brayden Schenn, Sean Couturier) and some promising young talent just starting to break into the league (Shayne Gostisbehere, Ivan Provorov, Travis Konecny). Adding a top-two pick to that is going to be a massive addition.
Keep in mind that other than the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings, every Stanley Cup winner in the salary cap era has had at least one top-two pick in the NHL draft on its roster.
Those high draft picks are the best way to land impact players in the NHL, and given how rarely they get traded and how they are almost never available in free agency, it is often times the only way to land them.
Now the Flyers have an opportunity to get one when they probably weren’t expecting it.