1) Flyers general manager Ron Hextall will have media availability on Thursday, primarily to discuss the upcoming NHL Draft. Last week, Hextall sat down with broadcaster Steve Coates to talk about the same subject.
"We feel it's a strong draft. Certainly the first round is strong," Hextall said. "We feel there's some depth in it. Actually, I asked Dennis Patterson, one of our scouts who has been around for a long time, if he's seen back-to-back drafts as strong as [2015 and 2016] and he said no. So we look at it as a strong draft. We like the 18th pick. We feel like we're going to get a good player."
Hextall reiterated that the team will not deviate from its best-available-player drafting philosophy in the first round and that they will not start to draft specifically by position (i.e., "best available winger").
The GM said that he's open-minded about adding smallish players but said a small player needs to be special to make it: elite hockey sense, high-end skill and strong will to compete. Although not mentioned by name, it was this combination that prompted the Flyers to move up with their second pick of last year's first round to take Travis Konecny, who rapidly emerged over the past year as the top forward prospect in the system.
Generally speaking, however, the GM said that size and strength are still valuable elements and teams have to be careful about adding an "average small player" (presumably because there are comparable options among bigger-framed players). The GM admitted there's a shortage of skill players who are also big and that the combination of size, speed and skill is coveted and sometimes elusive.
In terms of the current roster, Hextall admitted "we've got work to do" to prepare the team to compete to push upward from this past season's 96 points and six-game exit in the first round.
In the second part of the interview, Coates asked Hextall -- without tipping his hand on the Flyers' level of interest in potentially picking the player -- to give a thumbnail description of some players eligible for the draft.
Max Jones: "He's a big guy. He's rough-and-tumble, skates real well. He's got a nice skill set, and he brings an edge to the game."
Julien Gauthier: "He is [a proven goal scorer]. He's got real good size, speed. He's got that knack to score. He's real hard to handle one-on-one because of that size and speed. When he gets to the scoring area, he'll light the lamp."
Kieffer Bellows: "He's a lot like his dad. He finds the soft areas and when he gets there, he's going to put the puck in the net. That's his MO. He's an elite goal scorer."
Logan Brown: "Big guy, a lot of upside. Skates well, he really moves the puck well. Smart player. He can shoot the puck, [although] he tends to be a pass-first guy. But a huge upside."
Asked about the possibility of moving up in the draft to ensure the team gets the player it really wants, Hextall said he'd consider it but "there's a little bit with us where we feel we'll get the same player at 18 that we would a couple of picks ahead."
In other words, chances are that the organization will not be too keen on moving up to say, 14 or 15 or even the top 12. If there's a chance to jump up near the top, however, that could be a different story.
"It depends on how far up, who's on the board, what the price is," Hextall said.
2) The legendary Bobby Clarke finished second on the list of the all-time greatest Western Hockey League players, according to a panel who compiled a Top 50 ranking list
in conjunction with the league's 50th anniversary. Clarke finished second to Joe Sakic on the list.
Other players on the Top-50 list whom the Flyers drafted out of the Western League included Brian Propp (ranked #14) and Dennis Sobchuk (#32, never joined the Flyers as he opted instead for the World Hockey Association).
There were also quite a few players drafted into the NHL by other organizations but who later came to the Flyers via trade: Mark Recchi (#22), Brad McCrimmon (#23), Ray Allison (#28), Reggie Leach (#29) and Pavel Brendl (#45).
Missing the top-50 cut but ranked in the top 125 preliminary list
were the likes of Mel Bridgman (selected by the Flyers with the first overall pick of the 1975 NHL Draft), Nolan Baumgartner, Pat Falloon, Greg Hawgood, Daymond Langkow, Kevin McCarthy, current Flyers forward Brayden Schenn, Mike Sillinger and Steve Tsujiura.
3) June 16 -- Flyers Alumni birthdays: Dainius Zubrus (1978) and Chris McAllister (1975).