Ah, the Philadelphia Flyers. For some reason, the Flyers are always a fascinating team to watch, even though they've struggled for the most part in recent years. That's probably because while they always have goaltending woes and a thin blue line, they usually pack a pretty heavy punch on offense. They're regularly among the higher scoring teams in the NHL. Every time there's a hot free agent on the market or a big name available for trade, you can never rule the Flyers out when guessing who will make a big splash.
The Flyers are off to a great start this season and many are wondering if this is the start of a Philly re-build finally getting on the uswing. They're sitting on a 41-year Stanley Cup drought, and much of their struggles stem from the fact that they were never able to find a missing piece for a Stanley Cup team. They've made the Stanley Cup Final six times since 1975, but were always outmached in the finals.
Their recent trip to the Stanley Cup Final was in 2010, following some savvy front office moves paying off and journeyman goalie Michael Leighton playing the best hockey of his life. Sadly though, some draft misses in the 21st century have come back to bite the Flyers, which is probably why they're sitting on a drought.
This article will look back at 15 recent Flyers first round picks and see where the Flyers could have done better. I'm fully aware I'm doing this with the benefit of hindsight. This isn't to knock the Flyers, as amateur scouting is an impossible thing to master. It's simply a case of looking back and exploring how the Flyers could have built a dream team if they had a crystal ball. The possibilities were there to build a dynasty so that's what we're trying to do here.
Note: 2016 first round pick German Rubtsov will not be included, as it's too early to tell where Rubstov stands.
* The Flyers did not have first round picks in 2009 and 2010 due to trading for Chris Pronger. They also did not have one in 2004 after trading for Mike Comrie, so none of those three years are eligible for this list.
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15 1999 - Henrik Zetterberg
Original Pick: Maxime Ouellet
We go all the way back to the dreadful 1999 draft class. We really can't cast any blame on the Flyers for missing on their first round pick. It was simple. They knew they needed a longterm solution in nets, so they went with Maxime Ouellet in the first round. Obviously that didn't pan out for the Flyers, but neither did hundreds of other picks.
You have to go all the way into the deep rounds of '99 to find who the Flyers should have picked, as should have every other team. Henrik Zetterberg went to the Red Wings at 210th overall in the seventh round. We don't have to tell you how well that worked out for Detroit.
Other possible picks could have been: Ryan Miller, Radim Vrbata and Martin Havlat.
14 2000 - Henrik Lundqvist
Original Pick: Justin Williams
We passed on Ryan Miller in the 1999 class, because we knew who was sitting there in 2000. The Flyers' goalie problems would have long been solved had they addressed their crease in 2000 rather than in 1999. While Justin Williams wasn't a bad pick for Philly at 28th, he didn't really break out until the Flyers traded him to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Henrik Lundqvist slid all the way down to the seventh round to the New York Rangers, who took him 205th overall. Not only would the Flyers have gotten arguably the best goalie of his generation, but they would have weakened their division rival New York Rangers in the process. Lundqvist has carried the Rangers ever since breaking into the NHL and even at 34, he's still an elite goalie in the NHL.
13 2001 - Patrick Sharp
Original Pick: Jeff Woywitka
This one was a little tricky, because the Flyers did in fact draft Patrick Sharp, just not until the fifth round. Instead, they went with Jeff Woywitka in the first round, who never ended up playing a game for the Flyers. After reporting for his first AHL season, he was traded to Edmonton along with the team's 2004 first round pick and a third rounder for Mike Comrie.
Sharp played in Philly briefly, but after some injuries, the team gave up on him and traded him to Chicago following the lockout, along with Eric Maloche for Matt Ellison and a third rounder. Sharp went on to be a valuable piece to the Blackhawks' eventual dynasty, making the trade a complete steal for Chicago.
I have a feeling that if Sharp had been a first round pick, the Flyers wouldn't have given up on him so quickly. With that added bit of patience, Philly would have seen Sharp break through as a valuable scoring forward for their team.
12 2002 - Duncan Keith
Original Pick: Joni Pitkanen
You can't get much more of an upgrade than this one. Instead of drafting Joni Pitkanen fourth overall, the Flyers could have landed the Blackhawks' cornerstone defenceman in Duncan Keith. Keith was the steal of the 2002 draft, going 54th overall to Chicago. As for Pitkanen, he had one good season for Philly, popping in 46 points in 58 games in 2005-06. That season allowed the Flyers to trade him to Edmonton for Joffrey Lupul and Jason Smith. His career fizzled out from there.
Keith has won two Norris Trophies and won the Conn Smythe Trophy in Chicago's most recent Stanley Cup in 2015. You don't have to remind the Flyers how good Keith is, as they saw him on the other end of the ice in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final. Drafting Keith would have given the Flyers the franchise defenseman they have had trouble filling for years.
11 2003 (1) - Jeff Carter
Original Pick: Jeff Carter
The 2003 draft is so hard to re-draft, because no matter where you go in the first round, you see the names of eventual stars. This was a year where the Flyers had two first round picks and both ended up becoming valuable NHL players (although one no longer is). As for the team's first of two first rounders in 2003, they took Jeff Carter 11th overall. Carter has since been a consistent scoring center and with the exception of his short Columbus tenure, he continues to produce points. The Flyers traded him in 2011 in a deal that got them Jakub Voracek.
You can certainly make the argument for many players who went after Carter, including Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Brent Burns or Patrice Bergeron, but I don't think there's much regret in drafting Carter.
10 2003 (2) - Shea Weber
Original Pick: Mike Richards
While Mike Richards was in fact a good second line center for the Flyers leading into their 2010 trip to the Stanley Cup Final, there's no hockey fan in the world who would argue with picking Shea Weber here. Richards was traded by the Flyers just one year after that trip to the Finals, in a deal that got them Wayne Simmonds. Simmonds has since blossomed into a consistent 30-goal scorer in Philly, but having Weber on this team could have put the Flyers over the top.
After re-drafting Duncan Keith to the Flyers, could you imagine a top pairing of Keith and Weber? It's stunning to think that both Keith and Weber were second round picks, as Weber went to the Predators 49th overall in 2003. This combination could have been legendary. Ironically enough, they've been used as a top pairing for Team Canada in international tournaments, with amazing results.
9 2005 - Kris Letang
Original Pick: Steve Downie
As the Flyers did not have a first round pick in 2004, we're skipping ahead to 2005.
You know how the general philosophy of a draft is to pick the best player available? Well, we're sticking with that here, as despite having already drafted a top pairing of Keith and Weber on this list, you can't leave Kris Letang on the board. With the 29th pick in the stacked 2005 draft class, the Flyers took Steve Downie, who has been a bottom six player for most of his career. The Flyers traded Downie to Tampa Bay in a deal that got the Flyers Matt Carle.
Letang went 62nd overall to the Penguins in '05, which capped off an amazing draft for the Pens, who also got Sidney Crosby. Like our 2000 pick, selecting Letang would have given the Flyers another elite defenseman while preventing their archrival Pittsburgh Penguins from ever finding theirs. As great as Sidney Crosby is, I can't imagine he'd enjoy playing a Philly team throwing Weber, Keith and Letang at him.
8 2006 - Claude Giroux
Original Pick: Claude Giroux
In what was a pretty weak draft class, the Flyers hit a home run in 2006. While it took Giroux a few years to develop, he proved to be a steal at 22nd overall. With Giroux, not only did the Flyers draft an elite playmaking centre in the league, but they also drafted their future captain. Giroux was given the keys to the car once the Flyers cleaned house in 2011 and moved Carter and Richards out of town.
Some noteworthy players who went after Giroux include Nick Foligno, Steve Mason and Semyon Varlamov, and none of them have had the impact Giroux has. Giroux already sits at 545 points through 605 NHL games and is averaging nearly a point a game to start this season.
7 2007 - Jamie Benn
Original Pick: James van Riemsdyk
The Flyers had a massive letdown season in 2006-07 after a promising 2005-06 campaign. With that, they got the second overall pick in the 2007 draft. Unfortunately, drafting second meant they missed out on first overall pick Patrick Kane. With the pick, the Flyers took James van Riemsdyk. While JVR has since developed to be a solid NHL player, he hasn't exactly lived up to the expectations of a second overall pick. The Flyers ended up trading him to Toronto for Luke Schenn in 2012.
Instead the Flyers could have taken the steal of the '07 class in Jamie Benn. Benn is Mr. Everything for the Dallas Stars today. He's one of the most complete players in the NHL and has even won an Art Ross Trophy, showing that he's an elite scorer in the league. He's also the Stars' captain and one of the better leaders in the NHL. I don't think I'll be hearing too many arguments against this one.
Other picks could have been Ryan McDonagh or P.K. Subban, but I have another defenceman in mind for Philly in 2008.
6 2008 - Roman Josi
Original Pick: Luca Sbisa
You know how Mike Babcock started this philosophy that your D-pairings should be lefty-righty, lefty-righty, lefty-righty? Well, we're fulfilling that here, finding the eventual second pairing defenceman to place next to Kris Letang.
The Flyers drafted Luca Sbisa, but Sbisa barely played for them. His value ended up being that he was part of the 2009 draft day trade that got the Flyers Chris Pronger. While that was a great trade for Philly, I have a more long-term solution in mind here.
Roman Josi has since developed to be one of the NHL's better defencemen. For the past two years, there were even scouts and pundits arguing that Josi had even surpassed Shea Weber as Nashville's best defenseman. Like Weber, Josi was a second round pick, going 38th overall to Nashville in 2008.
Knowing now that Josi and Weber have great chemistry, drafting Josi to the Flyers here means that either he can be paired with Letang or move up to play with Weber.
Your top four D-men: Keith, Weber, Letang, Josi... Good luck, NHL.
5 2011 - Johnny Gaudreau
Original Pick: Sean Couturier
Sean Couturier was drafted eighth overall to Philly. The Flyers got this pick as a result of trading Jeff Carter to the Blue Jackets the season before. Couturier has since grown to be a reliable NHL player, but he doesn't have the wow factor of his replacement on this list. Couturier has shown promise, but has had trouble developing the offensive part of his game. He has yet to crack the 40-point mark.
Johnny Gaudreau on the other hand, is all offense and the 104th overall pick has dazzled Calgary, coming off a 78-point season in 2015-16. While Gaudreau is not known for his two-way play, what would that matter with the team we constructed on this list? Gaudreau is going to be a point machine for years to come and is just another big piece of the puzzle here.
4 2012 - Scott Laughton
Original Pick: Scott Laughton
The 2012 class has yet to really distinguish itself. Many players have not yet made a significant impact at the NHL level. We already know Nail Yakupov is a bust, while Filip Forsber, Alex Galchenyuk and Jacob Trouba seem like the best talents to emerge from that class. With that said, there haven't been any players that have broken out who were selected after Scott Laughton (20th overall) from the 2012 draft. So for now, we're kind of sticking with him by default here.
Laughton played most of last season in Philly after developing in the minors and recorded 21 points in 71 games. The jury is still out as to what kind of player he will be, but the fact that he's already played close to a full NHL season is an encouraging sign.
3 2013 - Max Domi
Original Pick: Samuel Morin
It's still really early to tell who will be stars and who will be busts from the 2013 class. It takes defencemen longer to devleop than forwards, so it can't be seen as much of a surprise that Samuel Morin is still honing his skills in the minors.
This re-draft is mostly because Max Domi has already shown so much promise. Not only is he already in the NHL, but he produced a 52-point season in his rookie campaign despite playing with a Coyotes roster devoid of talent. He has 16 points in 22 games this season and his numbers should go up once the Coyotes surround him with better wingers.
If Domi had the roster we've assembled for Philly, he'd have definitely been a slam dunk for the Calder Trophy last year.
2 2014 - David Pastrnak
Original Pick: Travis Sanheim
Wow, where did David Pastrnak come from? Again, much like with the Morin re-draft, this is not meant to be a slight on Travis Sanheim, who is understandably still honing his skills in the AHL as a defenseman.
With Patrnak's hot start to the 2016-17 season though, it's impossible not to put him here. The 2014 draft class has not had a chance to establish themselves in the NHL yet, but Pastrnak has made the most of his opportunity in Boston this year. He already has 18 goals on the season and should be able to break the 30-mark even if he hits a wall at some point this season. Playing with a group of solid forwards in Boston, the future is bright for Pastrnak.
1 2015 - Travis Konecny
Original Pick: Travis Konecny
Okay, now it really is way too early to look for a re-draft. The Flyers took Travis Konecny 24th overall in 2015 and after one additional year in junior, he's already made the jump to the NHL. He's found a spot on the Flyers' roster and he has 15 points through his first 31 games, which is a very encouraging sign for Philly. The Flyers have played great hockey through December and part of their hot streak has been due to the emergence of their young players.
While the 2015 draft is always going to be known as the Connor McDavid draft, we'll have to wait a few years to see who else from this class will also become stars in the NHL. We'll have to wait to see if Konecny is one of them.
So... After reading this re-draft, how is this fantasy Flyers team looking? Who would you have drafted instead?
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