Flyers

Reviewing the Flyers’ first-round haul

BRUCE BENNETT/GETTY IMAGES

For the second time this year, the future of a Philadelphia franchise was selected in Dallas, Texas.

Unlike the NFL Draft where Howie Roseman pulled the second most savage move of the year* by trading in front of the Dallas Cowboys to select Dallas Goedert in Dallas, Texas – Ron Hextall stood pat at picks 14 and 19 and let the draft board play out.

A lot of people, myself included, thought there was a chance that Hexy would make a move on draft day considering his past actions. Last season he traded Brayden Schenn to the St. Louis Blues for a first round pick last year (which resulted in Morgan Frost), the 14th overall pick this year (more on that later), and Jori Lehtera. In the 2016 draft he traded back from the 18th selection for the 22nd pick and the 36th pick. With those two picks the Flyers took German Rubstov and Pascal Leberge. In the 2015 draft Hexy selected Ivan Provorov with the seventh overall pick and saw a talented player slipping out of the top 20. He got on the phone with Nashville to move up to the 24th pick and take Travis Konecny.

It’s safe to say that anything goes with Ron Hextall on draft day. He’s not opposed to trading up, trading back or even trading roster players for the right price. With that past knowledge it was a little surprising to see Hexy stand pat at 14 and 19. Considering Wayne Simmonds has been rumored to be on the trade block, I thought he would try to use Simmonds and one of his first two picks to try to move inside the top 10 and try to get more young controllable talent.

I think it’s a great thing that the Flyers held on to Wayne Simmonds and both first round picks. He’s a leader on and off the ice and managed to score 24 goals despite being seriously injured the whole season. I see no reason why he can’t bounce back with a 30 goal season. Plus the Flyers added two talented players at 14 and 19.

When the Flyers got on the clock at 14 there was a player available that I had in mind from the beginning: Joel Farabee. Farabee is an American-born winger and projected to be selected around 10th overall. His play style is being a jack of all trades, master of none. Sure enough the Flyers saw the value there and added him to the team with the 14th pick.

Farabee stands at an even six feet tall and weighs in at 162 pounds. He is a left-winger with a left-handed shot. Attached is a scouting report courtesy of thehockeywriters.com:

So what do we get in Farabee now? We have a player who is one of the best skaters in the draft and uses that to create offense. He uses his speed to burn past defenders and then he uses his pro shot in a variety of ways. He is surprisingly effective around the net for someone of his stature. His fearlessness and work ethic make him a load to handle in the offensive zone.

What sets Farabee apart is how effective he is defensively. He uses his smarts to put himself in position to intercept passes and break up plays. Once he gets the puck on his stick, he’s excellent at transition offense. He’s one of the best 200-foot players at the top of the draft.

Questions with Farabee start with his size. He’s just 5-foot-11 and not even 170 pounds. In grind it out games, he can be pushed off pucks. He doesn’t bring much of a physical presence. Can he find a way to play among bigger and faster players at the next level?

Farabee is committed to Boston University next season but will have a chance to make the team the following season. In a quote from the Flyers Instagram page, Farabee described his game, “I think hockey IQ and playmaking ability along with 2-way is something I pride myself on. Definitely love scoring goals, but definitely hate being scored against. That’s my motto.” He’ll fit right in here with that attitude. He’ll fit in even better after this tweet from February:

Yeah, he’s a keeper.

The Flyers would make another selection at 19. While the threat to trade was cooled off by this point, Hextall was still a busy man working the phones to see what options he had, but ultimately held on to the 19th pick to select Jay O’Brien, an American-born center from the Thayer Academy. O’Brien is a pure scorer who is committed to attend Providence College in the fall. He is more of a “risky” pick as he has very limited play against top competition. Here’s a scouting report courtesy of thehockeywriters.com:

When it comes to the All-American Prospects Game in Buffalo, the vast majority of invitees come from either the USHL or the United States program in Michigan. To get an invite as a high school prep star says something significant about that player and what potential he has. Thayer Academy’s Jay O’Brien certainly fits the mold of good potential at the next level.

Widely considered the best high school player in this draft, O’Brien got an invite to Buffalo and was only one of two New England prep players to get the honor. To go from playing on the prep ice to the ice at Key Bank Center is a dramatic change and one very welcomed by O’Brien. It showed the hard work he put in was paying off.

So what do we have in O’Brien? As mentioned above, we have someone who can skate. He demonstrates both good acceleration and speed and uses it to create space and scoring chances. He can finish as demonstrated by his 43 goals. He also has really good hands. Whether he’s unleashing a shot or making a subtle extra move to create a shooting lane, he can do that at top speed and create havoc for opponents.

The obvious question that comes up with O’Brien is the level of competition he played against. We got a small glimpse of that at both the prospect’s game and when he played for the USDP. He played a game against Michigan State where although he didn’t score, he made some noticeable plays. He didn’t look out of place against more experienced competition. The thing I’d like to see is continued improvement on the defensive end. He has improved there and shown flashes. I just want to see him do it against men. He’ll get his chance to do that as his next stop is Providence to play for the Friars in 2018-19.

In thirty games at Thayer Academy last season O’Brien scored 80 points (!!!) 43 goals and 37 assists. Sure the level of competition isn’t the same as the OHL or QMJHL, but the ability is there. I understand how it might look like a reach, but remember the Flyers “reached” on Morgan Frost last season and he’s looking like a legitimate top prospect after he put up 112 points (42 goals, 70 assists) in 67 games for the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds last season. I’m not saying that O’Brien is the second coming of Morgan Frost, I am saying that Hextall and his team are pretty good at seeing talent that others might not see at first.

In an interview O’Brien discussed why he was happy the Flyers selected him, “Had a great meeting with Philly. It was the place I wanted to go, and it was the place I wanted to play. Such a historic franchise, I couldn’t be happier to be a Flyer.”

Finally, here are the two newest Flyers addressing the media:

I love the two selections made in Dallas on Friday night. Farabee is a smart player who will fit right in with the locker room. O’Brien has a ton of upside and I can’t wait to see how he develops. The Flyers are back on the clock with the 50th pick, I think they lean toward taking a defenseman.

*For clarification, Brett Brown drafting hometown boy Mikal Bridges (whose mother works for the Sixers) only to trade him less than an hour later to the Phoenix Suns is the most savage thing a general manager has done this year.

 


You can follow Anthony Mazziotti on Twitter (@AntMazziotti) and e-mail him at anthonymazziottiwriting@gmail.com.

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