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Philly patience pays off at the draft table

Provorov_AB41090Sometimes it's the move you don't make that pays off in the long run, and that may well be the case with Ivan Provorov going to Philadelphia 7th overall at the NHL draft.

The talented Brandon Wheat Kings defenceman was the focus of much discussion when Philadelphia Flyers' management and scouting staff sat down to ponder what might transpire at the top of the draft.

"We each put six guys up on the board who we thought would be taken in the first six," said Flyers' QMJHL crossover scout Todd Hearty. "We ran down a couple of mock drafts, and the more you looked at it...I could see Provorov dropping to us because you heard Arizona was not wanting to take the defenceman."

The Coyotes made it known they may move down a few spots, but the asking price was high as there were no guarantees the player(s) they coveted would not be taken. 

"Why would you trade down if you like a guy..and you don't get him later?" asked Hearty.  "And why would you trade up if you think you might get your guy? So we sat and waited, and it just fell into place."

Arizona kept the third pick and selected the big center it coveted in Dylan Strome, Toronto chose London Knights forward Mitch Marner, Carolina grabbed American defenceman Noah Hanifin and New Jersey took 6-3 Czech center Pavel Zacha, leaving the talented two-way Russian-born defenceman for the Flyers.  

Provorov, IvanProvorov made the adjustment to the CHL look easy, leading all WHL rookies in scoring, and quickly becoming Brandon's most dependable defenceman at both ends of the ice. 

"I don't like to make bold statements," said Hearty, "but I think he could come in and just be one of the better defenceman on the team in training camp. they are going to see this guy and go 'whoa'."

The Flyers also think they hit paydirt with the selection of Ottawa 67's forward Travis Konecny 24th overall, a player ranked 14th on McKeen's final draft rankings. 

Konecny_AB41452"We had him like 11th, so we were really excited when Hexy (Flyers' GM Ron Hextall) said we could move up," said Hearty. "Toronto wanted to move down, and we made the deal."

The Flyers once again thought about staying put, but this time they weren't as certain the player they coveted would be there. "We were at 29," said Hearty. "We debated waiting to see if Konecny or Nick Merkley were there, but I think we felt as a group that Konecny had the better upside even though we loved Merkley. Konecny has more upside; he's a quicker skater, they're both character guys."

Hearty has since learned that Konecny would not have made it past pick 25...or 26 for that matter as Montreal would have taken him.

Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images
Photo by Aaron Bell/OHL Images

"Winnipeg was taking him next (at 25).  I'm surprised that Toronto didn't take him, the connection is there, he's from London, as is Mark Hunter. I'm sure they debated that. For whatever reason they didn't take him...He's just such a great asset though. He's got the most upside of any of those smaller guys. Who knows what he is...I hear Pat Verbeek (from some), maybe he's (Zach) Parise....maybe he's one of those (type of) guys."

The Flyers addressed a lack of goaltending depth by choosing two goalies in the third round and one in the seventh, including highly-touted Swedish goalie Felix Sandstrom with the 70th overall pick. 

"We had him ranked as our number two goalie," said Hearty. "He and (Mackenzie) Blackwood were close on our list.  We're picking in the third round and this guy was still there...we were pretty excited."

Slovakian goalie Matej Tomek posted a 1.83 GAA and .928 SP for Topeka in the NAHL, catching the attention of Philadelphia's goalie scout Neil Little, who has since been let go by the team.

"That's the nature of the business," said Hearty, who added that Little's goalie rankings were always "pretty much where they ended up getting drafted. 

For Hearty the real prize in the middle rounds was Russian center Pavel Vorobyov, considered a solid second-round prospect by the team. 

"We had Vorobyov really high," said Hearty.  "We had quite a distance with no picks from 24 to 70...we had to take a goalie in the third (two actually) ...and Vorobyov just kept falling for whatever reason.  We got to the 90's, and we got a deal where we could move back to 98 and get another pick, so we took (Samuel) Dove-McFalls, just because we thought the Russian factor might still come into effect, and (Vorobyov) was still there when we picked (at 104)."

A 6-2 center from Ufa, Vorobyov was effective in U-18 competitions for Russia this season, earning accolades for his heady defensive play. 

"He needs half a step, which is just strength," said Hearty. "He's a two-way center with size. He's big and he's skilled. I look at him, and I don't see a huge, huge difference between him and (Joel Eriksson) Ek. 

The selection of three Russians was a major departure in draft strategy for the Flyers..who took less Russians (two) in the previous eight drafts than they did in this draft.

"We were waving the hammer and sickle there for the first time in a long time," said Hearty in jest.

The Flyers hoped to add some centers with size later in the draft, and were pleased to come away with two 6-2 pivots in Vorobyov and Dove-McFalls. 

Dove-McFalls_AB42391"We wanted to get some size, and I think Dove-McFalls is a bottom 6 guy," said Hearty. "He's responsible defensively, has good character, a good shot blocker, good on faceoffs. Hopefully he's given more of an offensive role in Saint John this year with the coaching change. 

During the season Hearty raved about the play of Kase at international tournaments, calling him "#$%^ing awesome" after his performance in the World Junior Championship. 

"Someone's going to take him in the second," claimed Hearty in January, so he was pleased to be able to add the 5-10, 167-pound Czech center in the fifth round.  "He needs to put on some size and strength.  He's a smart player, competes, very skilled..a puck possession guy who sees the ice well."

The Flyers' sixth-round pick Cooper Marody is a 6-0 American center who didn't get to play a lot of competitive hockey before joining the USHL last season.

"He's got some upside, he's talented," said Hearty.  "He's got speed, and skill.  We like how far he has come in his development...he has a background where he got cut from his high school team.  He finally ended up in Sioux Falls where a coach believed in him and he flourished."

All in all a very successful draft for the Flyers, who received a McKeen's draft grade of 'A', landing seven top 120 picks, and replenishing depth at center, wing and in goal.

"We all had so many guys left on our list at the end," said Hearty.  "You needed nine or ten rounds this year, there were so many guys."