The 2018 NHL Draft is in the books. It was one of the more straightforward drafts in recent years in terms of a lack of trades and movement, but that doesn’t mean it was necessarily a bad draft.
The Philadelphia Flyers kept their two first-round picks on Friday night and selected two forwards, then rounded out their draft class with six more players in the final six rounds on Saturday. Ron Hextall and Co. restocked the cupboard a bit after seeing some of their prospects graduate to the professional ranks in recent years. They still had one of the best prospect pools heading into the draft, and this weekend only strengthened that.
A draft can’t truly be graded until several years later, but let’s take a look at who the Flyers picked and break down their 2018 NHL Draft class a bit.
1st round (14th overall) – Joel Farabee, USA U-18 (NTDP)
Joel Farabee is a strong, two-way winger with a great body of work. He progressed well in the U.S. National Team Development Program and will be heading to Boston University to play college hockey.
Farabee is one of the players that the Flyers were focusing on leading up to the draft, and they kept their 14th pick to draft him. He brings a different skillset to the prospect pool than other players in that he’s one of the few wingers drafted in the first few rounds, and the only winger drafted in the first round under Hextall.
1st round (19th overall) – Jay O’Brien, Thayer Academy (USHS-Prep)
Jay O’Brien is a skilled center that put up 80 points this past season in just 30 games. He hasn’t played against the toughest competition given that he chose the high school route, but he was named the High School Player of the Year and has great hockey sense.
O’Brien was a bit of an “off the board” pick, but there were teams behind the Flyers that were reportedly looking to grab him. Hextall showed confidence in his scouting staff and that he’s “never one to be safe” by drafting the prep standout. O’Brien is committed to Providence College.
2nd round (50th overall) – Adam Ginning, Linkoping (SHL)
After getting two forwards in the first round, the Flyers started on a run of defensemen by taking Adam Ginning. Ginning is a big-bodied shutdown defenseman that has experience playing professionally in Sweden.
With the defensemen moving up the pipeline (Robert Hagg to NHL, Travis Sanheim to NHL, Philippe Myers close to NHL, Sam Morin close to NHL), Hextall wanted to add a few more defensemen and he got a solid one in Ginning. Playing professionally will give him good experience in Sweden, where the Flyers have drafted a few good players from in recent years.
4th round (112th overall) – John St. Ivany, Sioux Falls (USHL)
The run on defensemen continued with John St. Ivany. The right-handed defenseman played in the USHL for the past two seasons and is committed to Yale University in the fall.
St. Ivany adds another depth defenseman to the prospect pool for the Flyers.
5th round (127th overall) – Wyatte Wiley, Everett (WHL)
The Flyers added another right-handed defenseman 15 picks later in Wyatte Wiley. They saw a lot of Wiley over the past two years as he was a teammate of top goalie prospect Carter Hart with the Everett Silvertips. He was the only player selected from the CHL.
Wiley was a late riser this season and Everett’s most improved player of the year. He is a puck-moving defenseman and a fluid skater. He played on the penalty kill as well this season.
5th round (143rd overall) – Samuel Ersson, Brynas J20 (SuperElit)
They then took their first (and only) goalie in the draft in the fifth round. Samuel Ersson of Brynas, which is who Flyers prospects Oskar Lindblom and Felix Sandstrom played for, played in 40 games for their junior team and also had a short stint in the SHL.
Hextall said that he wouldn’t reach for a goalie, but he’d take one if a netminder fell in their lap. Ersson dropped to the Flyers and they added another goalie to their prospect pool. Hart is the crown jewel, with Sandstrom not too far behind, but you can never have too many goalie prospects.
6th round (174th overall) – Gavin Hain, USA U-18 (NTDP)
The Flyers went back to the center well and drafted Gavin Hain in the sixth round. Hain is a high-energy, hard-working two-way forward. He chipped in 15 goals this season while playing in the bottom-six.
Hain, like Farabee, will go from the USNTDP to the NCAA. He is committed to the University of North Dakota for the fall.
7th round (205th overall) – Marcus Westfalt, Brynas (SuperElit/SHL)
Lastly, the Flyers drafted another Brynas player with their final pick. Marcus Westfalt is touted as a pro-style player with a good hockey IQ. He had 27 points (12 goals, 15 assists) in 26 games this season in the SuperElit, while tallying four points in 31 games in a limited role in the SHL. Not too shabby for a seventh-round flier.
It was an interesting draft class for the Flyers in terms of the players’ backgrounds. There were two pairs of teammates, a player that was a teammate of a Flyers prospect, and many that are taking the same path for their developmental stages. They drafted two American players in the first round that are heading to college, which was a trend that continued.
Let’s take a look at some of the backgrounds of the class as a whole.
One of the main storylines to come out of the Flyers’ draft class is that it was largely American. The Flyers used five of their eight picks on American players, with the three others coming from Sweden. It was the first time in franchise history that the Flyers did not draft a Canadian player. It was also the most Americans drafted by the Flyers since 2004, when they also drafted five.
It’s interesting to see the shift here by the Flyers. Obviously it’s a bit of a coincidence, but USA hockey is growing and the league is trending that way.
Hextall and the Flyers also focused on their positional needs a bit as well. After drafting just three defensemen since Ivan Provorov in 2015, including two seventh-round picks, they drafted three in the high-to-middle rounds of this draft. Up front, Farabee was the highest winger selected by the Flyers since James Van Riemsdyk was taken 2nd overall in 2007.
It was a pretty balanced draft, however. They got four players on the offensive side of things with three centers and a left wing, and four on the defensive side with three defensemen and a goalie.
Another interesting thing about this draft class is where the Flyers got the players from. They plucked two, including Farabee, from the USNTDP, three from the SHL (which they have heavily scouted to get Swedish players), just two from juniors (one of which is from the USHL) and one from high school.
Even more interesting is where those players are playing this coming season.
Half of the Flyers’ 2018 draft class will be playing in the NCAA next season. That includes their two top picks Farabee (Boston University) and O’Brien (Providence College), as well as their fourth pick St. Ivany (Yale University).
Three of them will assumably continue playing in Sweden in the SHL, following in the footsteps of Hagg, Lindblom, Sandstrom, Olle Lycksell, and others.
Just one of their draftees will be playing in the CHL, with Wiley continuing to play in Everett with the Silvertips.
The Flyers may have went heavier in one area than other at times, but overall they got a balanced group of players in their 2018 Draft class. Joel Farabee and Jay O’Brien will slot in near the top of the Flyers’ prospect rankings, especially among forwards, and the others have a chance to rise in the ranks as they continue to develop over the next few years.
Photo credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
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