A miserable season resulted in the Philadelphia Flyers ending up with the fourth-worst record in the National Hockey League and the fifth overall pick in the 2022 Entry Draft.
If you’re an optimist, and let’s face it that’s why you’re still here, it could have been worse as the Flyers could have dropped to sixth in the draft. But it certainly could have been better as the Flyers not only didn’t cash in on a 9.5-percent chance of finishing first, they didn’t luck into the second overall pick this year, either. Although some Nolan Patrick haters might say the Flyers dodged a bullet by not getting the second pick.
Anyway, the Flyers will pick fifth. Good players can be found at No. 5 but the track record isn’t exactly spotless of grabbing a difference-maker in that slot. Let’s take a look at the recent history of picking fifth.
Working backwards, the last four years are too tough to call as Kent Johnson (2021, Columbus), Jake Sanderson (2020, Ottawa), Alex Turcotte (2019, Los Angeles) and Barrett Hayton (2018, Arizona) have yet to really make an impression on their teams thus far.
In 2017, the Vancouver Canucks did pretty well to grab Elias Pettersson fifth after Miro Heiskanen and Cale Makar (and Nolan Patrick, of course) were off the board. Pettersson has 221 points in his first 245 NHL games, which certainly teeters on being an elite-level No. 1 center with some room to grow. He’s still 23. The feeling is the Flyers would be pretty darn happy to nab a player of Pettersson’s caliber, as he contributed a 66-point season as a rookie just one full year after he was drafted.
Pettersson is a success story. Now let’s go back further.
Vancouver, oddly enough, picked fifth in 2016 and took defenseman Olli Juolevi with a big swing and a miss. Juolevi has played just 41 games so far when Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk was taken sixth that year.
The 2015 draft was deep and the Carolina Hurricanes took Noah Hanifin at No. 5 after guys like Connor McDavid, Jack Eichel and Mitch Marner were selected prior. Hanifin is OK and the ‘Canes packaged him in a trade (oddly enough with 2013 fifth overall pick Elias Lindholm) to bring in Dougie Hamilton. But guys like Mikko Rantanen, Mat Barzal, Kyle Connor and Timo Meier were still on the board. Lindholm has developed late into a pretty good player. But obviously his original team didn’t have the patience to stick it out, which is not what we want to hear in the current situation.
We skipped Michael Dal Colle (2014, N.Y. Islanders). Nothing to see here. Bust.
Toronto nailed it in 2012 with defenseman Morgan Rielly, who is a cornerstone of a very good team with Stanley Cup aspirations.
The next group is all guys who found either some moderate success after leaving their original destination or never quite panned out to be a top-five pick. In some cases, both: Ryan Strome (2011, Islanders), Nino Niederreiter (2010, Islanders), Brayden Schenn (2009, Los Angeles), Luke Schenn (2008, Toronto), Karl Alzner (2007, Washington).
That’s the last 15 years and all we really have is a Pettersson, Lindholm and Rielly to really hang our hats on.
If we keep going, you’ll see some bigger names in Phil Kessel, Carey Price, Thomas Vanek and Blake Wheeler. Heck, if we go back to 1991, you can dig up a Jaromir Jagr. If they choose wisely, the Flyers can get a very good player. But the odds that the Flyers unearth a true superstar at No. 5 are pretty slim. Probably slimmer than the 9.5-percent chance they had at winning the draft lottery. And you see how that went. ••