With slim odds, the Flyers didn’t strike gold in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.
But they will have a chance to bring in some needed high-end talent near the top of the 2023 NHL draft.
“We’re fortunate it’s a good year,” Flyers general manager Danny Briere said of the draft crop in April. “We have quite a few picks and we have a high one.
“You have to go through a lot of bad times to get there unfortunately, but it’s exciting when you’re at the draft table and you get to pick such a high pick. It’s going to be a critical pick for the organization moving forward, there’s no doubt about it.”
After selecting Cutter Gauthier fifth overall last summer, the Flyers are slotted at No. 7 for this year’s draft, which will be held June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. With the Ivan Provorov trade, the Flyers acquired the 22nd overall pick, giving them two first-rounders and 10 total selections in the draft. The first round kicks off at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Rounds 2-7 follow Thursday starting at 11 a.m. ET.
Leading up to the draft, we’re breaking down targets for the Flyers at No. 7.
There’s a ton to like with Leonard, who is a unique blend of a get-after-it power forward and a skillful finisher.
Many draft experts believe he’s a coach’s dream. The Boston College commit is a talented, deceptive scorer, but he runs on a bottom-six motor.
Leonard’s ability to impact the game in various ways makes him a player that can scale a team’s lineup.
“What Ryan brings to the table is that mix of skill and physicality,” Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, said June 1 in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “He’s the one guy that can play the power forward game. He has the size and strength to go along with the skills and speed and smarts to make it happen. He moves really well. The [U.S.] program is developing really good athletes. He moves like a pro, he sees the ice like a pro, he can finish like a pro.”
On the star-laden U.S. national U-18 team, Leonard put up 51 goals, 94 points and a plus-77 rating in 57 games this season. His 15 power play goals and three shorthanded markers each led the team.
“He’s another one of these guys that delivers consistently,” Marr said. “He plays his game on a consistent basis. There are a lot of these ‘C’ words that you use when describing a player, but one of the most difficult ones for the 17- and 18-year-olds to achieve is consistency. But he brings that.”
At the 2023 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship in late April, Leonard recorded eight goals, nine assists and plus-16 mark over seven games to help lead the Americans to gold.
“He does have a gain or an advantage right now because he’s just further ahead in his physical maturity than some others,” Marr said. “But he’s making the most of it combining it with his skill and his smarts.
“It’s like Evander Kane. Evander Kane can compete when it’s down and dirty and come out with scoring chances, he can compete when you need speed and skill and come out with scoring chances.”
Fit with Flyers
There seems to be a good chance Leonard will be gone before the Flyers get a chance to grab him.
If he is available when the Flyers are on the clock, he’d be a real fine pick.
It’s fair to wonder if Leonard will be a play driver at the NHL level or more of a complementary finisher. But the Flyers have desperately needed top-end goal-scoring talent, players who can often beat the goaltender without any help.
Over the last two seasons combined, the Flyers have ranked last in the NHL with a 14.0 power play percentage and second to last with 2.62 goals per game. Leonard is the type of player who would be able to seriously help in those areas over the future.
The Flyers are hoping Gauthier and 2020 first-round pick Tyson Foerster are two significant answers to their goal-scoring void. Gauthier led Boston College in goals (16) and points (37) this season as a freshman, while Foerster has one of the best shots in the organization and showed it in his eight-game audition with the Flyers.
If the Flyers can add Leonard to the mix, they could have something cooking in the future.
Source: Yahoo Sports