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2022 Draft: Presser, Scouts Week, Fletcher/Flahr Transcript

June 30, 2022, 10:51 AM ET [209 Comments]
Bill Meltzer
Philadelphia Flyers Blogger •NHL.com • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Chuck Fletcher and Brent Flahr met with the media yesterday to discuss the upcoming 2022 NHL Entry Draft. Fletcher also provided more clarity on the timeline of Joel Farabee's neck injury that led to cervical disc replacement surgery as well as Ryan Eillis' level of progress in returning from multiple mid-body (pelvic, lower abdominal, hip, etc) issues that limited him to four games in 2021-22.

Courtesy of the Flyers' Allie Samuelsson, a transcript follows below.

After the press conference, Flahr spoke with Jason Myrtetus and me for a follow-up conversation on the 2023 Draft. Separately, we also spoke with the Flyers director of European scouting, Joakim Grundberg, and western Canada based scout Mark Greig. Tomorrow, we will speak with Flyers director of player personnel Alyn McCauley.

These interviews will compromise the pre-Draft content for "Scouts Week" on Flyers Daily. There will also be a Draft preview article that I have written for PhiladelphiaFlyers.com. Rather than doing a full leaguewide mock draft this year, the focus is solely on the Flyers. We walk through potential drafting strategies, with the primary focus being on simply holding onto and keeping the fifth overall pick.

Beyond the most likely top three selections in the 2022 Draft -- Juraj Slafkovsky, Shane Wright and Logan Cooley in one order or another -- the likely top five, top 10 and top 15 lists of teams' internal ranking likely vary not only in ranking order but also in which players are included therein. I used Bob McKenzie's rankings (but also listed ranking from a variety of other reputable public sources) as the primary basis for where I listed five candidates for the fifth overall pick -- of which Seattle may take one off the board before the Flyers' turn comes up at No. 5.

After that, I listed 11 "step up/trade down" candidates. By this, I mean that these are players for whom public rankings vary widely but either are potential candidates to be internally ranked within the Flyers' top five OR may be players of interest if the Flyers trade down either within the top 10 or to somewhat later (mid-round) points. In other words, not every player listed in the final section is a likely top five candidate but all are notable for one reason or another.

For example, McKenzie has Winnipeg Ice center/winger Matthew Savoie ranked 9th. I weighted that heavily in why he's the first name listed in the step up/trade down section. But I also am well aware that there's a buzz in some circles that Savoie may not be chosen in the top 10 or even the top 15, and that Craig Button ranks Savoie 19th. Thus, he's either a "step up" (if your scouts believe strongly enough in a player, draft him at first opportunity) or prospect you may be able to trade down a bit and still be able to select.

If I had to make a prediction as to whom the Flyers will pick at No. 5, I'd say it comes down to whether Seattle takes a forward or defenseman at the No. 4 overall pick. If they take a defenseman (Simon Nemec or David Jiricek, according to most public projections), I wouldn't be surprised if the Flyers selected winger/center Cutter Gauthier at No. 5. If Seattle takes a forward, leaving every Draft-eligible defenseman on the board, the odds increase that the BPA on the Flyers' list will be whichever defenseman they rank higher.

The Flyers do not have a second-round pick at present. After picking fifth in the first round, the Flyers will not pick again until the No. 69 overall selection. I asked Grundberg if that factor weighs at all into the potential risk-tolerance (injury history, for example) level the Flyers might have in aiming for the player they believe could have the highest impact. He said it is a non-factor.

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Transcript: Chuck Fletcher and Brent Flahr Press Conference

Is this the least predictable Draft going into it where you can say this is absolutely going to happen and figure it out from there?

Brent Flahr (BF): Yeah, I think it is fair to say. We usually have a couple players we want to draft (at number five) for sure. We’ll have a pretty good idea by next week, but there are still some unknowns. Again, we have a grouping of players we’re talking about.

Because you are getting such a high pick at number five, do you expect this player to be NHL ready in this year?

BF: Depends on the player, to be honest with you. Some players are physically more ready than others. There are a couple more kids that need more time to get stronger. Some have played at a little higher level. That will be up to them. Some of these kids should be ready to practice and play potentially within the year

Do you still envision making this pick and not trading it for [an NHL roster] player?

Chuck Fletcher (CF): Well, if we’re going to trade the pick outright, it needs to be for a player in a certain age group. A player that could help us win now, but also win for several years. I do not think we are looking for someone in their late 20s or early 30s. Certainly speaking to every team in the league, we say this every year, but it’s definitely true this year, trying to ascertain that value of that pick is. If somebody has designs on it and makes the fair offer, we have to consider everything.

With so much talent bunched up together, does it make it potentially easier to make that decision knowing that the guy you like at five could still be there if you move down “X” numbers of spots?

CF: That certainly could be the case. The top end of this draft you mentioned previously is pretty scrambled. Different readings on the group and different lists, there are probably several names in most teams’ top ten. Whether that creates more movement or less movement, I’m not sure. I think there’s already been some interesting conversations and everyone’s trying to get a sense on where everyone’s at and what the value of that pick is.

What is Ryan Ellis’s status currently?

CF: Well, he’s continuing to progress, certainly improved since the end of this season. Certainly, further along now compared to a month or two months ago. Saying that, the bulk of his rehab is still ahead of him. He’s starting to intensify his off-ice workouts. Its’s going well, but there is still several steps to go before he gets on the ice. It’s still difficult, if not impossible, to predict where he’s going to be at in three months. The last month has been encouraging, but there is still more work to do.

Considering the uncertainty of how draft prospects still develop as well as the coaching situation. How does that affect what you’re looking for going into the draft?

CF: Not at all. [John Tortorella] is no different than any other coach. We prefer to have the best player available. We’re looking for a player. Realistically it’s not going to be a goaltender this year at five; a forward or a defenseman that has a skill set that could help us for many years. We’re up the either position. There’s some excellent defenseman. Some excellent forwards. Certainly, we’re looking for top talent at the top of the draft.

Do you expect Ryan Ellis to be ready for training camp or is that still an unknown?

CF: I don’t know how anyone could predict that right now. That’s certainly the hope and the goal. But we’ll have to see. Again, he’s starting ramp up the rehab, which is great that he’s at the point where he could ramp it up, but we’ll just have to see how everything responds.

When did it evolve that Joel Farabee had to get surgery?

CF: [The injury] happened about two weeks ago. It was crazy. It was one of his first formal workouts of the summer and he was warming up with light weights on the bench press. He felt, what he called some kind of pinching sensation in his neck area. He was able to see a doctor in the Syracuse area. Got some imaging done. We got him down here last Monday to see Dr. Yoon and he got him in for surgery four days later. I don’t even know what to say. It was extremely unfortunate and unlucky for him. I think we moved as quickly as we could once we knew he had issues.

How much training is Farabee going to be able to do in spite of the surgery, are you optimistic he’ll be ready at the start of camp or the start of the season?

CF: I am not even sure that that is important to me. Just looking at some schedule drafts coming out, we have just eight games in the month of October. To me, it’s about getting him right. I’m not 100% sure how quickly he can get into getting stronger and really working on, not just his upper body, but his lower as well and building some strength to help him become a little more durable. He plays hard and he’s a fearless kid. This was going to be a big summer for him, from strength and development scenario. That is certainly an important part of the rehab, just getting him healthy and stronger. For me whether it’s three months or four months at the end of the day, if he’s ready for Game One, great. If he misses five, six, seven games and we can push him a little further, that might make sense too. We’ll make every decision with him based on his long-term health, welfare and development.

Did the doctor speculate if any of Farabee’s past [shoulder] injuries were connected to his current?

CF: No, no one has said that. You can speculate all you want. There’s no correlation. Certainly, nothing at the end of the year. There was no issue with this at any point, since I’ve been here.

BF: I talked to Joel this morning. He was saying it was the first time he started working out. His shoulder and everything else was 100%. Everything felt great and then this happens. He walked out of the surgery [i.e., did not require hospitalization afterwards]. Later that day, said feels really good, which was amazing.

CF: That’s an incredible surgery.

Was there any kind of consultation of what kind of players the coach likes or would want to go with?

CF: No, [John] is not coming here. I’ve never had a head coach ever in 30 years I’ve been in the business; I’ve never seen the head coach be involved in the drafting of players that may not play two, three years down the road. I’m certainly well aware of what John likes in a hockey player. What I think all of us in the group respect, we want is smart, competitive, hardworking people. Preferably six foot five with high end skill and speed. John clearly, like all of us, we appreciate the same attributes in player.

John will be consulted a lot more on pro players and maybe free agents and trades. You always want to get the coaches input on the type of player you’re bringing in from the outside if you’re going to do that. Maybe they have knowledge of the player or certain things they know about the player that you don’t. You would be crazy to not involve your coaching staff on player personnel decisions. In terms of the draft, we’ve just never done that.

BF: Nor do they want to.

CF: Yeah, I don’t think they want to. Exactly. I don’t think they want the kind of responsibility for [entry-Draft involvement].

If everything were equal, what kind of player would you go for?

BF: We’re not showing our hand. You’re just trying to get dirt out of me. I’m not going to tell you that.

What position would you go for if they were equal?

BF: Why would I tell you that?

CF: We could use everything. We could use a center, wing, a defenseman.

BF: In reality there’s obviously a group of players, that a lot of you guys are aware of, we have some guys higher than others. We are at the mercy of the teams in front of us a little bit, but we have a couple of players targeted that we’re hopeful that are there at five. If that’s the case then we’ll make that decision.

Is there any ease that Joel will come back OK in the sense you’ve seen players with similar injuries come back in the past?

CF: Yeah, it did. I know that Joel, Joel’s family and his representation were encouraged by the results that they’ve seen. We’ve obviously consulted with more than one doctor and we got multiple opinions. Everybody thought that this was the best approach. For Dr. Yoon to see him on a Monday, recommend the surgery and he had it on the Friday. There was a high degree of cooperation. A lot of communication with everybody. We all felt that this was the best way to go, not just short-term of getting him back as a player, but for his long-term health would be as well. It’s incredible. There’s still only three players that had it. My expectation is that this will become a little bit more commonplace as we move forward.

Is there a spot where teams this year are varying when looking at a certain player in the draft?

BF: One! This year is a little different. You guys read about the names. I know I talked a little bit on my counterparts. There’s a lot of different opinions on the top end of the draft. Not as much of a consensus as some media think. I think you see the general names. We have a couple of layers of players, a certain amount of guys that we’re comfortable with where we’re at. Then another layer maybe if we move back a couple spots. At the Draft table, if it goes a certain way we can move back and gain assets and still get player that we have rated, then we’ll potentially do that. You’re going to see more action as we get closer to the draft and get more information on what teams are doing or looking to do.

Why do you think trading a top draft pick is so rare? Why do you think this draft might be different in that sense?

CF: Were you in our meeting this morning?! I swear to God, we were talking about that. I was asking, “When was the last time a team traded back from number five? Was it Luke Schenn” That was the only name we came up with. Ian and Cole were digging it up for me. It’s hard. I assume obviously you had to have a pretty bad season to earn the number five pick or to earn a top ten pick. It’s still the best way to acquire top end talent, so I think it’s difficult to trade because that’s a great opportunity to fix at least one hole that you have long term in your organization. There is also the human and emotional, psychological side of it as well.

You have guys that have worked all year preparing their list and they get the chance to get a top guy. As a manager, you’re trying to give your guys more opportunities and not take opportunities away from them. That factors in as well. There hasn’t been a lot of them and you’re looking at that, trying to ascertain what is that value if you do. How much do you need to get back to move from five to whatever? There are probabilities of how much each slot over time has become a NHL player, a good NHL player. You have to factor in this draft, as Brett said the layers, maybe you have a layer of five players and then another layer of five.

If there’s a big discrepancy to trade down one layer or another, if you do, what are you getting? You have to get something. We honestly met on that for an hour today. As you get closer you start to ask those questions because teams are calling you. Would you trade number five? Sure. You say sure, I don’t know if you always mean it. That’s the fun part of it, for us at least. Exploring what may be there, but as you just mentioned history tells you that usually you make the pick.

Are you willing to talk about specific players (in the Draft)? What do you normally like in a player?

CF: I don’t know. I’ve never really done that, just because you end up going through all of them. The kids at the top end like every year there’s some really good young players. I think the one thing that separates this draft from many is that the top five is still in the flux. Seems like in a lot of years, there’s been more certainty about the top three or four players will be. This year there seems to be more uncertainty than most years. That could provide a great opportunity for us. But, no, to answer your question, I don’t think that that’s proper.

Would you move up to get a player you had wanted to draft?

CF: I just think it would be hard. Realistically.

Would if be less difficult because of how evenly everyone is launched in the Draft?

CF: Potentially. You’re not sure how it will play out. It could play out either way and I’ve tried to think it through from both angles. I could see arguments would be harder or easier to move up or back. Realistically the likelihood of us moving up I think would be much slimmer. It could happen, but I think we’re going to be pretty happy picking at five and I think we have to weigh what kind of price would you want to move back to five. Is there even a price? If so what price? I think that might be more relevant, then what it would take to get to one.

Would you actively look to acquire a second-round pick?

CF: Yeah, definitely. But I think the priority is making sure we do well with the first pick. If we can still get a great first-round pick and find a way to get a second-round pick, get another player or another prospect, sure. But I think that’s secondary to actually looking at the top end in the draft.

Are you looking for someone who fits the mold of helping the team be harder to place against?

CF: I still think you got to make sure you get high-end talent. High-end talent as we just saw in the playoffs, you look at Tampa and Colorado. They have a lot of high-end talent that is packaged in often times in big or competitive or speedy frame. I think we’re certainly like everybody wanting to get the most competitive players we can get but you can’t forsake talent. You have to make sure you get talent and where we’re picking you should be able to find competitive people that have talent.

Are you looking to add a veteran goalie?

CF: That’s still up in the air. That’s in all honestly. Obviously, we’re going to look and explore what veteran goalies may be available and talking to teams about potential trades. Trying to see what the price would be to do that. Saying that, [Felix] Sandström and [Ivan] Fedotov are 25 years old. They both have proven they are good goalies in leagues outside of the NHL, so do you take a leap of faith and save some cap space? Or do you get a veteran guy and maybe have more certainty? But there is a cost to that as well. That’s really been a part of what we’ve been discussing the past few weeks.

What gave you the confidence in signing Sandström?

CF: Just continuing to get better. He had some injury issues for a while but the last couple of years he’s steadily improved. I think he has over, between the ECHL and American League, maybe over 80 games of experience over here plus time in the Swedish league. He has some games at the NHL level. He is a highly competitive kid that continues to progress. Certainly, he looks like he has the ability to play in the NHL again whether it’s right way, three months down the road, or a year down the road only time will tell. For us, he was a key guy who’s going to be unrestricted free agent. Barry Hanrahan did a good job working with his agent and finding, I thought, a fair solution by giving him a little bit of protection in terms of a one-way deal in year two, but also allowing us to maybe having a competition this year as well.

What is Ryan [Ellis] dealing with, when referring to his “multi-layered” injury?

CF: It’s multi-layered. So it’s almost everything that’s in the middle of the body. Multiple areas where he is working on strengthen and rehab. Trying to put all the pieces back together. He’s made progress. He’s determined to get back and not just play but to be a good hockey player. Be the player that we wanted him to be when we acquired him.

He was probably the most excited player last training camp coming in. After he got over the initial shock of coming in from Nashville, he was so excited to play and it was incredible watching him spend hour after hour with Ivan Provorov. They had breakfast together. They talked together before practice. They were partners on the ice. They had lunch together. He wanted to get to know Ivan so well that they would build this chemistry as quickly as they could on and off the ice. I was like this guy is a true professional. It was incredible, watching his interact with Ivan and Ivan interact with him. How they were trying to make each other better and then his world came crashing down. It’s been very difficult for him on many levels. Physically but also emotionally trying to become a part of the team when you played four games and your rehabbing all year. You are not with the guys. You’re not on the road. He’s very excited and determined to get back. He’s made progress.

I’m not trying to be vague, but I don’t think anyone could look you in the eye and say he’ll be back by this time frame. He’s where we thought he would be. He’s where the medical people thought he would be. He’s got another step he’s got to take and hopefully that responds. Then another step and got another step. Get on the ice and then how does that respond. It may go quicker. It may go slower. For me, the ultimate goal is to get him back as quickly as possible. The goal has been for camp and for the start of the season. Hopefully, that’s the case, but the bigger picture is to get him back. That’s what we are focusing on.

Are you worried that you might have to go get another defenseman because you’re finding out if Ryan is coming back so late?

CF: We’ll know before camp. We just may not know on July 13th, but I would think over the next month, we would start to get a pretty good picture as he continues to advance in his rehab protocols, both off and on the ice. Is he still going forward or has any setbacks? Does he stall at a certain step? This is all the uncertainty.

Again, I’m not trying to be vague. I’m trying to be as completely transparent as I can be, but there is certainly a path where this could go really well. We will just have to see. Sure, there is some uncertainty. A little bit now with Joel, too.

The good news is Sean Couturier is doing great. He’s doing all summer training. Feels very good. Same with Kevin Hayes. Hopefully, there are no more surprises this summer in a negative sense. Like a week and a half ago when I got the call that Joel Farabee had numbness and pain in his neck and it could be pretty bad. I was like, "Are you kidding me?!"

Hopefully, there are no more of those. If we do, we will just react, that is what we do. We’ll have to work around it and have to ability to hopefully improve our roster. Clearly getting guys back to full health, and hopefully have young guys improving. We can’t continue to go to market and build a team. We need to get some guys back and get some kids to step up.

Has there been any more decisions made on the coaching staff?

CF: Well, I meant to speak to John before I did this but I can say this. Darryl Williams will be back. Kim Dillabaugh will be back. A goaltender coach to me is always an organizational decision, not just a coach. Adam Patterson and Vinny Yula will be back. After that, we are working through. From what I know right now, Torts is speaking or will speak with everyone that was on staff last year and try to see if there is a fit, if it could work for the people last year, if it could work for John. It’s got to be a two-way street. There’s got to be a comfort level and we’ll continue to talk to people outside the organization as well. We are in the middle of that process. Whether it’s done this week or next week, I am not sure. That’s what we’re working on right now.

Do you agree with your head coaches statement that the team has to “get harder”?

CF: I one hundred percent agree, that is why we hired him. You have to remember ‘19-20 season, we were a hard team to play against. We played hard. Playing hard doesn’t just mean we were big and strong; it means playing the game the right way and having the puck. It’s forcing the team to defend; it’s forcing the other team to play the way you want them to play and on your terms. So, it’s not just about personnel. It’s about, A. not defending all the time. It’s defensive structure. It’s how you retrieve pucks and get out of your own zone.

Again, it’s hopefully having the puck, not being trapped in D-zone like we were all last season. When you’re defending all the time, it’s hard to dictate. It’s hard to be aggressive. All you’re doing is reacting to what the other team does. You want to have the puck, but to have the puck, you have to defend quickly. You have to defend well and get the hell out of the D-zone. Once you do that now you can manage the game and make puck decisions. You can chip and chase. You can enter under control. You can do whatever you can do because you have the puck. You can dictate the flow of the game.

That’s what we want to get back to. That’s what we want to be. That’s what Torts’ teams always been. That’s the mindset and identity of what we want to accomplish here. It’s coaching. It’s buy-in. It’s accountability. It’s structure. It’s fitness levels. It’s personnel. It’s everything. We’re going to try to check every box we can this summer to be that type of team.

Why do you think there has been splintering amongst the team?

CF: Splintering, I don’t know that I agree with that. Obviously, he is entitled to his opinion. I think it is a bunch of good guys that have gotten along. I think where we have to get to is you can be a good guy and get along, but we have to hold each other accountable. I think that’s maybe where he’s getting at and where clearly, we need to get to. The players recognize that as well. It’s about having standards, both off the ice and on the ice. It’s everything. It’s how you play. It’s puck management. It’s shift length. It’s team orientation. It’s not turning a puck over for the third time in a row. It’s blocking a shot. It’s making sure you’re in the gym and that you’re on time. It’s everything to do with it. It’s respecting your teammate and the organization by doing the right things. I think that’s something we need to get better at and get back to.

It’s a good group of guys that like each other and they want to get better. This group does not lack character. We clearly need direction, accountability, and not just from the coaching staff, part of that has to be internal, too. I think that’s probably what he meant is creating that internal push. That doesn’t always have to be on the coaching staff.

What gives you the confidence in the coaching staff guys to bring them back?

CF: They are good at what they good. They are good at what they do. They are good people and good coaches. I think as we fill out our staff now. John is looking for sort-of for the two top assistants. However, they are labeled. Typically, one runs the defense and the PK and one will run the offense and the power play. Call it the defensive coordinator and offensive coordinator, whatever type of labels you want. Those are probably the roles we’re filling right now. The people that will come in and have some of those hands-on specific roles that John will entrust in them. We’ll work on that. Certainly,

Darryl and Kim will bring a lot. Kim’s not just an everyday with an NHL team type of role. He also works with Brady Robinson. He manages our overall goaltender development program. He’s involved watching goaltenders for the draft. He is a coach that’s heavily involved in the draft. We won’t draft a goaltender that Kim and Brady don’t sign off on. They know more about goaltending than any of our staff may never know. Sorry, Rick Pracey might not like me saying that. Rick knows a little bit about goaltending. You have to rely on your goaltending coaches on the drafting, the development of goaltenders, their progression through the system as well as the day-to-day maintenance of your NHL goaltenders. Kim’s role to me is a role that management, me certainly, but management, me, Brent, Barry, Danny, Tommy, all of us, have a strong comfort level in because we rely on that role more than just getting Carter Hart or whoever ready for practice or who’s going to play the next game.

He’s been involved with Felix and now [Samuel] Samuel. When [Alexei] Kolosov come over. It’s a massive role. That’s what gives me confidence with Kim. I’ve watched what he has done. I think I mentioned it at the end of the year, we are getting to a depth where our goaltender depth is getting to in a really good place. We have some young guys pushing. Kolosov is as talented as anybody we have ever drafted. It’s exciting. Kim and Brady are a huge part of that.

Where are the negotiations with Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett? Is Martin Jones an option to come back?

CF: Yeah, absolutely. Everything is on the table. In terms of some of those young players and contracts, we are literally just starting. We’ve been involved in a lot of different interview processes, I guess you should say. Now dealing with the assistant coaches, the draft and getting our free agent list together. Not that those issues aren’t crucial, but as restricted free agents, we just have time. Yesterday, we actually had a meeting on that, getting together, getting our comps together and our plan together. Probably over the next week or so we will make contact with them. Hopefully, some of them go quickly. I’m sure over the next few weeks we’ll get those deals done.

Do you see yourself making a huge splash at free agency?

CF: We’ll see. Unlike several teams, we don’t have a cap issue. We don’t the cap issues that several teams do where we literally have to move bodies out to be cap compliant. We can be cap compliant easily. We are cap compliant. If we want to be aggressive in free agency then we will have to get creative. It’s just how aggressive we want to be and how aggressive we can be that may dictate how many transactions we make. This is the best we have been at least in the last few years. We can be cap compliant if we go away from the summer, we've got a hockey team. It’s just how aggressive we want to be.
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