The NHL draft, which will be held Friday and Saturday in Vancouver, is loaded with top centers.
How many will still be around when the Flyers make the 11th overall selection in the first round?
It’s a question that might determine which player the Flyers select — if they don’t trade the pick.
Center Jack Hughes is expected to go to New Jersey with the first overall selection. According to most scouts, centers Alex Turcotte, Dylan Cozens, Kirby Dach, and Trevor Zegras also figure to be long gone when it’s the Flyers’ turn to pick.
“Centers,” Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said, “are at a premium.”
If enough premium wingers and defensemen are picked, the Flyers might have a chance to pick Peyton Krebs or fellow center Alex Newhook at No. 11.
Some might consider the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Krebs a bit risky because he underwent surgery on a partially torn Achilles tendon June 7. He suffered the injury during an on-ice training session June 4.
Flahr, who heads the Flyers’ amateur-scouting department and is the team’s point person for the draft, said he wasn’t concerned about Krebs’ injury.
“It’s unfortunate, but he’s an unbelievable kid, character-wise,” Flahr said, noting the Alberta native is a highly driven player. “He’ll miss some time, but he’s young and he’ll heal fully. I don’t think it’s going to drop him too far in the draft. ...
“Based on what I’ve been told, he’s going to miss the summer. It’s not ideal, but at the same time, he’s going to get back to where he was.”
Krebs is expected to return to the ice early next season, and when you consider it will probably take him two or three years to reach the NHL, being detoured for a few months might not discourage scouting directors.
But it might discourage enough of them for him to be available at No. 11.
Krebs was the captain for Kootenay, a lowly team in the Western Hockey League, and he collected 68 points (19 goals, 49 assists) in 64 games last season.
Before his injury, the Hockey News projected he would be drafted by the Flyers at 11, and McKeen’s Hockey had him going to Edmonton at No. 8. Craig Button of TSN also had him listed at No. 8. (Button is one of the few draft experts who had centers Dach and Cozens available at No. 11.)
Button told NHL.com that from talking to medical people, he believed Krebs’ injury would have “little to no impact on his future potential, and it will heal.”
Krebs, 18, is regarded as a great leader and a hard worker. He was Team Canada’s captain at the IIHF World Under-18 Championship, collecting a team-best six goals in seven games.
If Krebs is off the draft board, or the Flyers believe he is too risky to select at No. 11, they could turn to Newhook if they covet a center. He should be available in that slot.
The 5-11, 190-pound Newhook has great hands, good speed, and a high hockey IQ. The Boston College recruit did not face the toughest competition in the British Columbia Hockey League last season, but he was dominant with 102 points in 53 games in the Junior A league.
Flahr reiterated that the Flyers’ top pick will be the best player available regardless of position.