While the NHL draft remains a ways off, the intrigue surrounding who will be the No. 1 pick, in what everyone agrees is an "average" year, continues.
Two players - American left winger James vanRiemsdyk and Russian right winger Alexei Cherepanov - saw their stock jump during the recent IIHF Under-18 World Championships in Finland.
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren and Comcast-Spectacor president Peter Luukko both scouted more than a half-dozen players, any one of whom could be their choice at No. 2.
"It was good for us to see some guys who needed to play well and get an evaluation," Holmgren said.
Team USA took the silver, losing in the gold medal game to Russia. VanRiemsdyk (five goals, 12 points) made the all-tourney team. Various media reports said he brought a "heavy" shot and was dominant against Canada.
"He really cranked it up against Canada," Holmgren said. "He's a very good player. Did he move up? Well, he was already in that top mix. I guess it depends on how Chicago sees it."
The Blackhawks have the top pick. If they select right winger Patrick Kane of London, Ontario, the Flyers will likely take vanRiemsdyk, assuming the Flyers hang onto their pick.
Which brings us to Cherepanov. His amateur career has been checkered with both sizzling and forgetful international appearances, even though he set several Russian Super League rookie records this year.
"His stock went up [in Finland]," Holmgren said. "He's a game-breaker. I don't think we can afford not to look closely at him. Cherepanov is a kid who just hides on the ice. And then the next thing you know, the puck comes to him and more often than not, it's in the net."
Cherepanov, who reportedly had two phenomenal goals in the gold-medal game, also made all-tourney and like vanRiemsdyk, earned an invite to the Under-20 World Champs afterward.
Because Chicago has the top overall pick, the Flyers are off the hook no matter who they select. If the Blackhawks pick Kane, who plays in a Comcast-Specatcor-run arena, then the Flyers can say they would have done the same.
If the Hawks pick vanRiemsdyk, then the Flyers can take Kane or even Cherepanov and say, they really wanted vanRiemsdyk. No matter who the Hawks choose, the Flyers have "an out," so to speak.
As for Edmonton trying to move up in the draft, Holmgren admits he's spoken to Oilers GM Kevin Lowe, but not about swapping or trading for the No. 2 pick.
"It's still April and we have a lot of time before anything might happen with the draft," Holmgren said.
Here's a thought: What if the Blackhawks approach the Flyers about getting their pick, giving the Hawks the No. 1 and 2 picks? What if Hawks GM Dale Tallon inquires about making that into a broader deal that would see the Flyers land . . . defenseman Brent Seabrook?
The asking price last season for Seabrook was Jeff Carter. But the Flyers have an abundance of forwards now and even some defensemen (Joni Pitkanen?) they could offer the Hawks in a multifaceted deal for Seabrook.
It's worth dreaming about.
Head shots, part deux
A number of readers supported our suggestion that the NHL outlaw all hits to the head. Dave Skutnik, a referee for USA Hockey, pointed out that the governing body for all youth hockey in the United States already has such a rule: Rule 616 – Head Contact:
(a) A minor, major or major plus game misconduct, at the discretion of the referee, shall be assessed to any player who intentionally or recklessly contacts a player in the head, including with the stick or by an illegal body check.
(b) A major plus a game misconduct penalty shall be imposed on any player who injures an opponent by head contact.
(Note) Head contact may also be treated as Attempt to Injure or Deliberate Injury of an Opponent under Rule 603.