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Flyers could take a chance and move up in draft

Will the Flyers move up to try to improve their draft position Sunday - and land a can't-miss prospect - or will they stay at No. 11 in the first round?

Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)
Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren. (Yong Kim/Staff file photo)Read more

Will the Flyers move up to try to improve their draft position Sunday - and land a can't-miss prospect - or will they stay at No. 11 in the first round?

General manager Paul Holmgren is considering the former.

Holmgren called the draft extremely deep and said the Flyers would get an excellent player if they stayed at 11.

But . . .

They will be prepared "to do anything if the right thing comes up," Holmgren said at a predraft news conference at the team's Voorhees practice facility Wednesday. "I think every day there's more and more talk from around the league. I've talked to more guys in the last few days. There's certainly potential for movement."

Center Nathan MacKinnon, defenseman Seth Jones, left winger Jonathan Drouin, and center Aleksander Barkov are considered the draft's jewels, with defenseman Darnell Nurse, the nephew of Donovan McNabb, not far behind.

"I like where we're at," Holmgren said. "I think we're going to get a good player at 11, but if you can move higher . . . If you get into the guys that you really like that you think are probably franchise players, you've probably got to get up to the top four."

This year's seven-round draft will be held in one day, starting at 3 p.m. Sunday at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J.

This draft has been compared with the one in 2003, which had a slew of talented players, including defensemen Ryan Suter, Shea Weber, Dion Phaneuf, Brent Seabrook, Matt Carle, Dustin Byfuglien, and Braydon Coburn.

Asked if this draft was as good, Holmgren was coy.

"That's for a future debate," he said.

Jones is expected to be the first defenseman drafted, with Nurse the No. 2 blueliner. Some other top defensemen who may interest the Flyers are Nikita Zadorov, Rasmus Ristolainen, and Ryan Pulock.

The Flyers are also high on goaltender Zach Fucale from Halifax of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

"There's probably a point in the draft where we would look at a goalie, and it may very well be at 11. I don't know," Holmgren said. "There are a couple guys we like that we believe are going to go in the first round, so we'll see how it all shakes out."

Holmgren said he expected a lot of "funny things" to happen leading to free agency, which starts July 5.

Translation: There will be lots of deals made before then. The Flyers are frequent trade partners at the draft or in the days leading up to it.

In addition, free agency will have more prominent names than usual because of this year's compliance buyouts.

"There's potential for lots of things to happen," Holmgren said. "It's a very competitive league, and we're all trying to do what the Blackhawks just did."

In franchise history, the Flyers have drafted just four defensemen who had at least one all-star season with the club: Jimmy Watson (drafted in 1972), Tom Bladon (1972), Norm Barnes (1973), and Behn Wilson (1978).

"I hear that all the time. From Mr. [Ed] Snider," Holmgren said, wryly, referring to the Flyers' chairman. "He's always telling me we never draft a top defenseman. I'll say it again: From a depth of our franchise, it's probably an area that we lack, but I'm not going to waver. If we get to the 11th pick . . . and a guy that we like best is a forward, that's who we're going to draft."

Holmgren, who scouted more prospects this year because of the lockout, added that if a forward and defenseman were equal, the Flyers would select the latter "because of our needs."

Breakaways. Holmgren said Sean Couturier and Brayden Schenn were untouchable in trade talks. . . . All of the Flyers' injured players have been cleared to play except Andrej Meszaros, who is expected to be cleared in late July, Holmgren said. . . . Next's year's draft will be held at the Wells Fargo Center at still-to-be-determined dates.