RON HEXTALL said he wouldn't scrap the Flyers' young talent at the trade deadline and he was true to his word.

That doesn't mean, however, that all of them will be around when the prospects already in the system and those who will join them via the draft develop into NHL players.

In fact, one of the determinations facing Hextall this summer is who qualifies as young and who doesn't. Who still has unrealized potential and who has done as much as they're going to do in an NHL uniform?

"We have a lot of planning between now and the draft and July 1," Hextall said at the end of an exhaustive news conference the other day.

An example: Matt Read is only in his fourth NHL season, but because of his roundabout and unlikely journey to this level, he will turn 29 this June. That's no kid, and so his dip in productivity this season might signal a veteran player on the other side of his career, not a young guy who will rebound from an off year.

Brayden Schenn, on the other hand, has been a Flyer as many seasons as Read has, but is just 23. His play, uneven at times, may be viewed differently in the long-range planning of the team.

In his second season with the club, Michael Raffl is 26. Sean Couturier, the Flyers' 2011 first-round pick who was projected to be a star by this point, is still just 22.

"I think the biggest mistake a manager can make is being too impatient with young kids," Hextall said. "It takes time, and it takes some of them a little bit longer than others. I think history shows that certain teams, you get a little anxious for a player to become really, really dominant and all of a sudden you trade him and he becomes the player you thought he could be. So you've got to be really careful with young kids. Prime, what is it, 25 or 26? So if you look at some young players who have been around 3 or 4 years and you start thinking we need more, we need more . . . Yeah, you want more, but you've got to be really careful there. You could be giving something up with [someone] you think might not get there, and you forget how young he is."

There is, of course, a long list of guys who matured after leaving the Flyers to make Hextall's point. But again, with players joining the league out of juniors and the increased number of rookies who played in college for 3 years or more, do you judge youth by age or experience, or some matrix that factors both?

"It's always been a combination for me," said Hextall. "You get some kids coming out of junior at 18, 19 or 20, and you get 4 years [in], and all of a sudden you're like, 'Why isn't so-and-so doing better?' and you think, 'Geez, he just turned 21 or 22 years old.'

"This same kid could just be coming out of college or a 1-year pro. You've got to be careful. When a college kid comes out at 21 or 22, it takes time to become a pro, to understand playing 82 games and the commitment it takes . . . the workload in the summertime to get yourself ready . . . there's a lot of little things you've got to learn."

Which takes us to this: The salary cap restricts Hextall from building a team the way the Flyers once did, bolstering their homegrown guys with free agents every summer. Instead, according to Hextall, more of owner Ed Snider's money has gone into the development and scouting end of things.

(Sound familiar, Sixers fans?)

"We've got our development staff now," Hextall said. "They jump on these guys at 18 years old. We draft them, they see them after the draft, they see them at development camp, they go out and see them the following year at junior or college or whatever, trying to expedite the process of being a pro. It takes time.

"When you think about us all when we were 18, 19 years old . . . we look at these kids, they're 22 years old. You think why isn't so-and-so better? Well, where were we at that point? They're young kids."

Slap shots

The Flyers signed 2013 draft pick Tyrell Goulbourne to a 3-year entry-level contract. Drafted 72nd overall, the 21-year-old winger has 17 goals and 21 assists in 55 games with the Kelowna Rockets of the Western Hockey League. He is in his fifth season there.

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On Twitter: @samdonnellon