There is a positive to the Flyers' falling out of playoff contention: They now will be part of the Connor McDavid sweepstakes.

By all accounts, McDavid, a speedy 6-foot, 195-pound center, is a franchise cornerstone, a player who is being compared to (gulp) Sidney Crosby.

Thanks to their Great Meltdown Against League Lightweights, the Flyers will be in the April draft lottery. They have the league's eighth-worst record, and if they stay there, they would have a 6 percent chance to get the No. 1 overall pick.

The team with the worst record - Buffalo currently holds that spot - will have a 20 percent chance at the top selection.

Realistically, the Flyers, who entered Saturday with 13 games left, probably could drop behind New Jersey and Columbus and fall to sixth, which would give them a 7.5 percent chance at landing McDavid. (If they climbed to, say, the 10th-worst record, they would have just a 3.5 percent chance.)

For those who believe in karma, the Flyers are due for some luck. In 2006-07, they had the NHL's worst record - and the fewest points (56) in franchise history - and had a 25 percent chance at the No. 1 pick. But Chicago, which had the fifth-worst record and just an 8.1 percent chance, won the 2007 lottery and selected Patrick Kane, now a certified star.

The Flyers got a pretty good consolation prize by selecting James van Riemsdyk at No. 2. Five years later, then-general manager Paul Holmgren traded the left winger to Toronto for Luke Schenn in a deal that will haunt the Flyers for years.

Even if the Flyers don't beat the long odds to get this June's No. 1 draft pick, they should come up with two quality first-rounders. They have their pick and Tampa Bay's first-round selection, which was acquired as part of the Braydon Coburn trade.

This is a very deep draft, one some experts are comparing to 2003. That epic draft produced Shea Weber, Ryan Getzlaf, Zach Parise, Corey Perry, Patrice Bergeron, Eric Staal, Ryan Suter, Brent Seabrook, Marc-Andre Fleury, David Backes, Dustin Brown, Jeff Carter, Ryan Kesler, Dustin Byfuglien, and Joe Pavelski.

Flyers general manger Ron Hextall said this year's draft is particularly strong with forwards. That's good news for the Flyers, who have four excellent defensive prospects waiting in the wings but need to upgrade their offense.

Hextall, who has seven draft picks in the first four rounds, said that if a defenseman and forward are considered to be equal prospects, the Flyers will lean toward drafting the latter. But if Flyers scouts have a defenseman ranked higher, they will not hesitate to draft him.

"We're a little heavier on young D than we are young forwards," Hextall said, "but if the right defenseman was there, we'd take him. It's so tough to predict where they'll fall."

In all likelihood, the Flyers will draft around eighth, and then between 22d and 30th in the first round, depending on how far Tampa goes in the playoffs. At those spots, the Flyers need to go heavy on forwards in the first round.

Some intriguing forwards who could be available at No. 8:

Right winger Mikko Rantanen, a 6-4, 209-pound power forward who was Finland's top player at the World Junior Championships.

Center Pavel Zacha, a relentless Ontario Hockey League player who brings size (6-3, 210 pounds), grit, and a great shot.

Center/right winger Mitchell Marner, a 5-11, 155-pounder with London who is a dynamic OHL scorer.

Right winger Timo Meier, a 6-1, 208-pounder who is starring for Halifax in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Center-left winger Kyle Connor (6-1, 210) of Youngstown, the leading scorer in the United States Hockey League.

Right winger Brock Boeser (6-0, 187), who has been frustrating USHL opponents with his shot and his work along the boards.

OHL left winger Lawson Crouse (6-3, 200) and WHL center Mathew Barzal (5-11, 174) would also get consideration if still on the board.

Some highly regarded forwards who could be available late in the first round:

WHL left wingers Jake Debrusk and Paul Bittner.

Centers Travis Konecny (OHL), Colin White (USHL), and Filip Chlapik (QMJHL).

Right winger Daniel Sprong (QMJHL).

"We're excited about the draft because of the players that are there," Hextall said, adding that the first round is loaded, and that he expects to get a quality player in the second round with one of the picks acquired from Chicago for Kimmo Timonen.

Hextall isn't ready to throw in the towel on this season, but with the Flyers getting closer to being eliminated from playoff consideration, he is about to turn his attention to his first draft as a general manager.

If the Flyers can do as well as they did in 2003 - landing Carter (11th overall) and Mike Richards (24th) - Hextall will have sped up the retooling process.

Inside the Flyers: Two for (Round) One

For the first time since 2003, the Flyers will have two first-round draft picks this June. Here is a list of their first-round selections since then:

Year   Overall pick   Player   Pos.   

2014   17   Travis Sanheim   D

2013   11   Sam Morin   D

2012   20   Scott Laughton   C

2011   8   Sean Couturier   C

2010   -   dealt in Chris Pronger trade

2009   -   dealt in Chris Pronger trade

2008   19   Luca Sbisa   D

2007   2   James van Riemsdyk   LW

2006   22   Claude Giroux   C

2005   29   Steve Downie   RW

2004   -   dealt in Mike Comrie trade

2003   11   Jeff Carter   C

24   Mike Richards   C

- Sam Carchidi

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scarchidi@phillynews.com

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