With slim odds, the Flyers didn’t strike gold in the Connor Bedard sweepstakes.
But they will have a chance to bring in some needed high-end talent near the top of the 2023 NHL draft.
“We’re fortunate it’s a good year,” Flyers general manager Danny Briere said of the draft crop in April. “We have quite a few picks and we have a high one.
“You have to go through a lot of bad times to get there unfortunately, but it’s exciting when you’re at the draft table and you get to pick such a high pick. It’s going to be a critical pick for the organization moving forward, there’s no doubt about it.”
After selecting Cutter Gauthier fifth overall last summer, the Flyers are slotted at No. 7 for this year’s draft, which will be held June 28-29 at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville, Tennessee. The club has nine total selections. The first round kicks off at 7 p.m. ET Wednesday, while Rounds 2-7 follow Thursday starting at 11 a.m. ET.
Leading up to the draft, we’ll break down targets for the Flyers at No. 7.
To kick things off:
A creative and prolific scorer, Smith is masterful with the puck, but also adept without it. He can outthink and out-skill opponents at an elite level.
The Boston College commit was second on the star-laden U.S. national U-18 team with 127 points this season. He put up 51 goals, 76 assists and a plus-71 rating in 60 games.
“He’s one of those players that, consistent with the [U.S.] program, has the excellent speed and quickness,” Dan Marr, the director of NHL Central Scouting, said Thursday in a phone interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. “It’s difference-making type of speed and quickness. But to go along with that, he’s got the offensive instincts and intuition where he reads the play and anticipates and reacts. And it’s all at an unbelievable quickness. He gets opportunities and creates opportunities that others don’t see at the same times, it takes them a little longer.”
Behind only Bedard and Adam Fantilli, the draft’s consensus top two, Smith is the third-ranked North American skater by NHL Central Scouting. In contrast, on EliteProspects.com, he’s the ninth-rated overall draft prospect.
At the 2023 IIHF U-18 World Junior Championship in late April, Smith was the tournament MVP and led the Americans to gold. He finished with 20 points (nine goals, 11 assists) in seven games.
“Whenever you need a goal, he’s the guy that’s going to create a scoring chance,” Marr said. “So he’s got the speed, he’s got the smarts. But he’s got excellent playmaking skills in the offensive zone. He can see the ice, set up plays — his read and react is just at an elite quickness level.
“There’s no need to look for what he might not be able to do as well in other parts of the game because when he’s out there, he’s focused and he’s motivated.”
Read More: 2023 NHL draft scouting report: Will Smith has ‘no holes’ in his game 2023-06-03 19:59:16