Holmgren likes sitting at No. 20 in the NHL draft

Posted: June 22, 2012

PITTSBURGH — Since Paul Holmgren has been at the helm of the draft table, which largely included the time Bob Clarke was the team's general manager, the Flyers have kept a clear and concise system in play each June.

Holmgren believes in taking the best player available, regardless of position. Despite a hole in the organization on defense — on the big club, in the minors and in unsigned draft picks — that system is not going to change this year, either.

"Positionally, we are stronger as an organization at the forward position than we are on defense," Holmgren said this week. "That doesn't mean we are going to take a defenseman. If there is a forward our group likes ahead of the defenseman, we would probably take the forward. That is the way we have always done business and we will continue to work that way."

The first round of the 2012 Entry Draft gets under way on Friday night at Pittsburgh's Consol Energy Center. The Flyers have retained their first-round selection for the first time since 2008 and are slated to select at No. 20 overall, should they decide to hang on to the pick.

When Rounds 2-7 commence on Saturday morning, the Flyers holds picks No. 78, 111, 141 and 201. They do not have a pick in the second or sixth round. Just three players (Zac Rinaldo, Eric Wellwood and Jon Kalinski) the Flyers have drafted outside of the first round in the last 5 years have made it to the NHL.

If you listen to Holmgren, the Flyers seem completely comfortable sticking with No. 20. They should be, considering their success (Claude Giroux, Mike Richards, Simon Gagne) drafting recently in that range.

The consensus with this draft is that there may be five or six players at the top who are ready to step into an NHL role next season. After that, you could likely get a similarly talented player at No. 25 as you could at No. 7.

This year, there aren't any Sean Couturier's lingering around at No. 8 who can go on and play 77 games as an 18-year-old. Couturier, one of nine players from his 2011 draft class to make their debut last season, went on to play more games this season than any player from that group save Colorado's Gabriel Landeskog, who took home the Calder Trophy on Wednesday as rookie of the year.

"It's a different draft, for sure," Holmgren said. "There are some top-end guys there. There are certainly players that I've seen that could and probably will step there and play right away. Maybe after the first five or six players, it evens out."

Holmgren said on Monday that he had not had a single discussion with any opposing general manager about possibly moving up into the top five. In fact, almost every team in the top five — including Columbus, Toronto and even Edmonton — have flirted with moving down in the draft.

"Whether [talk about moving up] heats up a bit, I don't know," Holmgren said. "We're not actively trying to move up. We are happy with that position. We think we will get a player that is a good prospect."

Seravalli's Pick: If Zemgus Girgensons is still on the board at No. 20, the Flyers might take a flyer on the player trying to become the first Latvian to be taken in the first round. The Flyers have deep ties to Dubuque (USHL), where Girgensons was captain and led the team in goals (24) and points (55). Dubuque is coached by former Flyer Jim Montgomery. Girgensons, a center, watched his stock slip from No. 12 in the Central Scouting midterm rankings to No. 18, which is one reason he may still be available.

If Girgensons is gone, I think the Flyers will look toward a defenseman. Since 1968, the Flyers have drafted just five American-born players (James van Riemsdyk, Mike Ratchuk, Brian Boucher, Tom Gorence and Rich Costello) in the first two rounds of the draft. I think the Flyers will go with smooth-skating defenseman Brady Skjei (pronounced shea), who will attend the University of Minnesota in the fall, at No. 20 overall. Skjei is a big boy at 6-3, 200 pounds. He finished ranked 18th in the Central Scouting rankings. He collected 18 points in 56 games with the U.S. National Development Program and was a plus-10 at the Under-18 World Championships.   

Contact Frank Seravalli at seravaf@phillynews.com or @DNFlyers on Twitter. Read his blog, Frequent Flyers, at www.philly.com/frequentflyers.

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