Ron Hextal co-chaired five drafts while serving as the Philadelphia Flyers general manager from May 2014 to November 2018. In this time, due to deals, he made a total of eight first-round picks over the years. Hextall has yet to make a first-round pick as GM Penguins, because former GM Jim Rutherford had already replaced the 2021 first pick, so Pittsburgh’s 21st overall pick on July 7 is set to be his first crack at that.
Here’s a look at Hextall’s history, to see if we can pick up on any tendencies based on the actions and directions he’s taken in the past.
(note: heights/weights are likely to be a current view, to show what players have grown)
Ron Hextal draft date, first round picks
|year||Choose a number.||player||Site||to rise||Weight||league|
|year||Choose a number.||player||Site||to rise||Weight||league|
|2014||17||Travis Sanheim||defense (left)||6’3″||181||WHL|
|2015||7||Ivan Provorov||defense (left)||6’1||201||WHL|
|2018||14||Joel Farabi||wing||6’0||183||development of the United States|
|2018||19||Jay O’Brien||center||5’11||176||American Prep|
Here are some of the elements we can learn from the past:
Other than the obvious point in the trade deadline, if there is time to be on high alert and monitor the trade with Hextall, time around the NHL draft is key. Pens go in with pick #21, but they might not use that precise selection, Hextall has had a pattern of making first-round up and down moves over the years.
In 2016, Hextall dropped from 18th to 22nd. This resulted in a high second spot as well, 36th overall (which included a third rounder at 79th for balancing the transaction).
In 2015, Hextall did the opposite and rose from 29th overall (at the price of giving up a late second-round pick at 61) to climb to 24th and land on the man he loved in Konecny.
Although in the second round, in 2017, he made a number of mid-round picks to improve from 44th to 35th to be in position to draft Isaac Ratcliffe.
Hextall isn’t really known as a Wheeler and trader to be active with a high volume of trades, but Draft is an exception. He’s made several other trades at or near the draft, such as the move that sent Brayden Sheen to St. Louis in the first-round picks twice.
North America is usually theatrical
Seven of Hextal’s eight first-round picks came from either the Canadian Junior system or America. From Canada, due to circumstances or determination, he has not drafted his first-rounder outside of Quebec but frequents the Western Hockey League (three times) and the Ontario League (twice). Two more times he recruited Americans with connections to the US national team system.
Hextall once drafted a Russian player, but he has not yet chosen a player from the Scandinavian regions. And while it may be more coincidence and a short sampling than anything else – it’s at least worth noting that Hextall (a Western Canadian with a WHL certification) has used more first-round picks on WHL productions than any other region. And apparently a coincidence, Hextal picked two players (Nolan Patrick and Evan Provorov) who were playing for his same team, Brandon Witt Kings.
The past may not always predict the future in this case the teams will pick from wherever they feel the best possibility is available, but the crafting pattern of North American players is well defined at this point.
The middle and left the heavy defense
It is not a shocking development to see that most of the players selected by Hextall were high positions, given that many of the best young forwards generally tend to play the ice position at lower levels (including Penguin players like Bryan Rust and Jake Guentzel who have moved on to the wings as professional players) .
The lack of right-handers may be a consequence of the limited supply, but it stands out after eight years in which Hextall never saw a match or made it a priority to add there.
For hockey, with the shots even in the middle of the first round, analyzing the shots becomes more difficult. But Hextall made two of his top 10 picks that might tip his hand about a philosophy draft.
In what evolved into Hextall’s perhaps the most controversial selection, Nolan clinched Patrick for second in 2017. For a while in the preliminary draft process, Patrick was considered the number one contender to be first overall, so he doesn’t smell of hindsight. Hextall too much for making what at the time seemed like good value based on what happened after the draft. After all, he probably made the obvious choice right now.
However, there was talk that Elias Peterson and Cal Makar were upping their heads towards the end of pre-enlistment time, as was Miro Heskanen. These players went on the next three selections after Patrick (although in reverse order as written above). Any of the three would have been a much better choice, with the benefit of knowing the future.
As we can see, all of these players have some hits against them from Hextall’s overall well-developed strategy, with no desirable RHD (Makar) and a move away from Finland/Sweden (Heiskanen, Pettersson respectively).
Hextall also took what was seen as a safe lane with Provorov high in the 2015 draft, with subsequent selections being top defender Zach Werenski, and forwards Timo Meier (playing in Quebec) and Mikko Rantanen (Finland) other key choices Hextall elected to roam.
“Playing it Safe” isn’t necessarily a criticism or disdain for the NHL drafting strategy, but it also seems fair to say that Hextall was inclined to use conventional wisdom at draft time and go for safer choices (like Patrick) rather than a potential boom/bust pick like Makar. or Peterson.
The average beating is very good
Hextall drafted really well in the first round, especially a little deeper. O’Brien’s had a flop so far and the jury is still out but it doesn’t look good and Rubtsov wasn’t a player of NHL caliber either. While those fouls do exist, capturing players like Sanheim, Konecny and even Farabee midway through the first round is an impressive track record for picking Hextall at the top of the draft.
The tricky part about predicting the NHL draft is that where you’re due to pick the pens (#21) it wouldn’t be a shock if they took anyone from about 15-40ish in most of the pre-draft rankings. It is difficult to predict which teams have a high future for players who have a lot of development. Unlike, say, the NFL Draft where mock first rounds can predict with a high degree of confidence which players should go at any point in the draft, there is a lot of variance in the sport of hockey.
This disclaimer aside, Here is the list of Sportsnet It is possible that some of the players in the range will be available for Pittsburgh at age 21, or soon enough that Hextall may choose to trade up or down a few selections to zero in his preference, with some names being excluded from leagues or locations he has avoided.
16. Jamie Singerode, RW, USNTDP: He has the power to affect the match physically if he stops scoring.
17. Frank Nazar III, C, USNTDP: There is a nice blast element in his game to make him an effective small area player.
19. Denton Matichuk, D, Moss Joe Warriors (WHL): In terms of his approach, there are few better in this category. He takes it on the ice, leading by example, loudly and by example.
20. Jack Hughes, C., Northeastern (NCAA): A skilled and creative player who moves with ease, while playing with his head up to easily assess his best option.
21. Kevin Korchinsky, D, Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL): Reports vary greatly on this player. You are fascinated by his skating ability and skating action, as much as you are concerned about his ability to defend.
23. Isaac Howard, LW, USNTDP: You must determine whether or not he can be in the top six strikers. If he can’t, is there enough ‘Plan B’ to make him an effective quarterback or under six?
27. Rutger McGarraty, LW, USNTDP: As a solid two-way choice, his personality and leadership qualities make him a viable choice in the later stages of the first round.
31. Luca Del Bel Belluz, C, Mississauga Steelheads (OHL): He plays both sides effectively. You will need to add weight and strength to increase the steepness of the growth curve.
For various reasons, the above names make sense for some considerations based on a rough survey of Hextall’s past. But the past doesn’t always predict the future, and the pens institution has different needs compared to where Philadelphia was and its goals at the time.