Cale Makar won the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe. Every single voter picked him 1st:

This has, of course, reignited the “Flyers should have drafted him” narrative, which was thought to have been squashed a few weeks ago. Anthony had previously reported that Ron Hextall and scouts weren’t on the same page during the 2017 draft, and then Bobby Clarke came out and said just that on a January podcast appearance. As the story goes, Hextall wanted a center and scouts liked both Makar and Miro Heiskanen, who ended up going 4th and 3rd, respectively. So Makar wasn’t even the first D off the board, which people conveniently forget. As an addendum to the story, one anonymous scout told Elliotte Freedman that they liked Heiskanen better than Makar, so go figure.

Makar is a “what could have been” story and not a “Flyers got it wrong” story. Not sure about you, but I can’t remember anybody complaining when they took Nolan Patrick 2nd overall five years ago. Nobody was out in the streets rioting because of that decision. This wasn’t the hockey version of passing on Justin Jefferson for Jalen Reagor, it was more about bad luck than anything, that shitty feeling exacerbated by the fact that Patrick was the only top-five pick that season to not become an All-Star:

To “advance the story,” as they say in the journalism business, the real exploration is trying to back up Hexy’s reported feeling that the Flyers needed a center and had drafted enough defensemen in recent years.

So let’s do the exercise:

  • Sam Morin: 2013 1st round pick (11th)
  • Robert Hagg: 2013 2nd round pick (41st)
  • Travis Sanheim: 2014 1st round pick (17th)
  • Ivan Provorov: 2015 1st round pick (7th)

That’s four lefty defensemen taken in the 1st or 2nd round in three-straight seasons, with Ghost also being relatively young at the time. Scott Laughton was a 2012 first round center and German Rubtsov was a 2016 first round center. The only other 1st or 2nd round center taken between those two was Pascal Laberge. You had Vorobyev and Bunnaman as fourth rounders and that’s about it. There really was a run on defensemen from 2013 to 2015, and so Hexy’s reported logic is sound. The Flyers had probably done enough with Morin/Hagg/Sanheim/Provy that Patrick or Nico Hischier were the consensus top choices, regardless of how scouts felt about Heiskanen or Makar.

It’s a bummer, but it is what it is. In hindsight, yes, they would have been better off taking one of the D-men who went 3rd or 4th, or even stumbling into Elias Pettersson instead (68 points this year). But nobody had any issue with taking Patrick at the time, so let’s not rewrite history here. Plus, maybe it turns out differently with Patrick if he stays healthy. We’ll never know!