The Philadelphia Flyers have seven prospects playing across Canada in the CHL this season, including four in the QMJHL, two in the OHL and one in the WHL. Positionally, the crop consists of four forwards, one defenseman and two goaltenders.
Jakub Kovar, G – Oshawa Generals
Drafted: 2006 (4th round, 109th overall)
After establishing himself as one of the top junior netminders in the Czech Republic over the past two seasons, Kovar crossed the pond to continue his development in North America. He was selected by Oshawa with the 29th overall pick of this summer’s CHL Import Draft.
Kovar enjoyed a strong training camp and seems poised to earn Oshawa’s starting job in the nets as the season nears its mid point. Though he has split time equally with third-year OHLer Daryl Borden so far, Kovar‘s play has been far superior, and the Generals have, at times, looked like an entirely different team when he is manning the nets.
Through 13 games, Kovar has posted a 10-3-0-0 record, with a 3.06 GAA and .904 save percentage for the team, which sits in second place in the East Division. By contrast, Borden is 4-6-0-2, with a 4.24 GAA and .878 save percentage in 11 contests.
The most impressive aspect of Kovar’s rookie season thus far is the seamless transition he seems to have made to the North American game. He has exhibited a great deal of poise and composure in pressure situations, earning the confidence of his teammates, as well as the Generals’ coaching staff.
Patrick Maroon, LW – London Knights
Drafted: 2007 (6th round, 161st overall)
Perhaps the most pleasant surprise in the Flyers system thus far this season, Maroon has enjoyed a stellar start to his major junior career with one of the CHL’s elite organizations.
The departures of former London standouts such as Patrick Kane and Sam Gagner (drafted first and sixth overall in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft, respectively) left a void that Knights head coach Dale Hunter and general manager Mark Hunter were unsure they could fill.
Enter Maroon, a talented wildcard out of St. Louis who was originally selected by the Knights in the 11th round of the 2004 OHL Draft. Maroon tore the NAHL up as a member of the Texarkana/St. Louis Bandits over the past two seasons, but saw his prospect stock drop significantly as a result of questionable dietary habits and conditioning.
Maroon was recruited to play at Ferris State University, but ultimately decided to come to London, after being urged by the Hunter brothers. The decision has paid off in a big way for the Knights, as the 6’4, 225 lb. forward has turned out to be a revelation, thus far leading the team with 30 points (12 goals, 18 assists) in 20 games.
While there is still plenty of room for improvement in Maroon’s overall game, the fact that he has put up such numbers so quickly at this level indicates that he does indeed belong, and can be considered a legitimate NHL prospect.
Michael Dupont, G – Rimouski Oceanic
Drafted: 2006 (6th round, 175th overall)
Dupont began the campaign with the Baie-Comeau Drakkar, for whom he had served as the starting netminder during his first two seasons in the Q. He was surprised to learn early on, however, that he had been dealt to the Rimouski Oceanic, a blue chip-laden squad that had floundered out of the gates.
Unfortunately for Dupont and his new team, the acquisition has done little to turn around Rimouski’s fortunes. In fairness, the Swiss native has played well; he simply isn’t getting much support, nor are the Oceanic’s top forwards supplying the timely offensive support expected of them.
Presently, Rimouski owns the third-worst record in the league at 12-17-1-0. Despite this, Dupont has posted solid numbers, including a respectable 9-9 record, 2.81 GAA and .897 save percentage.
It would appear that the team’s ability to turn its season around and perhaps make a run at the postseason rest squarely on Dupont’s shoulders. The next few months, thus, could be telling ones in terms of defining just where the 20-year-old netminder stands as an NHL prospect.
Claude Giroux, RW – Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted: 2006 (1st round, 22nd overall)
It should come as little surprise that Giroux leads the QMJHL in scoring to this point in the season. After all, the 19-year-old speedster proved that he could hang with the league’s elite offensive players as a rookie in 2006-07, and turned in a very strong showing in training camp with the Flyers.
His appearance at the top of the leader board would figure to be the natural progression of a player who has continually displayed exponential growth – both literally and figuratively – since making Gatineau’s roster as a try-out participant late last summer.
Overall, offensive production appears to be a bit down this season in the usually-explosive Q. Still, Giroux’s 46 points in 27 games is impressive, and his value to the Olympiques can be considered equal to or greater to that of any player to any team in the circuit.
Giroux also leads the league with a plus-25 rating and six shorthanded goals, indicative of his strong defensive play and effectiveness on in penalty-killing situations. He ranks fourteenth among league regulars with a shooting percentage of 21.4, a stat he led the Q in last season.
Mario Kempe, RW – St. John’s Fog Devils
Drafted: 2007 (5th round, 122nd overall)
Though Kempe put up decent offensive numbers (42 points in 62 games) and showcased a great deal of skill in his debut season with the Fog Devils in 2006-07, just about everyone who follows the St. John’s program seemed to be in agreement that he was capable of much more.
The Swedish import has risen to the challenge this season, having shown signs of improvement in just about every aspect of his game, while emerging as a leader on his team.
Kempe presently ranks second on the Fog Devils with 25 points (14 goals, 11 assists) in 25 games. He has displayed a much more consistent and complete effort in most games this season, improving his neutral zone play and coverage in the defensive end.
Thanks in large part to his hustle and proper utilization of his speed, he has also emerged as a quality penalty killer/shorthanded scoring threat.
Kevin Marshall, D – Lewiston MAINEiacs
Drafted: 2007 (2nd round, 41st overall)
One of the key components to Lewiston’s march to the QMJHL championship last season, Marshall was named captain of the MAINEiacs prior to the start of this, his third campaign with the team. The Flyers coveted the rugged rearguard this summer, trading up to acquire him in the second round of the draft.
Though he is projected as a stay-at-home defenseman in the pros, Marshall has exhibited a great deal of improvement in his all-around game during his time in the Q. He has emerged as an offensive force this season, leading Lewiston blueliners with 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 27 games. He also ranks second on the team with 63 PIMs.
Marshall’s true value to his team lies in his leadership ability and toughness. He is a lead-by-example-type of player who continues to play big minutes and draw assignments against all of the top players in the offensively-oriented circuit.
Garrett Klotz, LW – Saskatoon Blades
Drafted: 2007 (3rd round, 66th overall)
An imposing physical presence at 6’6, 230 lbs., Klotz has appeared in all but one of Saskatoon’s 28 games this season. Even so, his role with the team can best be described as a limited one.
The Regina, SK native skates exclusively on checking lines, and is generally known for his fighting ability. He has notched three points (one goal, two assists), a minus-seven rating and a surprisingly-low 47 PIMs for the Blades.
The Flyers raised some eyebrows by selecting Klotz in the third round of last summer’s draft, much earlier than most observers had projected him going. He would appear to be a marginal prospect at this point.
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