Flyers Top 20 prospects, Spring 2008

By HF Staff

James vanRiemsdyk retains the No. 1 spot while Claude Giroux follows closely behind.  The biggest jump was by Patrick Maroon, who was previously unrated, but now checks in at the 10 spot partly due to a fantastic rookie season with the London Knights of the Ontario Hockey League.

The list includes 10 forwards, seven defensemen and three goaltenders.  Several of these players have managed to get some NHL time this year with the most notable contributions coming from Steve Downie, Ryan Parent, Stefan Ruzicka and Ryan Potulny.  Giroux, who also saw two games of NHL action, had an unusual call-up from the QMJHL as an emergency fill-in due to injuries sustained by NHL regulars.  

Top 20 at a glance

1. James vanRiemsdyk, LW, 18
2. Claude Giroux, C, 20
3. Steve Downie, LW, 21
4. Ryan Parent, D, 21
5. Andreas Nodl, RW, 21
6. Ryan Potulny, C, 23
7. Michael Ratchuk, D, 20
8. Stefan Ruzicka, RW, 23
9. Kevin Marshall, D, 19
10. Patrick Maroon, LW, 20
11. Oskars Bartulis, D, 21
12. Freddy Cabana, C, 21
13. Scott Munroe, G, 26
14. Denis Bodrov, D, 21
15. Nathan Guenin, D, 25
16. Jeremy Duchesne, G, 21
17. Jonathan Matsumoto, C, 21
18. Joonas Lehtivuori, D, 19
19. Jakub  Kovar, G, 19
20. Mario Kempe, RW, 19

1.  James vanRiemsdyk, LW, 18

1st round, 2nd overall, 2007

As a freshman playing for New Hampshire, vanRiemsdyk experienced a season full of transition and relative success.  Notching 11 goals and 23 assists in 31 games was impressive considering vanRiemsdyk was also learning to play center instead of his natural left wing position. 

His NCAA season was interrupted by a trip to the World Junior Championships with Team USA in December.  Again, vanRiemsdyk showed why he’s considered a top prospect by leading the tournament in scoring with 11 points in only six games.  In spite of his efforts, the US team would fall short of medaling.

vanRiemsdyk is steadily developing and should be a top player for the Flyers at some point down the road.  A combination of fluid skating, size, excellent vision and finishing ability should put him on the NHL map sooner rather than later.

2.  Claude Giroux, C, 20

1st round, 22nd overall, 2005

After narrowly missing the opportunity to play for the Flyers out of camp, Giroux returned to Gatineau where he began his third season in the QMJHL.  Giroux impressively finished second in scoring with 38 goals and 68 assists in just 55 games. 

More importantly, he would see his team to a QMJHL championship victory, in which he was named the playoff MVP by scoring 17 goals and 34 assists in just 19 games.  All this is made more remarkable by the fact that Giroux also helped lead Team Canada to a gold medal as well by scoring six points in seven games.
 
Giroux’s bread and butter may be his excellent vision and skating skills, but he has become nearly invaluable because of his ability to play in all situations and contribute on both ends of the ice.  Look for him in a Flyers uniform next season.

3.  Steve Downie, RW, 21

1st Round, 29th overall, 2005

Downie appeared poised to grab a roster spot with the Flyers when, in a preseason game, he hit Dean Mcammond with a check that resulted in Mcammond missing time with a concussion and Downie being suspended for 25 games. 

Downie was then forced to serve his suspension while accumulating experience in the AHL for the Phantoms.  He quickly fit in and scored 5 goals and 12 assists in 21 games without losing his trademark physical edge.  His play earned him an NHL call-up where he showed flashes of outstanding board work and contributed 6 goals and 6 assists in those 32 games.

Downie should be an NHL regular next year, in spite of the Flyers depth at wing.  He shows enough promise to warrant a roster spot and will try to mold his game into the same type of game Darcy Tucker has become known for throughout the league.  Although NHL ready, Downie will need to continue to work on his first-step quickness, as it is one of his only roadblocks to reaching a higher plateau of performance.  

4.  Ryan Parent, D, 21

Acquired from Nashville: Drafted in the 1st round, 15th overall, 2005

The centerpiece of the Flyers trade of Peter Forsberg, Parent was brought along slowly this year by starting the season with the AHL’s Phantoms.  As a rookie in the AHL he scored 1 goal and 7 assists in 53 games, while showcasing his defensive ability.  Parent later earned the right to appear in 22 games for the Flyers as his play improved. 

Initially he appeared to be a little out of sync, but gradually became more and more solid with each passing game.  Although he did not have a point in those 22 games, Parent was sound defensively and should eventually be a very good defensive defenseman.

Parent should have a greater chance of sticking with the Flyers next season as some of the veteran defensemen may be leaving at the end of the season.  Parent’s skating ability, defensive presence and increasing experience level should make him a very good player in the not too distant future.

5.  Andreas Nodl, RW, 21

2nd Round, 39th overall, 2006

Nodl followed up his WCHA rookie of the year season with St. Cloud State by having another equally impressive sophomore campaign.  Despite struggling to hit his stride in the early going, Nodl rallied and finished with 18 goals and 26 assists in 40 games.

Shortly following his team’s loss to Clarkson in the NCAA Tournament, Nodl signed with the Flyers and was added to the Phantoms roster just before their playoff run.  Nodl has seen action in 11 games for the Phantoms (3 regular season and 8 playoff games) and accumulated 2 goals during that time. 

Nodl has drawn comparisons to Thomas Vanek, but still has a significant amount of improvements to make before he can come close to claiming those comparisons are accurate.  Displaying a wealth of offensive ability, Nodl will now likely focus more on his defensive ability and getting up to pro speed.  Nodl likely will not make the team until at least the 2010 season. 

6.  Ryan Potulny, C, 23

3rd round, 87th overall, 2003

After leaving the University of Minnesota after the 2005-06 season, Potulny has been a mainstay of dependability for the Phantoms.  This season, the Phantoms again benefited from Potulny’s play at center as he contributed 21 goals and 26 assists in 58 games. 

Although Potulny played seven games with the Flyers this season, another highlight of his year was his game-winning goal in the fifth overtime of the longest playoff game in AHL history.  The Phantoms were eliminated in the second round of the AHL playoffs in spite of Potulny’s contribution of 3 goals and 5 assists in 12 games.

Realistically, Potulny should be poised to make the jump to the NHL game, but he’s playing behind at least three very strong centers (Briere, Richards and Carter) on the Flyers.  At this point it’s more of a numbers game for Potulny, which makes projecting when he may get a more extended look at the NHL a difficult proposition. 

7.  Michael Ratchuk, D, 20

2nd Round, 42nd overall, 2006

In his sophomore season with Michigan State, Ratchuk displayed his excellent skating ability and puck movement skills.  Along the way, Ratchuk scored 6 goals and 19 assists in 42 games, which was tops among all MSU defensemen. 

Although the Spartans had a healthy 25-12-5 record, they would eventually fall to Notre Dame in the NCAA tournament, giving Ratchuk the opportunity to join the Phantoms after signing his first pro contract.  He made an instant impression in his first three regular-season games by notching 1 goal and 2 assists in 3 games.  He has continued to play in the playoffs for the Phantoms in five games, earning 1 assist.

A talented skater with keen puck control and obvious offensive ability, Ratchuk must become a more reliable presence in the defensive zone before he can be trusted at the NHL level.  He will have every opportunity to earn a roster spot with Philly next season, but is unlikely to do so until he shows he can be counted on defensively.

8.  Stefan Ruzicka, RW, 23

3rd Round, 81st overall, 2003

In his third year with the Phantoms, Ruzicka again displayed his silky-smooth hands, excellent vision and his perceived lack of desire during different stretches.  Ruzicka’s puck skills are first rate and allowed him to score 19 goals and 50 assists in 59 games for the Phantoms.  They’ve even made him productive in the AHL playoffs this season (his first season experiencing AHL-level playoff competition) while tallying 4 goals and 9 assists in 12 games thus far. 

Those skills have not consistently translated over to the NHL level though, where Ruzicka again saw limited action this season.  In 14 games, Ruzicka scored a modest 1 goal and 3 assists for the Flyers.  Ruzicka can dazzle with million dollar hands or disappoint with apathetic efforts.  If he’s going to earn time on a top-three line where he can be effective in a scoring role, he must give a more consistent effort every night. 

9.  Kevin Marshall, D, 19

2nd Round, 41st overall, 2007

When you think Philadelphia Flyers, you typically think of players who are big, tough and all too pleased to meet you shoulder to shoulder in the corner.  Although a little smaller than your late 90’s era Flyers bruiser, Marshall plays with the fire and determination of someone unconcerned with his own physical well-being. 

After winning the QMJHL championship last year with Lewiston, he followed up by showing improving offensive numbers this season by scoring 11 goals and 24 assists in 66 games.  Although this explosion in offense is encouraging and helped him to be named a second team all-star in the QMJHL, it is still Marshall’s hard-nosed style of defensive hockey that will likely one day earn him a roster spot in the professional ranks. 

Marshall will look to fill out his frame, add strength and even more agility so he may be better suited to ply his patented style at the professional level.  His short-term goal will be making the Canadian WJC team next year, which should be well within his reach.

10.  Patrick Maroon, LW, 20

6th round, 161st overall, 2007

Maroon’s rookie season in the OHL for the London Knights has been nothing short of phenomenal.  Blessed with excellent skill and hockey sense, Maroon made a commitment to his physical fitness and skating.  Maroon’s dedication paid off during his rookie season as he outscored all other rookies in the regular season with 90 points (35 goals and 55 assists). 

After his OHL season was cut short by a first-round loss to the Guelph Storm, Maroon left London to join the Phantoms.  Maroon only managed one assist in five games in the OHL playoffs and has only seen action in one game for the Phantoms thus far due to a log jam of competition at wing. 

With his hockey sense and skillset, Maroon could end up being the steal of the 2007 draft if he continues to improve his conditioning.  Depth and the need for continued improvement will likely keep Maroon busy below the NHL level for the next few seasons. 

11.  Oskars Bartulis, D, 21

3rd round, 91st overall, 2005

Having played three strong seasons in the QMJHL, Bartulis began his professional career in the AHL with the Phantoms this season.  Appearing in 57 games, Bartulis scored 1 goal and 20 assists in 57 games, while registering a +10 rating. 

Bartulis has, at times, shown his talent for being in the right spot at the right time defensively and moving the puck crisply up ice.  When all is said and done, Bartulis could be a very stable defenseman who can be relied upon in all situations, but he will need to continue to show consistent commitment to being emotionally engaged in the game. 

Bartulis is well on his way to a successful pro career so long as he can continue to refine his defensive game and work on his focus.  If everything breaks right for Bartulis, he could see NHL time as early as next year with a strong camp, although it is more likely he will spend at least one more season at the AHL level. 

12.  Freddy Cabana, C, 21

6th round, 171st overall, 2004

Cabana grabbed a spot on the Phantoms last year and instantly displayed a knack for being an agitator and grinder.  This year has been much of the same as Cabana scored 9 goals and 7 assists in 48 games while racking up 75 penalty minutes.  He has also appeared in three playoff games.

Cabana is a hard-working throwback to the days of NHL yesteryear.  He displays smooth skating and very good positional awareness, while also using his agitating qualities to draw penalties. 

Cabana has always been expected to, at some point, grab a greater portion of the offensive responsibility, but has never been able to do so.  At this point, it would appear his professional career will be that of a third or fourth line player, perhaps an agitator.  His timeline for NHL duty is uncertain due to the depth of competition for a winger position at the NHL level and more highly-touted prospects such as Downie, who share Cabana’s agitating qualities.

13.  Scott Munroe, G, 26

Signed as a free agent by Philadelphia in 2006

Munroe played his college hockey at the University of Alabama-Huntsville, then searched for a team that would allow him to continue his development.  The Flyers made a commitment to the young goaltender and are now beginning to reap the benefits of placing trust upon the shoulders of a relatively unproven commodity a few years ago.

Boasting a 2.29 GAA and lofty .918 save percentage in 36 games for the regular season, Munroe had an equally impressive 18-8-2 record.  Originally splitting time with former Flyer starter and draft choice, Brian Boucher, he made the most of his opportunities.  Late in the season, Boucher was traded, leaving Munroe as the new starter.  Munroe has performed admirably in the playoffs with a 2.22 GAA and .921 save percentage.

Munroe is still somewhat of a long shot to make the NHL, but with sound positioning and decent technical skills, he is a capable goaltender.  With the Flyers thin in goal, he is the best goaltending prospect in the system.

14.  Denis Bodrov, D, 21

2nd round, 55th overall, 2006

In this, his third season, for Lada Tolyatti in the Russian Super League, Bodrov had 2 goals and 9 assists in 46 games for one of the lower-rated teams in the RSL.  He also managed to tally a goal in the four-game series his team lost to Lokomotiv Yaroslavl in the RSL playoffs. 

Statistically, one wouldn’t necessarily be impressed by Bodrov’s numbers, but his value cannot be surmised simply by statistics.  Primarily a defensive defenseman with very good mobility, Bodrov has learned to play with a bit of a chip on his shoulder.  The combination of his skating ability, defensive awareness and a little bit of a mean streak, bode well for his chances to be signed by the Flyers during the offseason.

It should be expected that Bodrov either begins his professional career this year or next, most likely for the Phantoms. 

15.  Nate Guenin, D, 25

Signed as a UFA by the Philadelphia Flyers

“Nasty” Nate Guenin, who was originally drafted by the New York Rangers in 2002, has stepped onto the AHL scene and continued to improve year after year.  Guenin won’t ever be confused with an offensive defenseman, but he has made strides towards being more effective with the puck.  Meanwhile, he has consistently looked solid defensively.  This season, Guenin surpassed his former high point total of 12 by chipping in 4 goals and 13 assists.  But the most impressive numbers were his penalty minutes (146 in all), which tells you all you need to know about his game.

Guenin is a reliable defender who plays with an obvious snarl to his game.  His reliability and mean streak have continued to open the eyes of the organization and even earned him another two-game call-up this year for the Flyers. 

With the Flyers likely losing a few defenseman via free agency this year, it is possible Guenin will see more NHL time next season.  That being said, there should be healthy competition in this department, due to the Flyers depth in the defensive defensemen.

16.  Jeremy Duchesne, G, 21

4th round, 119th overall, 2005

Duchesne spent the majority of the 2007-08 season playing for the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL.  One step below the AHL level, Duchesne put up respectable numbers — a record of 13-13-5, GAA of 2.97 and a .903 save percentage.

Duchesne has the size to be an effective pro netminder, but must continue to work on his positioning and fluidity of motion.  Although his long-term goal is clearly making the NHL, his short-term goal will likely be to win a spot on the Phantoms, or at the very least, win the full-time starting position for Dayton.

Duchesne will be brought along slowly, with particular attention paid to his positioning, use of angles and efficiency of movement.  With NHL size and solid reflexes, Duchesne has pro potential, but needs continued development mixed with a fair amount of patience. 

17.  Jonathan Matsumoto, C, 21

3rd round, 79th overall, 2006

Matsumoto, in his first full professional season since leaving Bowling Green, shot out of the gates with 13 points in his first 10 games of the season.  He ultimately cooled down and finished with 44 points (20 goals and 24 assists) in 77 games, which was good for 13th among AHL rookies. 

Matsumoto is now gaining valuable playoff experience with the Phantoms and has played in all 11 games, showing the level of trust the coaching staff has in his development thus far.  The speedster notched 2 goals and 2 assists which placed him in a tie with four others for 12th in AHL rookie playoff scoring.

Matsumoto shows excellent reliability and some added scoring touch and aggression.  Due to the fact that he is behind a very talented crop of forwards, he will likely need another year of seasoning, during which he’ll be expected to be one of the main cogs for the Phantoms. 

18.  Joonas Lehtivuori, D, 19

4th round, 101st overall, 2006

Although only 19, Lehtivuori is a veteran in terms of his experience level for the Finnish national team and Ilves Tampere of the SM-Liiga.  Building on previous experience, Lehtivuori rose to the challenge of having increased duty with Ilves and posted very respectable numbers for his club by accumulating 8 goals and 13 assists in 48 games.  Lehtivuori then continued to show steady play in the SM-Liiga playoffs, until Ilves was eliminated by Karpat (the eventual champions). 

Lehtivuori also shined during the WJC for Finland, during a relatively dismal performance for the Finnish national team as a whole.  Lehtivuori was regarded as one of the team’s most consistent defensemen by displaying sound defensive positioning and crisp tape-to-tape passes.  He was also twice named player of the game for Finland with one such honor coming in a contest versus the powerful US team.

Lehtivuori displays keen awareness and a knack for making smart and crisp outlet passes from his own zone.  He will be most effective if he continues to build his strength and mobility.

19.  Jakub Kovar, G, 19

4th round, 109th overall, 2006

This was largely a transitional year for the young Czech goaltender.  Kovar moved across the pond to the Oshawa Generals of the OHL.  Kovar was subsequently traded to the Windsor Spitfires in a move that only further compounded the difficulty of the transition to the North American game. 

In 16 games with Oshawa, Kovar had a 3.14 GAA and .903 save percentage, but did post a record of 12-3 along the way.  After the trade to Windsor, Kovar played 20 games and saw his GAA rise to 3.42 and save percentage drop to .893.  Again, Kovar still managed an impressive record of 14-3-3, however.  In the playoffs for Windsor, Kovar’s statistics dipped further and his team was ousted early, in five games by the Sarnia Sting.  Kovar also gained experience playing for the Czech Republic in the WJC in December.  Appearing in two games, Kovar went 1-1 and maintained a 3.00 GAA and .833 save percentage. 

Although his numbers would indicate those of a marginal prospect, Kovar has much better play in him.  He will need time getting used to the North American game and increased attention to his angles.  It’s too early to say how far he can rise or when he will make the transition, but at least one more year in juniors should be expected. 

20.  Mario Kempe, RW, 19

5th round, 122nd overall, 2007

Kempe followed up his rookie season for the St. John’s Fog Devils with a strong sophomore performance.  Kempe, who missed time this year due to injury and attending the WJC for Sweden, scored 25 goals and 24 assists in 48 games.  He then turned in a gutsy playoff performance by scoring 4 goals and 3 assists in 6 games during an eventual series loss to Acadie-Bathurst in the first round of the QMJHL playoffs.

Kempe, as mentioned, also represented silver medalist Sweden in the 2008 WJC.  Although used in a limited role behind more senior Swedish players, Kempe played admirably, but registered no points in six games. 

Kempe has an explosive stride and is absolutely fearless at attacking the net.  With strong offensive skills and some time to learn his defensive responsibilities more completely, Kempe could emerge.  He has committed to move from the QMJHL to Rogle BK of the Swedish Elite League.  Exactly how this move will affect his development remains to be seen.