The Philadelphia Flyers have done an excellent job in the NHL entry draft in recent years, which means an improved prospect pool. With Paul Holmgren, the Flyers have a GM with an eye for talent. Holmgren has served in a scouting capacity for the Flyers in the past, and has also played an important part of past drafts under former GM Bob Clarke.
The current strength of the Flyers prospect pool is high-end skilled forwards and a versatile set on defense. The Flyers have not used a first-round pick on a goaltender in nearly a decade, and do not have a netminding prospect who would be considered a blue chipper, however, they have a number of goalies drafted in the third round and beyond who have showed potential.
The Flyers prospect pool is lead by former No. 2 overall draft pick James vanRiemsdyk. Currently listed as a left winger, he might end up being a center down the road in the NHL. He is a highly-skilled power forward in the mold of a Rick Nash who can play in all game situations. He has also proved to be a big-game performer for Team USA in international play. With a combination of size, speed, skill and intangibles, the NHL should not be too far away for this blue chip prospect. It is conceivable that vanRiemsdyk will appear for the Philadelphia Phantoms at the end of the year, once he completes his sophomore season for New Hampshire.
Patrick Maroon is looking like he might become one of the steals of the 2007 entry draft, coming out of the sixth round. The high-scoring 6’4 power forward has overcome conditioning and weight problems to become a highly rated player within the Flyers system. After an impressive rookie season last year in the OHL, Maroon is a rookie for the Phantoms. It typically takes power forwards more time to develop, so he’s not in line for a call-up just yet.
Josh Beaulieu fits is a physical checking player who can get under the skin of the opposition. He has shown the ability to drop the gloves and stick up for teammates. Beaulieu is currently injured, playing his second year with the Phantoms.
Matt Clackson is an 6’0 enforcer who honed his hockey skills while playing for Western Michigan, and of course in college hockey, fighting is not prevalent. Now in his first full year with the Phantoms, Clackson has already shown the ability to play physical and drop the gloves at the professional level. Clackson should continue to develop his overall game and fighting skills and could make the NHL as a physical force.
Jon Kalinski, who turned pro early out of Minnesota-Mankato, is another agitating checker within the Flyers system. Continued development as a hard-working competitive player who can provide a solid defensive and physical presence is Kalinski’s key to making the NHL.
Garrett Klotz will be 20 later this month, so he met the age cutoff to play in the AHL this year. Klotz has the NHL-caliber size at 6’5 and fighting ability to become a Derek Boogaard-like enforcer. His skating ability is impressive for the type of player he is. Klotz will need to develop his overall game and fighting skills in the minors in his quest to make it to the NHL.
Freddy Cabana fits the mold for a third or fourth line player. Cabana has an agitating physical style, skates well, works hard, and is also an effective penalty killer. After two years in the AHL, he has been sent to Mississippi of the ECHL.
Steve Downie has played center on the fourth line for the Flyers this season, but is currently on the Phantoms. The 21-year-old clearly has shown he can be an NHL player, with 36 games to his credit. Playing physical and putting up points on the score board are the bread and butter of his game.
Jonathan Matsumoto is a skilled player with hockey smarts. The 22-year-old has been a productive player for the Phantoms. He put up 20 goals as a rookie last year for the Phantoms, and already has four goals this season.
Claude Giroux is considered one of the Flyers top prospects at any position. He was one of the last cuts from the Flyers roster this year, after having played two games with the squad last season. Still only 20, there really is no rush for Giroux to the NHL.
Andreas Nodl is a skilled right winger with a left handed shot currently playing on the Flyers. A recent call-up from the AHL, Nodl was praised by Flyers head coach John Stevens for his defensive awareness. Nodl works hard and is not afraid to go into the high traffic areas and work along the boards. Nodl has looked right in place in the NHL thus far.
Rob Bellamy played all four seasons at University of Maine and currently is now with the Phantoms. Bellamy is another member of the long list of Flyers prospects who fits the role of the hard-working physical, checking-type player. A 23-year-old rookie, he needs to get off to a good start right away.
Luca Sbisa has become one of the youngest Flyers of all time, after making the team right after being taken 19th overall in the 2008 entry draft. Sbisa looks right at home in the NHL, and has been impressive. Not only has he shown the ability to join the rush and carry the puck in deep in the offensive zone, but he also has shown the awareness and speed to get back into the play defensively. Also impressive is his ability to throw a big body. He gives the Flyers a prospect who has the capability to one day be a true No. 1 defenseman. Playing in all game situations, being an offensive defenseman, playing tough defensively, are all qualifications Sbisa appears to bring.
Ryan Parent is currently recovering from surgery, but was slated to be in the Flyers top six to start the season. A stay at home defenseman originally drafted by Nashville, Parent worked on his puck carrying skills in the offseason, and has the potential to be a shut down defenseman. Still only 21, Parent should continue to develop.
Mike Ratchuk has the potential to be a highly-skilled offensive defenseman, and at 20 has plenty of time to develop his skills in the AHL. An excellent skater, Ratchuk has the potential to be a puck carrying defenseman and be a weapon on the power play.
Kevin Marshall is the Flyers most physical defensive prospect, and is currently playing in the QMJHL. Playing well defensively and being a great skater are two important traits in the NHL today that are also key parts to his game. A highly competitive player who consistently plays with a physical edge to his game, Marshall should turn pro following his season in the QMJHL.
Marc-Andre Bourdon was taken by the Flyers in the third round of the 2008 entry draft. Considered by many to be an underrated player, Bourdon can both play the role of an offensive defenseman and also play a tough and physical game. Throwing big body checks and also dropping the gloves, he will continue to develop this season and probably next in the QMJHL.
Chris Zarb is a 6’4 two-way defender currently assigned to Mississippi. He turned pro a year early out of Ferris State University.
Jacob Deserres was taken in the third round of the 2008 entry draft and had impressive numbers last year for Seattle of the WHL, with a GAA of 2.28 and a save percentage of .922. Deserres could see his prospect stock rise with another outstanding season in juniors. Still only 18, expect Deserres to continue to develop on the junior level for a couple of more years before turning pro.
Jakub Kovar has shown some potential, both in Europe and in the OHL. Still only 20 years old, Kovar could spend another year in the Czech Republic and come back over to North America as a pro next season. He has very impressive skills and the unorthodox style of fellow Czech Dominik Hasek.
Jeremy Duchesne is currently playing in the ECHL and is the oldest of the Flyers goaltender prospects at 22 years old, and already has pro hockey experience in both the AHL and ECHL. He needs to play well to move himself up next season in the last year of his contract.