Flyers Top 20 prospects, Spring 2010

By Chris Shafer

Top 20 at a glance

1. James vanRiemsdyk, LW – 8.0B
2. Joacim Eriksson, G – 7.5C
3. Ville Leino, LW – 7.0C
4. Kevin Marshall, D – 7.0C
5. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – 7.0C
6. Patrick Maroon, LW – 7.0C
7. Oskars Bartulis, D – 6.5B
8. Andreas Nodl, RW – 6.5C
9. Stefan Legein, RW – 7.0D
10. Joonas Lehtivuori, D – 6.5C
11. Eric Wellwood, LW – 7.0D
12. David Laliberte, RW – 6.5C
13. Jonathan Matsumoto, C – 6.5C
14. Simon Bertilsson, D – 6.5C
15. Luke Pither, C – 7.0D
16. Adam Morrison, G – 6.5C
17. David Labrecque, C – 7.0D
18. Andrei Popov, RW – 7.0D
19. Nicola Riopel, G – 6.5D
20. Jon Kalinski, C – 5.5B

1. (2) James vanRiemsdyk, LW – 8.0B
6’3, 200 lbs. – 20 years old
Acquired: 1st Round, 2nd Overall 2007

James vanRiemsdyk has done everything necessary to live up to his second overall draft pick legacy without pulling the media attention or hype that normally comes along with it. This season, a year before many suspected he would even take the ice as a Flyer, he has become one of the top candidates for rookie of the year and leads all rookies in even-strength points despite minimal ice time. He has the second most points per game among NHL rookies as a 20-year-old with 32 points in 57 games.

The sky is the ceiling for vanRiemsdyk. He is well-rounded, and he does it all extremely well. He is a smart player with a dream skill set. There’s no reason to believe he won’t be a part of the Flyers long-term plans on the wing.

2. (10) Joacim Eriksson, G – 7.5C
6’1, 189 lbs. – 19 years old
Acquired: 7th Round, 196th Overall 2008

With only a few games left in Leksand IF’s regular season, the 19-year-old Eriksson is in the middle of an incredible campaign. He has shuffled around the top five in both save percentage and goals-against-average in the Allsvenskan (second division) all season, spending quite a bit of time at the top spot in each. What may be even more remarkable are his eight shutouts, which tie a club record set by Ed Belfour. Eriksson is only three away from setting a new league record. It’s not the work of his defense either, as he is among the league leaders in shots faced per game as well.

Right now Eriksson is looking like a seventh-round steal for the Flyers, who have struggled with goaltender selections. He is not as well known as elite prospect Jacob Markstrom (FLA), who has overshadowed him within the Brynäs system, but he will be in the Swedish Elite League at the very least by next season.

3. (NR) Ville Leino, LW – 7.0C
6’1, 190 lbs. – 26 years old
Acquired: Trade with Detroit Red Wings

Coming into the 2009-10 season, Ville Leino was expected to be one of the finalists for the Calder Trophy on a deep Detroit roster. Things did not work out as he planned. Despite having all the offensive skills necessary, as Detroit struggled he struggled as well. There were concerns about his skating and worth ethic regardless of all the talent that he displayed during a number of great seasons in the SM-Liiga. He became a healthy scratch as the season progressed and was eventually traded to Philadelphia to clear up cap space.

The 26-year-old Leino has plenty of offensive upside, but his skating has to survive head coach Peter Laviolette’s rigorous system. He has yet to play a game for Philadelphia since the Flyers have remained hot into the Olympic break, but should settle himself into a role by next year.

4. (4) Kevin Marshall, D – 7.0C
6’1, 191 lbs. – 20 years old
Acquired: 2nd Round, 41st Overall 2007

After coming out of the QMJHL, the 20-year-old Marshall has progressed slowly with the Adirondack Phantoms, but plenty of ice time, even on a struggling team, will give him the experience necessary to work towards the Flyers log-jammed blueline. There is no rush on Marshall, but he adds to the flexibility of the Flyers pool, which has a healthy variety of young defensemen.

His two goals and two assists in 55 games may not seem like much, but for Marshall, there won’t be an offensive explosion waiting around corner. He earns his keep by his play across the blueline, his tenacity along the boards, and his defensive positioning without the puck.

5. (6) Marc-Andre Bourdon, D – 7.0C
6’0, 206 lbs. – 20 years old
Acquired: 3rd Round, 67th Overall 2008

The 20-year-old Marc-Andre Bourdon ventured into the professional game this season after a great performance in the Memorial Cup with the Rimouski Oceanic and being named the QMJHL defenseman of the year. Bourdon’s season with the Phantoms, much like Marshall’s, did not show immediate results. He got off to a slow start, but the offensive defenseman has now picked up the pace.

His 12 assists put him at 13 points over the course of 54 games, but his -13 tells more of a story. Bourdon needs to work on his technique in the defensive zone and his skating before he can be an NHL regular. But he has shown good things. With the Flyers defensive depth, it may be a few years before he earns a permanent spot with the orange and black.

6. (5) Patrick Maroon, LW – 7.0C
6’4, 225 lbs. – 21 years old
Acquired: 6th Round, 161st Overall 2007

At one point, the Maroon was considered an offensive long shot who needed to get in better shape to survive as a hockey player. He worked on his game and conditioning before spending a year with the London Knights of the OHL. There he showed off his talents with an incredible season and found his way to the Phantoms in the AHL.

Despite a slow start in his second AHL year, he has caught up and eventually surpassed his production for last season. The goals are not coming as easily, but Maroon is a much more well-rounded player now. There was speculation that he could have made the NHL roster out of camp last summer, but an injury set him back. He still has the size, physicality, and incredible stick-handling to be a dominating crease menace as soon as the Flyers get a chance to work him in.

7. (15) Oskars Bartulis, D – 6.5B
6’2, 184 lbs. – 23 years old
Acquired: 3rd Round, 91st Overall 2005

Oskars Bartulis has become the surprise rookie of the 2009-10 season. At 23, there was still no timetable for his progression to the NHL level. After a few injuries on the Flyers blueline, he earned his chance for promotion from the AHL.

As the most consistently healthy third-pairing defenseman the Flyers have had all season, he has earned eight points, all assists, over the course of 46 games. Despite having a team-worst -10, he has performed well with a carousel of partners. His skating, patience, and attitude at the NHL level have been a welcome surprise. He has become a very calm player who focuses with the puck in order to minimize mistakes.

8. (7) Andreas Nodl, RW – 6.5C
6’1, 196 lbs. – 22 years old
Acquired: 2nd Round, 39th Overall 2006

Now in his second full professional season, Andreas Nodl has already been all over the map. He has played 48 games in the NHL and another 84 in the AHL with the Phantoms. In the midst of all of this upheaval, he has gotten much better at both his defensive play and his board work. At this point, those are his best two assets since his offensive upside does not seem to be translating as well as hoped.

The 22-year-old has scored eight goals and added another 15 assists for 23 points in 45 games this season. His production is similar to what it was in his first season with the Phantoms.

9. (NR) Stefan Legein, RW – 7.0D
5’9, 170 lbs. – 21 years old
Acquired: Trade with Columbus Blue Jackets

The 21-year-old may have gotten his groove back after retiring with the Columbus Blue Jackets organization. After half a year back in the minors with Syracuse, Legein was traded to the Flyers for defensive prospect Mike Ratchuk, and has found a second chance.

In 52 games, he is tied for the lead in goals on the Phantoms for the season with 21. His scoring has been a welcome addition to the Phantoms, who needed some offensive depth this year. His speed and effort along the boards provide energy for his team and, when added to his offensive capabilities, could translate to a roster spot with the Flyers in the near future.

10. (9) Joonas Lehtivuori, D – 6.5C
5’11, 167 lbs. – 21 years old
Acquired: 4th Round, 101st Overall 2006

Joonas Lehtivuori came to the AHL as a rookie to the North American game this past offseason after spending three seasons in the SM-Liiga. The 21-year-old is hardly the person you’d expect to act like the calm veteran defenseman of an AHL squad, but he has been just that for the Phantoms. He is second on the team in plus/minus with a +3 rating through 47 games. His 11 assists for 15 points are good enough for second in production from the blueline.

He is, first and foremost, a puck-moving defenseman. He feels comfortable with the puck and finding the safest path up ice to pass or skate. He is not the typical all-encompassing power-play quarterback with a booming shot and a nose for the net, but his talents are more noticeable in how he manages the game around him. With a deep, young core on the blueline for the Flyers, he will be competing with many of his teammates for a spot.

11. (NR) Eric Wellwood, LW – 7.0D
5’11, 180 lbs. – 19 years old
Acquired: 6th Round, 172nd Overall 2009

Eric Wellwood always projected as a hard-working, two-way forward who would do the little things to help a team win. Since the 2008-09 playoffs though, there is another aspect to his game that is turning heads in Windsor. The 19-year-old has learned to use his speed for more than just back-checking now.

In 61 games this season, the same number he played last year, he has nearly doubled both his goal total and entire offensive production even without much power-play time on a stacked Windsor team. His incredible +34 rating is tied for third on the team. He does everything from killing penalties to producing offensively, and if his offense translates professionally, his speed could make him an absolutely deadly two-way forward.

12. (19) David Laliberte, RW – 6.5C
6’1, 194 lbs. – 23 years old
Acquired: 4th Round, 124th Overall 2004

In his second full AHL season, David Laliberte came a little closer to making the Flyers roster during an 11-game NHL stint where he scored a goal in each of his first two games as a rookie. When players returned from injury, the 23-year-old was sent back to Adirondack but knows he has a chance of finally making it to the NHL if he works hard.

In 52 games this season for the Phantoms, Laliberte has improved his offensive pace with 14 goals for 38 points. He patterns his game after Simon Gagne, but without the raw speed, he may fall short of being a two-way, NHL game-breaker. Laliberte does have the stick skills, traffic work, and offensive upside to keep him in the fold.

13. (11) Jonathan Matsumoto, C – 6.5C
6’0, 184 lbs. – 23 years old
Acquired: 3rd Round, 79th Overall 2006

If there’s one thing keeping the 23-year-old Jonathan Matsumoto off the Flyers roster, it is the team’s depth at center. He has almost every skill a playmaking center could need at the NHL level including brains, a good shot, vision, puckhandling skills, and two-way abilities. The problem for Matsumoto is that he does not do anything well enough to find himself a role among the Flyers deep group of centers, and his lack of skating speed does not help much either.

He is looking to lead the Phantoms forwards in scoring for the second straight season with 21 goals for 47 points in 60 games. Even so, skaters more capable of filling in at role-playing positions on the bottom six get called up before him. It is going to be hard for Matsumoto to find himself a place on the Flyers roster.

14. (14) Simon Bertilsson, D – 6.5C
6’0, 185 lbs. – 18 years old
Acquired: 3rd Round, 87th Overall 2009

Simon Bertilsson got acquainted with the Swedish Elite League in 2008-09, playing 21 games for Brynäs IF. The Flyers then picked him up in the third round. He has the kind of tools you’d want in a young defenseman, but he also comes with some impressive intangibles. Bertilsson is a very smart and mature leader on the ice, who can contribute offensively but most of all be solid in his own zone.

The physical 18-year-old did not have the year he was hoping for. He played 30 games in the SEL registering a goal and three assists, but an injury hurt his chances to play in the World Junior Championships. There is a possib ility that he could end up in the AHL with the Phantoms as soon as next season.

15. (NR) Luke Pither, C – 7.0D
6’0, 194 lbs. – 20 years old
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2010

The newest member of the Flyers prospect pool is a 20-year-old center now with the Barrie Colts of the OHL named Luke Pither. Undrafted in 2008 and 2009, he is now tied for fourth in scoring in the OHL as an overager. With 86 points in 60 games off of 34 goals and 52 assists, the skilled center is a welcome addition to a thinning group of forward prospects in Philadelphia.

Though the organization probably started to notice Pither while watching the progress of one of their forward prospects recently traded to Barrie, Zac Rinaldo, Pither does not come without his problems. He is talented offensively, but he tends to shy away from physicality and is not particularly reliable defensively. He will join the Phantoms this offseason where the organization will try to iron out the flaws in his game.

16. (13) Adam Morrison, G – 6.5C
6’3, 166 lbs. – 19 years old
Acquired: 3rd Round, 81st Overall 2009

After breaking out as starter for the Saskatoon Blades of the WHL at the beginning of the year, the now 19-year-old Adam Morrison has fallen off the map. For the early going of the 2009-10 season, his goals-against-average and save percentage were both among the top four in the entire league. Through December, he started to slow down drastically.

He was replaced as the starter by the undrafted Steven Stanford, who was a midseason acquisition by the Blades. Morrison’s numbers have dropped considerably, to a 3.07 GAA and a .900 save percentage. He is still young though and has plenty of time to rediscover his game.

17. (17) David Labrecque, C – 7.0D
6’0, 170 lbs. – 20 years old
Acquired: 6th Round, 153rd Overall 2009

David Labrecque is in the middle of his second season putting up big numbers for the Shawinigan Cataractes in the QMJHL. This season he has scored 22 goals and added 35 assists for 57 points over 59 games. While he has four fewer points than he did after playing the same number of games last season, he has now eclipsed the 20-goal mark for the first time in his career.

This will very likely be Labrecque’s final year of QMJHL action. He has offensive talent, but the 20-year-old will have to work on a lot of his game. The biggest challenge he will face is fixing some of the work in his own zone. This year he has a -13 rating, which is second worst on his team.

18. (NR) Andrei Popov, RW – 7.0D
6’0, 187 lbs. – 21 years old
Acquired: 7th Round, 205th Overall 2006

Andrei Popov brought a little more excitement to the Flyers overseas prospect group this year when he broke out offensively with Traktor Chelyabinsk of the KHL at the start of the 2009-10 season. For a good portion of the early season, he was among the league leaders offensively but an injury stopped him cold. Since returning, he has not been nearly as productive but still has 15 goals and 11 assists for 26 points in 47 games, which nearly triples his production from last season in seven fewer games.

The 21-year-old Popov has the ability to become a very versatile power forward at the NHL level, but he will need to work on his skating. Whether or not he is willing to make the journey to North America remains to be seen.

19. (16) Nicola Riopel, G – 6.5D
6’0, 172 lbs. – 21 years old
Acquired: 5th Round, 142nd Overall 2009

After breaking the QMJHL goals-against-average record with a 2.01 GAA through the 2008-09 season, the Flyers picked the Nicola Riopel up in the fifth round of the 2009 Entry Draft as a possible late bloomer. He joined the Phantoms immediately, was not counted on to start, and the organization figured it would be best if he returned to the QMJHL for a bit.

In 21 games with the Moncton Wildcats this season, he has 18 wins, an impressive 1.93 GAA, and a .920 save percentage. It is likely that the Phantoms will look to him to be the starter next season if the 21-year-old continues his incredible play.

20. (18) Jon Kalinski, C – 5.5B
6’1, 175 lbs. – 22 years old
Acquired: 6th Round, 152nd Overall 2007

Jon Kalinski is now 22 and already has a good idea of where he stands with the Flyers organization. Though he has not spent more than 12 games at a time in the NHL, he has been the first person the Flyers look to for a call-up. Before Blair Betts signed to be the fourth-line center for Philadelphia, many thought Kalinski could fill that role.

He is a versatile, defensive-minded forward who can win face-offs or chip in a little energy from the outside. He’s the perfect utility player for the Flyers, and though he is only a call-up now, he is looking to get a role in the bottom six soon. In 49 games with the Phantoms, he has scored seven goals and added another 12 assists.