Flyers junior prospects 2009-10 review

By Chris Shafer

Many prospects who played in the CHL in 2009-10 will be making the jump to the AHL next year, which will help the disappointing Adirondack Phantoms. All but Tyler Hostetter and Adam Morrison are already either under contract or are hoping to earn a roster spot. Many of the Phantoms veterans have expiring contracts, and most will not be re-signed, leaving the door open for a flood of prospects to get their chance.

The Flyers had nine prospects in junior hockey this season.

Luke Pither, C – Barrie Colts (OHL)

6’0, 194 lbs.
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2010

Though the now 20-year-old Pither went high in the OHL draft, he was never picked in the NHL draft. He moved around quite a bit during his OHL career, and many feel that his offensive talents were suppressed when he played for the Guelph Storm. It was not until he got out of Guelph that he was able to explode offensively.

The 2009-10 season has been good to Pither. He had far and away his best offensive season with 36 goals and 58 assists for 94 points in 67 games. His impressive numbers put him third in OHL scoring for the season behind only Tyler Seguin and Taylor Hall, expected to be the top two picks at the 2010 NHL Draft.

The Flyers, in need of offensive depth in their pool and without any high picks in the upcoming draft, decided to take a chance on Pither’s immense offensive skill. Once he gets to the Phantoms next year, they will try to mold him into an all-around player.

Pither’s Barrie Colts have advanced to the OHL Finals but await an opponent. He has eight goals and 10 assists in 13 playoff games.

Dave Labrecque, C – Shawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)

6’0, 170 lbs.
Acquired: 6th round, 153rd overall, 2009

This year the Shawinigan Cataractes were counting on Labrecque to make up for a ton of lost offense at the forward position. With all of that depth last year, the Cataractes were able to go on a long playoff run in 2008-09.

Even though Labrecque had a few more points than he had last year, he did not do anything in particular to fill that void left by Shawinigan’s other forwards. In 63 games, he scored 23 goals and added 40 assists for 63 points. It quickly became a disappointing season for the Cataractes.

Though Labrecque’s season was over early, the Flyers did not extend him an amateur try-out to join the Phantoms nor did they sign him to an entry-level contract. It could be on the way soon, but open spaces on the Phantoms roster for next season are filling up quickly. The 20-year-old will have to battle for a roster spot.

Shane Harper, RW – Everett Silvertips (WHL)

5’11, 193 lbs.
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2010

Like Pither, the 21-year-old Harper was signed this spring as an undrafted free agent. The Flyers were in need of offensive talent to fill out their prospect pool, and Harper fits the bill.

Though he will be a project, Harper is coming off a great season where he finished 19th in production among all of the WHL. He also finished fifth in goal scoring with 42. When added to his 38 assists, he finished the 2009-10 season with 80 points in 72 games.

Though the Everett Silvertips were ousted from the WHL playoffs in seven games, Harper once again led his team offensively with six goals and four assists in the series. He even got the chance to play five games and scored a goal with the Phantoms since his team did not get further in the playoffs.

The Flyers are hoping he can help change the dynamics of the Phantoms’ disappointing offense.

Eric Wellwood, LW – Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
5’11, 179 lbs.
Acquired: 6th round, 172nd overall, 2009

Last June it was Wellwood’s performance in the 2009 OHL playoffs that tipped the scales and made the Flyers take a chance on the talented, two-way winger from the Windsor Spitfires. In 2009-10, he proved that his offensive jump in the playoffs was not just a fluke. He scored 31 goals and added 37 for 68 points in 65 games, and even though there is no question that his Spitfires are packed with enough elite talent to give Wellwood some open ice, he accomplished most of this offensive surge without power-play time.

Once again in the OHL playoffs, he and his team are going to Game 7 in the Western Conference Finals to the underdog Kitchener Rangers. His seven points off of three goals in 13 games is not as impressive as his 2009 run, but it is still respectable. The Flyers will be looking at the 21-year-old to be a major part of their AHL renewal next year.

Zac Rinaldo, LW – Barrie Colts (OHL)

5’11, 180 lbs.
Acquired: 6th round, 178th overall, 2008

The 19-year-old Rinaldo had another mid-season upheaval this year, once again getting traded right in the middle of the action. He has managed to stay consistent though, bringing his physical, fast-paced edge while chipping in a little offense. Across two teams during the 2009-10 season, the London Knights and the Barrie Colts, he scored 10 goals with another 15 assists in 34 games.

In the first round of the playoffs, he was suspended for 12 games after a blind-side hit on Sudbury Wolves forward Marcus Foligno. Because of this, he has yet to take the ice with his team. In his three playoff appearances, he managed only a goal.

On Tuesday, April 20th there was a statement from Rinaldo. He announced that he had been battling anxiety and mood swings for years. It was not until he was sent to Barrie at the trade deadline that he sought medical help for his condition.

As of right now, he is under contract with the Flyers and will likely be joining the Phantoms next season.

Tyler Hostetter, D – Erie Otters (OHL)
5’11, 195 lbs.
Acquired: Signed as a free agent, 2009

Despite battling through some injury troubles including a concussion, Hostetter had a fairly good season in which he improved his entire game. He has become better in his own zone and improved on his numbers offensively. He became one of the most important players on an up-and-coming Erie roster that made it to the playoffs before being swept by Windsor in the first round.

In 59 regular season games, he scored two goals and assisted on another 24. In the postseason sweep, he notched only an assist.

Despite having a contract already in place with the Flyers organization, the 19-year-old Hostetter is too young to play in the AHL next season. He will return to Erie.

Adam Morrison, G – Saskatoon Blades (WHL)

6’3, 185 lbs.
Acquired: 3rd round, 81st overall, 2009

After a great couple opening months during his first year as a starter for the Saskatoon Blades, the 19-year-old Morrison hit the slump of his career. In the early goings, he was in the top four in both save percentage and goals-against average among all WHL goalies.

By the end of December after his slide had become apparent, he was replaced by Steven Stanford, a midseason acquisition. At the end of the season, Morrison found himself as a backup with 18 wins, 13 losses, a 3.29 GAA, and a .895 save percentage. He watched as Stanford took the Blades into the second round of the WHL playoffs before being knocked out by the Brandon Wheat Kings.

Morrison is still young enough to have another shot at turning his WHL career around, but he will have to be better in 2010-11.

Nicola Riopel, G – Moncton Wildcats (QMJHL)

6’0, 167 lbs.
Acquired: 5th round, 142nd overall, 2009

It has been an interesting season for Riopel. After setting a QMJHL goals-against average record at 2.05 in 2008-09, he started out the 2009-10 season splitting time with Johan Backlund on the Phantoms. Eventually, with injuries knocking out NHL-ready goaltenders in the Flyers organization one by one, he was sent back to the QMJHL in order to make room for veteran goalies who could help out with the injury situation.

Riopel finished his brief introduction to professional hockey with a less than impressive 3.35 GAA and a .893 save percentage, but once he returned to the Moncton Wildcats, things went a little better for him. He almost beat his previous GAA record but finished with a 2.06 average and a .918 save percentage.

In the 2010 QMJHL postseason, Riopel has turned his game up. With 12 wins in 15 games, he has a 1.90 GAA and a .939 save percentage, and the Wildcats will play in the QMJHL finals.

Since the 21-year-old was signed on a try-out basis with the Phantoms last fall, he has yet to sign an entry-level deal with the Flyers. This postseason may be important in determining his future with the organization as they restructure their goaltending situation.

Jacob De Serres, G – Brandon Wheat Kings (WHL)

6’2, 180 lbs.
Acquired: 3rd round, 84th overall, 2008

The move from the Seattle Thunderbirds to the Brandon Wheat Kings brought a spark back to the 21-year-old De Serres’ career. His numbers took a drastic downturn the year after being drafted, but he slowly worked them back to respectable after leaving Seattle.

He split time with Andrew Hayes in Brandon over the course of the season, finishing with 25 wins in 32 games, a 2.70 goals-against average, and a .905 save percentage. It was his great play down the stretch that carried the Wheat Kings to a No. 2 seed as he earned the right to be the starter in the playoffs.

Though they have a 3-1 deficit to combat in order to make it to the finals, De Serres has eight wins in 12 playoff games along with a 3.17 GAA and .897 save percentage.

He may have climbed himself back up to the point where the Flyers could be interested in him. With this offseason already set on being one of change for the Phantoms, he could earn an entry-level deal.