The Philadelphia Phantoms’ 2001 season is off to a blazing start. Leading the way are the young players that Bob Clarke and staff have drafted. Flyer’s management has put these players in a great spot to excel. The team has several AHL veterans to help assist the young players during the long season. The Philadelphia Flyers have already dipped into the promising youth of the Phantoms. Manning the ship is one of the brighter young coaches in the AHL, John Stevens.
John has been through the wars of the AHL and is very patience with his youth. The Phantoms will only improve as the season progresses. This article will go in depth with the young players on the Phantoms roster and where they fit into the parent club’s plans. The future of this organization is very bright. Not since the mid 80’s can the Flyers possess such a ray of young talent.
Vaclav Pletka – Pletka has been the brightest player on the roster this far into the season. In only his second pro year, he has shown immense talent. He is not your prototypical European player. Vaclav has a real nose for the net and has displayed a great deal of grittiness. His speed is slightly above average. Currently Vaclav is tied for second on the team with 52 shots on goal. He also has excellent ice vision and puck skills. The Flyers called him up for a game to fill a roster spot due to injury. With the way the Flyers are playing right now, he may get another call very soon. The Phantoms’ coaching staff likes the way he is committed to improving his all around game. This is another example of the Flyer’s front office finding gems in the late rounds.
Overall Grade – A
Stats – GP – 21 G – 10 A – 6 PTS – 16
Francis Lessard – Francis has always been a crowd favorite in Philadelphia. Lessard is not a nice player to play against. In training camp Bob Clarke and Bill Barber were impressed by his intensity and effort. Francis is one of the better fighters in the AHL. If practice makes perfect, no one will beat Lessard this season. He has amassed 403 and 409 PIMs in the lasts two seasons. This year he has toned it down some in an effort to make it onto the Flyers. Bill Barber said that Lessard must play under control and learn when to use his fighting talents in a NHL game. The Flyers are clearly lacking a physical, nasty defenseman to stand up at the blue line. Francis should be on the Flyers right now but Bob Clarke gave Chris McAllister a contract extension over the summer. Lessard has some skill to offer to the parent club. His skating is average but he can make crisp passes out of the zone. John Stevens is not afraid to use him in all game situations.
Overall Grade – B
Stats – GP – 20 G – 0 A – 2 PTS – 2 PIMs – 98
Bruno St. Jacques – Bruno has taken his game to the next level so far this season. He would have made the Flyer’s roster, but it was a case of numbers. Last season he was a main stay on the Phantom’s blue – line. St. Jacques has nice size (6’2 208) and he possesses a nice passing touch. The Flyers want him to work on his skating ability this season. Due to injuries on the Flyers blue – line, Bruno has seen action with the big club. He has made some rookie mistakes, but overall he has looked very steady. St. Jacques has endeared himself to the Flyer faithful by using his body. Bill Barber has trusted his abilities to use him with Eric Desjardins and the two have been working well together. This showing may allow the Flyers to deal one of their defensemen for a forward on the second line. Fans should keep a close eye on Bruno.
Overall Grade – B +
Stats – GP – 13 G – 0 A – 3 PTS – 3 PIMs – 19
Maxime Ouellet – Maxime is splitting time with Neil Little. Both goaltenders are playing in front of an excellent defense. Ouellet got off to a very slow start this season. Maxime’s save percentage is a very poor (.887). Clearly he is adjusting to the speed of the pro game. His recent outings have been vintage Ouellet style. The Flyers see this young man tending the pipes for many years to come for the orange and black. He has all the tools to be a starter for a NHL club. The Flyer’s brass will not rush him along. Maxime’s stick handling must improve to take the next step in his career. Due to the injury to Brian Boucher, Neil Little was called up to the Flyers. This has allowed Maxime to get the majority of the workload. He has been a major factor for the recent success of the Phantoms.
Overall Grade – B
Stats – GP – 14 GAA – 2.45 SPCT – .911 W – 7 L – 2 T – 4
Jesse Boulerice – Jesse started the season with the Flyers. He only saw limited action with the parent club. Todd Fedoruk has temporally won the enforcer job for Philadelphia. Boulerice is a character guy wherever he plays. At the AHL level he is a fearsome brawler. His size (6’2 205) lacks taking on the big boys at the NHL level. Jesse’s job on the Phantoms is to protect the young skaters they have on the roster. If Boulerice continues to improve his game he may get another crack at the Flyers. Time is running out for Jesse to make the jump to a full time NHL’er.
Overall Grade – C
Stats – GP – 13 G – 1 A – 0 PTS – 1 PIMs – 78
Tomas Divisek – Tomas is a very interesting prospect the Flyers are counting on to make an impact in the near future .He has great size (6’2 210 lbs) and he seems willing to use that size to his advantage. Divisek is very inconsistent and seems to wander on the ice way too much. In my opinion, the Flyers hurt his progress by switching him from center to wing. Tomas seems much more comfortable using his skating ability in the center of the rink. Divisek is willing to go in the high traffic areas and work for his offensive chances. He is among the leaders on the Phantoms with shots on goal.
Injuries have slowed Tomas’s development the past year. He had his shoulder surgically repaired last season. In last year’s training camp he was a favorite to win a roster spot due to the lack of centers. After the surgery Divisek struggled in his return to the Phantoms. The coach has worked hard to lay positive reinforcement to him. Bob Clarke and Coach John Stevens are expecting him to elevate his game a notch this season. Thus far he has been just average. The Flyers made a surprise call to bring Tomas on their trip to Chicago. The Flyers needed a center that could win some face-offs, so Diviesk was a natural selection. He netted his first goal in a game against Tampa Bay.
Overall Grade – C+
Stats – GP – 19 G – 2 A – 8 PTS – 10
Jason Beckett – Jason has worked very hard in the off season to prepare himself for the long pro seasons. Last year he split time between the Phantoms and Trenton Titians of the ECHL. Beckett had to deal with various injuries thus far in his brief pro career. The Flyers selected him in the 2nd round of the 1999 draft. Bob Clarke envisioned him as a number four defenseman that plays nasty. Jason has proved to be just that .He has only played in eight games this season with the Phantoms. John Stevens loves they way he sticks up for his teammates. The opposing forwards will have to be aware where Beckett is when he is out on the ice. The young prospect hits like a tank and is slightly nasty with his stick. There are some areas of his game that must be rounded into shape. Jason’s skating and positioning need some fine-tuning. Clearly the Flyers have high hopes for him.
Overall Grade – C –
Stats – GP – 8 G – 0 A – 0 PTS – 0 PIMs – 11
Pavel Brendl – Pavel is clearly struggling with his game down on the farm. He seems to have lost all confidence he had in the preseason for the Flyers. The one credit that can be given to Brendl is he always seems willing to work. Pavel has been the first at practice many times so far and has shown the effort to get back to the NHL. The results have not been there so far. Bob Clarke will remain very patient with the young man. However, if the Flyers continue to struggle and a trade needs to be made, Clarke would deal him. The jury is out on Brendl; we will see how he handles the pressure.
Overall Grade – D
Stats – GP – 6 G – 0 A – 2 PTS – 2