As the memory of last spring’s early playoff exit at the hands of the Buffalo Sabres fades into the recesses of the Philadelphia
Flyer fan’s subconscious, tomorrow’s Flyers are working out today at the team’s practice facilities in Voorhees, N.J. This is the
third straight summer that the organization was lucky enough to secure the services of Cindy Bower, a power skating instructor
who is quickly become known as one of the top skating specialists in North America. Under Bower’s watchful eye, 18 Flyer
prospects along with Canadian Olympian Hayley Wickenheiser, hone their skills during the fast paced eight day clinic. Skating
form and conditioning are the priorities at this camp but as the week wears on, informal scrimmages end each
Once again there is no definitive word on whether or not the club plans to continue its’ asinine practice of not
including any junior eligible players as part of its’ main training camp with the vets starting on September 12. This could be one
of the reasons that the Flyers have such a poor track record with its recent drafts. Prospects are denied the chance to get over
the nervousness of sharing the ice with Eric Lindros and John Leclair at the age of 18 when nothing is expected of them instead
of at age 21 when all eyes are looking for him to be productive. It was not too long ago when guys like the late Yanick Dupre
actually played in several Flyer preseason games only months after being drafted. The obvious good that this does a kid
certainly outweighs any ludicrous reasoning behind keeping the youngsters away from the current Flyers.
Now on to the update of the Flyers’ prospect list. The Top 10 lists players that I feel have the
potential to have some sort of impact if/when they make it up to the Cores States Center. For this reason, younger players like
J.M. Pelltier and Simon Gagne are held in higher regard than older veterans from the Phantoms that may crack the Flyers’
roster next year as fringe players.
1.J.M. PELLTIER – Goalie Many have complained that the
Philadelphia Flyers, while seemingly stocked with talent, are lacking in attitude. It looks as though things are starting to change
down on Broad Street and J.M. Pelltier is a prime example. Tall at 6’3, Pelltier is very quick for such a tall netminder and
because of his size and over the top confidence, he reminds some of a young Patrick Roy circa 1985, when Roy used his
spring stint at Sherbroke of the AHL as a pitstop so that the city of Montreal could prepare for his arrival. Pelltier will share the
goaltending duties with the Philadelphia Phantoms with Brian Boucher and many in the organization feel that J.M.’s cocky
attitude gives Pelltier an edge over the softer spoken Boucher in the race to become the heir to John Vanbeisbrouck’s starting
position with the Flyers.
Pelltier is a butterfly style goalie who is known for his sharp glove hand. He was having a stellar
playoff run with the Rimouski Oceanic until a minor injury sent him to the bench. J.M. is also quickly becoming a favorite of the
local sports writers with his brash statements like the one earlier this summer when he commented on that if the Flyers would
have called him up last season, they would not be searching for a goaltender this summer. He has the swagger of a NHL goalie
and now all he has to do is sharpen his skills in the AHL this season and wait for his shot at The Show in the near future. w/
Rimouski of the QMJHL, in 34GP, 17-11-03, 3.70 GAA, .888 SV%
2.JESSE BOULERICE – RWer Boulerice is
quickly becoming a household name in Philadelphia for all of the wrong reasons. He is facing criminal charges in Plymouth,
Michigan stemming from a stick swinging incident last April. Boulerice slashed Panther prospect Andrew Long of Guelph,
leaving Long in a pool of blood with severe facial trauma. The ramifications of such a lawsuit could set legal precedent that
could bring the rules under which professional sports are played under the microscope of the judicial system. Having said that, it
almost had to be a Philadelphia Flyer prospect to cause such an uproar.
As far as his playing ability, Jesse definitely
possesses the skills to play in this league. He has very good feet for a big man (6’2 217lbs) and he seems to know his role on
the ice. A very good fighter, Jesse is a solid prospect who only needs to learn how to walk that fine line between aggressive
play and stupid acts such as the Long incident. A two time member of the U.S. National Junior team, the soft spoken Boulerice
is prohibited from playing in the OHL for a year and in the AHL until November 15. He was originally drafted as a defenseman
but the Flyers moved him to the left wing last season and he is now being looked at as a possible answer to the team’s long
standing right wing problems. The fans of Philadelphia have been screaming for the Flyers to acquire an instigator and it looks
like Boulerice is just the player to fill that role. After the courts are done with him, Jesse will benefit from a year down with the
Phantoms before challenging for a third or fourth line job with the Flyers in about a year.
w/ Plymouth of the OHL, in
53GP, 20-23-43, 170
3.SIMON GAGNE – It seems that scouts had
very different opinions of Simon Gagne’s skating ability. Having seen Gagne skate for a week in Voorhees, I could definitely
see why. Bob Clarke was touting this kid as a fabulous skater which had visions of another Alexander Daigle dancing in my
head and that is not the case. Gagne is a strong skater with nice, long strides but definitely not eye catching at all. It was not
until the prospects took part in the informal scrimmages, could one see Gagne at his best. He has very good on-ice awareness
and seems to really see the ice very well. He has to fill out his 6’1 frame but he looks very strong on his skates. The Flyers
expect him to develop next season in Quebec of the QMJHL and Gagne should be invited to the Canadian National Junior
Team camp in December with a very good shot at making that club. With the Flyers yearning for forwards with creativity,
Gagne’s offensive flair should enable him to push for a roster spot in two to three years.
w/ Quebec of the QMJHL, in
53GP, 30-39-69, 26
4.BRIAN BOUCHER – Goalie Boucher is talented enough to be labeled “the Goalie of the
Future” in nearly any other NHL organization but he is now in the position to wrestle J.M. Pelltier for that title in Philadelphia.
The silence surrounding the Flyers as far as their opinion of Boucher as a prospect is almost deafening. Some wonder why the
top pick in 1997 was used on a goalie (Pelltier) when the Flyers used their top pick on Boucher two years earlier. Those are
probably the same people who were scratching their heads as Neil Little played nearly every second of the AHL playoffs as the
Phantoms were marching to the Calder Cup championship. A NHL franchise would kill to give its future goalie that kind of
experience and for some reason the Flyers did not. Hmmm….
Brian is a standup goalie that is very good at playing the
angles. The only obvious weak point in his game is his troubles corralling his rebounds but that is something that coaching at the
pro level can fix rather quickly. There also have been whispers that Boucher needs how to learn to bounce back better from
disappointing performances and sharing time with the cocky Pelltier may help him do that this season in the AHL. With the
NHL continuing to expand over the next couple of years, the Flyers may find it difficult to hold on to their two fine goaltending
prospects for too much longer. For that reason, the goalie that wins the AHL job is probably the only one that should consider
buying a house rather than renting.
w/ the AHL Phantoms, in 34GP 16-12-03, 3.19 GAA, .888 SV%
HEALEY – RWer Drafted in 1993, Healey has steadily climb through the Flyers’ organization and is on the brink of cracking
the Flyers’ lineup this season. As if to toss one last hurdle on Healey’s path to the NHL, Bob Clarke has collected several more
third or fourth line types that Paul will have to battle against to secure a roster spot. It looks as though Healey will have to fight
Mike Sillinger, Trent Klatt, Dainius Zubrus, Dan Lacroix and fellow Phantom Mike Maneluk for one of the two open right wing
slots. The Flyers did send Jeff Staples and Dominic Roussel to Nashville on draft day as a payment for the Predatos not
selecting Healey in the expansion draft so that means Clarke does value Paul as a prospect.
Healey, who is known as a
hard worker, scored over thirty goals for the Phantoms last year but he looks as if he is more suited to play more of a defensive
role in the bigs. Good in the corners and strong along the boards, Healey, at the very least, will be the Flyers’ first call-up from
the Phantoms this season. And if Clarke thins out the army of grinding forwards that he squeezed on to his roster this past year,
Paul could be a Flyer for good as soon as opening night. w/ the AHL Phantoms, 71GP, 34-18-52, 48 +8
LANK D – After watching Jeff Lank play in the AHL with the Phantoms over the past two years, few would have anything bad
to say about the 6’3, 214 lb blueliner. But on the other hand, few would also have anything too good to say about Lank either
aside from being steady and dependable. But Bob Clarke has been quoted several times this summer on how he would like to
see Lank come to camp and push for a roster spot with the Flyers and being steady and dependable are two characteristics
that few on the Flyers blue line had towards the end of last season.
Lank is a solid penalty killer and even saw some second
unit power play time last season in the AHL. With Dave Babych being older than most NHL arenas, having a youngster around
ready to spell the aging veteran from time to time makes very good hockey sense. Lank needs only to play a more consistent
physical style and a little hard-nosed play in the preseason could go a long way in helping Jeff secure a spot in the Flyer’s top 7
w/ the AHL Phantoms, in 69GP, 7-9-16, 59 +15
7.BRIAN WESENBERG RW- After a slow
start, Brian Wesenberg came on strong during his first professional season with the Philadelphia Phantoms. A former second
round pick of the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Wesenberg has NHL size (6’3 192 lbs) and is strong on his skates. Brian may
not possess a “snipers” touch but did contribute some clutch goals for the Phantoms during their march to the Calder Cup. A
right winger in an organization that is very thin on the starboard side, Wesenberg’s play will be monitored closely by Bob
Clarke as Brian moves up the Phantoms depth chart. Known as a pesky player, Wesenberg has already developed a knack for
drawing penalties and should better last year’s fine freshman output in goals, points and PIMs.
w/ the AHL Phantoms- in
74GP, 17-22-39, 93 +9
8.MIKHAIL CHERNOV D – Chernov seems to be the organization’s pet project for the
upcoming season. An offensive defenseman who played part time last season for Torpedo Jaroslav in Russia’s top league,
Chernov will get every opportunity to strut his stuff in the AHL with the Phantoms. GM Bob Clarke has already signed fellow
countryman Sergei Klimentiev away from Rochester of the AHL to help Mikhail adjust not only to the North American game,
but also to life in the States.
Chernov will need at least a year or two with the Phantoms to get accustomed to the physical
play and to make some adjustments in his skating style. His stride reminds some of former Flyer Jiri Latal even though Mikhail
is much larger (6’1 196 lbs) than Latal. He must learn to skate with his center of gravity over his skates more or like Latal,
NHL forwards will launch Chernov into orbit with even the most average of bodychecks. Having said that, Chernov did have a
very good showing on the blueline of the silver medal winning Russian Junior National team last winter in the WJC.
Torpedo Jaroslav- in 7 games, 0-0-0, 4 +2
9.This slot is being shared by Philadelphia’s two second round picks this
year, two defensemen with bright futures that play similar styles.
9A.Jason Beckett D- Beckett, who plays for Seattle
of the WHL, was the Flyers first second round pick in last years draft, a pick acquired from Edmonton in the Janne Niinimaa
trade. A smart, stay-at-home defenseman, Jason turned some heads at the Flyers prospect camp with his solid skating and
good mobility. His size is good (6’3″, 205lbs) and with over 200 PIMs last year, Beckett is not afraid to use that size. If Jason
continues to play strong defensive hockey in juniors, Beckett should start to climb north on this list rather quickly. Another
couple of seasons in juniors should help Beckett prepare for a jump to the professional ranks near the turn of the
w/ Seattle of the WHL, in 71GP, 1-11-12, 241
9B.Ian Forbes D- Forbes, who was taken by
Philadelphia in the second round out of Guelph of the OHL, is a huge man at 6’6″ and 203 pounds. Forbes has been working
out regularly and has put on 13 pounds of muscle since the CHL playoffs in May. Ian says he plans on playing this season at
somewhere near 215 lbs which would only increase his prospects of getting a good look from the Flyers.
Beckett, is a defense first-type of defenseman and any player with that kind of size, is a prospect to keep an eye on as he
develops in the OHL. Ian is known for his quick decision making and is not one to shy away from the rough going as he
amassed 164 PIMs for the Platers last year. Forbes seems to be a vocal player on the ice as well as a real character guy off of
w/ Guelph of the OHL, in 61GP, 2-3-5, 164
10.MIKE MANELUK RW- Maneluk makes the Top 10
list because of his fine showing in the AHL playoffs last spring for the Philadelphia Phantoms. He led the Calder Cup champs in
scoring and provided the team with both grit and leadership. Having said that, I have many reservations about putting Maneluk
on this list at all. Maneluk is too old (at 25) to be considered a young prospect and his size (5’10″, 188lbs) may be okay for a
minor pro winger but is look at as a detriment for a NHL forward.
Maneluk will get a long look in the fall but with several
younger players with size (Wesenberg, Healey and Boulerice) playing the same wing, Mike will have to show that same
exceptional scoring touch in camp this September to crack the Flyers’ roster. Maneluk and his agent, Neil Sheehy may realize
that Mike’s future may be brighter elsewhere when they opted against a multiyear deal with the Flyers and signed a one year,
two way pact in July.
w/ the AHL Phantoms, in 66GP, 27-35-62, 62 +26
HOT SEAT – Players that need to have strong showings this season to solidify their spots on the Flyers’ organizational depth
1.Pat Kavanagh RW – A second round pick a year ago, Kavanagh must produce better numbers this season
for Peterborough of the OHL. At 6’4″ and 214 lbs, Kavanagh has already proved that he has a pro body and good wheels but
Pat now must show that he can score the puck on a more consistent basis. The Petes should be a much improved squad and
there is no reason why Patrick should not net 25+ goals this coming season.
2.Kris Mallette D- Mallette (6’3″ 216)
was plucked from Kelowna in the third round of the 1997 draft. Kris had a solid year for the Rockets and is still considered a
prospect but the recent drafting of defensemen like Beckett, Chernov and Forbes, who all seem to have better lateral
movement than Mallette, makes this coming season very important for Kris. Kris should be a top contender for the WHL
heavyweight title which leads some to believe that Mallette may be better suited to play the wing in the pros to make full use of
his fistic and leadership capabilities.
3.Andy Delmore D- Delmore had a fine offensive season (9-30-39) for the
Phantoms but like many first year pro blueliners, had an erratic freshman campaign in his own zone for the Calder Cup champs.
With the resigning of Jamie Heward unlikely, Delmore must step up and not only better his defensive game but also contribute
more as the Phantoms top returning offensive defenseman.
WITH A BULLET – Players that may
surprise this season-
1.Todd Fedoruk LW – Todd has put on about 30 pounds of muscle since being a mid round pick a
couple of drafts back. At 6’1″ 230lbs, Fedoruk has quickly become one of the fiercest bodycheckers in the WHL. Todd has
improved his skating and should put up some decent numbers across the board for Regina this year.
Tertyshny D- In July, #53 stood out with his skating at the Flyers prospect camp. At the end of the eight day camp, #53 was
offered a pro contact by the Flyers. Tertyshny was picked in the 5th round of the 1995 NHL entry draft and few in the
organization knew much about him. He possesses a classic skating stride and should be a top 6 defenseman for the AHL
Phantoms this coming season