The Flyers Draft was made on Friday night when they secured a trade with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the number four overall pick. The Flyers traded away Ruslan (Rusty) Fedotenko and two second round choices for the pick. Which does not seem like a lot especially in a draft billed as having only four true blue chip prospects. The Philadelphia Flyers Assistant GM Paul Holmgren told me “By moving to pick number four we assured ourselves an Elite A List player.”
Tampa Bay took the safe route by acquiring two second round picks and a good all around player in Fedotenko who can step into their top 6 forwards right away. I believe part of this decision is the sour taste Tampa still has in their mouth from the failed development of Andrei Zyuzin, Another big European defenseman with good offensive skills, who was picked number two overall in 1996. Granted he was drafted by San Jose not Tampa, but Tampa has spent the better part of the last three years waiting for Andrei to step up and be that dominant defenseman he was drafted to be. Earlier this season they gave up waiting and dealt Zyuzin to New Jersey for two fringe defensemen (Sasha Goc and Josef Boumedienne) and a 22-year-old Russian prospect still playing in Russia (Anton But).
Joni Pitkanen is a 6’3” 202lb defenseman who just completed his second season with Karpat in the Finnish Elite League. Joni is from Oulu, Finland and was accompanied at the Draft by his Father (Arnie) and Mother (Paivi) whose faces absolutely beamed as they watched their only son being selected number four overall in the NHL Entry Draft. When talking to Joni he told me that he compares his style of play to Brian Leetch and that he grew up idolizing Finnish defenders (local heroes in Oulu, Finland) Janne Niinimaa and Reijo Ruotsalainen. This Finnish rearguard is an excellent skater with very good shooting and passing skills that plays with an edge to his game. Two European scouts I talked to told me that the shy kid we see in the interviews is the polar opposite of the way he is on the ice. One of the scouts told me “Joni is the best junior age (16-20) defenseman at knocking a player off the puck in Europe”. Joni himself told me that he couldn’t wait to come to North America because there is more contact and physical play on the smaller rink.
After Joni the Flyers were done for the first day because they dealt the one other pick they had left Carolina’s 3rd to Carolina for Carolina’s 3rd in 2003 and 6th in 2002. With their second pick 105 overall the Flyers selected Quebec defenseman Rosario Ruggeri. Rosario is an average sized defenseman who plays a real good all around game. The Montreal native was ecstatic about becoming a Flyer, “The Flyers were always one of my favorite teams growing up” stated Ruggeri.
The next pick for the Flyers was a big 20-year-old Russian forward Konstantin Baranov. Konstantin had 1 Goal and 2 Assists this year in 6 games with Chelyabinsk of the Russian Super League.
In the Fifth Round the Flyers picked Harvard University Goaltender Dov Grumet-Morris. Dov was accompanied at the Draft by his father Dr. Ken Grumet and his sister Aviva. Dov is not the only one in the family with hockey blood, his sister Aviva just graduated from Princeton University where she was the captain and number on defenseman on the women’s ice hockey team.
With the Flyers fifth pick 192nd overall they selected Nikita Korovkin, big highly skilled defenseman from Russia currently playing for Kamloops in the WHL. Next with the 193rd pick the Flyers selected Joey Mormina, big hulking defensive defenseman from Colgate University (6’6” 220lbs)
With Flyers last pick they selected small highly skilled Quebec forward Mathieu Brunelle (5’11” 180lbs). Mathieu was probably the most excited of all the Flyers Draft picks because he wasn’t even sure he would get drafted. The NHL’s Central Scouting List ranked him towards the bottom on they’re mid term list and he wasn’t even ranked on the final list. Mathieu is a highly skilled sniper who will score tons of goals for the rest of his career the only question is will he be scoring these goals in the NHL, AHL or ECHL. He scored 43 Goals this year in the QMJHL playing for the Victoriaville Tigres.
So with the 2002 Draft in the books the Flyers selected four defenseman, two forwards, and a goaltender. All questions on how the Flyers did this draft were answered by the permanent smile plastered on Bobby Clarke’s face all weekend. He walked around smiling from ear to ear and signing tons of autographs for the kids at the draft.