Flyers Prospect Season-in-Review: Forwards

By Bill Meltzer





Konstantin Baranov (RW)

 

Konstantin Baranov (RW)

Birthdate:  January
11, 1982

Height: 6-1

Weight: 190 Lbs.

Drafted: 2002 (4th round, #126 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): CSKA Moscow (RSL), Salavat Yulaev Ufa
(RSL), Avangard Omsk RSL)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season   

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Totals

31

6

4

10

12

N/A

1

0

3

0

CSKA

14

4

1

 5

10

N/A

0

0

2

0

Salavat

11

2

2

 4

  0

N/A

0

0

1

0

Avangard

 6

0

1

 1

  2

N/A

0

0

0

0

A year after he was described by scouts as a draft day “shot in the dark,” Konstantin Baranov remains very much a wild card in the Flyers prospect system. The winger skates well and has soft hands but he has a long way to go before he can be considered a legitimate prospect. The smooth skating winger has bounced around the Russian Super League in search of consistent ice time. He’s skated for four teams in the last two seasons. Baranov seemed to find a home late in the season with a CSKA Moscow team that finished out of the playoffs. He put together a modest offensive hot streak in February. However, the 21-year-old right winger ended up in taskmaster head coach Viktor Tikhonov’s doghouse by the end of the season, spending several games as a healthy scratch.

Mathieu Brunelle (LW)

Birthdate:  April 6,
1983

Height: 5-11

Weight: 180 Lbs.

Drafted: 2002 (7th round, #126 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Hull Olympiques (QMJHL), Victoriaville
Tigers (QMJHL)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season         

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Totals

70

38

48

86

117

+24

11

0

3

1

Hull

31

17

19

36

 42

 +4

 4

0

2

0

Victoriaville

29

21

29

50

 75

+20

 7

0

1

1

 

 

Playoffs         

 

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Hull           

 20

22

16

38

  30

+20

3

0

4

0

Memorial Cup         

 

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Hull

 5

3

2

 5

 4

 E

1

0

1

0

Mathieu Brunelle was one of the nice stories of the 2002-2003 season. Acquired by Hull in a blockbuster midseason trade, he was a crucial component in the Olympiques surprise drive to the QMJHL championship and the Memorial Cup finals. Early in the season, while still with Victoriaville, Brunelle seemed to be affected by the constant trade rumors that surrounded him. He got off to a slow start but eventually shrugged off the trade speculation and played some of the best hockey of his junior career. After a trade finally came to pass, Brunelle played decently for Hull before coming on like gangbusters in the Quebec League playoffs. His 22 goals in 20 games led all playoff scorers. Brunelle was inconsistent in the Memorial Cup but nevertheless was a key offensive contributor in Hull’s wins, helping the Olympiques to the finals.

The Flyers have a tough decision to make with Brunelle. The prospect, who improved significantly each successive season in junior hockey, could still return to the Q as an overager (Brunelle turned 20 in April) or he could be signed to a pro contract and play for the Philadelphia Phantoms. He would probably be better served by the latter at this point. He has shown an appropriate level of dominance at the junior level to merit a chance to play professionally.

The diminutive Brunelle is still generally considered a marginal NHL prospect. Few consider him a likely NHL impact player. He does not have overwhelming natural ability but he does have good instincts and work ethic. Brunelle is shifty but is not a great pure skater in the Simon Gagne mold. He has emerged as a leadership player, as well as point producer, at the junior level. Junior hockey stats, especially in the high scoring Quebec League, are a notoriously poor indicator of pro potential. But Brunelle has many of the intangibles you look for in a professional player.

Alexander Drozdetsky (RW)

Birthdate:  October
11, 1981

Height: 6-0

Weight: 185 lbs

Drafted: 2000 (3rd round, #94 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): CSKA Moscow (RSL)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season

   

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

CSKA

45

14

12

26

30

-6

5

0

1

0

The inconsistent play of Alexander Drozdetsky puzzles and frustrates his coaches, fans, and scouts alike. Capable of carrying the scoring load for games at a time, Drozdetsky is equally likely to go AWOL for weeks at a time. His final statistics for 2002-2003 are far from awe-inspiring, but they are respectable for the low-scoring Russian Super League. However, the raw numbers mask Drozdetsky’s streakiness.

In the first nine games, he stormed out of the gates with seven goals. By any league’s standards, that is a very impressive total. Unfortunately, Drozdetsky’s offensive game then went dormant. His drought went on for two months. He went scoreless for a frightening 26 games, managing a meager haul of eight assists. Even in the RSL, that simply won’t cut it for a player being counted on to be a key offensive contributor for his team.

Drozdetsky concluded his season much as it began—-on an offensive streak. After finally ending his prolonged slump, the winger got hot late in the season (7 goals, 9 points in the final 11 games). Unfortunately, Drozdetsky’s offensive spurt came along too late for a CSKA club that was already out of the playoff picture.

The Flyers attempted to sign Drozdetsky last summer but the player turned them down, saying that he did not yet feel ready. Flyers assistant GM Paul Holmgren said back in March that the organization would see where Drozdetsky stands this summer. The opinion here is that the time is now to make his move. The Flyers need to start developing some forward prospects and Drozdetsky needs to do something bold to accelerate his progress toward the NHL.

He is not NHL ready, but a season in the American Hockey League could be useful since he needs to prove he can hack it physically. No one doubts Drozdetsky’s speed or hands. His biggest problem is still his lack of strength. He’s added some weight and muscle since he was drafted, but he’s still easily taken off the puck when his dekes fail. To make it over here, Drozdetsky must improve his consistent commitment to backchecking and willingness to go into the corners and high-traffic areas. There will be off-ice adjustments to make as well (Drozdetsky still does not speak English and there are presently no other Russians who would be his teammates if he signed here).

The easier path for the player would be staying home at least one more year. The caliber of hockey in the RSL, in terms of pure skill, is still arguably higher than the AHL. But Drozdetsky needs to start challenging himself to be a better player and a move overseas would be a good way to start, if he’s truly serious about wanting to be an NHL player.

John Eichelberger (C)

Birthdate:  February
23, 1981

Height:  6-2

Weight: 182 Lbs.

Drafted: 2000 (7th round, #210 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Wisconsin Badgers (WCHA)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season         

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Wisconsin

37

2

9

11

14

N/A

0

0

0

0

 

Playoffs         

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Wisconsin

2

0

0

0

0

+1

0

0

0

0

In his junior year for Wisconsin, John Eichelberger settled comfortably into his role as the Badgers’ third line center. A prolific playmaker at the USHL level prior to his college career, Eichelberger has not developed much of an offensive game in NCAA play. As a 19-year-old, he was considered a candidate for the US WJC team, but did not make the cut. Eichelberger is a fundamentally sound player who does a lot of the little things right. He’s a diligent backchecker, a good faceoff man, and he works hard on the boards. Even so, at age 22, with a mere four goals and 25 points in 98 college games, the center is not likely to emerge as a significant prospect.

Pavel Kasparik (C)

Birthdate:  August 2,
1980

Height:  6-2

Weight: 210 Lbs.

Drafted: 1999 (7th round, #200 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): HC Liberec (Czech Extraliga), Sparta
Prague (Czech Extraliga)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season  

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

Totals

51

8

13

21

30

-11

Liberac

30

8

 9

17

26

 -8

Sparta

21

0

 4

 4

 4

 -3

A year after his “breakthrough” season for Sparta, Pavel Kasparik went backwards in 2002-2003. He quickly found himself buried on Sparta’s fourth line this season and never did a thing to show that he merited a chance to get more ice time, as he did in the second half of the 2001-2002 season. Traded to a non-contending Liberec team, Kasparik got a lot more ice time and redeemed his season to a degree statistically.

Even so, Flyers GM Paul Holmgren told Hockey’s Future in early March that although “we have kept our eye on Pavel Kasparik, but we have never talked about ‘bringing him over.’ In our opinion, he still needs to improve in many areas and we do not feel that he is ready for AHL or NHL hockey just yet.”

That is a major departure from the organization’s assessment of the player going into the season. Last summer, Holmgren was quoted on the Flyers official web site as saying that the organization thinks Kasparik “is a good prospect. Our scout in the Czech Republic [Vaclav Slansky] has continued to follow him and thinks he is a player that we would look at to sign this summer and possibly play with the Phantoms next year.”

Time is rapidly running short for the 23-year-old center to work his way into the picture. Odds are that he won’t. With the organization’s prospect cupboard all but bare in the forward department, however, he’s not yet out of chances. With NHL teams allowed to hold onto European league players’ rights for many years at a time due to the complex set of NHL drafting rules for players in different leagues, there’s no need to write off the player just yet. Always described as a “late bloomer,” Kasparik is nevertheless getting late into his developmental years to be considered a prospect.

Milan Kopecky (LW)

Birthdate:  April 11,
1981

Height:  5-11

Weight: 180 Lbs.

Drafted: 2000 (9th round, #287 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Slavia Prague (Czech Extraliga), HC
Beroun Medveni (Czech Division One)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

Slavia

33

4

6

10

20

+6

Beroun

 7

2

4

  6

  6

-1

 

 

Playoffs

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

Slavia

17

2

1

3

8

+4

The small, skilled Milan Kopecky has taken a little time to finally stick in the Czech Extraliga but has accomplished that goal this season with champion Slavia Prague. He played well on the team’s fourth line and earned increased ice time as the season moved along. Kopecky has played both left wing and center during his career but is primarily a winger.

A “typical” Czech forward, Kopecky has above-average hands and a smooth skating stride. He is not a physical presence, as he lacks in both size and strength. Although he’s variously listed anywhere between 5-10 and 6-0 and his weight anywhere between 175 and 185, he is reportedly closer to the smaller size of both (of course, this is far from uncommon). He is not gifted with the pure sniper’s scoring touch of Vaclav Pletka but has a better all around game and much less of a “star complex” than Pletka. He remains an obscure longshot prospect but at least is now on the radar screen, by virtue of earning his promotion to one of Europe’s best leagues.

David Nyström (RW)

Birthdate:  February
21, 1980

Height:  6-0

Weight: 180 Lbs.

Drafted: 1999 (8th round, #224 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Halmstad Hammers (Allsvenkan South)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

Regular Season

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

Halmstad

36

12

12

24

47

-5

David Nyström’s career is stagnant. For the last three years, he’s been an above-average Allsvenskan player but, at this point, is iffy as an Elitserien (Swedish Elite League) player, much less an NHL prospect. He played well during the fall portion of the 2002-2003 schedule, although his Halmstad club was a losing team. Nyström struggled in the spring Allsvenskan bracket, even with the top fall teams having moved up to the Super Allsvenskan (a higher tournament to determine who plays for the right to try earn the two Elitserien spots up for grabs). Nyström’s stock has fallen from sleeper prospect to non-prospect.

Konstantin Rudenko (LW)

Birthdate:  January
11, 1982

Height: 5-11

Weight: 185 Lbs.

Drafted: 1999 (4th round, #160 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Lokomotiv Yaroslavl (RSL)

 

2002-2003 statistics:

 

Regular Season

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Lokomotiv

19

3

4

7

20

+3

0

0

0

0

   

 

Playoffs

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Lokomotiv

2

0

0

0

0

E

0

0

0

0

Kazakstan-born winger Konstantin Rudenko is a promising offensive player who just cannot stay healthy for a full season. For the second straight season, shoulder and knee problems derailed the slightly-built Rudenko’s season. He underwent shoulder surgery last year. A plus skater with naturally soft hands, Rudenko’s talent is still raw and he’s far from a complete player at either end of the ice. He’s also still prone to taking silly penalties at bad times. Nevertheless, when he’s been healthy, he’s shown himself to be a bonafide RSL player and his career has the potential to advance if he can ever stay healthy. Unfortunately, 2002-2003 was basically a lost season for him.

         

 

Patrick Sharp (C)

Birthdate: December 27, 1981

Height: 6-0

Weight: 188

Drafted: 2001 (3rd round, #95 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Philadelphia Phantoms (AHL), PHILADELPHIA
FLYERS (NHL)

 

Regular Season         

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Phantoms

53

14

19

33

39

-5

6

0

3

1

FLYERS

 3

 0

 0

  0

 2

 E

0

0

0

0

The Philadelphia Phantoms rookie of the year, center Patrick Sharp was one of the few bright spots for the Flyers AHL affiliate this year. Sharp actually made the big team out of camp for a time before getting sent down to the minors. Derailed for almost three months by a fractured ankle suffered in November, Sharp returned to play very well for the Phantoms and earned another brief NHL recall.

Sharp is a smooth skating player who has a good head for the game. It’s doubtful that he has star offensive player potential at the NHL level but he should have a long career ahead of him as a useful third line NHL center who can play effectively with a variety of wingers and make some offensive contributions as well.

 

Colin Shields (RW)

Birthdate: June 27, 1981

Height: 6-0

Weight: 185 Lbs.

Drafted: 2000 (6th round, #195 overall)

2002-2003 club(s): Maine Black Bears (Hockey East)

 

Regular Season      

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Maine

34

14

13

27

18

+3

7

0

4

0

 

Playoffs

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Maine

3

1

1

2

0

E

0

0

0

0

A season that started with such promise for both Colin Shields and perennial Frozen Four contenders Maine ended up a disappointment. One of the top collegiate goal scorers last year, Shields averaged a goal per game through the first two months of the season. Then, after sustaining a broken rib that knocked him out of action for four games, Shields disappeared the rest of the season, failing to score in his final 15 games. That’s unacceptable for a player who needs to score goals in order to make a contribution. Shields, who has played all three forward positions at different times but is listed by the Flyers as a right wing, eventually played his way off the first line.

Maine went out early in both the Hockey East and NCAA tournaments. The tail-off of Shields’ play was definitely a factor. He finally scored again in the Black Bears 2-1 loss to Michigan in the first round of the NCAA playoffs. After the collegiate season ended, the Scottish-born Shields played for Great Britain in the B-level World Championship tournament, scoring four goals in five games.

Shields did not do much this season to change the perception that he is a soft, one-dimensional player. He’s not much of a physical presence and he doesn’t play much defense. Reputations aside, Shields may have rushed to get back into the Maine lineup before he was healed and that’s why he struggled so badly in the second half the season. Both last year and this year prior to the injury, he was too consistent of a goal scorer to suddenly drop off the score sheet so dramatically if he were truly healthy.

Shields certainly has the offensive ability to score at the AHL level if nothing else. Turning 22 this summer, he has one season of NCAAA eligibility left before the Flyers have to make a decision whether to sign him or relinquish his rights.

Matt Zultek (LW)

Birthdate:  March 12, 1979

Height: 6-2

Weight:  220

Acquired: Trade with Boston

2002-2003 clubs: Trenton Titans (ECHL), Philadelphia
Phantoms (AHL)

 

Regular Season         

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Titans

58

25

27

52

205

+13

13

0

5

0

Phantoms

13

  0

  0

  0

    2

  -5

  0

0

0

0

Playoffs         

Team

GP

G

A

PTS

PIM

+/-

PPG

SHG

GWG

GTG

Titans

3

1

0

1

2

-3

0

0

0

0

Matt Zultek, a former Kings first round pick (1997, 15th overall) and Bruins second rounder (1999, 56th overall), has finally established himself as a productive power forward. Unfortunately, it’s at the ECHL level. Even in a year where the Phantoms were in desperate need of a player who could offer scoring and physical presence, Zultek wasn’t the guy. He got relatively little ice time during his time with the American League club. With the Titans, however, Zultek was often a force, especially on the powerplay. He’s still a rather limited player, in part because he has never regained the stride he lost when he sustained a major knee injury during the 1999-2000 season. But he’s finally regained the touch around the net he showed as a junior player for Ottawa. He still may have AHL upside but, at 24, his NHL potential has all but slipped away.