Flyers new Top 20 prospects

By Al Alven

Below is the new Top 20 ranking for Philadelphia Flyers prospects here at Hockey’s Future. A brief note accompanies each player listing.

1. Jeff Carter, C (Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds, OHL)
The Skinny: One of the top amateurs on the continent, he dominated at the WJCs and continues to tear up the OHL; looks like more of a sure thing with every game.

2. Mike Richards, C (Kitchener Rangers, OHL)
The Skinny: You’d be hard-pressed to find a more mature, polished 19-year-old hockey player anywhere in the world.

3. Antero Niittymaki, G (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)
The Skinny: First three NHL games did nothing but further cement Finn’s status as the Flyers’ latest goalie of the future.

4. Patrick Sharp, C (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)
The Skinny: Has looked better and better with increased NHL icetime; should move to graduated list soon.

5. Stefan Ruzicka, RW (Owen Sound Attack, OHL)
The Skinny: Burst onto the scene after arriving from Slovakia; OHL’s top rookie now one of the hottest prospects in North America.

6. Alexander Drozdetsky, RW (Ak Bars Kazan, RSL)
The Skinny: Enjoying a solid fifth season in RSL; has become a more complete player, but will he ever cross the pond?

7. Rosario Ruggeri, D (Chicoutimi Sagueneens, QMJHL)
The Skinny: Flyers’ top blueline prospect has displayed an appropriate level of dominance for a three-year, 19-year-old junior defenseman.

8. Ben Eager, LW (Oshawa Generals, OHL)
The Skinny: Recent acquisition is the prototypical Flyer prospect – he has talent and size, and plays with a nasty physical edge.

9. Nikita Korovkin, D (Tri-City Americans, WHL)
The Skinny: One of the WHL’s top all-around rearguards; has tremendous potential, but needs to add more muscle before turning pro.

10. Bernd Bruckler, G (University of Wisconsin, WCHA)
The Skinny: Emerging talent has already captured four WCHA Defensive Player of the Week awards this season.

11. Colin Fraser, C (Red Deer Rebels, WHL)
The Skinny: Whirling dervish on skates leads, scores, defends, fights, wins faceoffs, kills penalties for the Rebels.

12. Alexandre Picard, D (Cape Breton Screaming Eagles, QMJHL)
The Skinny: Solid defender has no major weaknesses to speak of; possesses the demeanor and mature look of a future NHLer.

13. Mathieu Brunelle, LW (Trenton Titans, ECHL)
The Skinny: Recent offensive outbursts prove that 20-year-old forward can put up numbers in ECHL; should move on to the AHL soon.

14. David Tremblay, G (Gatineau Olympiques, QMJHL)
The Skinny: A first-year starter, he has been among the QMJHL leaders in wins, GAA and save percentage all season.

15. Rejean Beauchemin, G (Prince Albert Raiders, WHL)
The Skinny: Another first-year starter, he’s a big reason why Prince Albert has qualified for the WHL playoffs for the first time in four seasons.

16. Randy Jones, D (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: Rookie wasted no time in establishing himself as a top-four defenseman with the Phantoms this season.

17. Colin Shields, RW (University of Maine, Hockey East)
The Skinny: Leads third-ranked team in the nation in scoring, but size (5’11”, 175 lbs.) still works against his pro chances.

18. Konstantin Rudenko, LW (Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, RSL)
The Skinny: In the midst of a breakout season; some feel he’ll be among the best left wingers in Russia by next season.

19. Dov Grumet-Morris, G (Harvard University, ECAC)
The Skinny: A fine Ivy League netminder, but does he have the tools to succeed in the pros? It’s up for debate.

20. Ryan Potulny, C (University of Minnesota, WCHA)
The Skinny: Talented pivot makes the cut despite losing freshman season to a fluke knee injury.

OTHER NOTABLES

Dropping out of the top 20…

Konstantin Baranov, RW (Avangard Omsk, RSL)
The Skinny: Young journeyman finally has stability in his career with latest Avangard stint.

Pavel Kasparik, C (HC Liberec, Czech Extraliga)
The Skinny: Has led Liberec in scoring all season long, but that’s not saying much.

Milan Kopecky, LW (HC Slavia Prague, Czech Extraliga)
The Skinny: Once promising prospect basically a used part now for Slavia.

Joey Mormina, D (Colgate University, ECAC)
The Skinny: Big, raw rearguard continues to log huge minutes in all game situations for the Red Raiders.

Jussi Timonen, D (Jukurit Mikkeli, Mestis)
The Skinny: Dreadful start with TPS Turku in SM-Liiga landed him in Mestis (Finland tier II) for remainder of season.

Holdovers…

John Eichelberger, C (University of Wisconsin, WCHA)
The Skinny: Graduates this spring, but is unlikely to receive pro contract with the Flyers.

Ville Hostikka, G (SaiPa Lappeenranta, Fin-Jr.)
The Skinny: 18-year-old prospect is just getting started; he’s tough to evaluate at this point.

Marko Kauppinen, D (TPS Turku, SM-Liiga)
The Skinny: Can hardly be considered a prospect anymore at age 24 (he’ll be 25 next month)

Rick Kozak, C (Kamloops Blazers, WHL)
The Skinny: Former Brandon Wheat King fitting in nicely with new team.

David Nystrom, RW (Halmstad Hammers, Allsvenskan)
The Skinny: Can’t seem to advance past Sweden’s tier II league, and isn’t getting any younger.

David Printz, D (AIK, SuperAllsvenskan)
The Skinny: See David Nystrom

Kevin Romy, C (HC Genève-Servette, Swiss Nationalliga A)
The Skinny: Has adjusted well to the style and pace of Switzerland’s top league.

Wade Skolney, D (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: Provides Phantoms with sound defensive play, toughness night after night.

New to the list…

B.J. Abel, C (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: Strictly an AHL/ECHL bubble player.

Joey Hope, D (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: Former Portland Winter Hawk (WHL) just getting feet wet at the pro level.

Chris Houle, G (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: ECHL All-Star has earned Phantoms’ backup job in Antero Niittymaki’s absence.

James Laux, D (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: Local product (Cherry Hill, NJ) has been plagued by injuries in first pro season.

Freddy Meyer, D (Philadelphia Phantoms, AHL)
The Skinny: Scrappy Boston University product is getting better, more comfortable as season progresses.

Jeff Smith, LW (Trenton Titans, ECHL)
The Skinny: Burly forward looks to have found a home in the “E”

GRADUATED PROSPECTS

Joni Pitkanen, D (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)
The Skinny: Calder Trophy candidate leads all rookies defensemen in scoring and is first on the Flyers with a plus-19 rating.

Dennis Seidenberg, D (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)
The Skinny: Broken leg derailed German rearguard’s season just as he appeared to be hitting his stride.

Jim Vandermeer, D (Philadelphia Flyers, NHL)
The Skinny: Inconsistency, injury, numbers crunch have combined to deny him a regular spot with the Flyers this season.

Gone from the organization

Eric Chouinard, RW (Minnesota Wild, NHL)
– Traded to Minnesota in exchange for a fifth-round pick in 2004 NHL Entry Draft on 12/17/04

Jeff Woywitka, D (Toronto Roadrunners, AHL)
– Traded to Edmonton Oilers along with a first-round pick in 2004 and a third-round selection in 2005 for center Mike Comrie on 12/16/04

Updated organizational Strengths and Weaknesses

Strengths
1. Depth down the middle; top need was addressed at 2003 draft
2. Goaltenders emerging as legitimate prospects at a number of levels (Pros – Niittymaki, NCAA – Bruckler, CHL – Beauchemin and Tremblay)
3. Minor league vets who can fill an NHL role in a pinch

Weaknesses
1. Offensive wing depth
2. Graduations of Pitkanen, Seidenberg and Vandermeer/trade of Woywitka leaves system with few valuable defensive assets
3. Lack of early selections in upcoming draft due to trades