Flyers CHL prospects update

By Al Alven







Flyers CHL prospects update

For the first time in three
years, the Philadelphia Flyers do not possess an outstanding stable of talent at the
Canadian major junior level, let alone multiple teenage prospects widely
considered to be potential future stars for the organization.

Five members of the illustrious
draft class of 2003 – all former CHL standouts – have moved on to the professional
ranks this season. Heralded centers Jeff Carter and Mike Richards
are with the Flyers, while right wing Stefan Ruzicka, defenseman
Alexandre Picard and goaltender Rejean Beauchemin have joined
the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL.

The Flyers’ remaining prospects
in the OHL, QMJHL and WHL are remnants of the comparatively-thin 2004 draft,
along with players selected at this year’s post-lockout version of the
event in August. The nine prospects comprise a crop that lacks an abundance
of natural talent, but is big on character, toughness and intangibles.

Heading the list, at least
from the standpoint of overall potential, is controversial forward Steve
Downie
, the Flyers’ surprise first round pick (29th overall) in this
year’s draft.
  He is followed by emerging
Seattle Thunderbirds (WHL) right wing Ladislav Scurko and Halifax
Mooseheads left wing/Team Canada WJC hopeful Freddy Cabana.

The following is an early-season
update on the performances of these and the other Flyers prospects currently
playing in the CHL – six forwards, two defensemen and one goaltender in
total.


 

Ontario Hockey League (OHL)

Josh Beaulieu, LW
– London Knights

Drafted: 2005 (5th
round, 152nd overall)


Ht: 6’1,
Wt:
185 lbs., DOB: 1/10/87


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
London Knights
OHL
65
9
13
22
+32
159
2005-06
London Knights
OHL
10
5
6
11
+7
33

Beaulieu has picked up where
he left off last season, excelling in a role as a two-way winger and prime
agitator for the defending Memorial Cup champion London Knights. Now in
his second full season (and third overall) with the team, the Comber, Ontario
native is also reaping the benefits of playing on the top offensive team
in the CHL. The Knights have already scored 98 times in only 15 games,
an incredible average of 6.53 goals per contest. Beaulieu’s 11 points (5
goals, 6 assists) in 10 games rank him ninth on the team. Perhaps most
impressively, however, has been the 18-year-old forward’s continued dedication
to defense and improved penalty killing, the real assets to his ultimate
potential in the pro ranks. Beaulieu took advantage of every opportunity
he was given with the Knights last season, scratching, clawing and (literally)
fighting his way to an eventual full-time spot on the roster of one of
the most talented major junior teams in recent memory. Head coach (and
former NHLer) Dale Hunter was most impressed with Beaulieu’s stand-out
performance as a third line “dirty work” winger during the world championship
break, when many of the team’s top performers were away from the team.
He also earned the attention of the Flyers, who have made a habit of collecting
players of his ilk via the draft in recent years.


 

Steve Downie, C –
Windsor Spitfires

Drafted: 2005 (1st
round, 29th overall)


Ht: 5’10, Wt:
192 lbs., DOB: 4/3/87


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
Windsor Spitfires
OHL
61
21
53
73
+1
179
2005-06
Windsor Spitfires
OHL
1
3
0
3
E
4

Downie
remains at this home in Newmarket, Ontario, waiting to be dealt by the
Windsor Spitfires. Team owner Steve Riolo, who initially indicated that
he was unwilling to accommodate his estranged star forward with a trade
and was content to let him sit out for the entire season, recently softened
his stance. Several factors contributed to this, most notably the highly-publicized
hazing scandal that emerged from the OHL’s investigation into a pair of
physical altercations between Downie and 16-year-old rookie Akim Aliu in
practice on September 28. The result saw the Spitfires fined $35,000 and
Moe Mantha suspended for one full year as general manager and 40 games
as head coach. Riolo, who has assumed managerial operations for his team,
has cautioned that he is in no rush to trade Downie, and that no deal will
be reached unless “equal value” can be attained in return. Several teams
are known to have at least inquired about the aggressive, 18-year-old forward,
with the Ottawa 67s most frequently mentioned as a potential destination.
Downie left the Spitfires after being suspended for five games and ordered
to attend anger management classes as a result of his run-ins with Aliu,
the details of which remain rather murky. His only appearance of the season
came in Windsor’s third game, in which he registered a hat trick in a 7-4
loss at Saginaw.


 

Gino Pisellini, RW
– Plymouth Whalers

Drafted: 2004 (5th
round, 149th overall)


Ht: 6’1, Wt:
210 lbs., DOB: 8/5/86


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
Plymouth Whalers
OHL
59
4
6
10
-5
137
2005-06
Plymouth Whalers
OHL
13
3
6
9
+4
37

While he won’t, and is not
expected to, put up big numbers for the Plymouth Whalers this season, Pisellini
has already established himself as one of the team’s more steady, reliable
forwards. After serving a two-game suspension to start the campaign, the
Itasca, Illinois native has provided the Whalers (who are 9-6-1-0) with strong
two-way play, solid penalty killing, muscle along the boards and in the
corners and, once again, a distracting presence in front of opposing team’s
nets on the power play. Pisellini currently ranks eighth on the Whalers
in scoring, third in plus/minus and fourth in PIMs (2.64 minutes per game).
Pisellini exemplifies the type and style of player the Flyers have sought
to build around via the draft over the past few seasons — a big, rugged
forward who possesses quality leadership skills and plays with a chip on
his shoulder. What the 19-year-old forward lacks in natural ability, at
least at the OHL level, he makes up for with guile and a range of intangibles.
It is unknown at this point how Pisellini’s game will translate in the
professional ranks. The Flyers have indicated, however, that they have
interest in signing the aggressive forward to a contract after he completes
his third season of play at Plymouth.


 

Quebec Major Junior Hockey
League (QMJHL)

Oskars Bartulis, D
– Moncton Wildcats

Drafted: 2005 (3rd
round, 91st overall)


Ht: 6’2, Wt:
195 lbs., DOB: 1/21/87


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
Moncton Wildcats
QMJHL
62
5
19
24
+7
55
2005-06
Moncton Wildcats
QMJHL
16
3
5
8
+4
26

Bartulis, the lone defenseman
selected by the Flyers in this year’s entry draft, is off to a solid start
in his second season with the Moncton Wildcats in the QMJHL. The Latvian
import, a converted center, is still learning the ropes of his position,
but continues to make impressive strides. Moncton (13-4-0-1) is one of
the surprise teams in the “Q” this season, currently sitting in second
place in the circuit’s East Division. The overall performance of the Wildcats’
defensive unit, a perceived weakness coming into the campaign, has been
one of the main reason for the team’s success, and Bartulis has been right
in the middle of the resurgence. The 18-year-old rearguard has been very
strong in his own end, and is beginning to develop into a steady offensive
contributor for the team. He currently ranks fourth among Wildcats defensemen
in scoring, with a 0.50 points-per-game average (up from roughly 0.38 last
season). Bartulis possesses excellent puck skills and a strong offensive
mind for the game, not surprising given his past tenure as a forward. The
Wildcats envision him as an emerging power play performer (all three of
his goals have come on the man advantage), and figure to feed him
more special teams times as he progresses.

 

Freddy Cabana, LW
– Halifax Mooseheads

Drafted: 2004 (6th
round, 171st overall)


Ht: 6’0, Wt:
195 lbs., DOB: 5/16/86


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
59
10
24
34
+24
47
2005-06
Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
18
7
4
11
-1
23

Cabana remains best known
in the hockey world for the knee-on-knee hit he put on Sidney Crosby in
a game last season, a foul that resulted in an eight-game suspension and seemingly
endless media scrutiny of the young forward. While the 19-year-old
remains an aggressive agitator who plays a physically spirited game with
what is often described as “reckless abandon,” he is generally mislabeled
as a cheap shot artist and shortchanged in terms of his overall hockey
ability. The original source of such criticism is obvious, but many continually
fail to notice both the true essence of Cabana’s game and the impressive
strides that he has made on the ice over the past two seasons. Quite simply,
Cabana has developed into a very solid two-way winger for the Mooseheads.
He continues to play the game with plenty of fire, but has learned to pick
his spots and use his head in all situations. Cabana’s game has evolved
to the point that he is currently in the running for a roster spot with
Team Canada for the World Junior Championships, an illustrious honor in
and of itself. Whether he makes the team or not, Cabana does appear to
have the inside track at earning a contract with the Flyers after the conclusion
of the season.


 

Jeremy Duchesne, G
– Halifax Mooseheads

Drafted: 2005 (4th
round, 119th overall)


Ht: 6’0, Wt:
201 lbs., DOB: 10/17/86


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
W
L
T
SO
GAA
SP
2004-05
Victoriaville Tigres
QMJHL
15
2
9
0
2
3.46
.893
2004-05
Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
18
12
0
2
3
1.50
.942
2005-06
Halifax Mooseheads
QMJHL
15
8
7
0
2
3.04
.898

The Flyers’ only amateur
goaltending prospect in North America, Duchesne is off to a solid, albeit
unspectacular, start in his first full season as a starter at the major
junior level. He has carried the load for Halifax thus far, appearing in
15 of the team’s 18 games. The Mooseheads have struggled defensively in
the early going, but Duchesne is the primary reason the team sits in fourth
place in the QMJHL’s Eastern Division with a winning record (10-8-0-0).
As is often the case with goaltenders in the “Q,” numbers do not necessarily
provide an accurate barometer of the 18-year-old’s performance thus far.
As it is, Duchesne currently ranks ninth in goals against average (3.04)
and 11th in save percentage (.898) among QMJHL netminders who have
appeared in at least 10 games. The son of former NHL forward Gaeton Duchesne,
Jeremy was born in Silver Springs, Maryland and owns dual citizenship.
He entered this season as one of the favorites to earn a spot on Team USA
for the 2006 World Junior Championship tournament in British Columbia,
and nothing that has happened thus far would indicate that his status has
changed in that regard.


 

David Laliberte, RW
– P.E.I. Rocket

Drafted: 2004 (4th round,
124th overall)


Ht: 6’1, Wt: 198 lbs., DOB:
3/17/86


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
P.E.I Rocket
QMJHL
41
23
13
36
+3
36
2005-06
P.E.I. Rocket
QMJHL

Still bothered
by the back injury that cost him the second half of last season, Laliberte
has yet to appear in a game for the P.E.I. Rocket in 2005-06. After being
examined by various specialists, it was determined that surgery would not
be required, and that the 19-year-old forward should be able to return
to the ice in December as long as his rehab regimen continues to run smoothly.
Perhaps the most naturally gifted member of the Flyers’ draft class of
2004, Laliberte’s development has undoubtedly been set back by the injury.
Before getting hurt, he appeared to be on track to become one of the top
two-way forwards in the QMJHL. Despite appearing in only 41 games last
season, Laliberte managed to finish fourth in goals and sixth in total
points for the Rocket.


 

Western Hockey League (WHL)

John Flatters,
D – Vancouver Giants

Drafted: 2005 (6th
round, 174th overall)


Ht: 6’1, Wt:
203 lbs., DOB: 6/17/87


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
Red Deer Rebels
WHL
53
0
2
2
-13
117
2005-06
Red Deer Rebels
WHL
14
0
1
1
-4
45
2005-06
Vancouver Giants
WHL
6
2
0
2
+4
16

Flatters began the season,
his second in the WHL, with the Red Deer Rebels, a team loaded with rugged,
stay-at-home rearguards of his ilk. He performed admirably in the early
going, notching an assist in 14 games, but became the subject of numerous
trade rumors as the team (currently the owners of the second-worst record
in the league at 5-13-0-1) floundered out of the gate. The 18-year-old
rearguard was dealt to the Vancouver Giants on October 25 in exchange for
talented, but unpolished 17-year-old defenseman Luke Egener. To say that
Flatters has fit in very well with his new team would be a drastic understatement.
Amazingly, the Calgary native scored a goal — his first in his 68th WHL
game — in his debut with the Giants, then added another a few games later.
Vancouver (8-6-0-1), like Red Deer, is a last place team, but the team
has performed well while playing in the highly-competitive B.C. Division.
Flatters, thus far, appears to be a very strong addition to a team that
looks poised to make a solid run at a playoff spot this season. As much
as the Flyers would have liked to see him develop under Brent Sutter at
Red Deer, the team is pleased that the young rearguard will continue his
WHL career with a quality team that, at this point, appears to be a better
fit for his services.

Ladislav Scurko, C
– Seattle Thunderbirds

Drafted: 2004 (6th
round, 170th overall)


Ht: 6’0, Wt:
198 lbs., DOB: 4/4/86


 

 
Season
Team
League
GP
G
A
Pts.
+/-
PIMs
2004-05
Seattle Thunderbirds
WHL
67
17
25
42
+24
40
2005-06
Seattle Thunderbirds
WHL
12
3
7
10
+5
14

Scurko established himself
as a valuable two-way center for the Seattle Thunderbirds in his first
season of North American hockey in 2004-05. With the departure of several
key forwards, the team is counting on the Slovakian import to emerge as
more of an offensive leader this season and, thus far, he has not disappointed.
Scurko currently leads the T-Birds in scoring with an average of 0.83 goals-per-game
and a +5 rating. His strong pairing with fellow countryman Roman
Tomanek, a 2004 fourth round draft choice (103rd overall) of
the Phoenix Coyotes, on the first line has been one of the few bright spots
thus far for struggling Seattle. The T-Birds currently sit in fourth place
in the WHL’s five-team U.S. division with a 4-6-1-1 record. Scurko, who
is projected as more of a defensive center should he make it to the pro
ranks but is, nonetheless, very skilled, and will be tested as the season
wears on. The Flyers are already confident that the 19-year-old pivot can
thrive in a lower-profile role. If he can manage to maintain (or even improve
upon) his current offensive pace, it could go a long way in helping him
earn a contract with the team.


 

Copyright 2005 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint
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