Flyers junior prospects update

By Al Alven

The Philadelphia Flyers currently have seven prospects playing in the CHL, including four in the QMJHL, two in the OHL and just one in the WHL.

The list is comprised of one player at each of the three forward positions, two defensemen and two goaltenders.

OHL

Josh Beaulieu, LW
London Knights
Drafted: 2005 (5th round, 152nd overall)

Beaulieu has blossomed in a defense-oriented role while continuing to enjoy the success of one of the CHL’s most dominant programs in London. Competing in his fourth and, most likely, final OHL season, the 19-year-old forward is the Knights’ top penalty killer and designated agitator. He also regularly draws assignment against the opposition’s best players, the primary reason for and contribution to his -8 rating.

Valued by head coach Dale Hunter for his energetic style, relentless pursuit of the puck and willingness to drop the gloves to protect his teammates, Beaulieu has also emerged as a veteran leader on what is suddenly a relatively young London team.

The Windsor native is not known for his offense, though he is a strong passer who possesses good instincts at the other end of the rink. He presently ranks tenth on the Midwest Division-leading Knights in scoring, with seven points (4 goals, 3 assists) in 24 games.

Steve Downie, C
Peterborough Petes
Drafted: 2005 (1st round, 29th overall)

Downie was returned to Peterborough for his final season at the major junior level after impressing the Flyers with a very strong NHL training camp. He was named team captain upon rejoining the Petes, and has responded by picking up where he left off last season as one of the OHL’s top offensive weapons. The rough-and-tumble Scarborough, ON native currently ranks second on his team and seventh in the league with 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in just 22 games.

He was named OHL Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 12, notching nine points (5 goals, 4 assists) in three straight Peterborough wins. Downie, whose well-noted temper and perceived lack of discipline at times has made him one of the more controversial players in the CHL, also leads his team with 77 PIMs. He incurred a two-game suspension in late October, but has, for the most part, kept his emotions in check while remaining a physical force and strong two-way performer for the Petes.

Downie, one of the top contributors to Team Canada’s gold medal-winning effort at last year’s World Junior Championship, is a virtual lock to make the team for the tournament in Sweden next month.

QMJHL

Oskars Bartulis, D
Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
Drafted: 2005 (3rd round, 91st overall)

Bartulis has emerged as one of the top all-around defensemen in the QMJHL, leading a revitalized Cape Breton squad (18-11-1-0) after coming over from the Moncton Wildcats in a surprise offseason trade. The Latvian native ranks second on the Screaming Eagles and fourth in the Q among rearguards with 30 points (9 goals, 21 assists) in 23 games. He also boasts a +6 rating and has registered a healthy 32 PIMs.

One of two CHL prospects already under contract to the Flyers (Downie being the other), Bartulis has been stellar at both ends of the rink and in all game situations for Cape Breton this year. He was named QMJHL Defensive Player of the Week for the period ending Nov. 29, and captured the monthly version of the award for October.

Bartulis will turn 20 in January, and there has already been some talk of him potentially joining the Philadelphia Phantoms should the AHL qualify for the Calder Cup playoffs this spring. For now, he will continue to log big minutes and play a key role for Cape Breton in the team’s quest for a QMJHL title.

Jeremy Duchesne, G
Halifax Mooseheads
Drafted: 2005 (4th round, 119th overall)

Duchesne has enjoyed a very strong first half to his second season as the starting netminder for Halifax, despite playing in front of one of the more inconsistent teams in the QMJHL. The Mooseheads (14-12-2-1) have scored the fifth-fewest goals in the 18-team circuit, and have had to rely heavily on the steady tandem of Duchesne and backup Roger Kennedy to this point.

A native of Silver Springs, MD, Duchesne presently ranks 11th among league regulars with a 3.50 goals against average. His .897 save percentage, however — fifth best in the Q — is a much better indicator of his quality play. He has a losing record at 10-12, but is still ninth in the league in wins.

Duchesne earned QMJHL Defensive Player of the Week honors for the period ending Oct. 8, winning two games on the road (including one shutout) while registering a 1.44 GAA and .959 save percentage. He has shown marked improvement this season with his rebound control, his primary weakness in seasons past.

Michael Dupont, G
Baie-Comeau Drakkar
Drafted: 2006 (6th round, 175th overall)

Whereas Duchesne has had to battle to keep a struggling Halifax team afloat this season, Dupont enjoys the luxury of tending net for the top offensive squad in the QMJHL. Baie-Comeau, for whom scoring was expected to be a problem heading into the season, currently leads the circuit with 144 goals. This has greatly alleviated much of the pressure on the 18-year-old goaltender.

Still, Dupont will have to step up his game if the Drakkar (16-9-1-3) hope to continue their winning ways and make a strong run at the QMJHL title. Though he has played well in stretches, the Swiss-born netminder has been largely inconsistent, as his 3.63 GAA and .881 SP attest. His 15-7 record, of course, looks great on paper.

Dupont has earned wins in each of his last two games. Baie-Comeau’s 9-4 victory over Quebec on Tuesday night was emblematic of the support he has received this season.

Claude Giroux, RW
Gatineau Olympiques
Drafted: 2006 (1st round, 22nd overall)

After a stellar rookie season that saw him go from virtual unknown to first-round draft lock, Giroux has exploded into the realm of the QMJHL elite. He led the league in scoring, in fact, from the start of this season up until recently. A recent lull has left him ranked third to the Acadie-Bathurst duo of Mathieu Perreault (WAS) and Thomas Beauregard with a still-astounding total of 57 points (27 goals, 30 assists) in 28 games.

Giroux easily earned QMJHL Offensive Player of the Month honors for September, with 15 points (9 goals, 6 assists) in only six games. He followed that up with 25 points (10 goals, 15 assists) in 12 games in October, and has recorded 17 points (8 goals, 9 assists) in 10 games thus far in November.

The 5’11, 175 lb. forward recently suited up for Team QMJHL for the Canada-Russia Challenge series, recording two assists in two games. He is a shoo-in to be named to represent his country at the World Junior Championship tournament in Sweden next month, where he may be paired on the top line with fellow Flyers prospect Downie.

WHL

John Flatters, D
Vancouver Giants
Drafted: 2005 (6th round, 174th overall)

Flatters has continued in his role as a physical, stay-at-home rearguard in his first full season for Vancouver, and third overall in the WHL. He has appeared in 20 of the Giants’ 27 games, registering two assists, and ranks fourth on the team with 56 PIMs.

A native of Calgary, Flatters has shown some improvement this season in his foot speed and decision-making, though he still struggles with positioning and has allowed his emotions to get the better of him on several occasions.

Flatters remains an NHL longshot due to his lack of natural skill and polish, though he remains under the tutelage of one of the game’s most noted teachers in Giants head coach Don Hay.

Copyright 2006 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.