* The two best prospects in the Flyers system continue to be goaltenders
Maxime Oullet and Antero Niittymäki. The strong play of both youngsters
pretty much cancels out any loss of organizational goaltending depth
suffered when Jean-Marc Pelletier was traded to Carolina in the Keith
Oullet, coming off a spectacular World Junior Championships, continues to
be the best goaltender in the Quebec League. Oullet is now being widely
hyped around the hockey world as a potential franchise goalie. Arguably,
he’s the best goalie in junior hockey today, although the Finley contigent
might dispute that. The buzz around Oullet coming off the WJC is not quite
equal to the hype that surrounded Roberto Luongo but it’s arguably on par
with the excitement created by Marc Denis and Martin Biron as they
progressed at the junior ranks.
Niittymäki, selected the best goaltender in the Finnish Elite League during
the first half of the season, faltered a tad at the World Juniors
(particularly in Finland’s game against Russia) and ended up splitting time
in goal with Devils draftee Ari Ahonen. It’s also true that Niittymäki’s
teammates did not play all that well in front of him in some of their key
Niittymäki has bounced back strong upon the resumption of league play.The
rookie continues to rank #1 or #2 in most goaltending categories in the Read more»
The strength of the Flyers farm system unquestionably lies in its goaltending prospects. The Flyers currently boast four fine young goaltending prospects: Brian Boucher, Jean-Marc Pelletier, Maxime Ouellet, and Antero Niittymäki. With the goalies in the Flyers system currently staggered between the NHL (Boucher), the AHL (Pelletier), the QMJHL (Ouellet), and the Finnish Elites (Niittymäki), the organization can afford to evaluate each player’s progress separately and, due to their staggered draft years, also have different time-tables for each player. But in the near future, perhaps as soon as the end of this season, the team may have to make a firm decision on whom among Boucher, Pelletier, Ouellet, and Niittymäki will ultimately be the team’s long-term starter of the future and which one(s) will be trade bait to fill in some of the other areas where the team needs both short-term and long-term help. In addition to the aforementioned goaltenders, the Flyers also have minor league veteran Neil Little, ECHL goalie Bujar Amidovsky, Färjestad BK (Swedish Elites) backup goaltender Per-Ragnar Bergqvist, and Medicine Hat Tigers goaltender Cam Ondrik in the system. None of the latter goalies is a serious NHL prospect, however (although Little still has a core of supporters in Philadelphia who believe that he deserves a shot as an NHL backup).
A quick review follows to update the recent happenings with each of the four top candidates:
Brian Boucher (Flyers) Read more»
It is Time for the Flyers to Produce from Within
A HF’s look at the prospects in Philadelphia by John A. D’Amico
Losing in the first round of the NHL playoffs in consecutive years is bad enough. But doing it while spending enough money to dwarf the gross national product of a small European country makes it that much worse. Flyers GM Bobby Clarke has tried to build a winner by buying the priciest free agents that the sport had to offer. Unfortunately for Clarke, a bloated price tag does not assure success. And unfortunately for the Flyers season ticketholders, (after taking the gaspipe in back to back playoff years), all they have to show for their ticket buying dollar is a rather substantial price hike for their seats.
A concerted effort to build from within is now a priority for Clarke and it looks as though he does have some nice talent on the way up. This crop of prospects could be the best group that the Flyers have had stabled since the early eighties when Hextall, Tocchet, Zezel and Smith danced their way on to Broad Street to carry the team to two NHL Finals later in the decade.
Part 7: Euro Draft Statistical Breakdown
Times have certainly changed in the NHL over the last quarter century. It is now truly a global league. Locker rooms commonly feature players from seven different countries and there are a smattering of players from several other lands. European talent scouting has become more crucial than ever as the league has continued to expand and more and more European-born players have come to be selected in the early phases of the NHL draft. Today, many European fans follow the NHL with equal or greater passion than they do the leagues in their own country. NHL hockey has become a global entity. So have the Philadelphia Flyers, sometimes blazing trails at the forefront, sometimes being dragged kicking and screaming.
Appendix: European Flyers by the numbers
Through 1998-99, there have been 28 European-born players who have worn a Flyers uniform, not including players who dressed only in pre-season games, such as Toni Porkka and Vladislav Boulin. Here is a county-by country breakdown:
Czech Repubic [or Czech portion of former Czechoslovakia] (8)
Russia (7) Read more»
Part VI: The Return of Bob Clarke
On June 15, 1994, Bob Clarke left his post as GM of the Florida Panthers to return to Philadelphia and once again become the Flyers General Manager. After his firing by Jay Snider in the summer of 1990, Clarke had become GM of the Minnesota North Stars. Despite having some success in Minnesota, including a surprise trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, Clarke longed to return to Philadelphia. The Flyers also wanted him back in the fold, although not in a major decision making capacity. They hired him as their “Senior Vice President,” which turned out to be a largely ceremonial title, much to Clarke’s dismay. Farwell rarely came to Clarke for any important decisions. Even Clarke’s staunchest critics would admit that he is a man who is no more comfortable taking money for nothing than he is accepting what he deems lazy effort from a player. That was Clarke’s main rationale for leaving Philadelphia to take the Florida job. Read more»