One Big Step Forward

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When you look at the list of prospects in the Philadelphia Flyers system, it is hard to miss the long list of potential future NHL defensemen. That old axiom “there is strength in numbers” may very well describe the situation as far as youngsters climbing the depth charts in Philadelphia is concerned. As detailed in an earlier edition of Hockey’s Future, the Flyers have a big stable of defensemen that would turn any NHL general manager green with envy. So with all of these young blueliners about to make the jump up to the bigs, why is the only name that anybody in the hockey world talks about when they speak of the Flyers’ prospects is that of a forward?

Two words.

Simon Gagne.

Not only is that the name of the hottest prospect to be drafted by the Flyers since Russ Farwell made a reach and tabbed a quiet kid named Peter Forsberg as his top choice in 1991, but it is also basically the complete list of NHL-caliber forward prospects in the Flyers’ coffers. There are a few names like Wesenberg and Fedoruk that may have what it takes to crack the NHL roster but this update on the Flyers forward prospects was so close to being entitled “The Simon Gagne Report” because Gagne is buffered from the other forwards on the prospect chart by a herd of defensemen.
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Dallas Stars Update

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The following article includes an updated top 15 list,
an evaluation of the
system’s strengths and weaknesses, and my grades for
each player
position.

Updated Top 15

1. Brenden Morrow-LW Had a great year with Potland. The
classic
Dallas type forward, and has good skill and speed to go along with his
great
leadership qualities. With this combination of talents Brenden is the
most
intriguing Dallas prospect, and is the eventual coveted 2nd line
left-winger
of the future. I love this guy!!!!

2. Richard Jackman-D Richard is very talented, and had a good
year
with the K-Wings. Still needs to mature a little more, but he’s on his
way to
the NHL soon, maybe even during the upcoming season.

3. Marty Turco-G Is the second most talented
prospect
behind only Jackman, but Marty has the intangibles of a winner to go
with
that. Will probably receive more seasoning in the minors next year, and
could
be the heir apparent in Dallas when Belfour is replaced. Was just named
as
the IHL Rookie of the Year, great job Marty!

4. Brad Lukowich-D Has probably played his way into
a
permanent position with the big club. Shows excellent poise and decision
making in his own zone, and displays a solid array of skills. He is not
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Like Father, Like Son

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Born: August 31, 1975
Hometown: Denver, Colorado
Position: Goaltender
Number: 47
Height: 6’2”
Weight: 210 lbs

By now, John Grahame is tired of being reminded of the fact that he is linked to one of the greatest players in Boston Bruins history, the incomparable Raymond Bourque. John’s father, Ron, played 40 games in goal for Boston before getting traded to the Los Angeles Kings for their 1979 first round draft choice. Bruin GM Harry Sinden selected Bourque who, 20 years later, is still playing all-star hockey in the National Hockey League. Ron Grahame played a few forgettable seasons with the Kings and Quebec Nordiques before retiring in 1981.

John hopes that he and his father can become the answer to a future trivia question: who is the only father-son combination to play goal for the Boston Bruins? Based on John’s performance with Boston’s top affiliate Providence of the American Hockey League over two seasons, his NHL debut seems imminent. In two years at the minor pro level, Grahame has established himself as a dependable stopper, capable of making important saves when called upon. At the age of 23, his future looks promising despite the Bruins’ 30 years of draft futility at the goaltender position.
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Sharks rookies in 1999-00

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For the last few years, the Sharks have consistently been ranked in the NHL’s top 10 in regards to team prospects. Given this, it is not at all surprising that for the last couple years, the Sharks have had several rookies playing for the team. In 97-98, it was the trio of Andrei Zyuzin, Marco Sturm, and Patrick Marleau. This year, it was Alexander Korolyuk and Andy Sutton who were the main rookie forces. Neither were ever touted nearly as much as the other three, but they were effective none the less. (Scott Hannan and Shawn Heins both played in 5 games, but saw only limited time and will still be considered rookies next year). Then the question is set to ask what new, young faces can you expect to see next year?

The answer at this point isn’t quite so clear given how early it is regarding free agent signings. Also, given the Sharks logjam at defense, someone will eventually be left in the cold. Conceivably, as many as six rookies who could possibly play for the Sharks next year. The two most obvious names are defensemen Brad Stuart and Scott Hannan. In addition to those two, there is defenseman Shawn Heins, right wing Matt Bradley, center Mark Smith, and goaltender John Nabokov. Barring serious injury problems, no more than two of these men will open the year with the Sharks. The only way it would be three is if John Nabokov is presented with one of the situations mentioned below.

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Montreal Canadiens Prospect Focus: Michael Ryder

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POS HT WT AGE DRAFTED
Michael Ryder C 6-0 180 19 D-Mtl98 (8/216)

GP G A PTS +/- PIM PP SH
98-99 Stats 69 44 43 87 +4 65 15 4
98-99 Playoff 23 20 16 36 +6 39 7 4
(QMJHL)

#1 Strength- Vision and creativity.
#1 Weakness- Size.
With a strong regular season and an impressive playoff performance, Michael Ryder has developed into the biggest surprise of the Canadiens’ 1998 draft choices. Chosen in the 8th round, 216th overall, Ryder has great skating ability with quick acceleration. Although he can beat opposing defensemen on the outside, his greatest asset is his instinctive scoring ability.

Born in St.John’s Newfoundland, Ryder is a 6’0″, 180 Lbs. Center with the Hull Olympiques. Drafted by Hull in the 1997 QMJHL midget draft, Ryder went on to finish 5th among the QMJHL’s rookie scorers in 1997-98.

Ryder was not seen as one of the Habs’ top prospects until his performance in this year’s playoffs. His 98-99 regular season totals were strong but not impressive. He scored 11 more goals than the Habs’ 2nd pick in the 1997 entry draft, Gregor Baumgartner, and equaled the Habs’ 1st pick in the 1998 entry draft, Eric Chouinard, in PPG’s with 15. Ironically, the only negative from the regular season was his a weak plus/minus of +4.
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