Flyers European prospect 2008-09 review

By Joe Scanlon

Mario Kempe, RW – Rogle BK/Philadelphia Phantoms
6’0, 180 pounds
5th round, 122nd overall, 2007

After playing two seasons with the St. John’s Fog Devils of the QMJHL, Kempe returned to his native Sweden to play the 2008-09 campaign for Rogle BK. There he registered two goals and eight assists in 30 games while receiving limited playing time. He also had a -1 rating. After Rogle BK’s season came to an end, the speedy forward made his way back to North America. On March 25, Kempe signed an amateur tryout contract with the Philadelphia Phantoms. In five regular season games with the Phantoms, Kempe registered no points and two penalty minutes. Kempe remains a prospect who is extremely fast and possesses some untapped offensive potential.

Andrei Popov, RW – Chelyabinsk Traktor

6’0, 187 pounds
7th round, 205th overall, 2006

Playing for Chelyabinsk Traktor of the KHL, Popov scored four goals and five assists while accumulating 38 penalty minutes. His combination of size and talent sees him developing into a prototypical power forward. The talent is there for him to be able to contribute at the NHL level. His willingness to come to North America, however, remains to be seen. As long as he stays motivated, Popov will continue to be someone to keep an eye on.

Stefan Ruzicka, RW – Moscow Spartak
6’0, 200 pounds
3rd round, 81st overall, 2003

The Flyers still own Ruzicka’s rights, but his status is anything but certain. He does have a good amount of NHL experience, scoring 17 points in 55 games over parts of three seasons. Just as recently as two years ago, Ruzicka earned time on the Flyers top line along with Peter Forsberg and Simon Gagne. He played the 2008-09 season with Moscow Spartak of the KHL, registering 18 goals and 18 assists in 55 games with a +4 rating. His 36 points was good for second on the team, behind former Flyer Branko Radivojevic. Still at only 23 years old, there is plenty of time for Ruzicka to make his way back to North America and become an effective NHL player.

Denis Bodrov, D – Mytishchi Atlant

6’0, 185 pounds
2nd round, 55th overall, 2006

Playing in the KHL, Bodrov was traded on Nov. 25, 2008 from Tolyatti Lada to Mytishchi Atlant. He was reportedly dealt as a result of bad behavior. Despite this, the bruising defensive defenseman remains an intriguing prospect. In 45 games with both clubs, he scored two goals and 10 assists with 44 penalty minutes. Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren has called Bodrov NHL-ready in the past and there is a good chance we will see him in training camp this summer.

Joonas Lehtivuori, D – Ilves Tampere/Phantoms
6’0, 167 pounds
4th round, 101st overall, 2006

Lehtivuori signed a contract with the Phantoms after the conclusion of his season in Finland. The undersized yet talented defenseman scored four goals and eight assists in 44 games for Tampere, the team he has played his entire career for. While he will need some time to adjust to the North American game, Lehtivuori has the ability to turn some heads in training camp. If their current cap situation isn’t fixed by next season, the Flyers may be forced to use some younger and cheaper players to fill out the roster and Lehtivouri may just get his chance.

Joacim Eriksson, G – Brynas IF Gavle
6’1, 189 pounds
7th round, 196th overall, 2008

There is no shortage of talent with Eriksson. He possesses a pretty well-rounded game which makes you wonder why he slipped all the way to the seventh round in 2008. His numbers this season are solid, with a 1.99 goals against average and a .930 save percentage in Sweden. Rated the second best goaltender born in 1990 behind fellow countryman and teammate Jacob Markström, Eriksson’s combination of size and quick glove hand gives him a great advantage against opponents. Something the Flyers have lacked since Ron Hextall retired has been stability in net. Now, with both Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki’s futures up in the air, you have to think that somewhere along the way that the Flyers will give Eriksson a look in the near future.

Jakub Kovar, G – Ceske Budejovice HC

6’0, 176 pounds
4th round, 109th overall, 2006

Kovar made two starts for the Czech Republic in the 2008 World Junior Classic, going 1-0-1 with a 3.00 goals against average and a .833 save percentage. After splitting the 2007-08 season in the OHL with the Oshawa Generals and the Windsor Spitfires, Kovar returned home to the Czech Republic. Once considered an extremely great talent, the 20-year-old goaltender has seemingly slipped up a bit. In three games with SK Slavia Trebíc this season, Kovar has posted a 3.59 goals against average and .915 save percentage.