Flyers 2009 draft preview

By Mike Farkas

Top 10 Prospects

1. James vanRiemsdyk, LW
2. Claude Giroux, RW
3. Luca Sbisa, D
4. Kevin Marshall, D
5. Ryan Parent, D
6. Andreas Nodl, RW
7. Michael Ratchuk, D
8. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D
9. Denis Bodrov, D
10. Jonathan Matsumoto, C

Team Needs

The Philadelphia Flyers biggest hole remains between the pipes.  Pending unrestricted free agents Martin Biron and Antero Niittymaki didn’t play the consistent brand of hockey that the Flyers were looking for in 2008-09.  So much so that it appears both of them will be paging through the NHL’s classified ads on July 1.  The Flyers have already signed goalies Ray Emery and Johan Backlund.  GM Paul Holmgren finds himself once again placing bets on some against-the-odds horses. 

The Flyers could stand to add another top-notch defenseman to the mix and seem likely to pursue one throughout the offseason.  After Kimmo Timonen and Braydon Coburn (who had something of an average season himself), the quality drops off considerably.  Luckily for Philadelphia, the defensive cupboard is far from empty.  Ryan Parent and Luca Sbisa will be able to take on more minutes next season and will alleviate any hand-forcing moves from management.  The speed of the blueliners as a whole could stand to improve, however.

Organizational Strengths

The organization has future stars at forward such as Claude Giroux and James vanRiemsdyk. Following them is Andreas Nodl and Patrick Maroon who both possess second-line potential.  

The Flyers pipeline is deep at future depth defensemen.  Sbisa and Parent have already shown that they’re as ready to go as anyone at the next level.  In addition, Kevin Marshall, Michael Ratchuk and Marc-Andre Bourdon have had their stocks consistently on the rise. 

Organizational Weaknesses

In the system, the Flyers lack NHL-caliber centermen.  Jonathan Matsumoto is the only pivot in the Flyers top 20, and it’s not entirely likely that he becomes a fixture on the NHL stage. 

The goaltending pipeline isn’t any more promising than the on-ice product.  Out of the three primary goaltending prospects in the system (Jakub Kovar, Jabob DeSerres and Joacim Eriksson) only Eriksson has really started to separate himself from the pack.  Eriksson was one of the best goalies in Sweden’s J20 SuperElit League and led Brynas J20 to a championship this season.  The Flyers need to continue to draft goalies until a future franchise netminder is found.

Despite Bourdon’s progression this past season, the Flyers are lacking a top-tier future power play quarterback.  Bourdon may be able to evolve into that role down the road, but he may lack the high-end talent needed. 

Draft Tendencies

The Flyers are best known for drafting for size.  However, they don’t draft exclusively for it (see Claude Giroux).  They do like to grab their share of gritty, hard-nosed players at both forward and defense.  The Flyers have had a pretty remarkable number of forwards evolve to become impact players at the next level in the past five to ten years. 

Conversely, the Flyers have missed on a lot of goaltenders.  Since 1996, the Flyers have drafted 18 goaltenders (not including the 29-year-old Roman Cechmanek as his development was already complete) that have played a combined 186 games – 161 of which belong to Niittymaki.

Holmgren may have an eye for getting decent defensive talent later in the draft and off the scrap heap (Bourdon as an example for the former, Danny Syvret for the latter). 

The Flyers generally take the best player available and lean towards netminders in the later rounds.  There’s a small sample size under Holmgren, but he appears to look favorably upon Canadian major junior talent. 

Philadelphia will be equipped for sure with the 21st, 87th, 141st, 152nd, 171st and 195th picks, but after that it becomes a little less clear.  Depending on whether the Flyers re-sign Andrew Alberts will dictate whether they also own 81st or 112th.  Also, depending on the conditions of the Jussi Timonen trade from December of 2007, the Flyers may also have 188th (it seems unlikely that Timonen would have triggered any conditions though). 

Hockey’s Future mock draft result at No. 21: Chris Kreider, LW.  Kreider fits with the big-bodied profile of the Flyers.