Flyers 2010 draft preview

By Chris Shafer

Top 10 prospects

1. Joacim Eriksson, G
2. Kevin Marshall, D
3. Marc-Andre Bourdon, D
4. Patrick Maroon, LW
5. Oskars Bartulis, D
6. Andreas Nodl, RW
7. Stefan Legein, RW
8. Joonas Lehtivuori, D
9. Eric Wellwood, LW
10. David Laliberte, RW

The Flyers lost their 2010 first-round selection (29th overall) in the deal for defenseman Chris Pronger along with defensive prospect Luca Sbisa, winger Joffrey Lupul, a 2009 first -round selection that was eventually used by Columbus to select John Moore with the 21st selection, and a conditional pick. If the mass exodus in futures to Anaheim was not enough, the Flyers also forfeited their 2010 second-round selection (59th overall) when they paid the Los Angeles Kings to take Denis Gauthier.

As it stands right now, this year could be the second straight draft in which the Flyers do not select a player until the third round. They are the last team to have a first selection in the 2010 Draft, and that pick comes around at 89th overall, the second to last pick in the third round.

Team Needs

There is only one pressing matter for the Flyers to address this offseason, and that is goaltending. All other matters come behind it.

As impressive as Michael Leighton was coming off waivers to lead the playoff charge for the Flyers, he struggled against a team that could find the back of the net often. Brian Boucher, despite his impressive efforts, also would not have been able to hold back a talented offense even with Philadelphia’s smothering defense.

Ray Emery, who the Flyers signed out of the KHL last offseason as a former Eastern Conference Champion, may be out of commission permanently due to avascular necrosis, a rare disease that is slowly deteriorating the bones in his hip. His career may be over.

It is now up to General Manager Paul Holmgren to attack the problem. They have already signed the 21-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky, who impressed for a number of years at the KHL level despite his poor team. The Flyers also re-signed veteran Johan Backlund in the hopes that he is a late bloomer.

Meanwhile, prospect Joacim Eriksson is ready for some heavier SEL duty next season, and some other goaltending prospects continue to impress. Jacob De Serres and Nicola Riopel both had strong seasons in their respective junior leagues despite uneasy performances in the 2010 Memorial Cup.

Even though the Flyers goaltending pool, a traditionally weak front in their prospect depth, is starting to show signs of life for the first time in a while, a trade should not be ruled out.

Organizational Strengths

The Flyers have a very deep defense and very deep offense both on their NHL roster and among their prospect pool.

Though there are not any bluechips currently left among their prospects, recent graduates such as former second overall selection James vanRiemsdyk, stand-out QMJHL star Claude Giroux, shut-down defenseman Ryan Parent, and Detroit’s former rookie-of-the-year hopeful Ville Leino are all keeping the Flyers a young, well-oiled machine.

There are also other skaters in the prospect pool who could make good complimentary players at the NHL level even if they do not have the potential to be become stars. Forwards Patrick Maroon, Andreas Nodl, Stefan Legein, Eric Wellwood, and recent free-agent signing Mike Testwuide offer a variety of different skill-sets that could be of use to the Flyers in the near future. On the blueline, prospects like Kevin Marshall, Oskars Bartulis, Joonas Lehtivuori, Marc-Andre Bourdon, and recent free-agent signing Erik Gustafsson also bring a wide range of different abilities to the table.

Even without the bluechip prospects who have either graduated or been traded to fill out the NHL roster with other players, in the case of Steve Downie and Luca Sbisa, the Flyers have a number of solid players to draw from.

Organizational Weaknesses

The biggest weakness in the prospect pool is a lack of star power. With all of their bluechips either traded or graduated, the Flyers will need to get onto replenishing their pool fairly quickly in order to keep competitive in the salary cap era.

The problem with that is their lack of high selections in recent drafts. Without one this year, they will have given up their first-round selection five times out of the seven drafts going back to 2004. Even though the organization has taken measures to counter this glaring problem, they will only work for so long.

Holmgren took action in a particularly strong way this season by signing prospects like center Luke Pither, winger Mike Testwuide, defenseman Erik Gustafsson, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky. All four players have considerable talent and only add to the depth in the prospect pool.

Despite these signings and quite a few others, the holes remain. The Flyers will need to start drafting replacements on the wing as some of their forwards age as well as on the blueline as all-stars Chris Pronger and Kimmo Timonen march into their mid-30’s. A lot of decent players cannot make up for the holes left by stars.

Draft Tendencies

The Flyers will normally draft the best player available, but they have a particular success at drafting forwards. They look for certain qualities, not the least of which are strong leadership, work ethic, and accountability, when they are making their selections.

Through the 90’s, when goaltending was a particular problem, they often drafted a goalie in the early rounds who did not pan out the way they had hoped, so they tend to keep to skaters in the first couple of rounds now.

This year the Flyers are armed with only five picks, all of which are their own and all are in the later rounds. Last year, with their first selection also coming in the third round, they picked up goaltender Adam Morrison before taking defenseman Simon Bertilsson later in the round.

It could be a forward-heavy class for the Flyers. Their lack of a bluechip prospect will remain until they get the opportunity to take players in the higher rounds.