Joacim Eriksson new top prospect for Philadephia Flyers

By Chris Shafer
Photo: Goaltender Joacim Eriksson tops a prospect pool deep on goaltenders and depth players. (Photo courtesy of

It seemed only a short time ago that the Flyers’ prospect pool was among the youngest and the brightest in the NHL. The top 20 results for Fall 2010 is the difference that only a year can make in the continuous effort to keep an organization retooled.

Claude Giroux, James vanRiemsdyk, and the recently acquired Ville Leino have all graduated. Steve Downie (TB), Luca Sbisa (ANH), and Ryan Parent (NAS) have all been traded away. Gone with them are numerous first and second round draft selections that helped bring the Flyers to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2010 and will likely keep them among the upper echelon of NHL organizations for at least the immediate future. Moving draft picks for instant success though is a double-edged sword.

General Manager Paul Holmgren has gone into complete stop-gap mode without high draft picks to fall back on until 2011. He welcomed goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky, defenseman Erik Gustafsson, and forwards Mike Testwuide and Luke Pither among others to the organization with entry-level contracts throughout the early portion of 2010.

While his efforts may not have been completely wasted as many of those signings appear on and balance out the prospect depth throughout the Flyers’ top 20, there needs to be a substantial effort made in the near future to retain some high draft picks in order to get more blue-chips flowing through the organization.

1. (2) Joacim Eriksson, G, 7.5C
2. (NR) Sergei Bobrovsky, G, 7.5C
3. (4) Kevin Marshall, D, 7.0C
4. (6) Patrick Maroon, LW, 7.0C
5. (10) Joonas Lehtivuori, D, 7.0C
6. (8) Andreas Nodl, RW, 6.5B
7. (7) Oskars Bartulis, D, 6.5B
8. (11) Eric Wellwood, LW, 7.0C
9. (5) Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 7.0D
10. (9) Stefan Legein, RW, 7.0D
11. (NR) Erik Gustafsson, D, 7.0D
12. (NR) Mike Testwuide, RW, 6.5B
13. (14) Simon Bertilsson, D, 6.5C
14. (15) Luke Pither, C, 7.0D
15. (NR) Michael Chaput, C, 6.5C
16. (19) Nicola Riopel, G, 6.5C
17. (16) Adam Morrison, G, 6.5C
18. (18) Andrei Popov, RW, 7.0D
19. (17) Dave Labrecque, C, 7.0D
20. (20) Jon Kalinski, C, 5.5A

1. (2) Joacim Eriksson, G, 20

Drafted 7th Round, 196th Overall, 2008

It has been a long trip from the seventh round in 2008 to the very top of the Flyers’ prospect pool. In 2008-09, Eriksson dominated the Swedish Junior league with a 1.99 goals against average and a .930 save percentage. In the following year, he played with Leksand of the Allsvenskan and quickly became one of the league’s top goalies with a 2.40 goals against average and a .926 save percentage. His eight shutouts tied a club record set by former NHLer Ed Belfour, and he was only three away from a new league record.

Now Eriksson is taking his turn in the SEL with Skellefteå. Though there was discussion about him possibly turning to North America, the Flyers’ organization decided it was in his best interest to play at least one season in Sweden‘s highest level of competition.

2. (NR) Sergei Bobrovsky, G, 21
Signed as a Free Agent, 2010

This offseason, Bobrovsky was one of three sought after goalie free-agent prospects available on the market. The Flyers, in need of a boost to their prospect pool, managed to land him, and they are expecting big things from him almost immediately. For now he is slated to split time in Adirondack with Johan Backlund in order to get accustomed to the North American game.

Bobrovsky already has a wealth of experience at high levels of competition to pull from. He has been a regular in Russia‘s highest league from the age of 19, even before it reformed into the KHL, and though he was on one of the weaker teams every season, it has not hurt his numbers. As a starter in both 2008-09 and 2009-10 for Metallurg Novokuznetsk, he played 67 games posting a 2.61 goals-against average and a .923 save percentage.

3. (4) Kevin Marshall, D, 21
Drafted 2nd Round, 41st Overall, 2007

It took a while for the now 21-year-old Marshall to adjust to the size and toughness of the professional game. Fresh out of the QMJHL where he was able to physically impose himself on weaker opponents, he was not adjusted to compete in the AHL. It took the shut-down defenseman less than a year to figure things out, and by the end of the Phantoms’ disappointing season, he was able to compete with the bigger, more mature forwards of the league.

In 75 games, he scored only two goals and added another seven assists, but Marshall’s game is not suited for providing offense. He does not have the tools to move the puck effectively or generate scoring from the blueline. What he brings to the table instead is positioning, stick-work, physicality, and a mental toughness. For now, the Flyers will be patient with him since their defense at the NHL level is already packed from t
op to bottom.

4. (6) Patrick Maroon, LW, 22
Drafted 6th Round, 161st Overall, 2007

Maroon came into the 2009-10 season expected to make an impact on the NHL roster. Instead, an injury sidelined him for most of training camp as he watched his power-forward teammate, James vanRiemsdyk, slip ahead of him into NHL success. That was just the start of Maroon’s troubles though, as the injury hurt his production in the early season. The Phantoms were hurting for offense, and Maroon’s problems were not helping.

After a mid-season injury sidelined him for a bit, he came back well-rested and ready to compete. From there his season picked up, but it was not enough to help the Phantoms, who looked poised to miss the playoffs. In 67 games, Maroon notched 11 goals while adding another 33 assists. His pacing was roughly the same as his rookie pro year in 2008-09, but his goal totals were significantly down. With the Flyers’ roster looking set, Maroon may get a look during the season for call-up duty.

5. (8) Andreas Nodl, RW, 23
Drafted 2nd Round, 39th Overall, 2006

In the 2009-10 season, Nodl earned more call-up duty when injuries struck the Flyers’ roster and even got a chance to step into a playoff setting for 10 games while Carter and Gagne were sidelined. Even then, Nodl was not the player many were hoping he’d be by now when he made the Flyers’ roster out of camp at the onset of 2008-09. The offense that he generated over the course of two seasons at St. Cloud State has yet to materialize in a professional setting. Nodl’s 14 goals and 20 assists this year in 65 games for the Phantoms are not a terrible start, but his ability to generate offense has been lackluster at best.

Instead of offense, Nodl has found another niche to occupy his skill-set. While with the Flyers’ organization, he has gotten much stronger along the boards in a forechecking role as well as defensively on the backcheck. Both are very good signs that Nodl could earn more call-ups in 2010-11 if he cannot find a roster spot by the end of camp.

6. (7) Oskars Bartulis, D, 23
Drafted 3rd Round, 91st Overall, 2005

It was a great year for Bartulis who not only managed to find himself as an NHL regular on the blue line but also skated for Team Latvia at the Olympics. For his efforts, Bartulis was given a three-year contract extension even though even though the Flyers brought in veteran help on the blue line this off-season.

Despite his calm play and solid puck-moving during the regular season, against stronger competition in the playoffs Bartulis found himself a little out of place. He only played in seven postseason games as the organization opted for different choices on a bottom pairing that saw very little action in general. Even so, eight assists for nine points in 53 games is not a bad first trip to the NHL. Bartulis will look to build on that, though he is still unsure of how he will be utilized this upcoming season.

7. (10) Joonas Lehtivuori, D, 22
Drafted 4th Round, 101st Overall, 2006

Lehtivuori finally decided to venture over to North America this past season, and everyone took notice. He quickly became the leader of a blue line in Adirondack that needed some drastic help. In 66 games, he scored 5 goals and added another 18 assists, but that was not the most important thing he brought to the Phantoms. His calm, collected presence and his ability to generate the rush was instrumental to most good things that happened for the Phantoms in a down year.

At the age of 21, he became the biggest bright spot for the Phantoms, but with a filled up blue line on the NHL, it may be a bit before Lehtivuori gets a shot.

8. (11) Eric Wellwood, LW, 20
Drafted 6th Round, 172nd Overall, 2009

After back-to-back Memorial Cup Championships, there is not all that much for the 20-year-old Wellwood to accomplish in Canadian juniors. With his speed, forechecking, and defensive prowess, he quickly became one of the standout defensive forwards in the OHL. Now he has some offensive potential to add to his resume. In 65 regular season games with the Windsor Spitfires, he scored 31 goals and added 37 assists for 68 points, which doubles his 2008-09 total of 34 points.

Despite the amount of talent on the Spitfires roster, Wellwood remained one of their key forwards. He accomplished most of his offensive surge with limited powerplay time as well as plenty of time killing penalties. For now, his next stop is the Adirondack Phantoms who are currently going through a youth movement. Wellwood’s talents will fit right in as the team try to rebound from a poor year.

9. (5) Marc-Andre Bourdon, D, 20
Drafted 3rd Round, 67th Overall, 2008

Like his former QMJHL competition Kevin Marshall, Bourdon got off to a slow start with the Phantoms, but unlike Marshall, he took longer to rebound. He found that his physical play was not as relevant as before, and his skating issues ended up getting him into more trouble. His offensive game began to take form as the season progressed, but he was not the same prolific offensive weapon that earned him the title of QMJHL Defenseman of the Year just the season before.

In 61 games, he did manage 17 assists which put him at 19 points for the year. He was the first to earn a call-up to the Flyers’ squad when there were injuries at the start of the year on the blueline even though he never played a game. By the end of the season, when his game began to adjust itself more to the AHL, he started to pick up the pace, and the Phantoms are looking for a much better showing from him next season.

10. (9) Stefan Legein, RW, 21
Acquired via trade with Columbus Blue Jackets, 2009

It was not all that long ago that Legein unexpectedly retired from hockey. Now with a different organization and a full year of hockey behind him once again, it is almost as if that incident never occurred. The speedy agitator arrived in Adirondack at the perfect time to give the Phantoms a much needed offensive boost. He was not enough to help the team to a playoff push, but in 71 games, his 24 goals and 10 assists may have been a sign that better things are on the way.

Now that the hardest part of Legein’s return to hockey is behind him, the organization is expecting him to develop a little more. The 21-year-old is hoping to bring more swagger as well as a jolt to a youth movement in Adirondack for 2010-11.

11. (NR) Erik Gustafsson, D, 21
Signed as a Free Agent, 2010

Gustafsson’s professional career started with a bang. In just five games with the Phantoms to close out the 2009-10 season, he notched two goals and five assists for seven points. It was exactly the offensive sur
ge the Phantoms wanted to see from their young core of blueliners all season, but it came too late to be of much use.

Next year, he will be looking to continue the success of his first five games with the Phantoms, and he certainly has the tools to provide that kind of support. In three seasons at Northern Michigan University, Gustafsson earned 93 points in 123 games. His vision, puck-moving, and ability to work the point will be invaluable to a young team looking to rebound next season.

12. (NR) Mike Testwuide, RW, 23
Signed as a Free Agent, 2010

It was a break-out year for Testwuide, who struggled for a number of his four seasons at Colorado College. In 36 games, he netted 21 goals while adding 10 assists to his total. The 23-year-old free agent will not blow anyone away offensively, but his totals were not the reason for the attention he garnered on the open market this year. The 6’3 power-forward has a distinct nose for the net, can play a heavy forecheck, and is defensively responsible.

If Testwuide does not earn a role in a complimentary position on the Flyers’ offense this season, he will bring another power-forward edge on the outside for the Phantoms.

13. (14) Simon Bertilsson, D, 19
Drafted 3rd Round, 87th Overall, 2009

After a disappointing year where injuries cut short his first full SEL season and also forced him to watch the World Junior Championships from home, Bertilsson is ready for another try in 2009-10. The physical and mobile two-way defenseman will suit up for Brynäs for the third straight year in hopes of improving on his goal and three assists in 32 games last season.

The Flyers are keeping a close eye on Bertilsson’s progression overseas even though both their NHL blue line and defensive prospect core are deep.

14. (15) Luke Pither, C, 21
Signed as a free agent, 2010

By now, most have heard of Taylor Hall and Tyler Seguin, who went one and two in the 2010 NHL draft as the two leading scorers of the OHL in 2009-10. Far less know about Luke Pither who, after years playing in a role which held back his offensive talents in Guelph, finally managed to breakout in his final year and a half in the OHL. First after being traded to the Belleville Bulls in 2008-09 and then with the Barrie Colts, Pither scored 55 goals and added 81 assists for an incredible 136 points in 90 games. He scored another 39 points in 34 postseason games.

The Flyers are hoping that Pither can correct some of his defensive problems in the AHL. For now, his biggest job is to provide a strong offensive boost to the Phantoms, who struggled to score goals in 2009-10.

15. (NR) Michael Chaput, C, 18
Drafted 3rd Round, 89th Overall, 2010

When you realize that Chaput is a forward in the high-scoring QMJHL, the numbers from his breakout year with the Lewiston MAINEiacs have a little less pop to them. He is still a strong two-way player who managed to finish second in scoring in Lewiston as a 17-year-old. His strong skating and decent size make him a balanced forward, and he can certainly win his fair share of faceoffs.

He knows how to generate offense by crashing the net, but he will need work on his forechecking. His 28 goals and 27 assists in 68 games through the 2009-10 season shows he can put it all together offensively. However, he is not the best along the boards, and the Flyers’ system thrives on forechecking. For now, he will return to Lewiston to continue his development.

16. (19) Nicola Riopel, G, 21
Drafted 5th Round, 142nd Overall, 2009

A 2.05 goals-against-average, .930 save percentage season sounds pretty impressive, but Riopel, with his 2009-10 campaign, showed just how hard it was going to be to ever surpass it. He set that QMJHL record in 59 games through the 2008-09 season with the Moncton Wildcats. When the Phantoms sent him back for a bigger workload in the QMJHL midway through the 2009-10 season, he came close with a 2.06 GAA and a .918 save percentage. In the playoffs, he set a 2.14 GAA and a .930 save percentage in 21 games on the way to a QMJHL championship.

Even though his numbers suffered significantly in the Memorial Cup before he was sidelined with an illness for Moncton’s last game, Riopel managed to put together an impressive year in the QMJHL that actually started poorly in Adirondack for his first 10 professional starts. Now, with even more depth between the pipes in Adirondack, Riopel could see mainly ECHL action for 2010-11.

17. (16) Adam Morrison, G, 19
Drafted 3rd Round, 81st Overall, 2009

The Flyers’ organization was expecting much better things out of Morrison in 2009-10. What they certainly did not expect was for Morrison to start off strong and then implode after a few months before losing his starting role. With 36 games played, the talented breakout hopeful fell from the upper echelon among goalies in the WHL to the bottom rung finishing with a 3.29 goals-against-average and a .895 save percentage.

At this point, Morrison is a work in progress. He has a lot to prove in 2010-11. His first goal, before anything else, has to be to win back his starter’s job in Saskatoon. After that, he can worry about his status within the Flyers’ organization.

18. (18) Andrei Popov, RW, 22
Drafted 7th Round, 205th Overall, 2006

When Popov signed a contract to stay in the KHL this offseason, he left the Flyers’ organization disappointed as they were hoping to bring him right into a revamped Phantoms’ roster. The talented forward started on a huge breakout season in the KHL, scoring 15 goals for 26 points in 50 games. He was among the league-leaders in offense until an injury sidelined him short-term. After returning, he could not find his impressive offensive output again.

The Flyers will keep an eye on his progress in the KHL for the time being. There are those that thought Popov’s trip to North America was all but assured this offseason, but for now, the Flyers can only wait. He still possesses all of the skills to be a solid complimentary forward in the NHL as soon as he gets accustomed to North America.

19. (17) Dave Labrecque, C, 20
Drafted 6th Round, 153rd Overall, 2009

Labrecque failed to make the final push offensively with the Cataractes in 2009-10. Though his production was almost as good as his prior season which earned him a selection by Philadelphia in the sixth round of 2009, the Flyers’ were hopin
g that he would pull out an eye-popping offensive display with a larger roll. In 63 games, he did increase his goals output by 10 to 23, which is certainly a good sign for a prospect pool that could use a little more offensive kick.

The Phantoms’ roster seems almost set, and Labrecque has yet to receive a contract. His future is uncertain, but the Flyers retain his rights for now. He could be returning to the QMJHL for one more season.

20. (20) Jon Kalinski, C, 23

Drafted 6th Round, 152nd Overall, 2007

While the Flyers’ were grooming Kalinski to be a fourth line center, they extended veteran center Blair Betts to a longer term, meaning Kalinski may have been put on the back-burner. He has the versatility to play any forward position, but the Flyers seem to be locked up in the bottom six, where Kalinski would fit in. He did once again get a call-up for 10 more games at the NHL level, registering a pair of assists to go along with the two assists and a goal from his 12 game stint in 2008-09.

His offense has even progressed substantially at the AHL level with 10 goals and 18 assists in 69 games. Though he does not possess the offensive talents to become a steady top nine forward, he has been working at faceoffs to go along with his defensive abilities and forechecking.