Flyers Minor League Report

By Bill Meltzer
The AHL and ECHL seasons are underway. Here are some updates on the whereabouts and first week performances of some of the Flyers more notable minor league players.

Tomas Divisek: Out with a separated shoulder. The latest word is that he will be out until midseason.

Francis Lessard: Recovering from a broken jaw; has lost a good deal of weight. Still not ready to return to the lineup.

Roman Cechmanek: The Philadelphia Phantoms are basically a waystation for Cechmanek. The Czech Extraleague and national team veteran was sent to the Phantoms because of the outstanding preseason play of Maxime Ouellet. He will remain in the AHL until the Flyers figure out what they are going to do with him– bring him up, trade him to another NHL team, or let him go home. He has nothing to prove in the American Hockey League, except perhaps that he can handle the small rink game. Cechmanek is scheduled to be paid $1 million this season- $300,000 of which have already been paid in a signing bonus. If the Flyers keep him all season, they are responsible for the full $1 million, even if Cechmanek were to agree to spend the year in the AHL. Cechmanek, however, is under no obligation to play for the Phantoms. His contract allows him to return to his Czech team, Vsetin, at any point (with Vsetin then becoming responsible for the balance of his salary).

Cechmanek has been dazzling in three starts for the Phantoms. In the first two games, the team played very loose defense in front of him and in both games, Cechmanek stole the show. Both times, he came within a minute of a shutout. In the season opener against Wilkes Barre/Scranton, Cechmanek turned back 36 of 37 shots. He outdid himself against Lowell. Facing an 46 shot barrage, Cechmanek helped the Phantoms cling to a 1-0 lead until the final minute of play. Unfortunately, with less than a half minute to play, Lowell cashed in on a rebound to force OT and then won the game 16 seconds into the extra period.

If Cechmanek is destined to be remembered in Philly for only one thing, it will be the way he makes saves with every part of his body, including his head. Cechmanek has amazed the North American fans with his willingness to intentionally use his mask to deflect the puck to safety.

In his third start, Chechmanek had another shutout bid going- this time against Albany. He turned back 14 of 14 shots, including a tough chance on a 5-on-3 disadvantage and a clean glove save on a point blank chance from Jiri Bicek. However, with 15 seconds left in the second period, a wild, out of control, brawl erupted with everyone on the ice (and what appeared to be at least Phantom from the bench) getting involved. Cechmanek was given a game misconduct, as was Albany goalie Frederic Henry.

Mikhail Chernov: He has already had some ups and downs in the newborn season. Chernov has not been awful defensively, but he still shows a tendency to get mesmerized by the puck and to leave his feet. Chernov is at his most effective when he uses his speed and hitting ability rather than sliding along the ice.

Phantoms coach John Stevens has been giving Chernov some powerplay time. One positive early sign with Chernov is that he is losing his hesitancy about firing the puck. Chernov has a cannon of a shot. Although he has yet to register a point on the young season, Chernov has a team high 10 shots on goal. Sooner or later, that will translate into points.

Chernov was finally rewarded with two points against the Albany River Rats on October 15. A hard Chernov shot from the blueline produced a rebound goal
for Derek Plante. Later, in OT, Chernov scored the game winner, to make the Phantoms 2-1 victors.

Jason Beckett: Lots of hockey sense for a young defenseman. He already looks like he belongs in the AHL. The low-scoring back even has a pair of assists in the three games so far. More importantly, he usually seems to be in the right place at the right time. In particular, he has shown an adeptness at keeping opposing forwards away from rebounds.

Vaclav Pletka: Pletka was a non-factor in the first two games of the season. Pletka has to score to be effective and he was not nearly involved enough in the play. That has to change. The Phantoms are not the offensive powerhouse they were a few years ago and Pletka’s offense will be needed. Pletka is currently out with an injury.

Ruslan Fedotenko: Has been somewhat more involved than Pletka but still not enough to make a difference. Pointless in four games to date. Coming off his excellent rookie second half, Fedotenko is expected to take on increased offensive responsibilities for the Phantoms this season. Fedotenko failed to score against Albany but seemed to be close to breaking out of his early season slump.

Kirby Law: The power forward seems to be developing into a favorite of Coach Stevens. He has played a gritty style of hockey that will likely make him a popular player in the Spectrum over the course of his first full season in Philly.

Law was one of many Phantoms involved in the melee against Albany, taking on several different River Rat players. He didn’t return in the third period, so I assume he was one of the players thrown out of the game.

Dan Peters: His skating comes as advertized. Very smooth. Should get more involved in the Phantoms offensive flow as he gets more comfortable with the transition from the college to the pro game.

Bruno St. Jacques: Played his first game of the season against Lowell. He had a couple of giveaways against Lowell- one forced, one unforced- but was otherwise solid. He is very smooth on his skates and showed a good deal of poise in his brief AHL time at the end of last season. Missed the Saturday and Sunday games, with a recurrance of an apparent groin pull that kept him out at the start of the season. St.Jacques should be playing again soon.

Todd Fedoruk: Bang-and-crash is the name of the game with Fedoruk. I think he is about to become the type of player upon whom Phantoms can rely on to draw some energy. Over the long haul, I don’t think there is room for the Phantoms to carry Fedoruk, Francis Belanger and Jesse Boulerice on the roster.

Fedoruk appeared to have come off the bench to join in the wild melee that erupted at the end of the second period against Albany. It was hard to tell who was who with all the bodies flying around and so many fights going on at the same time; the Phantoms P.A. announcer did not even give the penalties after they were sorted out, saying that there were so many penalties assessed, it would be “virtually impossible” to read them all. Fedoruk was not on the bench in the third period, so he was definitely thrown out of the game. If he did, in fact, come off the bench to enter the brawl, he’s looking at a suspension.

Francis Belanger: Has started 3 of 4 games for the Phantoms, scoring a goal to go along with 18 PIM. He still has the same old bugaboos- undisciplined play and lack of defensive intensity. Sat out a one game suspension and returned against Albany, collecting an assist after jabbing the rebound of a Mikhail Chernov
shot away from goalie Henry.

Jesse Boulerice: Has played smarter and more consistently than Belanger, particularly along the boards. But Boulerice still always seems to be a fraction of a section too late in making the play he wants to make.

Boulerice won a toe-to-toe bout that erupted during the Phantoms-River Rats brawl. He did not return for the third period, so he was probably given a game misconduct.

Joe DiPenta: Struggled with turnovers and coverage mixups in the first couple games of his AHL rookie season before rebounding with a strong game against Albany.

Sergei Skrobot: Started the season with the Phantoms
but has been returned to Trenton of the ECHL. Recorded an assist and a minor penalty in the Titans 8-0 opening night win.

Ian Forbes: The towering defenseman picked up 7 PIMs and was a plus one on the evening in his pro debut for Trenton.