Philadelphia Flyers 2001 Entry Draft Review and Analysis

By Bill Meltzer

1st Round (#23 overall): Pick traded to Ottawa for #27 overall pick, #225 overall pick, and Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2002 2nd round pick.

1st Round (#27 overall)
Player: Jeff Woywitka
Position: Defenseman
Birthdate: September 1, 1983
Height: 6-2
Weight: 197
2000-2001 team: Red Deer Rebels (WHL)
Rankings: (#13 North American by CSB, #15 overall by THN)
2000-2001 stats: 72 GP, 7 G, 28 A, 35 PTS, 113 PIM, +45

The Flyers originally had the 23rd pick of the draft. After the Sabres drafted Jiri Novotny with the 22nd pick, Philadelphia, a team that came into the draft looking to dip into a highly-regarded pool of defensemen, found themselves in an enviable position. Most of the top-end defensemen were still on the board, including Tim Gleason, Lukas Krajicek, Jeff Woywitka, Mark Popovic, and Fedor Tyutin.

A few eyebrows were raised when the Flyers decided to trade down four spots, swapping the 23rd pick to Ottawa in exchange for the 27th pick and two other picks (#235 and the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 2nd round pick in 2002). Did they know the player they wanted would be there at 27? In a way, they did. According to GM Bob Clarke, they had three players (almost certainly Gleason, Krakicek, and Woywitka) ranked about equally. Although he’d never say so, Clarke almost certainly had an inkling which way the Dallas Stars were leaning at #27. Clarke knows and trusts Stars GM Bob Gainey and one can be reasonably certain that, without tipping his hand too much,Gainey gave assurances that unless the Flyers three preferred players went 23rd, 24th, and 25th, at least one of them would still be there after Dallas chose. It was also fairly logical to suspect that Montreal, with the 24th pick, would look to go for a forward, since they had drafted a defenseman (Mike Komisarek) earlier in the first round and top-ranked goalies Dan Blackburn and Pascal LeClaire were already off the board.

Now in possession of the 23rd pick, Ottawa nabbed Gleason. Krajicek went next to Florida at 24th. When Alexander Perezhogin went to Montreal and goaltender Jason Bacashiihua was taken by Dallas, Woywitka remained on the board for the Flyers taking.

In the long term, Woywitka’s name may be linked to players selected behind, as well as in front, of him. Right now, though, all of the comparisons are to the fleet-footed Gleason and to the offensively skilled Krajicek, whom the Flyers lost out on by trading down. Will Woywitka be better than those two players? That’s impossible to say right now– and it may remain open to debate several years down the road, assuming that one player doesn’t pull away from the pack in the next year or two.

What is fair to say now is that Woywitka doesn’t have any of the outstanding natural attributes of either Gleason or Krajicek but he is also a safer pick because he did display one characteristic than neither of the other two have as yet– game-in and game-out consistency. While his upside offensively is perhaps lower than the other two, Woywitka is not a lumbering oaf. He brings a variety of skills to the table and there is room to grow across the board.

Inevitably, Woywitka is also going to be compared to current Flyer Dan McGillis. While it’s never fair to compare a prospect to an established NHL, they do possess similar stylistic qualities to their games. Neither one will dazzle you with end to end rushes or whip many long-distance breakout passes onto the tape. Both have hard, low shots. Woywitka is more mobile than McGillis, and potentially more sound positionally.Both are at their best when they play a physical game but Woywitka does not shape up as yet to be quite the bone-rattling hitter than McGillis is (of course, Woywitka still has filling out to do).

It’s wise, however, not to get carried away in comparing Woywitka to McGillis or anyone else. Always remember that young defensemen are exceptionally difficult to project as pros– perhaps more so than any other position. Also keep in mind Woywitka is one of the youngest members of the draft class (he won’t turn 18 until September 1). So it’s awfully early to start saying he’s “the next Dan McGillis”, just as it is equally ridiculous that some Flyers fans are already panning the pick (either due to blanket mistrust of Clarke or because they are leery of the Flyers poor drafting success with defenseman over the last 6 years).

With any prospect, the evaluation of their development changes from year to year. As an experienced 17 year old, who played impressively on the Memorial Cup winning Red Deer squad, Woywitka has a very good foundation from which to build. There is even some room to develop into an above-average offensive producer. Given a normal rate of progression (his frame filling out and his offensive and defensive skills gaining refinement) he projects to be a good, solid NHL defenseman. Anything beyond that will be a pleasant surprise but it’s not entirely unfeasible, either.

One final reason to have optimism about the pick is that Flyers scouts saw plenty of Woywitka’s games this year, which reduces some of the guesswork involved in assessing his strengths and weaknesses. Not only did Red Deer win the Memorial Cup, the Rebels blueline also featured Flyers free agent signee Jim Vandermeer. Woywitka is among the invitees to Canada’s national junior team development camp, where he will be in competition to eventually earn a spot on Team Canada for the 2001-2002 World Junior Championship.

2nd Round (#56 overall): Pick traded to Florida (who subsequently traded pick to Calgary) for the rights to Jiri Dopita.

3rd Round (#95 overall)
Player: Patrick Sharp
Position: Center
Birthdate: December 27, 1981
Height: 6-0
Weight: 188
2000-2001 team: University of Vermont (ECAC)
Rankings: (#72 North American by CSB (#56 midseason))
2000-2001 stats: 34 GP, 12 G, 15 A, 27 PTS, 36 PIM

No, there is no truth to the rumor that taking a University of Vermont player in the draft was one of the concessions the Flyers made in John LeClair’s new contract. A solid player for the Flyers (the USHL’s Thunder Bay Flyers, that is), Sharp stepped right into coach Mike Gilligan’s UVM starting lineup last season. Sharp played in all game situations and easily won the team’s rookie of the year honors.

Sharp, who was rated #210 among North Americans in Central Scouting’s 2000 midterm rankings, elected not to make himself eligible for the draft last year, hoping that a year of development in college would make him a more marketable prospect. That mission was accomplished this season.

Sharp is a heady player and an above-average skater who, at age 19, has what so far project as average to slightly below average offensive skills (as compared to other draft prospects ranked in the top 100). One of the benefits of drafting college players is that the rules allow NHL teams to get a longer look at the player before they make a decision about signing them. By the time the Flyers have to make up their minds one way or the other, Sharp will be a mature player.

I don’t think the Flyers drafted him with any great hopes that they unearthed a potential NHL star, but there is always room for players with his qualities, whether it is an NHL role player or a possible future call-up player.

4th Round (#98 overall): Pick traded to Nashville for 5/146 and 7/208 selections.

4th Round (#123 overall): Pick traded to Carolina for 2002 3rd round pick.

5th Round (#138 overall): Pick traded to Tampa Bay, along with 7/219 8/252 and a 9th round pick in 2002 for Tampa Bay’s 3rd and 7th round picks in 2002.

5th Round (#146 overall)
Player: Jussi Timonen
Position: Defenseman
Birthdate: June 29, 1983
Height: 6-0
Weight: 200
2000-2001 team: KalPa Kuopio Jnrs. (SM-Liiga track)
Rankings: (#35 European by CSB)
2000-2001 stats: 38 GP, 6 G, 7 A, 13 PTS, 22 PIM

The younger brother of NHLer Kimmo Timonen, Jussi has played as both a forward and a defenseman, but his future is on the blueline. The younger Timonen is a smooth skater who has some offensive upside. He is bigger and stronger than his older brother but he is not quite as polished all-around as his brother was at the same age. Like Kimmo, finesse and speed will be Jussi Timonen’s calling cards. The Flyers chief European scout has compared Jussi’s skating and puckhandling to what Flyers scouts saw in ex-Flyer Janne Niinimaa when he was the same age.

5th Round (#150 overall)
Player: Bernd Bruckler
Position: Goaltender
Birthdate: September 26, 1981
Height: 6-1
Weight: 180
2000-2001 team: Tri-City Storm (USHL)
Rankings: (#26 North American goaltender by CSB)
2000-2001 stats: 28 GP, 1624 MIN, 15-8-3, 2.48 GAA, .918 SV%

Bernd Bruckler is the first Austrian-born player ever selected by the Flyers. The 19 year old was one of the top goalies in the USHL last season and will look to play against a higher level of competition in 2001-2002. He is enrolled at University of Wisconsin (where Flyers 2000 draftee John Eichelberger also plays. Wisconsin, coached by Jeff Sauer, has had a good history of producing NHL goalies, including Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter, and the enigmatic Jim Carey. Bruckler should see a lot of action in net and figures to see a lot of shots behind the Badgers’ inexperienced defensive corps.

5th Round (#158 overall)
Player: Roman Malek
Position: Goaltender
Birthdate: September 25, 1977
Height: 5-11
Weight: 161
2000-2001 team: Slavia Prague (Czech Extraleague)
Rankings: none
2000-2001 stats: 46 GP, 2550 Min, 2.35 GAA, .935 SV%, 1445 Sh, 100 GA

Malek has emerged as one of the top goalies in the Czech Extraleague. He is not yet close to the status that Roman Cechmanek enjoyed before he finally left for the NHL, but some have said that Malek is better than Cechmanek was in his early 20s. He has become a big favorite of his coach, ex-NHLer Vladimir “Rosie” Ruzicka.

Stylistically, Malek and Cechmanek are not that similar except that both can accurately be described as unorthodox (Cechmanek more so than Malek). Cechmanek is much bigger and relies on his size more than Malek. Malek is very wiry and acrobatic. He is still learning to overcome a tendency to go down too fast but he has become quite tough to beat one-on-one. His concentration on routine saves was once a suspect point but has steadily improved as he has matured. His glove is above-average but his puckhandling is strictly average.

Malek had a terrific regular season for Slavia and was strong in the playoffs (2.53 GAA, .930 sv%) until costly mistakes in the fourth game of a best-of-five semifinal series against defending champion Vsetin contributed to a blown 5-2 lead in the third period. Vsetin went on to win the game and close out the series, en route to their sixth straight Czech championship. After the playoffs concluded, Malek suited up for the Czech national team in one pre-World Championship game, but did not crack the roster of the gold medalists. Malek may have a shot at the national team roster for next season, however.

6th Round (#172 overall)
Player: Dennis Seidenberg
Position: Defenseman
Birthdate: July 18, 1981
Height: 6-0
Weight: 180
2000-2001 team: Adler Mannheim (DEL)
Rankings: none
2000-2001 stats: 67 GP, 2 G, 6 A, 8 PTS, 16 PIM, +10

Seidenberg is the first German player the Flyers have ever drafted. He is already a regular starter in the DEL, a league primarily filled with veteran players, including many former NHL players (Seidenberg’s teammates this past year included ex-Flyers Yves Racine, Mark Pederson, and Todd Hlusko). Seidenberg is described as a very smooth skating defenseman who can move the puck up ice quickly but is primarily concerned with taking care of his own end of the ice. He is rarely caught out of position. He is described as being similar stylistically to Kevin Haller, although not possessing quite the chippy streak of the ex-Flyer.

6th Round (#177 overall)
Player: Andrei Razin
Position: Center
Birthdate: October 23, 1973
Height: 5-11
Weight: 177
2000-2001 team: Metallurg Magnitogorsk (RSL)
Rankings: none– overage player
2000-2001 stats: 44 GP, 17 G, 38 A, 45 PTS, 78 PIM

Given the acquisition of Jiri Dopita, this pick shocked me. Razin, who led the RSL in scoring this year, is a veteran Russian league player who was one of the few bright spots for the Russian national team at the 2001 World Championships. Razin, will turn 28 early next season, is a player that can offer immediate help to some NHL teams but I did not figure him to be a good fit for Philadelphia. Undoubtedly, his selection was influenced by a strong showing at the World Championships (7 points in 7 games).

Razin is a very different player from Dopita, although they have generated fairly similar offensive results in recent European league play. Dopita, who was long-sought after by NHL teams, is a big centerman who combines grit and skill. Razin is a little guy who plays a skating and finesse game and is a deadly transition-game player. Razin is a speedster with world class stickhandling skills. He has a silky-smooth passing touch, good ice vision and soft hands around the net. Unfortunately, “soft” also applies to his playing style, which is why he was always considered a bad fit for the NHL. He plays the old stereotypical “Russian” style, and works best along the perimeter. Razin also carries something of a reputation for diving and occassionally being a little careless with his stick, although that is a bad rap that gets pinned– often unfairly– on a large number of Russian players.

Razin, who has signed to play next season with Dynamo Moscow, is not quite at the “now or never” stage to come to the NHL but I can’t imagine why the Flyers (or any team) would have drafted a player of his age and reputation without intending to try and sign him soon. Razin really would have nothing to prove on the Phantoms, so it’ll be the NHL or Europe for him. In order to be effective in the NHL, he’d need to center a scoring line and get plenty of powerplay time.

7th Round (#208 overall)
Player: Thierry Douville
Position: Defenseman
Birthdate: April 18, 1983
Height: 6-5
Weight: 212
2000-2001 team: Baie-Comeau Drakkar (QMJHL)
Rankings: None
2000-2001 stats: 65 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS, 408 PIM , -1

From one extreme to the other– Razin and Douville are at the polar opposites of hockey. Douville is a very similar style player to ex-Penguin Francois Leroux– that is, a big body that will crash into people and drop the gloves. Douville, incidentally, lists the Flyers as his favorite team while he was growing up.

7th Round (#219 overall): Traded to Tampa Bay

7th Round (#225 overall): Acquired from Ottawa
Player: David Printz
Position: Defenseman
Birthdate: July 24, 1980
Height: 6-5
Weight: 220
2000-2001 team: Great Falls Americans (AWHL)
Rankings: None
2000-2001 stats: 54 GP, 13 G, 23 A, 36 PTS, 93 PIM

Printz, who originally developed in the Hammarby and AIK programs in Sweden, has an interesting combination of size and, for his level of play, skill. It is difficult to assess where Printz really stands until he plays against collegiate competition. He will play for Northern Michican next season.

Printz’s coach at Great Falls last season was a fellow Swede, Rikard Gronborg. Gronborg found out about Printz from a Finnish-based organization called Universal Players (UP), which specializes in placing European players in US Junior and College leagues. Printz was scouted by Gronborg at the annual UP tournament in Tampere, Finland, where he played against top players from North America, including Brandon Nolan (drafted #72 overall) and Europeans such as Yared Hegos (#70 overall). After the tournament, Printz was signed to play with Great Falls of the America West Hockey League.

Said Gronborg, “David’s biggest strengths are his skating and stickhandling abilities. He could play both forward and defense, but is playing defense now. To be able to compete at the professional level, he needs to get much stronger. He’s a late bloomer that is finally growing into his frame.”

8th Round (#258 overall): Traded to Tampa Bay

Note: The Flyers also traded veteran RFA forward Dean McAmmond (acquired at the 2001 trading deadline from Chicago for the Flyers 2001 3rd round pick) to Calgary, in exchange for a 4th round pick in 2002.