Team Toughness not a problem in Flyers system

By Mike Castor

The Flyers have a long history of playing tough and having the top enforcers in the game. Although the game has changed much since the Broad Street Bullies era, hockey still needs policemen. The Flyers in recent drafts have drafted players that can play and are willing to drop the gloves to add a spark. This article will look at the current Flyer players that will lead the way in the toughness area. Also it will take a look at the players trying to make their mark with the orange and black. The Flyers enter this season with a team that is highly skilled but also feisty. The addition of Roenick will only add to the overall toughness of Richardson, Primeau, McGillis, and Tocchet. The Broad Street Bullies they are not, but they are not a team that can be pushed around.

Todd Fedoruk – Todd has progress through the Flyers system rather rapidly. He played some games for the Phantoms 1999 – 2000 and also saw action with the Trenton Titians. The Flyers have always been impressed with his skating ability for such a large man (6’2 235 lbs). Todd’s nickname is the “ Fridge “ because of his wide stocky build. He also has his last name tattooed on his back so the fans will know who he is when he gets his jersey torn off he once said jokingly. Fedoruk has average skill that will allow him to take regular shifts and not hurt the team. Last preseason he knocked Sandy McCarthy out with the nasty left that he likes to throw in tight. He also can switch up hands during a fight to throw off the opponent. Todd had several fights his rookie year in which he won most of them. One of the bigger games in Fedoruk’s career came against the Penguins. He knocked out Jaromir Jagr with a tough, clean body check. He adds something the Flyers seemed to have lacked the past couple of seasons, he is willing to go out on the ice and stir things up.

Fedoruk did not play much down the stretch of the season last year. Stil,l his future looks very bright. He will go into camp as the Flyers main policeman. Todd will need to work more on his defense and try to improve on going to the front of the net. His rookie year he netted 5 goals and added 5 assists. The Flyers envision him as a 4th liner but if his game improved, he could advance to the 3rd line. Many hockey people compare him to a young Tony Twist. Fedoruk’s punches are meant to hurt and they do! He won fights over Ray, Barnaby, Odgers, Oliwa, and Langdon. Todd went toe to toe with Peter Worrell, which is not easy at all for a rookie. He got tuned up by Geoges Laracque, but, then, doesn’t everyone? Todd may get a chance to fight his idol Stu “ the Grim Reaper “ Grimson this season.

Chris McAllister – Chris had a very steady year last season that lead to a contract and extension. He was a steady defender and a willing fighter. McAllister has poor skating abilities, but he uses his body well to defend. He is a huge man at 6’7”, 225 lbs. Chris has improved his game and his fighting ability since his days with the Canucks and Leafs. He impressed many people with his fights last season. Chris was second on the Flyers last season with 134 PIMs. He pummeled Oliwa in a regular season tussle. His fighting skills have improved and should continue to do so. McAllister will never be a top enforcer but he a good fighter to have on the team. He was willing to protect the likes of Recchi and Gagne last season. Bill Barber has expressed confidence in his game also. The future looks bright for him also. He will be the 6th or 7th defenseman this season and will get his 100 PIMs. Chris is still only 26, so he has time to improve on his game.

Francis Lessard – Francis is described as a throwback player. Many compare him to Moose Dupont of the Flyers of the 1970’s. He is the ultimate team player. He will go through a brick wall to protect his teammates or to win a game. Lessard can also play some defense too .He skates well and he has above-average ice vision. The problem is he always looks for the big hit, which takes him out of position most of the time. He also has a mean temper, which will account for the PIMs he puts up (388 last year, 403 as a rookie). The Flyers see him making the jump to the NHL soon. There is talk that he might get the nod over St. Jacques and DiPenta because of his toughness. If he can play under control he will help the Flyers this season. He can skate the puck up the ice and he will clear the front of the net out. Lessard has average size for today’s NHL at 6’2”, 208 lbs. Last preseason he received a broken jaw via an Eric Cairns punch. In true Lessard fashion, he continued to fight toe to toe. Fans should not expect any offense from him however, his main job is to protect the skill forwards and punish the opponents. Francis is a fan favorite everywhere he plays, he is hoping to take his act across the street to the big house now. Fans should keep an eye on him this preseason; he will get into many battles.

Jason Beckett – He is another physical blue liner with a nasty streak, however he can play. Jason led the Phantoms in Plus/Minus before being sent to Trenton. Beckett has nice size at 6’3 215 lbs and he knows how to use it. He can skate with the puck and makes good outlet passes to his forwards. John Stevens the Phantoms coach is very impressed with his poise and his willingness to mix it up. Jason is slated to play for the Phantoms this season fulltime, but expect him on the Flyers in the next year or so. He is compared to a poor man’s Colin White of the New Jersey Devils.

Jim Vandermeer – Jim is a player that will never be a heavyweight but will always come to aid a teammate. He has nice muscle for his size at 6’1 212 lbs and he will throw his body around. He has some offensive upside; he had 21 goals and 44 assist last season with the Red Deer Rebels. In that time he had 180 PIMs in 2000 – 2001 season. The seasons before he had a higher total of 221 PIMs and 264 PIMs respectively. The Flyers see him playing for the Phantoms this season. They like his toughness and his skills on the blue line. Vandermeer is a hard worker and has earned a chance to make the Flyers in the next several years.

Ian Forbes – Ian is another rugged defenseman the Flyers have stocked up on via the past several drafts. He is a very large man at 6’6 215 lbs (and still filling out). Forbes is very willing to throw his massive body around. He clears out the front of the net also. Ian is extremely raw though. He will need to work on his skating and his defensive positioning. Ian is not a great fighter, but he is tough. He will get his nose dirty in the corners and give the nasty glove to the face of the opponents. He has always average above 100 PIMs in juniors and that carried over to Trenton of the ECHL. He had 133 PIMs and only 3 points in 33 games with the Titians. The Flyers think he could use another season in the ECHL. Keep an eye on him, though; his size is very attractive to the big club.

Jesse Boulerice – Jesse has had a rough past. He is known for the Andrew Long stick swinging incident. When the Flyers drafted him they had high hopes that he could be a 3rd line tough guy that could take a regular shift. His career has turned for the worse. He has NHL size at 6’1 200 lbs and he knows when to throw his body. Boulerice had 256 PIMs last season with the Phantoms. Jesse served as the policeman for his team. He seems to be slipping down the ranks of prospect right now. He will be on the Phantoms again this season and must show he is more than just a fighter. He has some skill to do so. This season will be a huge season for him. Boulerice may be called up if Fedoruk or McAllister go down. That is the only hope of seeing him in the orange and black.

Thierry Douville – The Flyers selected him in the 7th round of the 2001 draft. Thierry is a defenseman by trade but may be switched to a winger later in his career. He will play this season again in the QMJHL. He must work on his skating and his overall skill. Make no bones about it, Douville knows his job. Last season in 65 games he had an amazing 408 PIMs! He is just plain nasty and he always looks to lay a huge hit on the opposing team. His fighting skills are average, but he should develop these better skills the more ice time he plays. The Flyer fans should not expect to see our new hero Thierry for awhile, he is a long-term project. He could become a fan favorite; he lists his favorite team as our Flyers. He is the only true enforcer on this prospect list.

Jeff Woywitka – The Flyers first round selection this season. Jeff is never going to rack up 200 plus PIMs. He is a steady defenseman that will play the body. The one weakness in his game right now is that he lacks a bit in physical play. Expect Jeff to work on that this season with the Red Deer Rebels. Woywitka has good size for a 17 year old (6’3 197 lbs) and he drives players from the net well. He will stick up for the more skilled players on the team. He is compared to Dan McGillis, the current blue liner on the Flyers. Jeff sat in the box for 113 minutes with Red Deer last season. You can expect the total to be higher this season. His job on the Flyers will not be to fight, but he will add to the overall team toughness.