Flyers Collegiate Prospects Stepping into Limelight

By Bill Meltzer

Through the years, the Philadelphia Flyers have had a few homegrown players– including current Flyer Chris Therien and one-time rookie free agent Dave Poulin– who were U.S. college standouts before turning professional. However, the vast majority of Flyer-drafted and signed players originally honed their skills in the Canadian major junior ranks.

Times have changed. Today, the Flyers have only one affiliated prospect (2001 first round draft pick Jeff Woywitka) playing in the CHL, while five youngsters are playing for teams in the NCAA.

The Flyers current crop of collegiate players represents an intriguing collection of sleeper prospects. An update on their current progress.

Colin Shields : Shields had to sit out last season after he was declared ineligible by the NCAA. In order to retain his visa status, the Scottish forward signed up for classes that he never attended. When the University of Maine learned what had happened, they had no choice but to report the violation to the NCAA.

So far this season, Shields has been making up for lost time. He’s displayed the soft hands and offensive instincts that made him a standout at every level of hockey that he has played. He’s also a pretty good skater.

Shields has exploded out of the gates for Maine with 5 goals in his first 4 games, including 3 powerplay tallies. He has no reticence about shooting the puck; as his 13 shots on goal attest.

Bernd Bruckler : The Austrian goaltender was a highly sought recruit by many U.S. college programs. He finally opted for the Wisconsin Badgers; a program known as a breeding ground for future NHL goaltenders (boasting alumni such as Curtis Joseph, Mike Richter, and one-time Vezina winner Jim Carey).

Freshman goalies rarely step right into the starting job. However, most observers feel that Bruckler will end up seeing the bulk of the action over junior Scott Kabotoff. Indeed, in his college debut, Bruckler paid an immediate dividend to the Badgers; recording a 25 save shutout. Conversely, Kabotoff struggled in his first start (5 goals against on 22 shots), although it should be added that Wisconsin’s inexperienced blueline did not help matters any. The Badgers are 1-1.

John Eichelberger: There should be more ice time available this season to Bruckler’s Wisconsin teammate. The sophomore forward, who has experience with the U.S. national junior team, has one assist in two games so far. Known primarily as a playmaker, Eichelberger has a feathery passing touch.

Patrick Sharp : The University of Vermont Catamounts have scuffled out of the gates; going 0-3 in their tough early season schedule. Sharp, however, has held his own. The Flyers 3rd round selection has been getting a lot of ice time. He has a goal and an assist in the games played to date.

David Printz : The Swedish defenseman was supposed to be with Northern Michigan this season but has not appeared in a game yet and does not appear on their roster. I’m awaiting a report on his current situation.