Philadelphia European Prospects Off to Flying Start

By Bill Meltzer

Perhaps the most pleasant surprise development in the newly launched season for the Philadelphia Flyers has been the play of rookies Dennis Seidenberg and Patrick Sharp in the pre-season and their regular season NHL debuts in Edmonton. Meanwhile, Philadelphia Phantoms rookie goaltender Antero Niittymäki will be looking to justify the faith the organization showed in him by trading away top prospect Maxime Ouellet in the ill-fated Adam Oates trade last spring.

With so many exciting developments on the home front, it is easy to overlook what the team’s prospects in Europe have accomplished over the first month of their regular seasons. Nevertheless, the play of three players in Europe– Joni Pitkänen, Alexander Drozdetsky, and Roman Malek– merit mention.

Joni Pitkänen: The Flyers first round pick in the 2002 draft is already well on his way to establishing himself as a solid pro in a tough league. The defenseman sees a lot of ice time for Kärpät Oulu and has shown no ill-effects from off-season knee surgery. Statistically, he has 5 points (1 goal), 10 penalty minutes and an even plus minus in the first 9 games of the season.

Alexander Drozdetsky : This is a key year in Drozdetsky’s development– the year he has to start taking his game to the next level. Despite a contract snafu that saw him transfer to Spartak Moscow in the offseason and end up back with CSKA Moscow, the forward has not missed a beat. In the early going, he has emerged as one of the top finishers in the defensive-oriented RSL. He has 7 goals in his first 9 games; already matching his total for all of last season.

Roman Malek : The Czech goaltender has been sensational in the early going for Slavia Prague. The top ranked goaltender in the Extraleague, Malek has a sparkling 1.51 goals against average and a .953 save percentage in 10 starts. Nevertheless, Slavia stands in 9th place in the league table.