Richards, Carter rank in CHL top 5

By Al Alven

Philadelphia Flyers prospects Mike Richards and Jeff Carter were ranked as the third and fifth-best prospects in the Canadian Hockey League, respectively, by a league publication released today.

Prospects Hockey, the official magazine of the CHL, included the two OHL centers in its first ever rankings issue. A 15-person panel selected the circuit’s top 35 players, based on analysis of each player’s skill level, physical tools, two-way play, projection as a pro and intangibles.

This system was used to rank the top five players from across the CHL, along with the next 10 in each of the OHL, QMJHL and WHL (see below for the complete listing).

Richards, 19, was selected by the Flyers with the team’s second pick (24th overall) of the 2003 NHL Entry Draft. The captain of the Kitchener Rangers, he presently leads his team and ranks eighth in the OHL in scoring with 77 points (31 goals, 46 assists) in 52 games.

The Kenora, Ontario native is ranked as the Flyers’ second-best prospect by Hockey’s Future. He was selected to play in this year’s OHL All-Star game and was a member of Team Canada’s silver-medal winning entry at the World Junior Championships in Finland.

Prospects Hockey on Richards: Memorial Cup winner, first-round NHL pick, first-round OHL pick, silver-medal-winning Canadian junior player and gold-medal-winning under-18 Canadian player. What does Michael Richards put at the top of his resumé? His ability to play at both ends of the ice. “A big part of the game, especially in the NHL, is an emphasis on two-way centers,” said Richards, who won the Memorial Cup with the Rangers in 2003. “Throughout my junior career I have tried to be a good two-way player and be relied upon in both ends of the ice.” Richards’ well-rounded ability, including being equally adept on both the penalty kill and the power play, is why so many hockey people see a bright future for him in the professional ranks.

Carter, 19, was the Flyers’ first selection (11th overall) at the 2003 draft and is the current captain of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds. He leads the team in scoring with 61 points (33 goals, 28 assists) in 52 games.

The London, Ontario native is ranked as the Flyers’ top prospect by Hockey’s Future. Like Richards, he also played in this year’s OHL All-Star game and represented Canada at the WJCs (earning a selection on the all-tournament team).

Prospects Hockey on Carter: Jeff Carter is such a good skater with a powerful stride, he can beat even the best defenseman with a burst of speed. Over the past 18 months, Carter has developed more than any other top-tier CHL forward. Already an underrated playmaker who uses his long reach effectively, particularly in traffic, Carter could become unstoppable once he fills out his 6-3, 185-pound frame. His quick-release, combined with his adept ability at tipping shots in front of the net, illustrate his offensive upside. The native of London, Ont., comes from good pedigree as his father, Jim, played for the Oshawa Generals in the mid-1970s.

The following is a complete listing of the inaugural Prospects Hockey Top 35 rankings:

CHL Top 5
1. Dion Phaneuf, D, Red Deer Rebels
2. Sidney Crosby, Rimouski Oceanic
3. Michael Richards, F, Kitchener Rangers
4. Braydon Coburn, D, Portland Winter Hawks
5. Jeff Carter, F, Soo Greyhounds

OHL Top 10
1. Daniel Paille, F, Guelph Storm
2. Anthony Stewart, F, Kingston Frontenacs
3. Tim Brent, F, Toronto St. Michaels Majors
4. Danny Fritsche, F, Sarnia Sting
5. Wojtek Wolski, F, Brampton Battalion
6. Kevin Klein, D, Guelph Storm
7. Patrick O’Sullivan, F, Mississauga IceDogs
8. Corey Perry, F, London Knights
9. Petr Kanko, F, Kitchener Rangers
10. Corey Locke, F, Ottawa 67’s

QMJHL Top 10
1. Alexandre Picard, F, Lewiston MAINEiacs
2. Steve Bernier, F, Moncton Wildcats
3. Josh Hennessy, F, Quebec Remparts
4. Bruno Gervais, D, Acadie-Bathurst Titan
5. Maxime Talbot, F, Gatineau Olympiques
6. Doug O’Brien, D, Gatineau Olympiques
7. Petr Vrana, F, Halifax Mooseheads
8. Jean-Francois Jacques, F, Baie-Comeau Drakkar
9. Stephen Dixon, F, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles
10. Francois-Pierre Guenette, F, Cape Breton Screaming Eagles

WHL Top 10
1. Ryan Getzlaf, F, Calgary Hitmen
2. Cam Barker, D, Medicine Hat
3. Kyle Chipchura, F, Prince Albert Raiders
4. Nigel Dawes, F, Kootenay Ice
5. Brent Seabrook, D, Lethbridge Hurricanes
6. Gilbert Brule, F, Vancouver Giants
7. Tomas Fleischmann, F, Moose Jaw Warriors
8. Shawn Belle, D, Tri City Americans
9. Eric Fehr, F, Brandon Wheat Kings
10. Mike Egener, D, Calgary Hitmen