Flyers 2007 draft review

By Al Alven

On the heels of the worst season in franchise history, the Flyers found themselves in the unfamiliar position of picking near the very top of the NHL draft. The team added to its increasing stable of prospects by selecting forward James vanRiemsdyk second overall, highlighting general manager Paul Holmgren’s first draft at the helm.

The Flyers bolstered their organizational stock in subsequent rounds, taking seven players in total (five forwards, one defenseman and one goaltender), the majority of whom are considered NHL longshots at this point.

In terms of league/level breakdown, the crop included two players selected from the U.S. National Developmental Program (USNTDP), three from the Canadian major junior ranks, and one each from the NCAA and NAHL (U.S. junior "A").

The following is a look at each of these draftees.

James vanRiemsdyk, LW — U.S. National Dev. Program 

1st round, 2nd overall
Ht: 6’3, Wt: 200, Shoots: L
Born: 5/4/89 in Middletown, NJ

The Flyers made a little bit of history by selecting vanRiemsdyk second overall. With the Chicago Blackhawks‘ selection of Buffalo native Patrick Kane at No. 1, this marked the first time that U.S.-born players had gone in the top two slots.

This was also the first time the Flyers had ever selected a New Jersey native, which added a bit of local flavor and intrigue to the pick. vanRiemsdyk admitted afterward, almost sheepishly, that he had grown up as a New York Rangers fan.

"Not anymore, though," he said with a laugh and a big smile. "I’m a huge Philadelphia Flyers fan now, through and through."

The selection of vanRiemsdyk surprised some observers, as BCHL forward Kyle Turris ranked higher on many pre-draft rankings and mock draft listings.

"James was our No. 1 choice all along," said Holmgren. "It’s really close, when you look at the difference between playes like him, Patrick Kane and Kyle Turris. It was a tough call between James and Kyle, but we got the player we wanted."

vanRiemsdyk is a product of the U.S. National Development Team, having played for the Under-18 squad each of the past two seasons.

He proved himself as an elite prospect in 2006-07, powering his way to a 63-point season (33 goals, 30 assists) and 81 PIM in just 42 games. He led the NTDP in goals, points, PPG (11), and GWG (6), and finished second overall in assists and PIM. He also skated for Team USA at the World Junior Hockey Championships in Sweden.

"Tremendous size, good skater, excellent hand and hockey sense," Holmgren continued, in describing vanRiemsdyk. "He reminds us a lot of a young John LeClair, but is also similar to Rick Nash. We think he has the ability to be a top-level power forward in the NHL. He’s going to score a lot of goals from that area right in front of the net."

vanRiemsdyk has committed to play at the University of New Hampshire, where he will begin his collegiate career next season. His skating will be put to the test on the Wildcats’ Olympic-sized ice rink.

A number of scouts project that he will be able to turn pro within the next two seasons.

Kevin Marshall, D — Lewiston MAINEiacs (QMJHL)

2nd round, 41st overall
Ht: 6’0, Wt: 189, Shoots: L
Born: 3/10/89 in Boucherville, PQ

The Flyers traded a mid-third-round pick this year and a second-round pick in 2008 to the Washington Capitals in order to to ensure the acquisition of Marshall, a rough-and-tumble defender who was a key force in helping Lewiston capture the QMJHL title in 2006-07.

Marshall is regarded as a hard-working, stay-at-home defenseman who plays with a physical edge. He skates very well, has excellent balance and moves the puck efficiently.

He is not expected to develop into an offensive rearguard in the pros, though he did post a very respectable 32 points in 70 games (5 goals, 27 assists) this year for the MAINEiacs, to go along with a team-leading 141 PIMs.

“All of our guys like [Marshall],” said Holmgren. “A lot of teams in the second round tried to move up, [but] we were able to do it.”

"He’s a Danny Markov-type defenseman. He’s in your face, gritty, high-energy, and he’s pretty good with the puck.”

Marshall will return to Lewiston for at least one, but most likely two more seasons in the QMJHL. He will be counted upon heavily to help lead the team in its defense of the league title.

Garrett Klotz, LW — askatoon Blades (WHL)

3rd round, 66th overall
Ht: 6’5, Wt: 235, Shoots: L
Born: 11/27/88 in Regina, SK

Considered a somewhat curious pick by a number of observers, Klotz seemed to have been a player the Flyers could have nabbed much later in the draft. The team wanted to secure his rights, however, and took him near the beginning of the third round to be sure.

Klotz is by no means an offensive prospect. He tallied only four points (two goals, two assists) in 63 games with the Saskatoon Blades last season. He is best known as one of the better up-and-coming fighters in the WHL.

A towering physical specimen, Klotz finished third on the Blades with 107 PIMs, a number that is expected to go up considerably in 2007-08. His pro chances will rest on the evolution of the role of the enforcer in the NHL, as much as the refinement of his own very raw hockey skills.

“Garrett is a great big guy that can really skate, and is tough and aggressive,” said Holmgren. “We think he’ll develop into a good player.”

Mario Kempe, RW — St. John’s Fog Devils (QMJHL)

5th round, 122nd overall
Ht: 5’11, Wt: 179, Shoots: L
Born: 9/19/88 in Kramfors, Sweden

Fifty-six selections were made between the Flyers’ third and fourth picks. Holmgren and his staff explored various options and considered moving up via trade, but ultimately decided to stand pat. When the team’s next opportunity to pick came up, many were surprised to see that Kempe was still on the board.

The Swedish native is considered to be a true darkhorse prospect, a player with an abundance of natural skill, but an uncertain future. Kempe immediately stands out, due to his blazing speed and willingness to crash the net with reckless abandon. In this way, he plays like someone with much bigger size, reminding some scouts of a young Mikael Renberg.

Kempe notched 42 points (23 goals, 19 assists) in 62 games for the St. John’s Fog Devils last season, good for fourth-best on the squad. In addition to his great wheels, he also possesses outstanding vision, strong passing skills and creativity in the offensive end.

The drawbacks to his game at this point are his lack of an NHL-quality shot and an unrefined two-way game. Like many 18-year-olds, he also has a good deal of filling out to do, which should come over time with proper training.

Jon Kalinski, LW — Minnesota State Univ.-Mankato (NCAA)

6th round, 152nd overall
Ht: 6’1, Wt: 175, Shoots: L
Born: 5/25/87 in Bonnyville, AB

At age 20, Kalinski is the oldest member of the Flyers’ draft class. He was passed over in each of the past two drafts, but impressed scouts in 2006-07 with a solid sophomore season for Minnesota State-Mankato.

The Alberta native finished fourth on the Mavericks in scoring, notching 27 points (17 goals, 10 assists) in 37 games. His true value to the team, however, was displayed in his emerging abilities as a prime agitator.

Kalinski racked up 74 PIMs, giving him a total of 147 PIMs over two collegiate seasons. He has gained a knack for riling up opposing players and drawing penalties. He is also willing to stand in and take physical punishment for the chance to make a play, a quality which makes him popular among teammates.

Kalinski will be counted upon to continue to improve his effectiveness at both ends of the rink as a junior, in addition to serving in more of a leadership role.

Patrick Maroon, LW — St. Louis Bandits (NAHL)

6th round, 161st overall
Ht: 6’4, Wt: 225, Shoots: L
Born: 4/23/88 in St. Louis, MO

Perhaps one of the more intriguing late round picks this year, Maroon dominated the NAHL this season, leading the circuit with 95 points (40 goals, 55 assists) in just 57 games for his hometown St. Louis Bandits.

He added an additional 23 points (10 goals, 13 assists) in 12 playoff games, en route to leading the team to the Robertson Cup championship.

Maroon possesses a strong combination of natural size and strength and skill, but saw his stock drop significantly in the weeks leading up to the draft due to very poor conditioning and dietary habits.

"We took a flying leap with him," admitted Holmgren, after the draft. "Pat’s just a big kid that’s lost a lot of weight recently. He finally figured out he’s got to work out if he wants to excel and move to a higher level. He’s a great big kid with tremendous skills and hockey sense.

Maroon had originally earned a scholarship to play at Ferris State University (WCHA), where he would have been a teammate of Flyers defensive prospect Chris Zarb next season. However, he was recruited to heavily by Dale and Mark Hunter to play for the London Knights of the OHL.

Ultimately, Maroon opted to go the Canadian major junior route. He will thus get the chance to show what he can do as a member of one of the top amateur programs in the world.

Brad Phillips, G — U.S. National Dev. Program

7th round, 182nd overall
Ht: 6’2, Wt: 163, Catches: L
Born: 4/22/89 in Allen Park, MI

The Flyers have selected at least one goaltender in every draft since 1989. This year, the team used its final pick on netminder Brad Phillips, a teammate of vanRiemsdyk on the U.S. U-18 squad.

Phillips split the season in nets with Josh Unice (selected 86th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks). In 24 games, he posted a record of 15-5-0-2, with a 2.33 goals against average and a save percentage of .913. He also had two shutouts.

Eleven of the Michigan native’s 24 games came against NCAA opponents. He finishing with a record of 5-4-1 in these contests, with a goals against average of 3.18 and a save percentage of .886. 

Phillips is on his way to Notre Dame University, where he will begin his collegiate career in 2007-08.

Sean Ruck contributed to this article. Copyright 2007 Hockey’s Future. Do not reprint or otherwise duplicate without permission of the editorial staff.