While the Flyers’ current predicament is bright – they enter 2010-2011 as the defending Eastern Conference Champions – their forseeable future has the potential to take a turn for the worst. In today’s NHL, teams gain the most success by building from within their own organizations. The Flyers have been able to show this off during their postseason run his year, as Mike Richards, Claude Giroux, Jeff Carter, and Simon Gagne are all guys that originally were drafted by the Flyers and have been with the organization since day one. However, according to Hockey’s Future, the Flyers as an organization have a future that is anything but bright.
Eric Wellwood and his Taylor Hall-led Windsor Spitfires won the Memorial Cup for the second year in a row
The Flyers rank 28th out of the 30 National Hockey League franchises as far as their prospects and farm systems are concerned. While that may come as a surprise to many fans out there, it shouldn’t. The Flyers are absolutely notorious for not investing the proper time in their prospects as many other franchises do, and, as a result – by virtue of them being a cap casualty, or the Flyers seeing the ability to bring in a star – the Flyers generally ship them off (see: Patrick Sharp, Scottie Upshall, Joni Pitkanen). Here’s what Hockey’s Future has to say about the Flyers in their 2009-2010 Organizational Rankings:
Strengths: The Flyers have a good group of blueline prospects. Erik Gustafsson has been signed as a free agent out of college, joining Kevin Marshall and Marc-Andre Bourdon as legitimate NHL blueline prospects. Weaknesses: Three of the Flyers former top five prospects have graduated in the last few months. Their graduations leave a huge gap in the organization. Goaltending is still a big question mark. Joacim Eriksson is an excellent prospect who has completed an outstanding regular season, however, should he not adjust well to North American play if he comes over, there is not much behind him.
Hockey’s Future is spot on with their assessment. The Flyers have a great prospect outlook on their back-end, which certainly is good, but that’s about it. Their goaltending is shallow, as are their forwards, and the thought as to whether or not Eriksson will be able to handle the transition from European to North American play is certainly a valid one. I think all it takes is watching the well-documented struggles that Johan Backlund – also a Swedish netminder like Eriksson – went through this year in adjusting to the dimensions of a North American rink as well as the style of North American play.
Once a top prospect in Columbus, Legein played for the Phantoms last season
What makes the situation difficult for the Flyers in the near future is that there is very little likelihood that they will be adding to their current group of prospects in any kind of positive manner. The Flyers don’t have a first round pick in this draft, as it was traded to the Anaheim Ducks last offseason, along with Joffrey Lupul and Luca Sbisa for Chris Pronger. The Flyers don’t have a second round pick, either. That pickwill go to the Los Angeles Kings as the result of a trade on July 1, 2008 that sent Patrik Hersley and Ned Lukacevic to Philadelphia in exchange for Denis Gauthier and the Flyers’ second round pick in 2010. So, the Flyers won’t pick until the third round in 2010, and the possibility of them finding a diamond in the rough at that point is slim. This has been touted as one of the deepest drafts in some time, but it’s hard for me to believe there’s going to be a stud still standing at the 89th overall spot in the third round – the Flyers’ first pick. The Orange and black will also select 119th overall (4th rnd), 149th overall (5th rnd), 179th overall (6th rnd), and 209th overall (7th rnd). That makes for five picks total in the seven rounds of the draft. A Flyers trade is still a definitely possibility during the draft, however, the chances of that trade being centered around acquiring another pick are incredibly slim. Instead it will likely be for a goaltender (Jonathan Quick, please?).
Here are the Flyers’ top five prospects in the category of Forwards. I have included their previous team and their stats from that season.
1. Patrick Maroon, Left Wing. (Adirondack Phantoms – AHL) 67 GP: 11 Goals, 33 Assists, 44 Points. -15
2. Andreas Nodl, Right Wing. (Adirondack Phantoms – AHL) 65 GP: 14 Goals, 20 Assists, 34 Points. -10
3. Stefan Legein, Right Wing. (Adirondack Phantoms – AHL) 77 GP: 26 Goals, 11 Assists, 37 Points. -19
4. Eric Wellwood, Left Wing. (Windsor Spitfires – OHL) 65 GP: 31 Goals, 37 Assists, 68 Points. +36
5. David Laliberte, Right Wing. (Adirondack Phantoms – AHL, spent time with Flyers) 66 GP: 18 Goals, 28 Assists, 46 Points. -11