With the hangover from the Flyers’ Stanley Cup Final finally gone (for those of you still feeling the effects, I’d recommend seeing a doctor), anyone whose eyes haven’t turned towards the offseason and the 82 plus games that follow must do so now.
As those of you who listened in on our original offseason podcast would already know, the Flyers have plenty of pieces, especially forwards, that needn’t be tinkered with going into the 2010-2011 season.
Out of the top five or six forwards, only one seems to be talked about as leaving and that is Jeff Carter. Not willing to part with their still budding youth and draft picks, the Flyers would likely have to trade away a proven commodity in Jeff Carter should they want to make a serious push for the sort of top tier goalie that could help bring a championship to Philly.
Leighton and Boucher, while they carried the team through some dark times and kept them in it when needed during the playoffs, they simply weren’t good enough to win the Cup, as shown by the thrashing they took in some of the Finals games against the Blackhawks.
With Jaroslav Halak having been moved to the St. Louis Blues in exchanged for prospect forwards Eller and Schultz, the Canadiens seem to have settled on Carey Price as their goaltender going forward. This ends any questions of the Flyers trading for one of these two.
Another option mentioned around the trade deadline was the Panthers’ Tomas Vokoun, a reliable 34 year old veteran who certainly would bring an element of star power to the Flyers’ goal crease.
While those issues are sorted out in the coming weeks and months before October rolls around, another popular discussion this time of year is an update on how those prospects are doing, who may show up in and around the league soon, and who has a ways to go before making any sort of impact.
For the Flyers, who gave away their 2008 first round pick, Luca Sbisa, and their ’09 and ’10 first round picks, to the Anaheim Ducks as part of the Chris Pronger deal, their ability to develop prospects over the next few years may determine the direction this franchise ends up heading.
Here are a few of the Flyers’ up-and-coming prospects:
With the constant buzz about the goaltending situation here in Philadelphia, this seems an appropriate place to start.
Age – 28
Backlund showed up periodically throughout the end of this past season; mostly on the Flyers’ bench as backup to either Leighton or Boucher, whoever happened to be healthy at the time.
Having picked up the scent of the NHL, even appearing in his first playoff game (albeit for less than two minutes), Backlund, having been signed to a two year contract extension, may play a more prominent role in the Flyers’ immediate goaltending future should any potential offseason free agent acquisitions or trade negotiations fail to pan out.
This popular youngster, picked up all the way in the 7th round of the 2008 draft, 196th overall, is on of the ones that is still a few years away. Eriksson currently plays for Skellefteå AIK of the Swedish Elite League (Johan Backlund’s hometown team, oddly enough).
Last season, playing in the SEL’s second-tier league, the Allsvenskan, Eriksson was tops among goaltenders, leading his team to play for a position in the SEL the following season. This got him noticed and picked up by a current SEL contender, Skellefteå AIK. He will likely continue to play in Sweden for a few more years while he develops into a more complete package as the Flyers look to fill the gaps in the meantime.
It’s been reported that Eriksson often lounges around in his favorite Flyers’ hoodie, waiting for the chance to carry the crest on the front of a real jersey in the next few years.
Age – 21
Known rival of the Capitals’ Semyon Varlamov, Bobrovsky has spent the past couple of seasons playing quality hockey in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League, or KHL. Last season, his team was dead last in their league in goals scored, yet he was able to carry them on his back and keep the team afloat at 13th in a league of 24 teams.
Not a small goaltender at 6’2”, Bobrovsky can be seen spreading out and covering his net well in the butterfly style, stretching out to make the athletic stops. With the right direction he could learn to position himself soundly and prove to be a dangerous force in goal for the Flyers.
Age – 21
Already not far from scratching the NHL surface, Maroon currently resides on the roster of the Adirondack Phantoms.
After being drafted the same year as James van Riemsdyk, only instead 161st overall in the 6th round, Maroon was nearly cast aside due to problems with his conditioning. Wanting to prove himself, Maroon has since worked harder than most to get in shape and more importantly, get noticed.
His past two years in the AHL have been productive, with the most recent showing bursts of incredible point tallying ability, though the early and mid portions of the season were marred by slump and injury. With an entire offseason to continue his workout routine and strengthen himself, Maroon may find his way onto the Flyers roster as early as next year depending on who stays and who goes out of the players currently in the lineup.
Age – 23
Nodl had a shot at the NHL before even Claude Giroux did, playing his first game in October of 2008. Unfortunately, during his time with the time during the ’08-’09 season and beyond, his ability to produce points was lackluster.
With more development time under his belt, he was recalled during the most recent season, even playing during the playoffs as he appeared in all seven games of the Boston series and three games of the Conference Finals against the Canadiens. During that time, Nodl proved to be a fast moving and hard working player, able to work the puck out of the corners like a master.
Should he be able to bridge the gap between that grinding ability and a scoring touch, Nodl will not only crack the lineup next season, but he may even find a spot to stay there.
Age – 23
Another player that is recognizable to many Flyers fans, Laliberte appeared in a handful of games during the past season, playing in 11 games through November and December, when the team was hit with a rash of injuries.
He scored a goal in each of his first two NHL games, against the Carolina Hurricanes and then-‘Cane Michael Leighton and two days later against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
While he is still adjusting a level of play in which his speed and shot are more easily neutralized, Laliberte has the potential to put up impressive numbers. With time, training, and experience, he should be able to carry over much of that scoring touch into the NHL.
Age – 20
Still coming off the emotional high of winning his second straight Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires, playing alongside the likely candidate for first overall pick, Taylor Hall, Wellwood has already had his share of hockey success.
His scoring ability in Juniors is a sure thing, though obviously aided by the talent around him. One of the questions surrounding this Windsor native is whether or not that knack for putting the puck in the back of the net will be able to translate into the AHL and, subsequently, the NHL. If it does, he will be a major player in the next few years. Should it not pan out the way the organization hopes, his defensive talents (highlighted by his penalty killing ability) may make him a candidate for a solid checking line player.
Age – 20
Picked up in the second round of that previously mentioned 2007 draft, Marshall spent the 2009-2010 season with the Adirondack Phantoms. A true defenseman, his offensive output was meager (and would only be worse at the NHL level). However, his ability to shut down opponents was impressive.
With a strong core of defensemen already in place (assuming the resigning of Coburn and Parent), it would be hard for Marshall to make an appearance in the NHL anytime soon, but he will continue waiting and perfecting his game until the opportunity arises.
Age – 20
On the opposite end of the spectrum as fellow Phantom, Kevin Marshall, Bourdon plays an offensive style of defense. While his abilities helped carry his team deep into playoff contention for the 2008-2009 Memorial Cup in the Juniors, he has had a harder time adjusting to the higher levels of play when his high risk, high reward style can more easily be taken advantage of by opponents.
With time he will learn to be more cautious, control the puck better, and to only take his chances when he knows he is safely covered. When that day rolls around, look for this Canadian kid to prove an effective piece of the Flyers NHL lineup.
While they may not find themselves with the upper hand going into this year’s draft, not getting a pick until late in the second round, the Flyers still have a strong class of young players waiting to make the leap onto Wachovia Center ice.
So whatever major moves they make in the offseason, if any at all, there will always be a handful of players waiting on the wing to jump in, even if it should be a trial by fire, and play at the NHL level.