First and foremost, my name is Justin and I am the Atlantic Division Blogger over at IslesNation ( http://www.islesnation.com/justin.php
) I am a tremendous Islanders fan, however, I enjoy every minute of hockey that I can watch from every team throughout the league. I write very truthful, unbiased pieces of work, whether it be on the Islanders, the Rangers, or whomever. I am as critical of the Islanders as I am of every other team (and yes, I will be fair to the Leafs if I ever blog about them!). I am able to take in between 25 to 30 games a week from throughout the league, thanks in large part to the Center Ice Package, and I take in every Atlantic Division game possible in order to make my blogging accurate. I am trying to garner some attention for IslesNation, as it is a great site for all Islander fans, and my section is a great place to discuss Atlantic Division hockey with fans of every team in the Atlantic. Please take a look over there if you get the opportunity, and leave as many questions and comments as you can. A big thanks to Eklund for allowing me to post my blog here as well, so that comments and discussion can be produced that way as well.
This is part one in a five part series that will delve into the dark realm known as the NHL prospect pool for each of the five teams in the Atlantic Division. Although plenty of great hockey is being played in the Atlantic right now, I felt it was a good time to leave the fun filled action to the rest of my cobloggers at IslesNation, and take a good look at the top five prospects from each of the five teams in our competitive division. Today, I will start by taking a look at the top five prospects in the Philadelphia Flyers system. In order to put a nice little twist on the blog as well, I will give a personal opinion as to where I think they will wind up when they reach their potential.
Before I begin, I must say the Flyers are an interesting team to cover in terms of prospects. They have drafted well over the past few years, and some of their top prospects are finally cracking the line up. For arguments sake, however, I am still going to include these in between players on this list, as I feel they are still developing enough to be considered prospects. Now, onto the future Broad Street Bullies!
5. Andreas Nodl: Andres Nodl was taken in the 2nd Round (39th overall) during the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Gifted with natural speed, size, and a great shot, Nodl has been able to find great success throughout his career, even as one of the few players coming from the great country of Austria. He currently is playing on the Philadelphia Flyers, recording decent minutes, and has been able to record three assists as well. His point totals should not be looked at as poor, as I feel he still could use another year or two of seasoning before making the big jump into a full time position on the Flyers roster. As a right winger, he benefits from having the left handed shot, which allows him to play a very strong east, west game. The other tremendous upside in Nodls game is that he is a phenomenally adept two way player, and is showing that even at the NHL speed he is able to back check successfully. In my personal opinion, you could see Nodl as a mainstay on the Flyers second line, barring any injuries or trades, for many years to come. Because of his tremendous hockey sense and speed, he will most likely be on a penalty killing unit, as well as the second power play unit sometime throughout his tenure with the Flyers.
4. Michael Ratchuk: Michael Ratchuk was taken in the 2nd Round (42nd overall) during the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. He attended Michigan State University, however, he gave up two more years of eligibility when he decided to sign his first professional contract with the Philadelphia Flyers. Although a solid defenseman in his own zone, Ratchuk makes his living with his tape to tape passing, his blazing speed, as well as his offensive awareness. When Philadelphia drafted him, they were hoping to develop a tremendous power play point man, as well as a defender who would be reliable in all three zones. In Ratchuk, they may have found just that. He is currently twenty years old, and still developing his game in the AHL with the Philadelphia Phantoms, but keep an eye on his name appearing full time in a Flyers uniform within the next one to two seasons. In my personal opinion, I really do believe they have drafted a number three defensemen who will be able to be a dangerous weapon on the power play. Although he is considered small, he fits the mold of a new NHL defenseman to the tee.
3. Claude Giroux: Claude Giroux was taken in the 1st Round (22nd overall) during the 2006 NHL Entry Draft. Although he has been on the Flyers roster for two games, he is still in the AHL working on balancing out his entire game. Again considered a little smaller but still in the mold of a new NHL player, Giroux compensates with his incredible speed that is rarely matched by opponents, his tremendous on ice vision, and his soft hands. Even with his small frame, Giroux has never been a perimeter player. He is the first to go into the corners, and he does go extremely hard at all times. Although he is still working on his defensive zone play, that will come with time and maturity. In my personal opinion, this kid is fantastic all around! He is the perfect example of what a new NHL right-winger will be like, and there is reason to believe he will put up great numbers in the NHL. In a season or two, it is reasonable to also believe that he will be the main stay right winger on the Flyers first or second line, as well as on the power play unit. Good luck to him!
2. Luca Sbisa: Luca Sbisa was taken in the 1st Round (19th overall) during the 2008 NHL Entry Draft. Although many moved Sbisa down their depth charts for the draft, the Flyers came out as HUGE
winners in taking this bright, young defenseman! Sbisa, although still growing into his 6 foot 1 inch frame, has definitely showed his tremendous vision for the game, as well as the fact that at eighteen years old, he will not get bodied off the puck. He is confident, poised, and he seems to love having the puck at his stick. Furthermore, he shows tremendous confidence in joining the rush, as well as great speed and conditioning in being able to get back after a turnover. Fortunately for the Flyers, they were able to place him right into an injury riddled defensive corps, and he has flourished tremendously. In my opinion, he has been the most successful player taken in this past draft! There is no reason to believe he will not be in the Flyers line up for a long time, as he has first pairing defensemen written all over him. Good luck to him, as I truly enjoy watching him play.
1. James vanRiemsdyk: James vanRiemsdyk was taken in the 1st Round (2nd overall) during the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. What appeared to be a fluke season for the Flyers, actually turned out with a great reward, as they were able to get vanRiemsdyk. Although listed as a left winger, he has the natural ability and talent to shift over to center in the near future, especially when his career makes it to the NHL level. He plays a power forward type game, much in the mold of Jeff Carter or even Rick Nash. He currently plays at the University of New Hampshire, where he is easily their most dominant player, and a constant offensive contributor. He combines skill, size, speed, grit, and heart into a package that has success written all over it, and will soon be considered a household name amongst hockey fans. In my opinion, there is no reason to believe he will not crack the Flyers roster by next season, as he may even be on the Philadelphia Phantoms roster after his season in New Hampshire ends this year. Barring all injury and trades, vanRiemsdyk will be a mainstay on the first line for the Flyers, and he will hopefully achieve great things.
As you can see, the Philadelphia Flyers have been very successful in their drafting over the past few seasons. Their top five prospects all have tremendous careers ahead of them, and with proper balancing and financing, they could all be in Flyers uniforms for a very long time. The other great thing about these five picks is the balance in regards to the entire line up (two are defenseman, while three are forwards). This balance will pay tremendous dividends when they are all representing the Broad Street Bullies, who will be very strong in all positions.
As always, comments and questions are greatly appreciated. You can leave them in the comments section, or feel free to shoot me an email at [email][email protected]