Philadelphia's Prospects – Some Surprises After Camp

Taking a cue from the mikster, here is a look at how the top prospects for the Philadelphia Flyers looked in training camp. There were some surprises, as those who were expected to make some noise and play for the big club fell short of expectations and will be toiling across the street in the Spectrum for the AHL’s Phantoms.

Forwards: Guillaume Lefebvre, Radovan Somik, Patrick Sharp, Pavel Brendl, Alexander Drozdetsky.

Lefebvre (seventh round selection, 2001 draft) was the early favorite to make the team, and impressed the coaching stff with his steady play. Somik (fourth rounder, 1995) is considered a late bloomer. He’s already 25, but came into came and immediately formed a bond and great chemistry with Michal Handzus. Sharp (third rounder, 2001) played the past two seasons at the University of Vermont and impressed scouts enough to garner a pro contract. Brendl (first rounder of the Rangers in ’99, acquired as part of the Lindros trade) we all know about. Tons of potential, but questionable commitment. Drozdetsky (third rounder, 2000), unfortunately, was unable to attend camp or sign a contract this season, as he still has commitments to his Russian league team, but Flyers scouts are very high on him.

In training camp, it was expected that Lefebvre would step up and claim the roster spot that had opened up when Ruslan Fedotenko was traded to Tampa Bay. Instead, it was Somik who really put on a show with his crisp passing. Brendl actually showed up to minicamp in excellent shape, trimming his body fat and adding strength and muscle. Sharp is a very intelligent player, though his lack of size is evident.

Lefebvre was beaten out, and sent down to the Phantoms last week. Somik, Brendl, and Sharp are on the Flyers’ roster, although it is anticipated that Sharp will be sent down once Mark Recchi fully recovers from his knee sprain. In the meantime, Brendl and Sharp will be battling for ice time. The coaches have said repeatedly that the individual who earns it will get to play. Brendl has had an up-and-down camp, but has really turned it on in the past week or so.

Defensemen: Joni Pitkanen, Jeff Woywitka, Bruno St. Jacques, Dennis Seidenberg.

Pitkanen (first rounder, 2002 – fourth overall) is the jewel that Bob Clarke swiped from the Lightning. Most scouts think that he will be better than the more highly-touted Jay Boumeester, and favorably compare him to Nicklas Lidstrom. Woywitka (first rounder, 2001) is big and steady, sort of like another Dan McGillis. St. Jacques (ninth rounder, ’98) is a punisher, a big kid who loves to hit and specializes in a Rob Blake-style hip check. Seidenberg (sixth rounder, 2001) is on the smaller side, but has a huge offensive upside. His superior vision and smooth skating were evident.

The big story in all of training camp was the battle between St. Jacques and Seidenberg. Pitkanen was nursing an injured knee and returned to Finland for one more year, and Woywitka was returned to his junior club in Red Deer for more seasoning and sure ice time (Woywitka was also ineligible to play for the AHL’s Phantoms due to his young age).

St. Jacques had the advantage from the beginning. His familiarity with his team and his organization were evident, and he loves to throw his body around. His development was the main reason that the Flyers decided not to re-sign Luke Richardson, and it was all but a sure thing that the kid would step up and take Big Luke’s place – the club even issued him Luke’s number 22. What the coaching staff didn’t expect was a strong showing from Seidenberg. The young German showed excellent poise and his positional play was superior to St. Jacques. Ken Hitchkock emphasizes positioning, so the edge went to Seidenberg. His offensive play was also superior. The only knock on him is his size, at six feet and 180 lbs, he could get muscled off too easily by larger forwards.

Seidenberg has made the big time, St. Jacques is back with the Phantoms. I have to say I’m disappointed in Bruno, I really was looking forward to him playing full-time for the Flyers.

Goaltender: Antero Niitymaki.

Niitymaki (sixth rounder, ’98) has shown lots of promise playing in the Finnish elite league, where he posted a 1.73 GAA last season. His strong play and development led to the trade of former top prospect Maxime Ouellet. He was impressive in the early stages of camp, showing very quick reflexes and strong play in traffic. He did let in a couple of long shots, but playing for the Phantoms full-time will allow him develop more quickly and eventually push for the starting job.

The Flyers’ future looks bright, as the organization has always drafted very well. If there is one caveat I have, it is that there really isn’t a bona fide star centerman anywhere to develop. Fans really shouldn’t worry about the future, though. It’s the present that concerns us all now.

10 Responses to Philadelphia's Prospects – Some Surprises After Camp

  1. slipnaughtyboy says:

    “Most scouts think that he will be better than the more highly-touted Jay Boumeester, and favorably compare him to Nicklas Lidstrom.”

    Completely OFF!!! I cant believe you said that? Why? Its been a general concensus around the league for YEARS that Bowmeester will be one of the top defenceman of the last decade or so. When he was 15/16 years old he was being raved about and scouts throughout picked him to go 1st overall in his years draft.

    It’s been known for years upon years of Jay’s talent, hell he hasnt been billed as the next Bobby Orr for nothing. Yes Pitkanen has immense talent and skill, and can very well end up being a top Dman (maybe even better then Jay), but NO SCOUTS had said that hes better then Jay. NOT 1 picked Pitkanen as the better of the 2, yet you said “Most scouts think he will be better…” Not even close bud, completely off. Altho good indepth article otherwise.

  2. MossRocks says:

    So what is the future for St. Jacques? Is he out of the picture with Pitkanen and Woywitka taking his opportunity away maybe even next year? I imagine Pitkanen has a chance next year to play in the NHL but Woywitka will probably need a year of AHL before he’s ready. WHL defencemen end up being good players but they usually need a year or two of professional hockey before the NHL. Players like Redden and Bouwmeester are the exception, not the rule.

    Seeing as I am selfish and always looking out for my Oilers… Is Bruno up for grabs?

  3. big_booty says:

    Not so fast, man. I don’t think that the Flyers are ready to throw in the towel on St. Jacques. They still project him as an NHL-level defender, it’s just that Seidenberg’s strong offensive upside and puck-moving ability are more suited to Ken Hitchkock’s system.

    Unlike their past young blueliners who got shipped out because they weren’t going to get enough playing time (Andy Delmore, Mark Eaton, Joe DiPenta, Francis Lessard) St. Jacques will have his place on the Flyers roster eventually. I think he might have gotten a little to big for his britches in camp, and didn’t expect to be pushed so hard by Seidenberg.

    If one of the Flyers’ top 6 goes down with an injury, Bruno is the first call-up. Players like Eric Desjardins and Chris Therien are on the hot seat. If they don’t perform, they could find themselves playing for the likes of Minnesota or Tampa Bay, in which case Bruno gets his shot again.

    I’m not saying that your Oilers couldn’t make a play for St. Jacques, but Bob Clarke wouldn’t make it easy for Kevin Lowe.

  4. vasko says:

    Pavel Brendl is a dud! Clarke was probably hoping he had a decent preseason so he could get something of value for him. It didn’t happen.

    If you watch him during the games, notice how often he is motionless. He has decent anticipation in the offensive zone but he is neither quick nor fast afoot. Defense? Forget it!

  5. cecilturtle says:

    Look for Clarke to mix him in on the 1st two lines and the power play. Especially if the Flyers take a big lead or are being blown out in a particular game(s) so he could pad his stats. Clarke is hoping he could be a key throw in when trying to pull off a trade. That is if he can’t rip off a GM with him alone? Pavel Brendl is slow and stupid – Yep! Clarke trys this same bull shit every year. You would think the GM’s would be on to him already?

    Cecil Turtle

  6. mikster says:

    St. Jacques isn’t going anywhere, meaning that he stays in the Flyers organization. He had a good training camp and a solid pre-season. It seemed like he tried to show too much. He has little trade value, which is good in this case, and Clarke won’t trade him, no reason to.

    I think a team like the Oilers could send their scouts to the Phantoms and check him out. Hitch would love to grab a guy like Marchant, or maybe Grier could have been a pretty good fit. Bruno will be a strong 6th d-man for the Flyers. I think he will stay in the AHL for a couple more years, but there is just no reason to trade him.

    I would believe in scouts if they say that Pitkanen is better than Bowmeester, but i never read it anywhere. Big_booty, it would be nice if you show us that. Or, maybe you heard it somewhere? I mean, i could see many scouts making such a statement. My gut feeling is that Pitkanen will be the lesser paid but more valuable defenseman than a higher paid very talented Bowumeester. I wouldn’t call Pitkanen the next Lidstrom, but he could definitely remind people that he is like Lidstrom.

    Niitymaki was OK, nothing great when i saw him. He reminded me of Holmqvist a bit, making some very good plays but at times he just looked nervous and out of position. He has a few years until he can make the NHL. As always, Finnish or Swedish goalies take a longer time to make the NHL, no matter how talented they are. Just a few goalies, the super star ones, can make the NHL in a matter of at least 2 years. I think the Thrashers goalie pick will do well…but i wouldn’t be surprised if it takes him 4 years.

    As for Brendl….looks the same to me. I bet his work ethic has improved, but he looked the same size, same speed, same Brendl.

    Flyers will use him as trade bait at one point during the season. The problem with Brendl is that he is never “pumped” enough…or fiesty. He is like a robot, just playing the game the way he is told to. I think there are only two ways for Brendl to stick with the Flyers and finally be of use.

    1- With time, transform his game into a power forward’s game. He isn’t the lightest player to push away, and i am sure he is strong physically. He has that one-timer shot of a power forward (needs to work on that) and he should drive the net more, not just blast the puck.

    2- Make him a power play threat. That one pre-season game against the Rangers, Brendl was positioned pretty well on the Richter’s right circle. He was standing on the edge of the circle, should have stayed a bit more in the middle. But, anyway…he shot the puck three times and not only did the shots miss the net, but they were sloppy. If i were Hitch, i’d pass 20 pucks to him for that one-timer on that side of the ice and make him practice that shot. His shot is a rocket and he’s got to use it. Make him a power play threat and he would be of use for the Flyers’ power play.

  7. FlyHigh says:

    i am a flyers fan and agree with about all ur comments, but brendl wont leave. hitch**** is dreaming of a somik-handzus-brendl line unless sharp does something unexpected. sharp will be a regular guy nexy year. marchant probly wontcome here cause we already got handzus playing third line.

  8. mikster says:

    Marchant could play winger.

    I think Sharp will push Brendl out of the way, his hunger would be more worth it than Brendl’s lack of showing anything.

    Brendl will only be ready, in my opinion, after another full year with the Phantoms.

  9. vasko says:

    I can’t argue your two points on Brendl. I don’t know, somehow he reminds me of a larger version of Pat Faloon. He also had good hands and a quick shot; but he was too slow and not quick enough to move to the open areas for shots. I see the same thing with Brendl.

    Even with a good attitude, I don’t see Pavel helping a good team.

  10. FlyHigh says:

    i think that brendl will get that last position. But if he falters, sharp will come up

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