This is the second of three parts of a season review of Philadelphia Flyers prospects currently in the system.
As the Flyers prepare to embark on a pivotal offseason, General Manager Paul Holmgren and his staff will be faced with a number of intriguing challenges.
The most obvious pertain to the courses the team opts for with regard to the upcoming entry draft and free agency. Both of these ventures will be heavily influenced by the positional depth the Flyers have accumulated throughout their system over the past few years.
With this in mind, the following is a look at the performances of the organization’s prospects this season at the NCAA (United States) level.
For Part 1 of the series, which looks at Flyers prospects in the Canadian major junior hockey leagues, click here.
Andreas Nodl, RW St. Cloud State (WCHA)
Nodl wasted little time in establishing himself as a force at the NCAA level, arriving at St. Cloud State after a promising two-year stint with the Sioux Falls Stampede of the USHL. Though he was described by Huskies head coach Bob Motzko from the beginning as a "prized recruit," the 20-year-old Austrian exceeded expectations as a freshman.
He would go on to co-lead the nation in scoring among first-year players, tying Western Michigan pivot Mark Letestu with 46 points (18 goals, 28 assists) in 40 games. Nodl's sensational season would earned him WCHA Rookie of the Year honors, making him the first ever St. Cloud player to attain the honor.
Nodl shattered the Huskies’ rookie scoring mark, and tied the school record for game-winning goals in a season, with five. He was also named to the All-WCHA Third Team following the conclusion of the regular season.
"We knew he was a talented player coming out of the USHL, but his production as a freshman has been a pleasant surprise,"said Holmgren. "We’re looking forward to watching him continue to develop. He will likely put up even bigger numbers [next season]."
Nodl is expected to return to St. Cloud for at least one more year.
Michael Ratchuk, D Michigan State University (CCHA)
Ratchuk enjoyed a stellar freshman campaign at Michigan State, proving to be a valuable contributor to the Spartans' surprise march to their first national championship in 21 years.
A product of the United States National Developmental Team Program (USNDTP), the smooth-skating rearguard quickly earned regular minutes on the veteran-laden squad. The Buffalo native finished first among all freshmen, third among defenseman, and eleventh overall on the Spartans in scoring this season, with 12 points (four goals, eight assists) in 40 games.
Ratchuk also notched three power play goals. He saw significant time at the point in man advantage situations, and is being groomed to quarterback the team's top unit.
"We really like what Mike brings to the table," explained Holmgren. "Because of the way the rules have changed, basically to the benefit of smaller skill guys like Mike, who have speed and move the puck quickly, we definitely feel that he is the type of player we need in our system right now."
Jonathan Matsumoto, C Bowling Green (CCHA)
Matsumoto signed with the Flyers after the completion of his junior season at Bowling Green in mid-March, becoming the first member of the organization's 2006 draft class (third round, 79th overall) to turn pro. He subsequently joined the Phantoms for the remainder of the season.
The Ottawa native was one of the few bright spots on a Bowling Green team that struggled mightily this season, leading the squad in scoring with 38 points (11 goals, 22 assists) in 33 games. He totaled an impressive 113 points (49 goals, 64 assists) in 110 total games over three seasons for the Falcons.
Upon joining the Phantoms, Matsumoto did not look out of place. He recorded four points (two goals, two assists) and four penalty minutes in his first 16 games as a professional.
"We're excited to have Jonathan here," explained Holmgren, after announcing the signing. "He was the leading scorer for Bowling Green University this season, but felt that it was time to move on. He's a smart, skilled player who brings a lot to the table."
Kyle Greentree, LW University of Alaska-Fairbanks (CCHA)
Greentree was signed by the Flyers as an undrafted free agent in mid-March after deciding to forgo his senior season at Alaska-Fairbanks. Along with Matsumoto, he joined the Phantoms on a try out basis for the remainder of this season. Both players' entry-level deals with the Flyers will effectively begin on July 1.
A native of Victoria, British Columbia, the 23-year-old forward led the Nanooks in scoring as junior, tallying 41 points (21 points, 20 assists) in 38 games. He completed his collegiate career with 101 points (41 goals, 60 assists) in 115 total games.
Greentree scored two goals and registered two penalty minutes in eight games with the Phantoms to close out the season.
"Kyle is a big left wing who was also his team's top scorer this season," said Holmgren. "He moves very well for his size, has good hands, and skates well. We're looking forward to seeing how he does in a full season in the AHL."
- University of Minnesota (WCHA) defenseman R.J. Anderson missed time early in the season due to a shoulder injury, and was later sidelined after having to undergo an appendectomy. The 20-year-old sophomore still managed to appear in 32 games, recording six assists and 20 penalty minutes.
- Chris Zarb emerged as a leader on the blueline for Ferris State (CCHA), recording 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) and 75 penalty minutes in 29 games, while logging big minutes in all game situations as a sophomore.
- Junior Travis Gawryletz continued to develop as a steady, if unspectacular, stay-at-home defenseman for the University of Minnesota-Duluth (WCHA). He tallied five assists and 57 penalty minutes in 37 games as a junior for the Bulldogs.
- University of Maine (Hockey East) right winger Rob Bellamy once again served as a valuable sparkplug for the Black Bears, but struggled mightily to put up offense in his junior season. The Westfield, MA native notched just eight points (one goal, seven assists) and finished second on the team with 82 penalty minutes in 37 games. He recorded 15 points (six goals, nine assists) in 40 games as a sophomore.
- Like Bellamy, Providence College (HE) forward Jonathan Rheault (pronounced ROW) endured an up-and-down junior season. Many observers had projected a breakout season for the 2006 Flyers draftee, who nonetheless led the disappointing Friars in scoring with 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 35 games.