Flyers’ 2006 first round pick to play for AHL affiliate
by Kevin Kurz
(Voorhees, NJ, April 6) – Following his third practice with the Philadelphia Phantoms, the Flyers' 2006 first round draft pick Claude Giroux was notified that he would be making his professional debut on Friday night at the Spectrum after signing an amateur tryout with the club.
"I'm pretty excited. I'm just going to try to stick to basics," said Giroux. "I'm not too sure what to expect because I never played in this league before, so I'll just try to do my best."
Giroux, 19, is coming off of a second straight stellar season with his junior club, the Gatineau Olympiques. In 62 games, he tallied 48 goals and 64 assists for 112 points. He led his team in goals and points and was second in assists.
Phantoms coach Kjell Samuelsson is excited to plug one of the organization's top prospects into his lineup.
"I would like to see him using his biggest assets like his skill and his speed," said Samuelsson. "I want to see him stick his nose in there, and not shy away from the physical game. I want to see him do what he did in junior and produce some offense."
This is Giroux's second stint at the Virtua Health Flyers Skate Zone, as the winger was part of the team's 2006 Training Camp after being drafted 22nd overall in the most recent NHL Entry Draft.
Samuelsson has been impressed with Giroux in the short time he has been able to evaluate him since Gatineau was eliminated from the playoffs last week.
"I've seen the same thing that he showed when he was here in camp. He's a skilled guy and he can score goals," said Samuelsson. "Hopefully he can make the transformation now from junior to the American [Hockey] League and pick up the speed pretty quickly."
Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren has referred to Giroux as the perfect player for the new NHL, but emphasizes that Giroux (5'11'', 175-pounds) needs to put on some weight and muscle before making the jump. More likely than not, Giroux will spend another year with his junior club in 2007-08 before getting a chance to crack the Flyers lineup.
That being said, Giroux must have taken Holmgren's advice, because Samuelsson notices a difference in Giroux since training camp last September.
"He looks to me like he emphasized working out a little bit and he got a little thicker, so that's even better," said Samuelsson.
"I think I've gotten a little bit faster than when I was here in training camp, and a little bit bigger, too," said Giroux. "[This summer] I want to concentrate on maybe not putting on weight, but at least just getting stronger. If I want to play in the NHL I need to get stronger to play with those guys."
Giroux said he will not be disappointed if he doesn't make it to the NHL next season and trusts the Flyers personnel to make the right decision.
"I think they know what is best for me. If they want to keep me, they are going to keep me, and if not I will go back to another year of junior and I wouldn't mind that," he said. "It's going to be their choice, but I'm just going to get here and be in good shape and show them what I can do."
Still, the NHL is not far from Giroux's mind.
"For sure, sometimes I think about my future. I think everybody does. I just hope one day I will be able to play a game in the NHL."
For Giroux, it''s fairly safe to say that the question is not if, but when.
PROSPECT NOTES Flyers 2005 first round pick Steve Downie's Kitchener Rangers are in the second round of the OHL playoffs. The series against Plymouth begins Friday. … Andreas Nodl, the team's second round pick in 2006, was named the WCHA rookie of the year after his season with St. Cloud State. … Michael Ratchuk, a freshman at Michigan State, will play in the NCAA title game on Saturday in St. Louis. Ratchuk was drafted by the Flyers in the second round in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft.