The following is an update on the status of various Flyers amateur prospects at the Canadian major junior and U.S. collegiate levels, as well as one competing in Europe. Included are comments on each player by Flyers director of hockey operations, Chris Pryor.
MAJOR JUNIOR LEAGUESJacob DeSerres, GBrandon Wheat Kings (WHL)
DeSerres has split time between the pipes in Brandon with Andrew Hayes, following an early-season trade from the Seattle Thunderbirds. In Seattle, the 6-2, 180-pound Calgary native had little chance to play behind Calvin Pickard. In 27 games for the Wheat Kings, he has compiled a stellar 20-5-1-1 record, with a 2.80 goals-against average and .902 save percentage.
Brandon currently holds the third-best record in the WHL (42-18-1-3) and has already clinched a playoff spot. While Hayes (22-12-0-2, 2.76 GAA, .903 SP) has carried the bulk of the goaltending duties lately, DeSerres will likely see playoff action. The Wheat Kings are guaranteed a spot in this year's Memorial Cup tournament, as the host team. Pryor says: "Obviously, you always hope for ideal situations for your prospects to develop under. For Jacob, things have worked out this year. The situation in Brandon worked out much better for him than it would have [in Seattle]. And with Brandon hosting the Memorial Cup, he'll get a chance to take part on the biggest stage in junior hockey. It'll be a great experience for him, and one we feel he'll really learn from."Dave Labrecque, CShawinigan Cataractes (QMJHL)
Labrecque has performed at close to a point-per-game pace for Shawinigan all season, while anchoring the team's third line. He currently ranks third on the squad in scoring with 56 point in 57 games (22 goals, 24 assists) and second in penalty minutes with 78; his minus-11 ranking is more indicative of the Cataractes' defensive struggles, as well as his regular assignments against other teams' top offensive threats.
A sixth round selection of the Flyers last summer (153rd overall), Lebrecque registered 61 points (13g, 48a) in 59 games for the Cataractes last season. He stepped up his game in the playoffs, producing 19 points (3g, 16a) in 23 games. Pryor says: "Overall, Dave is having another strong season. He's had some issues with consistency. There have been stretches where he's played really well, followed by a series of games in which he's struggled. But, he's figuring things out. He has some skill, although he probably won't be a big scorer as a pro. He's smart, sound two-way player, and he continues to develop in that regard. One thing he still needs to work on is getting stronger, but that's coming along."Adam Morrison, GSaskatoon Blades (WHL)
After getting off to a terrific start, Morrison endured some struggles during his sophomore season with Saskatoon. The Blades' acquisition of Steven Stanford from Prince Albert did not help Morrison's cause, as Stanford caught fire immediately, and took over as the team's top goaltender.
Despite the ups and downs, Morrison has settled nicely into a backup role. For the season, he has compiled a 15-9-0-3 record, with a 3.22 GAA and .895 SP for the WHL's top regular season team (41-14-3-4).
The 6-3, 185-pound Surrey, British Columbia native was the Flyers' first choice at last summer's entry draft (third round, 81st overall). He was very impressive in limited action as a WHL rookie in 2008-09, going 9-1-1-0 with a 2.49 GAA, .907 SP, and one shutout in 13 games with the Blades. Pryor says: "In many ways, Morrison is having a season similar to what DeSerres had last year, playing behind a more experienced goaltender. Sometimes, these young goalies find themselves in a situation where they slip a bit, and a teammate steps in and plays really well. It can be a tough thing to go through, confidence-wise. But, Adam is a mentally tough kid, and he's worked his way through it. His numbers may not jump out, but we've been happy with his development."Zac Rinaldo, LWBarrie Colts (OHL)
A whirlwind on skates, Rinaldo continues to lead the OHL in penalty minutes - and it's not even close. The 5-11, 180-pound Hamilton, Ontario native has wracked up 220 minutes in the sin bin this season, in 53 games (an average of over four minutes per contest). Kyle Neuber of the Sarnia String is second with only 179.
Rinaldo started the season with the London Knights, but was dealt several weeks back to the Barrie Colts, the top team in the league this season (40-8-0-2). Since joining his new team, he has registered 6 points (1g, 5a), a plus-5 rating, and 72 penalty minutes in 19 games.
Rinaldo signed a three-year entry-level deal with the Flyers last summer. He will likely turn pro in 2010-11.Pryor says: "Zac is a real crowd favorite, because of the energy and effort he puts out on the ice, every night. He just goes, non-stop. He's really improved his all-around game and has matured as a player, which was a big part of our decision to get him under contract. His team in Barrie has the chance to go a long way in the playoffs, which obviously would be great for him. He might not be a top scorer, but he'll be a key player for them down the stretch."Eric Wellwood, LW
Windsor Spitfires (OHL)
While Rinaldo's Barrie squad sits atop the OHL standings, Wellwood's Windsor Spitfires (45-10-0-5) have dominated the circuit's Western Conference this season. Wellwood, the younger brother of Vancouver Canucks forward Kyle Wellwood, is one of seven Spitfire players averaging a point-per-game or better to this point.
That the 5-11, 179-pound Oldcastle, Ontario native ranks fifth on the team with 63 points (30g, 33a) in 58 games is an indication of the team's offensive prowess. Wellwood also ranks fifth on the team - and tenth in the league - with a plus-31 rating.
Wellwood, now in his fourth season with Windsor, produced only 34 points (16, 18a) in 61 games last year; but he exploded in the playoffs with 21 points (10g, 11a) in 20 games, helping the Spitfires capture the OHL and Memorial Cup championships. Pryor says: "Sometimes, it's difficult to properly assess guys who play on such dominant teams. But, Eric has worked very hard and really improved just about every aspect of his game. He had a great performance in the playoffs last year, and we expect that drive to help Windsor repeat as Memorial Cup champions to be there. He's another player who will likely turn pro next year."NCAAOliver Lauridsen, DSt. Cloud State (WCHA)
The most pleasant surprise in the Flyers' system this season, Lauridsen has emerged as a force on the blue line for St. Cloud State in his sophomore campaign. A towering presence at 6-6, 220-pounds, the Danish import has been steady in his own end for the Huskies all season.
Offensively, he has been something of a revelation. Through 34 games, Lauridsen has recorded 11 points (6g, 5a) in 34 games, ranking him third among St. Cloud's defensemen. This comes after he tallied a mere assist in 28 games as a freshman.
Lauridsen has also displayed more of a willingness to play a physical game, when needed. He has used his size effectively along the boards and behind the net, using his size to his advantage. His is currently fourth on the team with 46 penalty minutes.
Pryor says: "We've been very impressed with Lauridsen this season, as he's made some big strides in his development. I would say he's exceeded expectations to this point. He plays a North American-style game, and has proven to be very coachable. He still needs time and experience to develop and round out his game, as he's still raw in many areas. But, he's coming along and has shown a lot of promise this season."EUROPESimon Bertilsson, DBrynas IF Gavle (Sweden)
If not for a shoulder injury suffered in late 2009, Bertilsson would have been a member of Team Sweden's roster at this year's World Junior Championships. The 18-year-old rearguard has already made a successful transition to the Elitserien, the top pro league in his homeland, where he plays for Brynas.
In 30 games for the team this season, he has registered one goal and three assists. He ranks second on the squad with 43 penalty minutes.
Bertilsson, the Flyers' top draft pick last summer (third round, 87th overall) is a skilled, mobile defender who plays with an assertive edge and what is perceived by many scouts as an advanced level of maturity for his age. Pryor says: "The injury came at the worst time for him, preventing him from playing in the WJCs. But, Bertilsson has been very impressive, regardless. He's playing in Sweden's top men’s league at 18, and by all accounts, he's doing very well. Sweden has been producing quality young talent, and Bertilsson is a product of the system. We've been very impressed with him. As for when he might be ready to come over, I would say that next season is a possibility. It may be another year or two, though. We'll have to wait and see."Joacim Eriksson, GBrynas IF Gavle (Sweden)
Eriksson spent the previous two seasons in the Brynas system, but was essentially blocked by Florida Panthers prospect Jacob Markstrom. He moved on to Leksands, and has proven to be one of the top goaltenders in the Allsvenskan (top minor league equivalent) this season.
The 6-1, 190-pound netminder has put up outstanding numbers, compiling a 2.41 GAA and .926 SP in 44 games in his first full season as a pro.
As with the Flyers' other European prospects, Eriksson's potential arrival in North America is not being kept on a specific timetable, allowing him to develop at his own pace. Pryor says: "Eriksson is a guy we were happy to pick up in the draft two years ago, and we're pleased with his development so far. He's shown a lot of improvement, and we thought he had a great attitude when he came in for [rookie] camp last summer. We'll continue to monitor him, and will try to bring him over when he feel the time is right."Andrei Popov, RWChelyabinsk Traktor (Russia)
Now in his fourth pro season in the RSL/KHL, Popov seems to be hitting his stride. The 6-0, 185-pound winger displayed marked improvement at both ends of the rink this year, emerging as perhaps Traktor's best two-way forward.
He presently ranks third on the team with 26 points (15g, 11a) in 47 games, after compiling just 28 points (11g, 17a) in 131 total games over the previous three seasons.
Popov saw his ice time and responsibilities increase considerably this season, a result of a renewed commitment and work ethic. Pryor says: "Popov is another player we'd like to bring over, as we were finally able to do with [defenseman] Denis Bodrov, who's now with the Phantoms. He certainly hasn't suffered any, from a developmental standpoint, by playing in the KHL, as that is a very strong league. It's hard to get players in the KHL out of the contractual obligation they're in, in many cases. It's very complicated. But, certainly, Popov is a player we've watched and would like to bring over."