Last season, the NHL Entry Draft was the only thing Flyers fans had to look forward too. Heading into this year’s draft, the only issue facing the Flyers was how the team would address their need for a defenseman, or a goaltending prospect.
The Flyers addressed both needs in the draft, but they also removed a key player from this year’s playoff run in R.J. Umberger. The good news for the Flyers was they received the Columbus Blue Jackets second of their first round picks at #19 to take a young defenseman without having to give up their own first round pick at #27. The bad news is, the team ended up moving their pick at #27 to the Washington Capitals to not only take underachieving defenseman Steve Eminger, but they dropped all the way into the third round (#67 overall).
To make matters worse is, with goaltender Chet Pickard already off the board at #18 to Nashville, the Flyers still had an opportunity to take two other goaltenders who were rated higher than Pickard according to Central Scouting, Thomas McCollum and Jacob Markstrom, when the Flyers picked at #27. Instead, the Flyers opted out and made the trade with Washington.
You can bet that if either of the goaltenders the Flyers passed up on lead a team to a Stanley Cup, the Flyers will be vilified for it, regardless of how well the draft picks they did select perform down the road.
The Flyers had four draft picks coming into the draft and left with five. Here is a review of who the Flyers took in the Draft and how they project to do down the road.
Luca Sbisa – Defense
First round pick (19th overall), 6’ 2”, 190 pounds, shoots left
Profile: Sbisa played this past season for the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League and recorded six goals and 27 assists for 33 points and 63 penalty minutes in 62 games. Sbisa won the Carl Trentini Memorial Award as the Hurricanes Rookie of the Year and led all WHL defensemen in playoff scoring with 15 points (3 goals,12 assists) in 19 games as Lethbridge. Sbisa was also a member of Team Switzerland at the 2008 World Junior Championships and ranked 12th among North American prospects on Central Scouting’s final report.
Writer’s take: The Flyers needed help on defense and they took the top rated defenseman on the board. The Flyers were hoping however that Pickard would fall to them but Nashville snatched him up. Still, Sbisa was a need pick, not necessarily the “best player available” when the Flyers took him. That said, Sbisa should turn out to be a solid defenseman for the Flyers should he develop well.
Outlook: Sbisa will be given every opportunity to become a key member of the Flyers blue line most likely two to three years from now. Brandon Coburn, Kimmo Timonen, Randy Jones, and Ryan Parent are a given to be on the Flyers blue line next season, with Eminger and Lasse Kuukonen penciled in to be the fifth and sixth defenseman, respectively. The Flyers are also looking to add another D-man in free agency. If so, that could move Sbisa lower on the totem pole, but Kuukonen, Jones and Eminger are not sure bets to be a part of the defense by the time Sbisa is ready. To see more on Sbisa go to the NHL’s draft website.
Marc-Andre Bourdon – Defense
Third round (67th overall), 6’ 0”, 205 pounds, shoots left
This season Bourdon played this past season for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League and scored 12 goals and 47 assists to go along with 114 penalty minutes in 69 games. Bourdon also won the Emile “Butch” Bouchard Trophy as the QMJHL’s best defenseman and was named this past season to the QMJHL First All-Star Team. Bourdon was ranked 125th among North American prospects according to Central Scouting.
Writer’s take: Some scouts already feel as though Bourdon might be a better overall defenseman than Sbisa, but only time will tell. The Flyers looked to stockpile defensemen and found what might be a gem at #67. If he and Sbisa pan out, Holmgren will look like a genius for passing up on the top goaltenders. Like Sbisa, Bourdon can hit and play an offensive game so, like pitching in baseball, you can never have enough good young defensemen, and the Flyers will draft as many as it takes in order to straighten out their defensive core for the next 5-10 years.
Outlook: Bourdon might be joining Sbisa on the Flyers’ blue line and could be his defensive partner should the Flyers decide both players will be the core of the blue line for the next ten years. To see more on Bourdon go to the NHL’s draft website.
Jacob DeSerres – Goalie
Third round (84th overall), 6’ 2”, 195 pounds, catches left
Played last season for the Seattle Thunderbirds of the Western Hockey League and posted a 20-11-0 record with three shutouts, a 2.28 goals-against-average, and a .922 save percentage in 34 regular season games for Seattle. DeSerres was tied for the WHL league lead in save percentage (.922) and played parts of his three seasons with Seattle (2005-06 through 2007-08), registering a 30-20-3 record, six shutouts, 2.41 GAA and .916 save percentage in 57 regular season games. DeSerres ranked sixth overall among North American goaltending prospects by Central Scouting.
Writer’s take: By passing on Markstrom and McCollum, taking a goaltender was mandatory. Taking DeSerres might have save face for Holmgren if he pans out, if not you can bet the Flyers’ faithful will let him hear it at home games. DeSerres was one of, if not the best goaltender in the WHL, so Holmgren and Flyers fans might be able to sleep at night knowing how good a talent he is.
Outlook: Holmgren was quoted before the draft as saying the team didn’t have any true NHL goaltending prospects. I’m sure that didn’t make any of the current goaltenders in the Flyers system happy to hear that, but unless someone steps up, DeSerres will be the Flyers goaltender in the post Marty Biron era. To see more on DeSerres go to the NHL’s draft website.
Zac Rinaldo – Center
Sixth round (178th overall), 5’ 11”, 170 pounds, shoots left
Played this past season for the Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors of the Ontario Hockey League and recorded seven goals and seven assists (14 points) and 191 penalty minutes in 63 games. Rinaldo led the league in penalty minutes with 191 (fifth in the OHL) and ranked 119th among North American prospects by Central Scouting.
Writer’s take: The Flyers needed some help at center, but instead of looking for someone who can score, they took someone who will fill a fourth liners role, which at this stage of the game is all the Flyers need down the middle of the ice.
Outlook: A fourth liners role is the best bet for him on the Flyers.
Joacim Eriksson – Goalie
Seventh round (196th overall), 6’ 1”, 190 pounds, catches right
Eriksson played this past season for the Brynas IF in the Swedish Under-20 League and recorded a 3.31 goals-against-average and a .875 save percentage in 16 games. Eriksson also was a member of Team Sweden at the 2008 IIHF World Under-18 Championships.
Outlook: Projected backup goalie with starters potential.
Contact the author at BJennings@insidehockey.com