Philadelphia Flyers 2008 Draft Review
BY ROB REATH
Philadelphia Flyers GM Paul Holmgren had indicated he wasn’t happy with the number of draft picks the Flyers had so he did what a GM does best in such a situation and he dealt a slew of picks for other picks and players and, at the end of the day the Philadelphia came out looking pretty good considering how things appeared the day before.
Luca Sbisa, D, Lethbridge, WHL (19th overall)
Philly used the pick they acquired in the deal that sent R.J. Umberger to Columbus to select Sbisa 19th overall. A steady defender with Lethbridge of the WHL, Sbisa is Italian born and played most of his hockey in the Swiss League. He is considered something of an offensive defenseman, but is quite poised in his own end as well. He is a bit lean and while he’s tagged with the typical knock of having played in the Swiss league (many times such players are deemed “soft”), Sbisa may appear soft on the surface, but he can deal out a big hit and back it up with his fists when called upon. However, that’s not how he usually plays the game; he is a finesse player first and foremost.
Sbisa’s weaknesses are that he doesn’t play physical enough or at least when he does show a bit of toughness, he needs to remember to do so in the next three games as well. Developing more consistency with that aspect of his game will go a long way towards determining his success in the NHL. It’s inaccurate to suggest that he coughs up the puck prematurely or makes poor reads because, while this happened occasionally, Sbisa is very much the thinking man’s hockey player and shows good judgment in those same situations most of the time.
Sbisa is strong on his skates and fluid in stride with very good lateral movement to either side. His skating will likely give him an edge over other young players in training camp. While the NHL is still a few years away, there is a lot to like about Sbisa’s chances as smart, fluid defenders with a flare for offense are always in demand.
Marc Andre Bourdon, D, Rouyn-Noranda, QMJHL (67th overall)
Philly’s third round pick came as the second part of the Columbus package for Umberger, and the Flyers used it wisely. Having done their homework and scouted the entire crop, the club selected Bourdon, who may turn out be something of a gem for a host of reasons.
The Captain of the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies was voted the league’s most valuable defenseman, providing leadership, offense and plenty of grit. In fact, the only question mark about Bourdon’s game is his skating, but it sure didn’t interfere with his ability to produce.
He scored 12 goals and 59 points while spending 114 minutes in the penalty box during 69 games.
If this combination of all purpose skills isn’t enough to get one’s attention, Bourdon posseses some intangibles that could add to his appeal. Some say Philly is a tough town on its athletes (really?), and hockey is no exception, but judging by the way Bourdon handled the press, it wasn’t surprising to see full articles on him in the sports pages the day after he was drafted. He has that unpretentious and self-effacing honesty to go along with a blue colour charisma that Philadelphia fans often rally around. It’s the reason that players like Ron Hextall and Steve Downie are favoured over more polished players. They play hard and don’t hide from criticism.
Bourdon has that quality in spades. On draft day he said, “I think I had a good year, maybe not too much, but I don’t think I could have done more than what I did.” He also told the truth, saying there was one team in particualr he wanted to go to, but he felt he fit the pattern in Philly because of his physical play and added that he liked the enthusiastic crowd when they get into the spirit of things with the all of the orange shirts in the playoffs.
If there is a such thing as a born Flyer, Bourdon might be that guy.
Jacob DeSerres, G, Seattle, WHL (87th overall)
DeSerres is a confident goalie who doesn’t quite fit into the mold of the typical butterfly goaltender. There are plenty of elements of that to his game, but he has moments of blending it with a bit of a stand up game as well. While drafting goaltenders is an especially tricky business, the Flyers show signs of great diligence here as many of this year’s crop of puckstoppers were quite highly touted. DeSerres, much like Bourdon, may slipped under the radar a bit despite putting up strong numbers. There were several experts who quietly acknowledged the upside of Deserres, and while every player is a gamble to an extent, finding the ones with the upside are why one goes to the table. With a .922 save percentage and 2.28 GAA in 34 games, DeSerres will have to get in a few more games and establish that this year was not a fluke. But given his confidence level and reaction time to shooters, there is no reason to think he won’t be able to continue to improve and raise a few eyebrows doing so. He has displayed a bit of a fiery, competitive streak, which will suit the Flyers just fine.
Zac Rinaldo, C, Mississaugaga, OHL (178th overall)
Rinaldo is an intense role player, an agitator who brings some grit and intangibles to the table. While not especially offensively gifted, he could be the sort of player that embraces and thrives in the role of checking forward while stirring things up to aid his team. However, he would have a long road to the NHL and he would have to refine his game in several of the finesse areas. Before one writes him off, though, consider the Sutters, players whose drive carried them through any other shortcomings and cast long shadows on the ice for years because of it. Rinaldo could develop into such a player with increased dedication to rounding his game.
Joacim Eriksson, G, Brynas Jr., Swedish Junior League (196th overall)
Some say the Flyers had targeted a goalie with 19th pick and fell one pick short when Chet Pickard was taken 18th overall by Nashville. Instead, the Flyers opted for a highly touted defender. If that’s true, then the Flyers once again proved they comb the leagues for lesser-known talents that most other NHL team miss. Philly scout Ilkka Sinisalo brought Eriksson to the Flyers attention and seemingly with very good reason. His stats are startling to say the least: Boasting an eye-popping 1.25 GAA and .961 save percentage at the Under 17 tournament, Eriksson still has a lot to prove during the regular season, but he definitely looks like a prospect.
He plays a compact style of netminding and drops down frequently, but without unneccesary theatrics. He’s somewhat of a dark horse gamble this late in the draft, but with goalies it is much tougher to project their futures, and Eriksson has shown flashes of sheer brilliance in net so he may be well worth keeping an eye on.