Future of Flyers Farm System Still Unknown After Raffl, Lamarche SigningsBREAKING NEWS, Flyers, News, NHL Sunday, June 2nd, 2013
The best suggestions that I could offer were Erik Gustafsson, who has already played in 67 NHL games over the last three seasons, and Oliver Lauridsen.
“Not what I wanted to hear,” was the reply.
Over the last three seasons, the Flyers organization’s draft picks and undrafted prospect signings have been respectable. Some, like Matt Read and Sean Couturier, have already made in impact at the NHL level.
For many others, though, the future is still a question mark.
The Flyers announced this past week that they have added two new players to their farm system- Austrian winger Michael Raffl and QMJHL defenseman Maxim Lamarche.
Raffl, 24, played in the Swedish Elitserien (SEL) in the last two seasons for Leksand and tallied an impressive 24 goals and 46 points in 49 games this season with the club.
The Flyers suggested in their official announcement that they believe he may be ready for the NHL as early as next season, and hope he can make an impact similar to Detroit Red Wings forward Damien Brunner (12 goals and 26 points as a 27 year-old rookie).
There is just as good a chance, though, that if rushed too soon to the big club, Raffl will be more likely to achieve the same results as former Flyer Mika Pyorala.
Pyorala was signed to a one-year contract prior to the start of the 2008-09 season and made the team based on a strong preseason. He had played two seasons in the SEL prior to his signing, posting similar production to Raffl.
His first NHL goal isn’t included on his scorecard because it came in a shootout against the Buffalo Sabres. In 36 games with Philadelphia, he only earned 2 goals and 4 points. He returned to the SEL after his one cup of coffee in the NHL.
As for Lamarche, he’s a bit of a wild card. Aside from being undrafted, he never made the NHL’s Central Scouting records for any of the years he was draft eligible.
In his second and third seasons with Baie-Comeau Drakkar, he scored 4 goals and at least 25 points in each system. Unfortunately, his plus/minus in each season was never positive, suggesting that he needed work on the defensive side of the game.
As an overager this past season, though, the 6’-3” right-shooting defenseman earned 9 goals and 43 points while maintaining a +31 rating.
In other words, it’s a low risk, high reward signing for the Flyers. Unknown to many, Lamarche may either be a footnote of Flyers history or a testament to the organization’s resourceful scouting department.
We just have no idea, and therein lies the trouble.
With all of the recent signings (or lack thereof, in the case of 2010 draft pick Colin Suellentrop), there are a lot of “unknown unknowns” that put into question the immediate future of the Flyers farm system. Are these players going to provide the depth the team needs to make a Stanley Cup run over the course of the next few seasons or are they just “filler” players?
The Adirondack Phantoms, the AHL affiliate of the Flyers, will see an influx of new blood next season, along with (hopefully) some improved seasons for their past free agent signings.
Players that have never played a full season of professional hockey yet include forwards Brandon Alderson, Nick Cousins, Kyle Flanagan, and Petr Straka. Among defensemen, that list includes Lamarche and Mark Alt.
Players that will be returning with higher expectations include Jason Akeson, Matt Konan, Brandon Manning, Tye McGinn, Marcel Noebels, and goaltender Cal Heeter.
The 2013 NHL season hasn’t ended yet, thanks to the lockout pushing the Stanley Cup Finals far into June. It’s probably too early to even be thinking this much about the Flyers farm system. Once September rolls around, though, each of these players will be back in focus as the immediate future of the Flyers franchise. Hopefully more players will step up than bow out as the Phantoms play their final season in Glens Falls.
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