Krajicek Joins the Flyers’ Blueline
In a rare occurrence, former first round selection Lukas Krajicek had his contract terminated by the Tampa Bay Lightning making him an unrestricted free agent. The Flyers, in need of some depth at the blueline thanks to struggles by Tollefsen along with injuries to both Syvret and Parent, signed him as a depth defensemen to test out for the remainder of the season.
Krajicek was selected 24th overall by the Florida Panthers in 2001 and had a few decent seasons in Florida before being moved to Vancouver along with Roberto Luongo. With the Canucks, Krajicek had some minor success though he was never stellar. Eventually he made his way back to the state of Florida by way of trade to the Tampa Bay Lightning. He had a mediocre first season with the Lightning, but through the 2009-10 season, he was having some major problems getting going with only one assist in 23 games. He was waived to the AHL when no one picked him up off waivers but eventually refused to report. Because of this, Krajicek was unconditionally released from his contract leading the Flyers to pick him up on the open market.
No one yet knows how Krajicek will react to a much better team in Philadelphia, but many are hoping for him to fill out the bottom pair successfully. Holmgren had pointed out that the Flyers were in need of a little extra support on the blueline, and this may solve the problem.
With Krajicek’s journey to Philadelphia, forward Mika Pyorala was sent down to the Adirondack Phantoms.
It is likely that Krajicek will appear in his first game for the Flyers on Monday night against the Calgary Flames, but with only seven games left before the Olympic break, the organization is not likely done preparing for the Trade Deadline on March 3rd. Though there will be a roster freeze for the Olympics, the Flyers will likely be discussing forwards with teams that have given up on the postseason such as Carolina, Edmonton, and Toronto.
Krajicek’s pick-up puts the Flyers at 48 used contracts under the 50 contract limit for 2009-10. This means that there is still a decent amount of room for a deadline acquisition.
Bodrov Signs Tryout with Phantoms
After a few years worth of dramatics and speculation, defenseman Denis Bodrov has finally made his way to North America.
Bodrov, a 2nd round selection by the Flyers in 2006, was coming off a great rookie season in the Russian League as well as a great World Junior Championships outing where Russia captured silver. He gradually got better and better through his 2nd and 3rd season in Russia’s highest level of competition. Paul Holmgren had even mentioned that Bodrov would soon be ready to jump into the Flyers lineup and make an immediate impact on the blueline.
Something went horribly wrong.
He was playing for Tolyatti Lada along with his brother, Evgeny Bodrov, when a swirl of locker room issues began to torment the young defenseman. He was rumored to be a bad influence on the younger players within the organization. His play began to decline, and the following season, the same year the Russian league became the KHL, Bodrov was traded to Mytishchi Atlant. With Atlant’s deep lineup, Bodrov was awarded less and less ice time as he slowly faded to the healthy scratch list. He then played 12 games with Atlant in 2009-10 before all hell broke loose.
On November 30th, 2009, Atlant’s General Manager Ravil Ishakov effectively tore up Bodrov’s contract. For the Flyers organization waiting on whether or not Bodrov would ever head to North America, this was the opportunity they had been waiting for. Unfortunately, the termination of Bodrov’s contract was met with a nasty confrontation that would put most divorce cases to shame.
One has to wonder how much of Bodrov’s issues with the KHL were financial. Recently acquired goaltender Ray Emery, who had spent time with Bodrov in Atlant during the 2008-09 season, had his issues with KHL finances as well, but those problems were just the start. On January 21st, it was discovered that Atlant asked twelve players find other homes due to financial difficulties. The debts for the club had climbed into the tens of millions in Russian rubles.
The problems don’t stop there. On that Thursday morning, Bodrov’s agent along with bailiffs entered Atlant’s stadium to confiscate a truck, two passenger cars, and various buses belonging to the organization. The organization owed their former defenseman roughly $3.5m, and the judicial authorities intended to sell the vehicles for a total of $1.5m which would then be awarded to Bodrov.
Though nothing immediately came of Bodrov’s claims against Atlant, the matter is still being taken up in court. Eventually Bodrov will have to get paid, but for now, he has ventured into another world entirely.
The Flyers organization has coordinated with the Phantoms to lock Bodrov up under a tryout with the Phantoms. This way he does not count against the Flyers’ 50 contract limit and will likely be signed to a contract this offseason when a number of others expire.
Nothing has come easy for Bodrov in his last couple of years. Even a change of scenery is not just a guaranteed success. He came to the Phantoms out of game shape due to months off in Russia battling with his former organization.
“He hasn’t played in about a month,” Holmgren said to Philly.com. “I don’t really know the process over there in Russia, but it worked out where he was free to do what he wanted. He’s been here the last few days.”
There’s two impediments to Bodrov’s assimilation into the Phantoms: his conditioning, or lack thereof, and the fact that he doesn’t speak a lick of English.
Podell will take care of the former. The later is sort of everyone’s problem.
Bodrov, for his part, doesn’t seem to worried, at least about the on-ice part.
“We talk the hockey language,” Bodrov said laughing, speaking through translator Slava Kouznetsov, the Flyers’ power-skating coach.
Kouznetsov has been a fixture at Bodrov’s side this week, but he left for Philadelphia on Thursday. So how will the Phantoms’ coaches communicate with Bodrov now?
“Sammy and I are good artists,” Phantoms coach Greg Gilbert said, referring to assistant coach Kjell Samuelsson.
He laughed, but he wasn’t kidding.
Samuelsson, who made the same transition coming from his native Sweden, oversees the team’s defense.
“If you draw it up, I think he understands that because they use the same kind of terminology,” Samuelsson.
Bodrov will work with a language coach weekly and being around the guys in the locker room will help, too.
Then there’s that other American institution.
“He better start watching all the TV,” Samuelsson said.
The process is beginning. At practice Thursday, Bodrov fired a pretty slap shot from the point beat the goalie top-shelf. His new teammates mobbed him like he scored a game-winner.
“He can shoot the puck. He can play hockey. There’s no problem with that,” Samuelsson said. “There’s a lot of hockey players over there and you can’t make it that far in that country if you can’t play.”
By reputation, Bodrov is a puck-moving defenseman who skates well and plays with his head up. But he’ll have to adjust to the quicker North American game.
“I just hope he doesn’t get caught up in trying to overhandle it because he’s not going to have the same time and space as he did over in Europe,” Gilbert said.
Samuelsson said he spoke on Wednesday with a Flyers European scout, who had seen Bodrov play. The scout said whether his fresh start in the states works out a really depends on him.
“If he makes up his mind, he can play over here,” Samuelsson said. “It’s almost up to him to adjust to the game and learn to play over here. It’s going to take some time.”
Bodrov has since played in his first ever North American game with the Adirondack Phantoms where he recorded two shots on goal despite a 2-1 loss and limited ice-time to the newest member of the organization.
Of the two new players, defenseman Denis Bodrov and forward Mika Pyorala, Bodrov was much more impressive. Bodrov is a flashy skater and made a couple of brilliant pivots to keep the puck in the zone on a 4-on-4 in the first period. He also set up Marc-Andre Bourdon for a good chance. I didn’t notice Pyorala much. Here’s Gilbert on their debuts:
On Bodrov: “Denis Bodrov looked real good. He’s got real good hockey sense and vision. He made some real good plays on pinches and keeping pressure in the offensive zone and keeping the puck in. The way he played tonight is very good for someone who hasn’t played in a long time.”
On Pyorala: “Mika, I think he was getting some of the rust off. He hasn’t played in four or five weeks (actually since Jan. 14). Throw him in the action and hopefully he’ll be better tomorrow.”
New Lines Bring Some Offense to Flyers
Going into yesterdays game against the New York Islanders, winger Scott Hartnell had found twine only twice in his last 25 games. Hartnell’s offensive problems were just a microcosm of the entire Flyers scoring slump as the team dealt with injuries, coaching deficiencies, a new coach, a new system, and confidence woes.
Even with all of their problems, their two best players (Richards and Carter) performing well under their normal point-per-game pace, and injury issues amongst the forwards including Gagne, the Flyers are currently in 7th place in the NHL in goals scored per game with 2.96. Before the slump, they were in a heated battle with Washington for first place somewhere around 3.60.
In order to slowly get all of the players back to their normal scoring paces, Laviolette made a few changes following losses to Atlanta and Pittsburgh this past week. Hartnell was placed at Mike Knuble’s old position on Richards’ right along with Gagne. Powe was moved to the left with Carter and Briere. Giroux had of course already been put back at center with vanRiemsdyk on his wing.
Chemistry immediately shown for both new lines. Powe’s speed helped create a wrap-around goal scored by Briere early in the first period with Carter getting the other assist. Late in the period Hartnell tallied a powerplay goal with helpers for Richards and Gagne.
Hartnell also got involved in the crease with another goal midway through the 2nd period though it was eventually disallowed. The official on the ice by the net called it a goal, and there was no arm up to signal goaltender interference. Even so, a spirited bout of complaining by Islander goaltender Dwayne Roloson led to an overturned call. The disallowed goal was eerily similar to the Richards goal against the Penguins that led to a 2-0 lead turning into a 1-1 tie. The Penguins eventually went on to win that game. It was just another display of careless officiating that the Flyers had come to expect and many NHL teams have been forced to contend with this season.
Along with a pair of disallowed goals against the Penguins and a Winter Classic OT game winner in which Boston had far too many men on the ice, it has been a rough month for the Flyers and their constant battle with officiating.
While head coach Laviolette has been more than animated when discussing his frustration with officiating, often mentioning that the Flyers should not have to kill penalties that didn’t happen, veteran defenseman Chris Pronger was a little more easy going.
“Every team I have been on, I thought the same thing -- they’re out to get ya,” Pronger said to CSNPhilly.com. “I think the teams that win all the time, think the refs are out to get them. It’s always the same thing when you don’t get the call to go your way.”
Honestly, the officials are not out to get the Flyers in particular. However, they are in the business of making games fair. This philosophy of evening the ice surface seems to work against the Flyers often. Officials trying to make games closer are disallowing fair goals. Make-up calls and phantom penalties are becoming a league-wide epidemic, and the Flyers just happen to be at the forefront of a dangerous, growing trend. Eventually the league will have to step in and do something about it.
Joacim Eriksson Tearing Up Sweden
One of the best goaltenders coming out of the 2008 NHL Entry Draft was a young kid by the name of Jacob Markstrom. Though Markstrom was the highest goaltender ranked, two North Americans, Thomas McCollum and Chet Pickard, went in the first round ahead of him. Then, with the first selection in the second round, the Florida Panthers selected Jacob Markstrom who is now regarded as one of the top goaltending prospects in the world.
The young goalie who grew up completely covered by Markstrom’s shadow was Flyers’ prospect Joacim Eriksson.
From the time Markstrom was drafted, 17 other goalies came off the board before the Flyers selected the unranked Joacim Eriksson in the seventh and final round of the draft, even after they selected Jacob de Serres, who has been less than impressive since his drafting in the third round.
In truth, goaltending prospects, and goaltenders in general, are very hit or miss. Eriksson, however, is doing some impressive things in Sweden.
Though Markstrom and Eriksson both played with the Brynas U-20 team in 2007-08, they would take different roads from then onward, one, Eriksson, always waiting in line behind the other. In 2008-09 Markstrom moved immediately to the Elitserien, Sweden’s highest level of hockey, while Eriksson was left to the U-20 team. In 22 games with Brynas U-20 in 2007-08, Markstrom recorded a 2.00 GAA with a 0.931 save percentage, but in 33 games with Brynas U-20 in 2008-09, Eriksson recorded a 1.99 GAA with a 0.930 save percentage. Despite Eriksson’s stellar numbers, Markstrom was cemented in his role with Brynas in the Elitserien after a great rookie season. Eriksson, having dominated juniors, was then loaned out to Leksand of the Hockey Allsvenskan, a professional league a tier below the Elitserien.
While Markstrom, still one of the top goaltending prospects in the world, continued his domination of Swedish hockey, Eriksson took up his post with a new organization. The results were nothing short of spectacular.
Eriksson leads the league in save percentage at 0.931 and is third in goals against at 2.25 having faced the fourth most amount of shots per game in the entire league. He also recently surpassed a club record for shutouts set by Ed Belfour with eight so far this season. If he gets three more, he will hold the league record.
While there is currently no timetable for Eriksson’s trip state-side to play in North America, the kid he has spent his entire career behind, Markstrom, is likely on his way to Florida’s AHL team at the end of the season. This could finally give Eriksson a shot in the Elitserien. If not, it’s also likely that Eriksson’s current team, with the way they are dominating the Allsvenskan now, will get promoted to the Elitserien next season. If that is the case and Markstrom does stay in Sweden, Eriksson would still get his shot at Elitserien action.
The past of the Flyers is littered with disappointments from goaltending prospects. Eriksson, right now, appears to be great find in the seventh round.
Some other goaltenders discovered late in the draft: Miika Kiprusoff (5th round, 1995), Henrik Lundavist (7th round, 2000), Evgeni Nabokov (9th round, 1994), Tim Thomas (9th round, 1994), and Dominik Hasek (10th round, 1983).
Wellwood Putting on a Show in OHL
When the Flyers drafted Eric Wellwood in the 6th round of 2009 NHL Entry Draft, they were largely impressed with his speed and defensive play. In fact, they thought so much of his two-way play that the organization tried him out at defense during prospect camp.
Wellwood may have gotten the message at Flyers’ camp, but he wasn’t about to get a positional change without throwing in his two cents.
In 61 regular season games last year before being drafted, Wellwood produced a mediocre 34 points off of 16 goals and 18 assists. The Flyers looked at his speed and defensive play as a possible asset to the organization, but what may have tipped the scales in Wellwood’s favor was his impressive postseason run in which he scored 21 points off of 10 goals and 11 assists in 20 postseason games.
Not only was this kind of offensive explosion unheard of for Wellwood, but he also became an unlikely hero in the process.
Not only did Windsor, thanks to some Eric Wellwood dramatics, knock off soon-to-be first overall selection John Tavares and the London Knights, but the team would win the OHL Championship over the Brampton Battalion.
Soon after, Windsor competed against the top CHL opponents for the Memorial Cup, the same trophy that Mike Richards lifted as a member of the Kitchener Rangers years before. The Spitfires beat out the top competition from the QMJHL and WHL carving out their own niche in CHL history.
Since finding his offensive surge in the 2009 CHL postseason, Wellwood has refused to let it go. In 49 games he has already scored 27 goals and added 29 assists for 56 points. He is on pace to double his offensive output from last season, something he has done each progressive year in the OHL.