I've been pretty high on some of the elite young goaltenders out there like Jonathan Bernier and Cory Schneider. Even some of the goaltenders in the Flyers' farm, like Johan Backlund, Joacim Eriksson, Nicola Riopel and Sergei Bobrovsky, seem to have a lot of potential and could take the mantle of our 'goalie of the future'. Then I read something that made me doubt myself a bit about prospect goaltenders.
The following are excerpts from a prospect report from the summer of 1998, preserved on the Hockey's Future website. They rank the Flyers top 10 prospects at that post-1997 and pre-2000 stage.
We'll begin with the number 1 prospect:
1.J.M. PELLTIER – Goalie
Many have complained that the Philadelphia Flyers, while seemingly stocked with talent, are lacking in attitude. It looks as though things are starting to change down on Broad Street and J.M. Pelltier is a prime example. Tall at 6'3, Pelltier is very quick for such a tall netminder and because of his size and over the top confidence, he reminds some of a young Patrick Roy circa 1985, when Roy used his spring stint at Sherbroke of the AHL as a pitstop so that the city of Montreal could prepare for his arrival. Pelltier will share the goaltending duties with the Philadelphia Phantoms with Brian Boucher and many in the organization feel that J.M.'s cocky attitude gives Pelltier an edge over the softer spoken Boucher in the race to become the heir to John Vanbeisbrouck's starting position with the Flyers.
The name Brian Boucher popped up, here's the number 4 prospect on the list:
4.BRIAN BOUCHER – Goalie
Boucher is talented enough to be labeled "the Goalie of the Future" in nearly any other NHL organization but he is now in the position to wrestle J.M. Pelltier for that title in Philadelphia. The silence surrounding the Flyers as far as their opinion of Boucher as a prospect is almost deafening. Some wonder why the top pick in 1997 was used on a goalie (Pelltier) when the Flyers used their top pick on Boucher two years earlier. Those are probably the same people who were scratching their heads as Neil Little played nearly every second of the AHL playoffs as the Phantoms were marching to the Calder Cup championship. A NHL franchise would kill to give its future goalie that kind of experience and for some reason the Flyers did not. Hmmm....
Brian is a standup goalie that is very good at playing the angles. The only obvious weak point in his game is his troubles corralling his rebounds but that is something that coaching at the pro level can fix rather quickly. There also have been whispers that Boucher needs how to learn to bounce back better from disappointing performances and sharing time with the cocky Pelltier may help him do that this season in the AHL. With the NHL continuing to expand over the next couple of years, the Flyers may find it difficult to hold on to their two fine goaltending prospects for too much longer. For that reason, the goalie that wins the AHL job is probably the only one that should consider buying a house rather than renting.
w/ the AHL Phantoms, in 34GP 16-12-03, 3.19 GAA, .888 SV%
Well there's a phrase that Flyers fans have been mentioning a lot recently: 'goalie of the future'. And there's a name that Flyers fans have become refamiliarized with over the last season, our no. 3 goaltender: Brian Boucher. Wait, what?
For comparision, I'll just bring out the report on the no. 3 prospect the Flyers had in 1998, a French Canadian first round pick called Simon Gagne who was ranked just higher than Boosh and lower than Pelletier:
It seems that scouts had very different opinions of Simon Gagne's skating ability. Having seen Gagne skate for a week in Voorhees, I could definitely see why. Bob Clarke was touting this kid as a fabulous skater which had visions of another Alexander Daigle dancing in my head and that is not the case. Gagne is a strong skater with nice, long strides but definitely not eye catching at all. It was not until the prospects took part in the informal scrimmages, could one see Gagne at his best. He has very good on-ice awareness and seems to really see the ice very well. He has to fill out his 6'1 frame but he looks very strong on his skates. The Flyers expect him to develop next season in Quebec of the QMJHL and Gagne should be invited to the Canadian National Junior Team camp in December with a very good shot at making that club. With the Flyers yearning for forwards with creativity, Gagne's offensive flair should enable him to push for a roster spot in two to three years.
w/ Quebec of the QMJHL, in 53GP, 30-39-69, 26
See, it's not the first time the Flyers have had elite goaltenders in the farm. Remember Maxime Ouellet? That sure fire goalie prospect we traded away?
Well, if you want to remember how we felt about our goaltending situation in 2001, here's another excerpt from Hockey's Future's evaluation of the 2001 draft:
With Maxime Ouellet still in the fold at the time and promising Antero Niittymaki getting closer to crossing the pond from Finland, the Flyers were not overly concerned with finding a top-notch goaltending prospect at the 2001 draft.
Here we are at another point in Flyers history, just three years after we were happy with two goalie prospects, thinking we are set yet again with a different two goalie prospects. Ouellet was a bust. Niitymaki was somewhat better but never became the 'solution' either.
As I said, I'm someone who really likes the prospect goalies we've got and believe one of them will step it up. I'm also someone who thinks Bernier is sure to be a superstar. This, which flies in the face of those beliefs, is just providing some food for thought. Thoughts?