Philadelphia Flyers Midterm Top 25 Under 25, No. 21: Eric Wellwood

Evan Habeeb-US PRESSWIRE

Eric Wellwood, who is currently battling back from possibly the most serious tendon injury that hockey has ever seen, is next up on Top 25 Under 25.

Eric Wellwood

Position: Forward
Birthdate: March 6, 1990 (age 23)
Acquired via: 2009 NHL Draft - Round 6, Pick 162
Current Team/League: Inactive
Nationality: Canadian (Windsor, ON)
Size: 5'11", 180
Contract: N/A

When we comment on those who have experienced serious injury or suffering, we tend to comment on their lives in only two ways: pre-trauma and post-trauma. Eric Wellwood's story is no different.

Before the incident, the future looked bright for Wellwood. The Flyers drafted him in the sixth round of the 2009 draft, 162nd overall. He was quickly returned to his OHL team and posted some great numbers; later in the year, he inked an ELC with the Flyers. The Spitfires went on to win back to back Memorial Cups.

The next season, Wellwood started with the Phantoms, but after only eleven games, he was called up when Danny Briere was suspended for three games. He was on a line with James van Riemsdyk and Mike Richards for those three games--what bums, right? He did manage to pick up his first NHL point for his trouble, though. He was later pulled up during the 2011 playoffs, but never dressed. Shows a lot of faith from the coaching staff.

Wellwood slowly proved himself to be a valuable prospect for the Flyers in a third-line, checking role whenever the spot was available. He was defensively responsible, an asset on the penalty kill, and a fast skater (probably his greatest strength). He played a total of 31 games with the Flyers over the course of three seasons, spending a majority of his time with the Phantoms. He was an up-and-comer that many fans were rightfully excited about. After all, speed has been an issue for the Flyers.

This was, as you probably know, when tragedy struck.

I'm assuming you've heard about Wellwood's horrific injury before now, so at the risk of laboring the point, here's a brief recap. On April 7th, 2013, while skating in a game with the Adirondack Phantoms, Wellwood slid into the boards awkwardly, his right leg folding back against his left. That's when his lower leg was cut by his own skate blade. 70 percent of his achilles tendon was severed. Three other tendons, an artery, and several nerves were severed completely in the accident. It's impossible to undersell how serious it was, with Wellwood apparently minutes from death from the amount of blood lost.

Thankfully, surgery was successful, and initial reports indicated that Wellwood would need anywhere from nine months to a year to recuperate from the injury. Flyers management acted patiently and extended a qualifying offer to Wellwood in the beginning of July, so his immediate future with the team was secured as his rights were retained.

Wellwood has been skating since mid-September, but according to Dave Isaac, Wellwood is still trying to get back one hundred percent of his skating ability:

"It's starting to get frustrating because you've been dealing with it for so long," Wellwood said. "When I do skate my hardest, I'm at about 70 percent of what I used to do, which is better than I thought. The frustrating part is I can't do that on a daily basis, even at 70 percent."

The good news is that Wellwood hasn't been taking time off. All of his free time has been spent volunteering with his juniors team, the Windsor Spitfires, working with their penalty killers and coaching forwards to become better in their two-way game. In an article by Frank Seravalli, Wellwood comments on what he's gained from the experience:

"I've taught a lot of players to play the game, but I've also learned how the game should be played," Wellwood said. "I'm taking this month-by-month, and I have no idea what's going to happen, but I have no timeline for playing again. If I can't, I know now that I'd be interested in coaching."

If you look at things optimistically, it's nice to hear that he has been increasing his hockey knowledge, and looking at the game in a different, more scholastic way. It bodes well for him, even if he's unsure if he'll ever play again.

If Wellwood is able to complete his recovery and return to his previous skating shape, he will have overcome incredible adversity, dramatically increased his hockey sense, and shown that he has the tenacity and heart to succeed at the NHL level. Hopefully, we get the chance to see it happen. If not, it seems like he has a good idea of where he wants to go.

How we voted for Eric Wellwood:

Albert Allison Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Travis
14 24 23 24 14 N/A 22 21

Who we voted for at No. 21:

Albert Allison Charlie Collin Kelly Kevin Kurt Travis
Marc-Andre Bourdon Matt Konan Tyrell Goulbourne Oliver Lauridsen Derek Mathers Tyrell Goulbourne Oliver Lauridsen Eric Wellwood
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