Up front, the Philadelphia Flyers are the envy of the league. They boast three top centers – Daniel Briere, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter – each of whom could make a case to be No. 1 on most teams in the league. But their depth up front doesn’t end there.
Claude Giroux has broken out as an NHLer. The shifty right winger ended the campaign with 16 points in 19 games and has three points through three playoff contests. Chock full of high-end prospects, it’s hard for the keeper league owner to put his or her finger on how things will shake out. Whatever happens, though, you can count on Giroux to not only be a full-time NHLer, but also a 50- or 60-point player.
A three-time 100-point scorer in junior, Giroux also managed a point per game in his rookie pro season with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American League. Continuing that production in the NHL so quickly is proof positive he will be something special.
The team is also looking at having James van Riemsdyk in the lineup next campaign. The college star signed a pro contract earlier this month and on most other teams he would have been inserted straight into the lineup. The Flyers, as things stand, don’t need to rush him in.
They shed themselves of Scottie Upshall and Glen Metropolit at the trade deadline and Mike Knuble will be an unrestricted free agent on July 1. That still leaves them with seven quality forwards – Carter, Richards, Briere, Scott Hartnell, Giroux, Simon Gagne and Joffrey Lupul. Daniel Carcillo – a youngster with the ability to post 35 points and 200-plus penalty minutes – should also be considered a solid third-line player.
One spot in the top nine does not leave a lot of opportunity for van Riemsdyk, but he didn’t forego two more years of college to play in the AHL. Expect him to crack the roster in the fall, but the downside to that is there won’t be a lot of ice time to go around. Whether he forces the matter like Giroux did will be up to him.
So where does this leave the likes of Andreas Nodl? Another year in the minors, unfortunately. The numbers game will keep Nodl on the fantasy fringe until 2010. On another team, he would be a regular next year and good for 35 points right off the hop. But the Flyers – much to the delight of their fans – are just too deep…
Over in Nashville, Steve Sullivan told the Tennessean he would like to play 1,000 games before retiring, which works out to a minimum of three more seasons. That’s a promising attitude from a player who has many poolies wondering whether or not they should keep him. Sullivan’s back will probably always trouble him and he’ll always be one wonky hit away from being knocked out of the game for good.
However, after seeing what he has done for the past couple of months, I think you can safely gamble that Sullivan will give you at least 60 points next season. He won’t play 80 games, but seems durable enough to play 70.
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