VOORHEES, N.J. – The Philadelphia Flyers, coming off a run in which they were two games from their first Stanley Cup championship since 1975, have few weaknesses in their depth chart. However, one of the largest deficiencies in their organization is the amount of prospects in the farm system – and the talent those kids posses.
With the team’s prospect conditioning camp in the books, there was one player on the ice who looked like a man among boys. He’s been called one of the most physical players to ever play in the Quebec League. He is defenseman Marc-Andre Bourdon.
Hailing from St. Hyacinthe, Que., the 6-foot, 206-pound defenseman showed incredible potential playing for the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies and Rimouski Oceanic from 2006 to 2009. His point totals jumped from 28 in 2006-07 to 59 in 2007-08 and 60 in 2008-09. His penalty minutes also jumped from 80 in ’06-07 to 114 and 112 in the final two campaigns.
But the real jump came this past season when he made his professional debut for the American League’s Adirondack Phantoms. The 2008 third round pick (67th overall) posted 19 points in 61 games, including 53 PIM. Bourdon definitely noticed a difference, though, between major junior and professional hockey.
“At first, I felt it was a lot faster and much quicker for the first 15 games,” Bourdon said. “But I worked hard and I did extra time in practice and in the gym to improve my speed. At the end of the season, I had some good times before my injury. But overall, I’m very happy about it.”
Don Luce, the Flyers director of player development, saw good things, too.
“I thought it was a typical rookie season for a player coming out of junior,” Luce said. “It’s a harder step than players realize and competition is much tougher than they realize. He didn’t get to play right off the bat, but he worked hard to get back into the lineup. At the end of the year, he started to come around.”
Bourdon’s strengths include his foot speed, hands and vision. His hockey sense is through the roof, as Luce points out, as he is able to see the ice well and consistently make the right decision – something that was apparent during prospect camp scrimmages.
Another plus in Bourdon’s game is his physical play, an aspect he prides himself on.
“I think physical play is a good asset for me,” Bourdon said. “I’ve got good vision and can do good stuff with the puck. There are some that can’t really hit or fight, but I can, so it helps me out.”
Numerous times during prospect camp Bourdon made big plays that would impress any NHL coach or executive. In fact, his play seemed to improve when the game truly mattered – even though it was simply a scrimmage at a training camp.
But rising to the occasion when the stakes are high is something Bourdon has done his entire life. His output increased in the 2008 and 2009 post-seasons, as he posted a combined 31 points in 30 games, a much higher average than he had during his regular seasons.
“For sure it is the best time to play in the playoffs,” Bourdon said. “In the playoffs, it’s where you see the real players. I guess it’s a good sign if I can play better in the playoffs.”
But for now, Bourdon is concentrating on playing better in the 2010-11 season with the Phantoms. Or perhaps he can even make the NHL squad with enough work.
“It think it takes a little bit of time,” Bourdon concluded. “I have to get more mature, like everyone. But you just have to take the advice your coach gives you and work at it.”
THN.com’s Prospect Watch focuses on up-and-comers from the AHL, Europe, major junior, the NCAA and even minor hockey destined to become big names in the NHL.
For more great prospect profiles and news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.