It didn’t take as long as anticipated for West Chester Rustin graduate Eric Knodel to get the phone call that he was drafted. And that’s just fine with him.
With the 128th pick in the fifth round of the 2009 NHL entry draft Saturday in Montreal, the Toronto Maple Leafs selected the 6-6, 216-pound Knodel to be part of their famed organization.
With their final selection in the 2009 NHL draft, the Flyers select Danish defenseman Oliver Lauridsen out of St. Cloud State. At 6’5, 205 lbs., Lauridsen is a physical, stay-at-home style blue liner with a nasty streak. Lauridsen has a professional frame, but needs to become a better skater all around to stick in the NHL. If the Flyers can get his footwork better, he could be a steal in the seventh round. The typical low-risk, high-reward pick.
With their second sixth-round pick, the Flyers go forward once more, selecting left-winger Eric Wellwood, brother of Vancouver’s Kyle Wellwood. Eric however, doesn’t quite have the skill of his older sibling. Billed as a smallish checking forward, at 5’11, 180 lbs., Wellwood is not a big guy, but is a worker. He had a good year with Windsor of the OHL, scoring 16 goals an 18 assists in 61 games, but he isn’t a pure scorer in the least. If Eric had his work ethic with the talent of his brother, he would have gone a lot sooner in the draft. The Flyers hope he can grow into a player at the NHL level, for he is a project.
The first forward selected by the Flyers, Dave Labrecque is a quick player with some offensive upside. Not much is known about Labrecque, other than his offensive prowess. At 5’11, 170 lbs., the smallish forward is primarily a set-up man, scoring 13 goals and 48 assists in 59 games with the Shawinigan Cataractes of the QMJHL.
The Flyers again select a goalie, this time Nicola Riopel from Moncton of the QMJHL in the fifth round. The 6’0, 170 lbs., backstop posted a 2.05 GAA in 59 games with the Wildcats. Riopel’s signature is his speed and agility. He doesn’t have the size preferred, but he can move in the crease well. Somewhat of a long shot, Riopel has a questionable glove, but with some coaching and luck, the Flyers may have a keeper in the organization.
The word on 6’0, 190 lbs., defenseman Simon Bertilsson is that if the 2009 NHL draft was not so filled with elite Swedish players, he would have been taken higher. Somewhat overshadowed by the many Swedes in the draft, Bertilsson is a physical, stay-at-home blue liner that is mature in his own zone and thinks the game well.
“We really like Simon,” said Holmgren. “He’s a hard-nosed kid and is good with the puck. We like him a lot.”
Bertilsson has a lot of upside, but he needs to get stronger to be a capable pro defenseman. With his mobility and smarts, he is a solid pick at 87.
General Manager Paul Holmgren made it clear he wanted to improve the organization’s goaltending depth and he did just that by selecting Saskatoon Blades’ goaltender Adam Morrison, 81st overall in the 2009 NHL entry draft.
“He’s a guy all of our scouts liked,” said Holmgren. “We sent Neil Little to watch him play a number of times. He played back up with the Blades last season, but he is going to play a lot more next year. We like our pick, we have done our homework on him.”
At 6’3, 170 lbs., Morrison is a very raw talent. He has the size that the Flyers like in their goaltenders and a strong work ethic. Morrison was the 24th ranked goaltender in the draft, so the Flyers must have saw something they liked.