With the NHL draft hoping to be done in about a month, it’s time to begin flashing back to the Flyers’ draft classes in the past two decades. In the fourth installment of Philly Sports Network’s “where are they now” draft series, we take a look at the 2003 NHL draft.
Before getting into the picks, it’s important to analyze the season leading up to the draft. The Flyers made out like total bandits in the 2003 draft, especially when you factor in their success during the previous season. During the 2002-2003 season, coach Ken Hitchcock propelled the Flyers to their best season, in terms of points, since 1985-1986. Led by Captain Keith Primeau, Philadelphia found themselves with a 45-20-13-4 record for a grand total of 107 points at the end of the season. Their performance earned them second place in the Atlantic Division and a playoff berth. In the end, they would be eliminated by the Senators in the second round.
Their playoff run would land them with the 24th overall pick in the 2001 draft.
Along with having the 24th overall pick, Philly traded Daymond Langkow to Pheonix in 2002, for their 2003 first-rounder and a 2002 second-rounder. When it was all set and done, the Flyers wound up having both the 11th and 24th pick in the draft.
A fun name to reflect on, eh? Wait until we get to their next choice as well.
Standing at 6’3, 216 pounds, Jeff Carter slipped his way into the Flyers hands at the 11th pick in the draft. After putting up near video game numbers in the season before the draft (71 points in 61 games for the Soo Greyhounds), Carter shot up big boards. Due to the run on wingers and defensemen following the selctions of Marc-Andre Fleury and Eric Staal, Carter dropped right into Philly’s lap.
As a prospect, Carter impressed scouts and his coaches by the way he continually worked hard all season at both ends of the ice. He displayed a very complete game in terms of prospects and was expected to be an NHL-er quick. This reigned true, signing his ELC immediately following his 2003-2004 season with Soo where he accumulated 66 points in 57 games in the OHL. However, Carter would return for the majority of the 2004-2005 season in the OHL, playing only three games with the Phantoms.
This wouldn’t deter him, however. He would make the NHL team during the 2005 camp, and play 81 games in a Flyers’ sweater. He would pick up 41 points during his rookie year, and gain some playoff experience. In the end, Carter would have 343 points in 461 games for Philly, and a Stanley Cup appearance on his resume. Following the cup run, he was traded to Columbus for Jakub Voracek and Columbus’ 1st (Sean Couturier) and 3rd (Nick Cousins) round picks in the 2011 NHL Draft.
Carter is still playing in the big leagues at 35 years of age for the LA Kings, a team he has won two Stanley Cups with.
Jeff Carter and Mike Richards in the same draft? Looks like Bobby Clarke had at least one draft correct.
Coming into the 2003 Entry Draft, Richards was a solid prospect. Richards played on the 2002-2003 Ontario League and Memorial Cup champion Kitchener Rangers, and was also a teammate of fellow Flyers’ first-round pick Jeff Carter on the Canada under-18 WJC team. Richards actually outpointed Carter in 2002-2003 (87p in 67g). Due to the depth of talent and uncertainty about his size, Richards fell deep into the first round, allowing the Flyers to snag him.
As a prospect, the future Flyers-captain was described as “a very smart, crafty player with above-average skills in every area except skating. No one questions Richards’ hockey sense, work ethic, or his ice vision. Although he doesn’t have the naturally soft hands of Carter, Richards has a special knack for coming up with loose pucks around the net, and he never gives up on the play.”
The 5’11, 180 pound Richards proved to have an above average NHL career. Following a similar path to the Flyers as Carter, Richards made the roster in 2005, playing 79 games (34 points). Like his fellow Flyers’ first round pick, Richards would be a big piece of the 2010 Cup run, but be traded following the season.
The captain was traded to Los Angeles with Rob Bordson for Brayden Schenn, Wayne Simmonds and Los Angeles’ 2012 2nd round pick after accumulating 349 points in 453 games with Philly. He and Carter would remain a pair, as Jeff was also traded to LA after two seasons with Columbus. The two would contribute to two Stanley Cups with LA.
Richards has not played an NHL game since 2016. After being cut by the Kings due to being caught with drugs, Richards never got a true shot at the NHL again, other than 39 bad games with Washington.
After trading their 2003 2nd round pick to Montreal for Eric Chouinard at the 2003 trade deadline, Philly had to wait until the third for their next choice. Luckily, they made a plethora of trades leading up to the draft, giving them five third-round picks. Four of the five of which, eventually got some NHL playing time.
Their first pick of the third round was another center, Colin Fraser, at 69 overall. Prior to being drafted, he was about a 0.75 point per game player in the WHL for the Red Deer Rebels. After being drafted, he was named captain for his final season for Red Deer, earning 67 points in 63 games. His stats served as a springboard for the Flyers to use him as a trade piece.
With that being said, he was traded to Chicago with Jim Vandermeer and Los Angeles’ 2004 2nd round pick for Alex Zhamnov and Washington’s 2004 4th round choice. Fraser would be called up to the Blackhawks in 2006, but would not get any significant time until 2008-2009. He would go on to be bounced around, but would add to the list of former Flyers’ from the 2003 draft to win a cup with LA. He is now retired from the NHL with two rings.
Up next, the Flyers were on the clock at 81 overall, and drafted Stefan Ruzicka. Ruzicka, a physical, two-way winger, was a gamble by Philly. After posting near non-existent stats prior to the draft, he burst onto the scene (72p in 62g) in the OHL in his first season after the draft. He would go onto making the league for a few stints between 2005-2008, playing 55 games total. After the 2008 season, he signed in the KHL, where he finished his hockey career.
With their fifth pick in the draft, the Flyers would take their first d-man at 85 overall. They would turn to the 6’2, 216-pound offensive defenseman, Alexandre Picard. Picard lit up the QMJHL in terms of a blueliner, averaging a bit higher than 0.5 ppg. It would only take a year after the draft for Picard to get noticed by the team, as he made the Flyers in 2005 for six total games. Over his career, he would play for six NHL teams in seven years. Finishing with 69 career NHL points in 253 games, Picard would head overseas to play in Euro leagues until his retirement in 2019.
Prior to the draft, centerman Ryan Potulny piled on 135 points in 114 games in the USHL. A University of Minnesota commit, he would head to college after being drafted by the Flyers #87 overall in 2003. In college, he would accumulate 118 points in 99 games, earning him an NHL entry-level contract in 2005. He would be in the Flyers system for three seasons, playing 44 games (14 points) for the club. Potulny would be traded to Edmonton for Danny Syvret in 2008, and play in 92 total NHL games (35 points) after the trade. After being primarily an AHL-er, he would also go play in some Euro Leagues until his retirement in 2018.
In terms of “NHL-level talent,” this is the pick where Bobby Clarke and Philly began to falter. After being the Flyers’ last 3rd-round pick (95 overall), Kozak was the first drafted player by Philly in this draft to not ever get a crack at the NHL. Prior to the draft, Kozak floated between the MJHL and WHL, where he averaged 0.65 points per game. He would quickly be traded following the draft to the NY Rangers for Vladimir Malakhov in 2004. He would get a couple of AHL stints, but could never make anything out of it. Kozak spent the majority of his career in the CHL and ECHL, until he retired from hockey in 2010.
With pick #108 in the 2003 NHL draft, the Flyers select Kevin Romey, a center from Switzerland.
Standing at 6’0, 190 pounds, Romey dominated Swiss leagues with his physicality prior to the draft. He was not a big goal scorer, but he used his defensive IQ and ability to use his body weight to his advantage. Unfortunately, however, his lack of offensive firepower never brought him over to the NHL. He retired after a strong near-20 point season in the NLA Swiss league.
The Flyers would wrap up their draft by taking three straight goaltenders. To start this off, they would take a unique goaltender named David Tremblay, who caught with his right hand. Prior to the draft, he played Juniors in the QMJHL, where he stayed for the remainder of his hockey career. In 2002, he earned a spot on the QMJHL all-rookie team, followed up by a championship the season after he was drafted. Despite averaging under 3.00 goals against for his career, he never got a shot at the NHL.
At the trade deadline, Philadelphia would trade Chris McAllister to Colorado for their sixth-round pick. With the two picks, they would take back-to-back goaltenders.
To kick off their sixth round, Philadelphia would take Rejean Beauchemin. The 6’1, 195-pound goaltender found his way into the Flyers’ pipeline after they chose him with the 191st overall pick. Prior to the draft, Beauchemin played for the Prince Albert Raiders of the WHL, posted a sub-2.50 GAA. Unlike Tremblay, Beauchemin found his way over to the states, playing for a handful of ECHL and AHL teams. However, he could never crack the big leagues. Beauchemin retired after the 2011-2012 season.
And to conclude their 2003 draft, Bobby Clarke and the Flyers would select Ville Hostikka. The goaltender out of Finland was a tall goalie with a calm style. He Used his 6’3, 200 pound build to his advantage, while having a good glove hand. On the downside, he was very inconsistent, letting in very weak goals at times. Hostikka never left Finland, and spent his entire 17 year hockey career there. Following the 2015-2016, he retired as a member of Ketterä in the Suomi-sarja league.
Make sure to check out the other years of PSN’s “Where are they now” series:
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