Where Are They Now? Revisiting the Flyers’ 2006 Draft Class

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Woof! The 2006-2007 Philadelphia Flyers had it tough. After reviewing the 2005 Flyers draft class, they certainly didn’t do themselves any favors for the 2006-2007 campaign. Ken Hitchcock, who coached Philadelphia in 2005-2006 to the Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals, was relieved of his duties in eight games. Brought in to replace Hitchcock was John Stevens.

In 2006-2007, the Philadelphia Flyers allowed the most goals and were ranked 26th in goals scored. Totaling 56 points in the NHL standings, it was an accurate representation of the lack of direction between the 2005 NHL Entry Draft and the coaching leadership. On paper, the Flyers roster didn’t look like they would finish fifth in the Atlantic Divison. Simon Gagne led the team in scoring, but the defense was anything but “bullies.” There wasn’t a single defenseman who was positive on the +/- statistic. In correlation, no goaltender had a winning record.

Just a year ago, in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers made critical errors in trading back in the first round and trading their second-round pick for what became Andreas Nodl and a fourth-round pick. Those two mistakes meant losing out on Tuukka Rask, Jonathan Quick, and Ben Bishop. The best goaltender the Flyers had during the 2006-2007 season was Michael Leighton, who had a 2-2 record. Antero Nittymaki and Robert Esche, the 2005-2006 goaltenders, were combined for 14-38-10.

This 2006 NHL Entry Draft was one the Philadelphia Flyers needed badly. In this draft, the Flyers made five picks within the first hundred players selected. Only one player is currently on Philadelphia’s active roster. He’s the current captain of the ship. Okay, no more clues…

Claude Giroux, C/RW (Round 1; #22)

Obviously, this was a magnificent pick in the first round. With the 22nd overall pick, the Philadelphia Flyers maximized their value late in the first round. Out of the players selected in the first round, Claude Giroux brings the exact same value that Jonathan Toews has. Looking back now, the Flyers drafted a player who had “top three pick” value. The only other players taken in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft that has tallied more points than Giroux were Nicklas Backstrom (4th overall) and Phil Kessel (5th overall).

Here’s a trivial fact. There is one player on the Philadelphia Flyers 2019-2020 active roster that was selected before Claude Giroux. This player was taken 18th overall by the Colorado Avalanche. That player is Chris Stewart. Stewart leads all players taken in the first round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft in penalty minutes.

Andreas Nodl, RW (Round 2; #39)

Andreas Nodl was the result of the Philadelphia Flyers trading their second-round pick in 2005 for a fourth-round pick in 2005 and this pick in 2006. While I do have fond memories of Nodl’s 2010-2011 season, which was his best NHL season, it doesn’t numb the pain of knowing that Jonathan Quick was available in 2005 in the second round. Sometimes, you just have to play the picks that you’re dealt with and decline trades, but I digress. There were better options available than Nodl. If it is the plan to draft a winger with the 39th overall pick, Nikolai Kulemin and Milan Lucic were both available after the Flyers’ next pick in the second round.

As of 2018-2019, Andreas Nodl was the captain of the Vienna Capitals in the EBEL. In August of 2019, Nodl wrapped up his hockey career.

Mike Ratchuk, D (Round 2; #42)

Just a moment ago, I stated that Nikolai Kulemin and Milan Lucic were available after the next second-round pick from the Philadelphia Flyers in 2006. Instead of taking the opportunity to act on them, the Flyers selected Mike Ratchuk. As a second-round pick in 2006, Ratchuk never made his NHL debut. Only three picks later, the Edmonton Oilers selected Jeff Petry.

By 2009, the Philadelphia Flyers traded Mike Ratchuk to the Columbus Blue Jackets for Stefan Legein. As of 2017-2018, Ratchuk played in three games with the Jacksonville Icemen in the ECHL. Legein, like Ratchuk, never played in the NHL.

Denis Bodrov, D (Round 2; #55)

Philadelphia missed 66.6% of the time in the second round. They had three picks and only one had a resemblance to a career in the NHL. Exactly like Mike Ratchuk, Denis Bodrov never played in the NHL. Instead of drafting Bodrov, the Philadelphia Flyers would have been better off with Jamie McBain (the final pick of the second-round).

Denis Bodrov is currently active in the KHL with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. He’s revitalized his career in the KHL since beginning with Spartak Moscow.

Jonathan Matsumoto, C (Round 3; #79)

Into the third round and the Philadelphia Flyers select Jonathan Matsumoto. He, unlike Mike Ratchuk and Denis Bodrov, did play in the NHL. He had a very short tenure in the NHL and never debuted with the Flyers. Of his fourteen NHL games, Matsumoto played thirteen with the Carolina Hurricanes and one with the Florida Panthers. A better selection than Matsumoto would have been Tom Sestito, who eventually played 21 total games with Philadelphia.

Jonathan Matsumoto is currently active with Kolner Haie in the DEL. He signed a one-year contract with his fifth German hockey club in May of 2019.

Joonas Lehtivuori, D (Round 4, #101)

Similar to earlier in the second-round, the Philadelphia Flyers had multiple picks in the fourth round. Again, similar to the defensemen selected in the second-round, Joonas Lehtivuori never played in the NHL. A better selection in the fourth-round if the plan is to draft a defenseman was Korbinian Holzer. Holzer isn’t much to bat an eye at either but is still active on the Nashville Predators roster.

Joonas Lehtivuori is in the DEL, just not on the same team as Jonathan Matsumoto. Lehtivuori was in the second year of his two-year contract with Adler Mannheim in 2019-2020.

Jakub Kovar, G (Round 4, #109)

It’s hard to call Jakub Kovar a bust. Hear me out first. While he never played in the NHL, there really weren’t any other goaltenders left in the draft that was going to do much else. Again, this magnifies not securing Tuukka Rask or Jonathan Quick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. The only other goaltender on available at this time in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft worth a shot was Chad Johnson, a fifth-round selection.

Jakub Kovar is currently a teammate to the Philadelphia Flyers second-round selection, Denis Bodrov with Avtomobilist Yekaterinburg. This past season, Yekaterinburg made the playoffs, and Kovar had a 93.5% save percentage. He’s returning for the 2020-2021 season in the KHL.

Jon Rheault, RW (Round 5; #145)

After striking out 100% of the time in the fourth-round, the Philadelphia Flyers selected Jon Rheault in the fifth-round. Similar to Jonathan Matsumoto, Rheault had a short career in the NHL and not with the Flyers. He played five games in the NHL, all with the Florida Panthers in 2012-2013. Strange how both of those picks end up on the Panthers only one season apart. At this point, Viktor Stalberg was still available and not selected until the sixth-round.

Jon Rheault is currently active with the Nottingham Panthers in the EIHL. He played three more games in 2019-2020 (33) with Nottingham than in 2018-2019 (30), but dropped off in production.

Michael Dupont, G (Round 6, #175)

I’ll echo the same sentiments that I said about Jakub Kovar for Michael Dupont. The only difference here is that any goaltender taken after Dupont in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft also never played in the NHL. This is another example of the 2005 NHL Entry Draft coming back to haunt the 2006-2007 Philadelphia Flyers. Striking out on two goaltenders in this draft also explains just how easy of a decision it was to keep Michael Leighton in the Flyers system. Ultimately, Martin Biron earned the starting role by 2007-2008.

Michael Dupont retired from hockey after 2016-2017 with Thetford Mines Assurancia in the LNAH. He was on the roster that season but didn’t make a start.

Andrei Popov, RW (Round 7; #205)

The final pick of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft for the Philadelphia Flyers is another player that never made his NHL debut. It’s to be expected of a seventh-round pick. Players selected this late are ultimate underdogs. Only seven players drafted in the seventh round of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft saw NHL action. Only two players after the Flyers drafted Popov fits those criteria. Erik Condra was available and would have been a better selection.

Andrei Popov is currently active in the KHL with Traktor Chelyabinsk, his original KHL team from back in 2008-2009. He’s just as productive as previous years on that team, so he is refining his hockey career.

Draft Verdict

In the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, the Philadelphia Flyers were unable to capitalize after selecting Claude Giroux. This serves as a reminder that Giroux is an NHL superstar who continues to push the Flyers forward. It’s hard to knock the selection of Andreas Nodl, but after understanding that Nikolai Kulemin and Milan Lucic were available even after Mike Ratchuk, it was a huge miss. The way that the 2006-2007 season plays out and the goaltender lineup in 2007-2008 again magnifies how big of a miss 2005 was in not drafting Tuukka Rask or Jonathan Quick. Not every round is going to have significant hits, but when these talents are available, scouting has got to be on point.

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