Heading into the 2009-2010 season, the nucleus of the Philadelphia Flyers had been formed. Unfortunately, it wasn’t in part to a good draft class. On paper, the Flyers weren’t in any position to make a splash in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. For instance, their first selection wouldn’t be made until just after midway through the third round. There was a larger emphasis on free agent signings in the 2009-2010 season.
Before this season, in 2008-2009, the Philadelphia Flyers were a playoff team coached by John Stevens. Finishing third in the Atlantic Division, the Flyers had an elite offense and an average defense. 2008-2009 would be the second season in a row where Philadelphia simply couldn’t overcome the Pittsburgh Penguins in the postseason. The success that Stevens had as coach regressed, losing 4-2 in Eastern Conference Quarter-Finals. To make that leap to the next level in the postseason, an improvement was necessary on defense.
Before I dive into this draft, I want to make it clear that the strategy wasn’t bad from Paul Holmgren. The intention was to focus on drafting defensive players and finding a goaltender. Unfortunately, none of those players selected at those positions made an impact on the Philadelphia Flyers. The best player taken in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft for the Flyers wasn’t drafted until the sixth round. Understanding that the evaluation of talent was the miscue, let’s run through the six players selected by Philadelphia in 2009.
Adam Morrison, G (Round 3; #81)
If the only Adam Morrison you know is the former basketball player from Gonzaga, I don’t blame you. The one I am discussing never played in the NHL. Drafted in the third round by the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s clear that Paul Holmgren was preparing for the departure of Martin Biron and Antero Nittymaki. In that case, the Flyers could have invested in a goaltender that had a strong 2019-2020 season. More on that in a bit…
Adam Morrison was never able to excel past the AHL level, shuffling between the Providence Bruins, Hershey Bears, and the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. The majority of Morrison’s hockey career was spent in the ECHL, peaking in 2015-2016 with the Reading Royals. Recently, he started 49 games in 2019-2020 for the EIHL’s Fife Flyers.
Simon Bertilsson, D (Round 3; #87)
This is the first attempt at drafting a defenseman in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft for the Philadelphia Flyers. Simon Bertilsson never played in the NHL but was only selected four picks after Kevin Connauton. I bring up Connauton because he’s still an active player in the NHL with the Colorado Avalanche. Had the Flyers selected Connauton with the 81st overall pick, at optimum, they would have had an average defenseman. I’ll take that over two players who combined for zero starts at the NHL level in the third round.
Simon Bertilsson made a career out of playing in the SHL with Brynas IF since 2009-2010. He earned the “alternate captain” status with that hockey club. In 2019-2020, Bertilsson took his talents to the KHL with HK Sochi.
Nicola Riopel, G (Round 5; #142)
Remember when I said that the Philadelphia Flyers could have invested in a goaltender that had a strong 2019-2020 season? Not only did the Flyers miss with the Adam Morrison selection, but they missed by selecting Nicola Riopel in round five. In the sixth round, one specific goaltender that we all would be salivating over to rotate with Carter Hart was still on the board in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Take a moment and just imagine the duo of Hart and Darcy Kuemper.
Nicola Riopel did spend two partial seasons with the Adirondack Phantoms but wasn’t able to put together strong performances in either stint. Riopel has since retired, last playing with the Wichita Thunder in the ECHL during the 2017-2018 season.
Dave Labrecque, C (Round 6; #153)
In the sixth round, the Philadelphia Flyers had two draft picks. The first of those draft picks was Dave Labrecque. Just like every other Flyer pick before him in 2009, he never played in the NHL. At his position, Erik Haula and Nic Dowd were still on the board and not selected until the seventh round. This miss wouldn’t have a great impact against Philadelphia, who had Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Danny Briere, and Claude Giroux playing center at any given time during 2009-2010.
Dave Labrecque may have been a casualty of quality depth on the team at his position. The same season he was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers, Labrecque was the “alternate captain” of the Shawinigan Cataractes. He held that status with the Cataractes through the 2010-2011 season. Labrecque was also an “alternate captain” in 2014-2015 with Briançon and in 2017-2018 with Lyon while playing in France. It takes a player with leadership and skill to obtain that status.
Eric Wellwood, LW (Round 6; #172)
I’m willing to bet that with the strategy the Philadelphia Flyers had coming into the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, Paul Holmgren wasn’t expecting a left-wing to be the “impact” player of his draft class. That is the case, however. The best selection made by the Flyers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft was Eric Wellwood. Wellwood played a total of 31 games in the NHL.
Eric Wellwood’s biggest claim in the NHL were the eleven games he played in during the 2011-2012 Philadelphia Flyers playoff run. He would spend most of his time in the Flyers system with the Adirondack Phantoms. Wellwood’s last season was 2013-2014 with the Phantoms, but the last time he played was during the 2012-2013 season.
Oliver Lauridsen, D (Round 7; #196)
Here is the final selection from the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft. Oliver Lauridsen played a total of sixteen NHL games. He contributed a total of three points throughout his NHL career (two goals and one assist). All of Lauridsen’s goals were game-winning goals as a Flyer.
Oliver Lauridsen’s total NHL career productivity took place during the 2012-2013 season. He, like Eric Wellwood, would only spend time as a Philadelphia Flyer in the NHL. Recently, Lauridsen made a playoff appearance in the KHL with Jokerit during the 2019-2020 season. He’ll play in the SHL with the Malmo Redhawks in 2020-2021.
The combined total amount of games played in the NHL between all the Philadelphia Flyers draft picks in 2009 is 47. Starting their selections in the third round didn’t help. In understanding the Flyers’ strategy to make this a defensive draft, I cannot help but say that this 2009 NHL Entry Draft was one of the worst for Philadelphia. The only pick that fit that strategy was Oliver Lauridsen. Selecting two goaltenders who never played in the NHL and missing on Darcy Kuemper makes my stomach turn.
Considering the blunder that the 2009 NHL Entry Draft was for the Philadelphia Flyers, it’s no wonder that they signed Brian Boucher and Ray Emery. At the time, Emery came back to the NHL after finishing up a season in the KHL. Now, it is worth expressing the reason that the Flyers didn’t have a pick until the third round in 2009 was because their first-round pick was packaged with Joffrey Lupul, Luca Sbisa, a 2010 first-round pick, and a conditional third-round pick for Chris Pronger and Ryan Dingle. The immediate feeling in 2009 was that Pronger was the glue that was going to improve Philadelphia’s defense. He did just that and the Flyers scrapped their way into the Stanley Cup Finals.
Far and away, the best thing that happened with the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft had nothing to do with making an actual draft pick. While adding Chris Pronger was great, the Flyers still showed the inability to draft quality prospects. Remember, in 2009-2010, Ray Emery didn’t finish the season and Michael Leighton was called upon to rally. When you put all of this into perspective, it makes “The Comeback” against the Boston Bruins in the Eastern Conference Semi-Finals even more legendary.
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