With the Ottawa Senators signing of Portland Winterhawks defensemen Troy Rutkowski the other day, and the Vancouver Canucks signing of Lake Superior State forward Kellan Lain, it got us here at Flyers Faithful thinking about who are some the top NCAA and junior hockey free agents available. Yesterday, Jared Abbott highlighted four NCAA free agents that could be a good fit for the Flyers. Today I’m taking a look at six Canadian Hockey League free agents that could be helpful for the Flyers and other NHL squads. I have profiled a forward and defenseman from both the Ontario Hockey League and Western Hockey League along with a pair of teammates who are tearing up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League this season.
In the past the Flyers have signed a number of CHL free agents. They signed Sault. Ste. Marie Greyhound Brandon Alderson this year. Two years ago the Flyers inked forward Jason Akeson to a three-year entry-level. In the 2009-10 OHL season Akeson scored 80 points playing on a line with Jeff Skinner and Jeremy Morin for the Kitchener Rangers. He scored his 80 points in 56 regular season games, and had 19 points in Kitchener’s 20 playoff games. In 2010-11 he managed 108 points. He was tied for first in the OHL that season in points with then Ottawa 67’s forward Tyler Toffoli ( LAK, 47th overall ‘10) Akeson received the OHL’s Leo Lalonde Trophy as the league’s top overage player. He started the 2011-12 season with the Adirondack Phantoms where he recorded 55 points in 76 games played. Akeson currently has 38 points in 47 games played for the Phantoms.
Mississauga Steelheads (OHL)
Having witnessed Brace play last year for the then Mississauga St. Michael’s Majors, the one word that comes to mind when describing his style of play is “old fashioned”. Brace is an in your face type of player who leaves it all out on the ice. He’s not afraid to drop the gloves when called upon. Standing at 5’11 and a soaking wet 182 pounds, Brace is not the biggest guy in the world. He skates pretty well and protects the puck well with his ever-silky hands. This guy can deposit the puck into the back of the net as well.
In 66 games this season, Brace tallied 21 goals and 52 assists for 73 points for an average Mississauga team that just sneaked into the 8th seed for the upcoming OHL playoffs. Brace’s 73 points tied him for 18th in the OHL in scoring. Brace’s intensity on the ice makes him a valuable forechecker and penalty killer.
While he’s a tad bit bigger than Boston Bruin forward Brad Marchand the two players are comparable in terms of being an absolute pest on the ice and possessing skill as well. I’m not saying he’s the next Marchand I actually think the Rich Peverely type is more appropriate for Brace. NHL teams including the Flyers should take a look at Brace who could potentially be a third line penalty killing, do it all winger that teams covet so much.
Matt Petgrave- D
Oshawa Generals (OHL)
Matt Petgrave has all the makings of becoming a cinderella story. Growing up in Brampton, Ontario, a community that is known for its lacrosse, Petgrave was encouraged to play Canada’s official national sport. He excelled as a 15 year old lacrosse player and over the summer had a growth spurt. He then had OHL scouts salivating over his potential.
Petgrave was promised an invite to the Niagara Ice Dogs rookie camp as a non-drafted invitee. He appeared in 67 games for the Ice Dogs in 2009-10 registering 25 points. Before the 2010-11 season Petgrave was traded from Niagara to Owen Sound along with Chicago Blackhawks forward Andrew Shaw. With Owen Sound Petgrave’s play thrived. He led the Attack to the 2011 OHL championship. His play earned him a trip to Canada’s National Junior team evaluation camp and to the Chicago Blackhawks rookie camp.The 2013 NHL lockout cost Petgrave a chance with the St. Louis Blues at the Traverse City Prospect Tournament. In 50 games played this season Petgrave scored 10 goals and had 40 assists good for 50 points, which put him 8th among OHL defenseman. Petgrave surely would have had more if he didn’t miss time with a broken wrist.
The high risk, high reward blueliner for the Oshawa Generals takes numerous chances on the rush and he does have a tendency of turning the puck over in his own zone. Petgrave is pretty good skater with a good shot and is considered one of the best open ice hitters in the OHL. Petgrave has a ton of raw potential and if somebody takes a chance with Petgrave, they may just wind up with the next P.K. Subban. I was in the minority saying that the Flyers should have gone after Subban with an offer sheet or via trade. Well, Mr. Holmgren here is a chance to redeem yourself.
Justin Feser- C
Tri-City Americans (WHL)
Justin Feser won’t get consideration for WHL league MVP this season because of the incredible years Brendan Leipsic and Nicolas Petan are having for the Portland Winterhawks. However, Feser should.
Where would Tri-City be if it wasn’t for their overage captain? The Americans finished fifth in the WHL’s western conference and secured a first round matchup with their hated interstate rivals from Spokane. He’s a major reason that Tri-City has 40 or more regular season wins for a seventh straight season.
His 106 points put him tied for fourth in WHL scoring, and an astounding 40 points more than the next Tri-City player. Oh, and he’s the ironman of the WHL having broken Dwayne Newman’s 21 year old WHL record back on February 28 for most consecutive games played at 312.
Feser is the epitome of the team first attitude. The Red Deer Alberta native is not the biggest guy in the world at 5’9 190 pounds but he has heart and courage. Every NHL team should be lining up for this guy. He’s captain, a leader, a fighter, he’s dependable and oh yeah, he has some pretty sick skills as well. What team wouldn’t want a guy like this in their organization?
Landon Oslanski- D
Everett Silvertips (WHL)
Landon Oslanski is a 20-year old blueliner for the Everett Silvertips who is in his fourth season in the WHL. The Camrose Alberta native was selected in the 2007 WHL Bantam Draft by Spokane Chiefs and started playing for them in 2009-2010 season. He played justone game for the Chiefs and was shifted to play for the Lethbridge Hurricanes.
In his first season in Lethbridge, Oslanski registered only 3 goals and 9 assists for 12 points. He gradually improved in his second season as he had 25 points in 70 games. This year for Everett, Oslanski had a career high for points, goals, and assists, registering 48, 31, and 17 respectively in 72 games played. His 96 penalty minutes were good for second among WHL defenseman. For a league that is known for its ruggedness and toughness Oslanski fits right into that mold.
Standing at 6’0 202 pounds, Oslanski is not afraid to throw his weight around. He’s an average skater at best, with a decent shot, but he brings an element of toughness and fear that many organizations do not have in their system. Oslanski may never make it to the NHL but he’s a project that could help a team years from now.
Ben Duffy- C
Prince Edward Island Rocket (QMJHL)
During his last regulation game ever with the P.E.I. Rocket, Ben Duffy’s one goal and four assists made him the first Rocket to capture the QMJHL’s regular season scoring title. This season, Duffy scored 39 goals, and 71 assists for 110 points. Halifax Mooseheads uber prospect Jonathan Drouin finished second with 105 points, while Rocket captain Josh Currie, who is profiled next, finished third with 104 points.
Duffy has amazing speed, soft hands, and great hockey sense. For a rather small guy at 5’10 175 pounds, he loves to drive towards the net and get the dirty, garbage goals. His passing skills are downright incredible. He doesn’t get the kind of love that Nate MacKinnon and Jonathan Drouin are getting, but Duffy’s hands are second to none in the Quebec League. Duffy is extremely disciplined having registered only four penalty minutes all year long and a total of 12 during his five year junior career.
Duffy was considered one of the top Atlantic Canada prospects back in midget. To say he’s a late bloomer is fair. Will he make it to the NHL? I don’t know for sure. But 30 NHL GM’s should take a look at a kid who just won the QMJHL’s scoring title. His size is what Duffy has going against him, but don’t tell that to Martin St. Louis or Nathan Gerbe. I think those two players are doing just fine for themselves.
Josh Currie- C
Prince Edward Island Rocket (QMJHL)
Being the captain of your hometown major junior team is equivalent to being the starting quarterback of any high school football team in the state of Texas. There is a tremendous amount of pressure to succeed day in and day out. For Josh Currie, the 2012-13 seasonwas a year of redemption.
Currie posted career high 49 goals, and 55 assists points, good for third in overall scoring in the QMJHL. Last year Currie had 30 goals, and 16 assists good for 46 points in 68 games. He also had an abysmal -22. Currie, unlike his linemate, the aforementioned Ben Duffy, loves to get physical and even drop the gloves despite his small stature. (5’11, 190 pounds)
The dynamic duo of Currie and Duffy has gone under the radar by most NHL scouts. Why you may ask? My best guess is because they play for the notoriously bad P.E.I Rocket and they were overshadowed by the other even more dynamic duo of Jonathan Drouin and Nate MacKinnon in Halifax. Nevertheless, Currie is heart and soul type of player who displayed loyalty in the offseason by returning to Charlottetown after forgoing his contact with the Idaho Steelheads of the ECHL. After this magical last season with the Rocket, Currie will certainly get a look by NHL scouts. Something that you wouldn’t have said this time last year.