Scouts often have a difficult decision to make on draft day: do you choose the talented kid who is healthy, or do you choose the really talented kid who has had injury problems?
The Flyers took the latter risk and made center Michael Chaput their first selection in the third round (89th overall) of the 2010 NHL draft. Chaput played for the Lewiston MAINEiacs of the Quebec League for the past two seasons, but in 2008-09, he suffered a shoulder injury that sidelined him for the majority of the season — a real backbreaker to his development that lead to just 10 points in 29 games in his rookie major junior season.
In his second season, Chaput upped his production more than 500 percent, posting 55 points in 68 games and leading Lewiston to the QMJHL playoffs. Though they lost in the first round, Chaput recovered fully from his injury and developed nicely. He was ranked 78th by NHL Central Scouting, but dropped to 89th on draft day when the Flyers — who were high on the Montreal native — selected him.
The 6-foot-2, 194-pound center can be a physical force on the ice, but can also skate, shoot, and even play a bit of defense.
“He handled himself very well,” said Flyers director of player development Don Luce, regarding Chaput’s performance at the Flyers prospect camp. “I think for him it’s going to be just growing. He can skate well. He handles the puck well. He’s got good vision. It’s just a matter of honing skills and what the player wants to put into it to get better. Everything is good. He’s just got to make it better.”
And Chaput agrees his game still needs some work before he’s ready for the next level.
“I think my size is good and I bring a lot of work ethic to my game,” Chaput said. “I work hard every game. I give 100 percent. I tend to be a bit nonchalant in the defensive zone, though. I have to get better with my defensive game.”
Off the ice, Chaput learned from his older brother, Stephane, who currently plays for Albany in the American League, and spoke with his brother on the phone every day during prospect camp.
“He has a lot of impact on me,” the younger Chaput said. “I see where he’s at now and how hard he works. I work out with him every summer. I see what you have to do to get there. I speak to him every day. I tell him what goes on and what happens. He’s been through everything, so he just tells me to keep working hard and keep going at it.”
While Chaput has returned to Quebec for one more season of junior eligibility before attempting to turn pro, Luce has his expectations for the young center.
“I expect him to simply improve,” Luce said. “He has to learn to be more responsible in his own end. He’s going to get stronger with time and he’ll become more confident. He’ll just improve as the years go by.”
Alan Bass is a writer for The Hockey News and THN.com. In addition to writing for Inside Hockey and Pro Hockey News, he has also worked for the Philadelphia Flyers' Fan Development department, going to schools throughout the tri-state area to teach about fitness and the importance of teamwork. He is the General Manager of the Muhlenberg College Division II hockey team as well. You can contact him at Alanbasswriting@aol.com.