Philadelphia Flyers: Top 10 Players Who Never Reached Their Potential
I have endless arguments with one of my friends as to whether James van Riemsdyk will ever live up to his potential as the No. 2 overall pick in the 2007 NHL draft.
And while the jury is still out on JVR, it got me thinking about other Flyers who, for various reasons, didn’t have the NHL career that many expected. So here is my list of the Top 10 Flyers that never fully reached their potential.
Note: I didn’t start following the Flyers until the early '80s so my list is limited to the last 30 years.
10. Thomas Eriksson
Eriksson had a combined 21 goals and 62 assists in his first two full seasons with the Flyers.
After suffering a knee injury during his third season, the always homesick Swede decided, at age 27, to leave the NHL and play the rest of his career in his native country.
9. Janne Niinimaa
Niinimaa piled up 71 assists in his first 143 games, but his short stint with the Flyers ended during his second season when he was traded to Edmonton.
The trade was just a few months after he was spotted at a Metallica concert on game day, which was always rumored to be the catalyst. Niinimaa played over 700 games in the NHL but he never built on his early career success.
8. Brian Boucher
In his rookie season, Boucher led the NHL with a 1.91 goals against average and took the Flyers to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
He’s had moments of brilliance since, including setting the NHL record for consecutive shutouts, but he never became an undisputed No. 1 goalie in the league.
Injuries and inconsistency have plagued his career but he is the only guy on this list that still has an opportunity to redeem himself.
7. Mikael Renberg
When you are on a line called “The Legion of Doom” there is going to be a lot expected from you.
Renberg scored 38 goals and had 44 assists in his rookie season but never came close to repeating those numbers the rest of this career mostly due to reoccurring abdominal injuries.
6. Keith Primeau
I know Primeau is adored by Flyers fans, but he only had one good regular season and one great (and completely unexpected) postseason in four-and-a-half years with the team.
And that is well below the production expected from a guy chosen to replace Eric Lindros and who was obtained for Rod Brind’Amour.
Some will say that his career was cut short by concussions but power forwards do not get better at age 34.
5. Chris Gratton
Coming off a 30-goal season with Tampa Bay at age 21, Gratton was thought to be the missing piece for the Flyers the year after they were swept by the Red Wings in the Stanley Cup.
The third overall pick in the 1993 draft had 22 goals and 40 assists in his first season with Philly, yet was considered a failure, which should tell you a lot about the expectations put upon him.
He scored only one goal in 26 games the following season and was sent back to the Lightning. Gratton went on to have a decent NHL career but he never broke the 20-goal mark again.
4. Gilbert Dionne
The third piece of the now infamous Mark Recchi trade with the Canadiens, the brother of Hall of Famer Marcel Dionne scored 60 goals in his first two-and-a-half seasons with Montreal.
But he didn't score a goal in the 22 games with the Flyers and he was out of the league at age 25.
3. Jiri Dopita
Considered at one time the "Best Player Not in the NHL,” the Flyers traded for Dopita’s rights and convinced him to join the team after signing his teammate, Roman Cechmanek, the prior season.
At age 32, it was thought he could instantly replace Rod Brind’Amour as the team's second-line center, but he had only 11 goals and 16 assists in 52 games before being traded to Edmonton the following season.
He scored one goal in 21 games with the Oilers and returned to the Czech Elite League for the remainder of his hockey career.
2. Pavel Brendl
Brendl was considered the main piece of the Eric Lindros trade to the New York Rangers.
The fourth overall pick in 1999, who scored 172 goals in 178 WHL games, had only six goals in 50 games with the Flyers.
He was traded to the Hurricanes during the 2002-03 season and only played another 26 games in the NHL.
1. Todd Bergen
He splashed on the scene at age 21 during the 1984-85 season and helped the Flyers reach the Stanley Cup Finals.
The owner of one of the hardest shots in hockey, Bergen had 15 goals and 14 assists in 31 regular season and playoff games his rookie year.
But he was constantly in head coach Mike Keenan’s doghouse, which he claimed caused him to lose his love for the game, and he was traded to Minnesota the following season.
Bergen never played another NHL game due to injuries and his passion for golf.