Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Flyers dip into well of Hockey East talent, sign UNH's Goumas

Philadelphia Flyers fans will be placated, after the club has apparently decided to bring in a top-level talent from the premier Division I conference of Hockey East.

It's Kevin Goumas, a senior from the University of New Hampshire, whose season was ended this past Saturday when UMass-Lowell bested their northern neighbors by a 4-0 count in the conference final at TD Garden. The Wildcats, who, along with Boston College, Boston University and the University of Maine provided a fearsome foursome nationally over the last decade and a half, did not manage to snag an at-large berth in the NCAA tournament which begins later this week.

Broad Street Hockey was the first to report the faint traces of a deal late last night:

A Flyers insider confirmed the move on Wednesday afternoon, revealing Goumas has signed an amateur tryout contract and will report to Glens Falls today. He will also be inked to an AHL-only deal for next year.

For his final season in Durham, Goumas struck for team and career highs of 33 assists and 52 points over his 40 appearances to go with a plus-24 rating. His 19 goals, second to Nick Sorkin, also represent a personal best for the Long Beach, New York native. In addition, Goumas finished tied for third among players for in-conference scoring with 26 points (6G, 20A), tied with Maine's Devin Shore with only BC's Johnny Gaudreau (36 points) and Kevin Hayes (27) ranking higher. He ended his four-year sojourn having compiled 44 goals and 146 points in 146 contests for Dick Umile.

At 22 years old, 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds, Goumas isn't likely to do much more growing, which means he most likely won't end up playing for the Flyers -- who prize a little more size, weight, strength -- any time soon. That, and the fact that Goumas, tasked with playing half of his games on the Olympic-sized rink at the Whittemore Center, didn't have too much defensive responsibility. It remains to be seen how Terry Murray plans to deal with that hiccup.

Goumas is expected to provide a badly-needed shot in the arm to the Phantoms' offense, which currently ranks dead last in the Eastern Conference and tied for second-worst with Hamilton at 151 goals. Adirondack has 12 games remaining on its schedule during its last season in Glens Falls, including six at home.

The problem of high-octane UNH forwards making the transition to the NHL has been a persistent and notable one since the late 1990s.

Jason Krog (1995-99) finished his senior year with a national-best 85 points en route to the Hobey Baker Award and completed his career at 238 points in 152 games. However, Krog wasn't able to catch on with six NHL organizations, and though he became an elite AHL scorer in the 2000s, has spent the last three seasons in Sweden. His tally stands at 22 goals and 37 assists in 209 NHL games. Darren Haydar, another four-year star (1998-2002) under Umile, totaled 219 points over 158 games and has carved out a career as a prolific AHL sniper, primarily with Milwaukee and Chicago. He tallied one goal and eight points in 23 games for Nashville, Atlanta and Colorado.

Following Haydar was Jacob Micflikier (2003-07) with 150 points in 155 appearances. He did not suit up once for an NHL squad, instead bouncing between the AHL and ECHL before heading to Switzerland and then the Kontinental Hockey League this season. What links them all, was that they stood under 6-foot and weighed less than 200 pounds at the conclusion of their D-I tenures.

James van Riemsdyk was not. Though he only spent 67 games over two years with UNH, the Flyers' second-overall pick in the 2007 draft came almost ready-made for the Show at a robust 6-3 and 200 pounds. After 28 goals and 64 points, plus all of seven games in the AHL, we know how that story turned out.

Those who would like to point out Matt Read's success here after a career with Bemidji State as an "undersized" undrafted player, I'll point out this: in his senior season, the program participated in the WCHA, whose players size, weight and skill level came closest of all American college conferences to playing in the NHL, owing to its talent pool coming from the Midwest and Plains of the US, as well as the prairies of Canada. By contrast, Hockey East until very recently had a hard time corralling recruits from beyond New England and so favored a skilled game with players of lesser stature.

I'll also point out that given enough time, you'll be able to recite the number of successful college free agents the Flyers have gambled on and won on less than one hand.

The race is still on for the services of Lowell defenseman and 23-year-old sophomore Christian Folin. His RiverHawks could be eliminated this weekend, or travel to the Frozen Four in Philly the second week in April. Folin has yet to decide how to proceed with his hockey future.
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