Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Flyers college prospect update: Parks and re-creation

Among all Flyers prospects who chose the college route, there's only one man standing as NCAA tournament has progressed to its Frozen Four, which takes place in Boston at the end of next week.

Michael Parks of North Dakota, a senior forward and 2010 fifth-round draft pick by former GM Paul Holmgren, is still alive and kicking, but struggling of late.

Though the Fighting Sioux claimed a pair of wins over the weekend against Quinnipiac and inter-conference rival St. Cloud State in Fargo to snag the West Regional, Parks was held off the board completely.

In fact, Parks, the St. Louis native, has posted a lone assist over his last 10 games. He hasn't scored since Feb. 21 at Western Michigan. That's a severely disappointing dry spell for a player counted on in all situations by head coach Dave Hakstol, including that of extra scoring punch given senior forward Mark MacMillan (16G, 25 pts. in 29 games) was lost for the remainder of the season with a lower-body injury whose nature is still unspecified.

Despite this prolonged stretch of bad luck, Parks still places second on UND with 32 points, but lags behind in fourth place with 12 goals.

His lone significant contribution to either win this past weekend, came on his team's opening goal in their opening game. On a power play in the latter stages of the first period against Quinnipiac, Stephan Pattyn won a right-circle draw back to defenseman Paul LaDue, and his chip across to Tucker Poolman resulted in a score.

Parks was there, on the right wing, to seal off a Bobcats forechecker which allowed LaDue to move the puck whichever direction he wished.  It's a testament to Parks' true value that he's not a flashy player, but one who can get the right thing done at the right time, rather than bask in the glow of the spotlight.

Part of the problem may be an undefined illness currently making the rounds within the locker room. Brad Schlossman of the Grand Forks Herald, who covers the Fighting Sioux beat, revealed on Saturday that he was told a significant number of players were affected with this malady, and two undisclosed players had to resort to IVs for hydration.

In any case, Parks doesn't want to go out with an empty stat sheet for the second consecutive season. Last year, he helped UND win its national postseason opener with a goal and assist against Wisconsin, then was promptly blanked through meetings with Ferris State and then the heartbreaking Frozen Four last-second semifinal loss to Minnesota.

Parks' final chance to prove himself will come next Thursday, in the late semifinal against Boston University.

Murray unsure what organization has with Luukko and Bardreau

Signed to separate deals, defenseman and 2010 draft pick Nick Luukko (University of Vermont) along with forward Cole Bardreau (Cornell) made their professional debuts for the Phantoms in the last week.

It's "pickle race time" for the minor leagues, when drafted players and the otherwise unsigned get a shot to prove their worth once the season is through for their respective programs. As far as Lehigh Valley is concerned, this year's crop was less of a gamble than when Adirondack received Carsen Chubak, Tom Serratore, Shayne Gostisbehere, Kevin Goumas and Tony Capobianco a year ago.

On an ATO, Luukko came straight from his fourth and final season with the Catamounts, who shocked Boston College in the Hockey East quarterfinals in three games at Conte Forum before losing a semifinal to UMass-Lowell. UVM's defense, along with goaltender and Minnesota Wild signee Brody Hoffman, limited BC to one goal over the final two games in the series to advance. The program's stifling defense was ranked in the top 10 nationally all season long.

Luukko made his debut in Saturday's 4-1 home win over the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, the club's lone win over their last six outings, but hasn't earned enough to catch on as a regular in spite of the farm team virtually out of the playoff race like the parent club.

"I thought his game was OK, for his first pro game out of college hockey it was pretty good. He got some nice looks, showed composure. I think the big thing for him is to adjust in practice, get used to the pro game, get used to hanging out with the guys," said Phantoms head coach Terry Murray on Sunday night.

"He needs to work out. He needs a lot of strength and power, and we've got a great set up here for the off-ice stuff. Every day he needs to dig in on that, and the opportunity might come along in the next couple of games. I think he left us with a pretty good feel for what he's capable of doing right now."

Bardreau, on the other hand, was not a draftee like Luukko, and came to the organization on a three-year, entry-level deal which begins next season. In his senior campaign, the upstate New York native led a weak Cornell team with 22 points in 30 games. So far, the 5-foot-10, 185-pounder has been used in a checking role, scoring once in his six appearances, but Murray is equally perplexed as to his true ceiling.

"I really don't know a lot about Bardreau and his numbers back through his four years of college," he said. And when reminded that the youngster was the Big Red's leading scorer this season, added: "I need a little bit of that here right now."

"He's playing a lot of minutes, he's playing in some pretty good situations, and I want to see that offense a little more, I want to see more of that gritty, dig in attitude, especially in the d-zone on faceoffs," Murray continued. "I think he stands and watches at times. That's part of the maturing process. I'd like to see him continue to grow rather than recede at this level. I think he's taken a few steps backwards from the first couple games he's played."

Without playing time to properly assess his value, Luukko might be consigned to remain in the organization down in Reading -- which isn't as horrible as it sounds. The Royals have been a successful franchise for almost a decade across four separate affiliations, and it has done wonders for so-called fringe talents like Pat Mullane and Maxim Lamarche. The time needed to bring Robert Hagg, Mark Alt and possibly Lamarche up to speed means that Luukko may likely be lost in the shuffle without some self-motivation.

If he's unable to stick with the Flyers, there's another team 1,200 miles to the south which may bid for his services.

Bardreau still needs to prove his long-term health given he's just two years removed from a broken neck -- something which clearly made him damaged goods in some teams' estimation. Murray's right in that his offensive side needs to flourish, otherwise, there's little else besides better discipline to distinguish him from a Jay Rosehill or Zack Stortini.

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