John LeClair was not the most touted player.
In the 1987 NHL draft, every team but one passed on him at least once. He was taken by the Canadiens in the second round at 33rd overall.
He went on to win the 1993 Stanley Cup with Montreal and became a five-time All-Star and Flyers Hall of Famer.
Patrick Sharp didn’t come with a lot of hype, either.
He was a third-round draft pick of the Flyers in 2001 and played 66 games for the organization.
He went on to win three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks and put up 30-plus goals four times.
Now, LeClair and Sharp have returned to the Flyers as special advisors to the club’s hockey operations department. They’ll have a strong focus on the development of prospects, a critical area the organization wants to improve as it stares down a rebuild.
“I think it’s a big focus of the organization,” LeClair said Wednesday in a Zoom press conference. “Things aren’t good enough right now. We’re not where we want to be and we need to get better.
“To get better, we’re going to need maybe some fresh legs and faces to get in there and do that. We have some pretty good talent that we can develop. … We want to get the most out of those guys, for them and for us.”
LeClair and Sharp believe what they learned as players, both good and bad, can help the Flyers. The two wingers didn’t have things figured out right away or all the time.
“You want to rely on your own experiences a lot,” LeClair, now 53, said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to play in a lot of different situations, between international stuff, world juniors, different levels as far as being a fourth-liner, being scratched, to being on the first power play and a go-to guy in the lineup.
“That’s one of those things that I think helps me when talking to a guy. I’ve been on all sides of the game. I know what it’s like to get scratched, I know what it’s like when the coach benches you — those are things that you can kind of help these guys through. Everybody has ups and downs. There are ruts that everybody goes through. You try to guide them and help them get through those the best they can.”
Inadvertently, the 41-year-old Sharp has taken after LeClair. Both played collegiately at Vermont. Both played for the Flyers. Both wore the No. 10 for different teams.
Both want to win again in Philadelphia.
“It’s kind of cool to be joining the Flyers’ organization at the same time as John LeClair, another Vermont connection,” Sharp said Wednesday in a Zoom press conference. “I went to the University of Vermont for two years, was drafted by the Flyers. Of course, Johnny was doing great things with Philadelphia and he’s a proud University of Vermont Catamount, as well. To kind of follow in his footsteps was a big thrill for me.”
Sharp won the 2005 Calder Cup championship with the Phantoms, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, which was located in Philadelphia at the time. The NHL did not have a 2004-05 season because of the lockout.
He played 163 regular-season games and 34 playoff games for the Phantoms over parts of three seasons before being traded to Chicago in December 2005.
“When I left school, I didn’t know what was in store for me as far as the professional game,” Sharp said. “I didn’t know if I was going to be a lifetime minor-league player. I didn’t know if I was going to make the NHL; that was the dream, that was the goal — was to play at the NHL level. I wasn’t quite ready.
“At age 20, I needed to learn a lot about living on my own away from the rink, I needed to learn a lot about being a professional, how to compete more consistently. Those are things that I did learn over parts of three seasons, including one full season during the NHL lockout in 2005, when the Phantoms ultimately won the Calder Cup championship.”
He still remembers those days fondly.
“I look back at my career as a player and clearly the three Stanley Cups in Chicago stand out and there are other great moments,” Sharp said, “but that year in Philadelphia, that deep playoff run, the way that the city got behind us and just the experiences that I went through individually as a player — challenging myself, being competitive throughout four playoff rounds — that followed me around through the rest of my career and it helped me become the player that I later became.
“My experience, not only with the Flyers, but most importantly with the Phantoms, is something that I’m looking to pass on to our guys now.”
LeClair and Sharp recently had a meeting with Riley Armstrong, the Flyers’ new director of player development, and Nick Schultz, the new assistant director of player development.
“The excitement was high,” LeClair said.
Sharp had worked alongside Flyers president of hockey operations Keith Jones when the two were analysts for NBC Sports Network.
They have a new challenge together in trying to get the Flyers going again.
“I believe that every winning team starts with a great culture, a great core group of players and a strong development system,” Sharp said. “That’s what I’m excited to work with here in Philadelphia, is helping some of our young prospects take that next step and be great Flyers down the road.”
Source: Yahoo Sports