The Flyers have struggled over the past few weeks but it is no secret that they are still extremely talented. Despite the bad play, they still have the most points in the Eastern Conference. It’s easy for most fans to point to the play of veterans like Richards, Briere or Carter for the team’s success this season. But a major reason for the strong play this season is due to the improvement of 23 year old center Claude Giroux. His play this season has put him on the verge of being the team’s best player and one of the best in the game. His amazing playmaking ability has earned him the number 11 spot on our countdown.
Giroux was born in Hearst Ontario on January 12th 1988 and has been playing hockey ever since. While hockey is mostly put on the back burners of most young athletes here in the United States, hockey is what you do when you are from Canada. Claude began his young career at the age of 12 playing for the hometown Hearst Lumber Jacks in the NOHA. He worked his way up through the Canadian Junior Leagues until he become a member of the Flyers organization when he was selected with the 22nd pick in 2006 NHL entry draft. Giroux made his Flyers debut during the 2007-08 season on February 19th, the call up was short as he just played 2 games that season before spending the rest of the season with the Philadelphia Phantoms in the AHL. He joined the team halfway through the following season and has been the club ever since. In his first full season in the NHL last season, he had a solid 47 points in 82 games.
The Flyers young center has a tremendous amount of talent and upside. He has even drawn comparisons to former perennial all star Peter Forsberg. If you are not a big hockey fan, you can just think of Giroux has a Steve Nash type of player. His first priority seems to be setting up his teammates with his amazing passes (he currently leads the team in assist with 43.) But he is not afraid to put the puck into the back of the net when he needs to. Along with his terrific passing and play making ability, he is a very skilled scorer as well. So far this season he has already set a career high in goals and is 3rd on the team with 20. The 23 year old is also leading the veteran leaden team in points this season with 63.
Giroux showed his amazing play making ability in a recent game against the New York Islanders. He got to a loose puck to the left of the goaltender and without looking passed the puck behind his back to wide open James Van Riemsdyk. The defense was left memorized by the play and just watched as JVR faked out the goalie and put the puck into the back of the net. It was a play that just left you starring at the TV. You would think that he must have eyes in the back of his head to make a play like he did.
It would seem as though everything for Giroux has been great so far this season but he has had his far share of struggles. After a 4-1 win against the Edmonton Oilers on March 8th, he was reportedly chewed out by Veteran Defenseman Chris Pronger for turning the puck over too much. Pronger was heard yelling “Some people don’t learn” after he had a talk with the Giroux about taking some unnecessary chances with some passes. Giroux is a young player and needs to learn when to take certain risk with the puck. This is something that he will only learn through experience and the “talk” he got from Pronger would help him remember this in the future.
“Claude Giroux wants to win, but sometimes he needs to hear from the older guys on the team that this is how it’s done,” GM Paul Holmgren said. “I don’t think it’s bad. Claude, maybe he didn’t like being spoken to like that, but I think he understands what’s being said to him, and he’ll benefit from that.”
It’s no secret that the development of young players is the key to fielding a Stanley Cup wining team. And with the recent implantation’s of the salary cap, it has made it that much more important. The Flyers used to be a team that would always acquire a player at the deadline and where among the top spenders in the league. Since the lock out and the new CBA the Flyers have done great developing stars like Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. Claude Giroux is the next wave of young talent in the Flyers system. His play making ability and overall skill has landed him at #11 on BLN’s 2011 Best Athlete in Philadelphia.