Clarke watches his jewels shine

TERRY KOSHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 8:51 AM ET

Bob Clarke loves watching what Jeff Carter and Michael Richards are doing in the red and white because he can picture them doing it in black and orange. Clarke, the Philadelphia Flyers general manager, has a group of prospects playing at the 2005 world junior championship, but the Canadian pair of Carter and Richards is at the top of the class.

Clarke said both probably would have signed contracts and began the season in the City of Brotherly Love had the NHL lockout not unfolded.

"Carter and Richards are going to be good NHL players, with the chance of being great," said Clarke, who is attending the world junior here in Grand Forks, N.D. "I think you have to judge them on how they are doing against their own age groups. You have to think they will do well in the NHL because they are going to play against three-quarters or half of these guys.

"I think both would have started with us and if they were capable, we would have kept them."

Instead, Carter returned to the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds and Richards went back to the Kitchener Rangers, and both have been integral parts for Canada at this tournament.

The 2003 entry draft has become a potential gold mine for the Flyers.

Carter was selected 11th and Richards 24th. Other Philadelphia choices who are world junior participants include Slovak forward Stefan Ruzicka (81st), Swiss forward Kevin Romy (108th) and Canadian goalie Rejean Beauchemin (191st). Canada forward Colin Fraser also was taken in 2003 by Clarke but was traded to the Chicago Blackhawks.

Another Flyers prospect here, Slovak forward Ladislav Scurko, was chosen this year.

By comparison, the Maple Leafs have one prospect in the tournament, Russian defenceman Dimitri Vorobiev.

Carter played in 12 playoff games for the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL last spring, recording four goals and one assist.

"He did more than hold his own," Clarke said. "He was one of the best players on the team."

Carter, a native of London, Ont., who turns 20 on New Year's Day, hasn't been wondering what could have been had the NHL owners not locked out the players.

"I would have liked a shot to be there but I have no control over that," Carter said.

"It was huge (to play in the AHL). It's not every day you get that experience right away, but they put me in and I ran with it. Hopefully it all works out for the best."


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