Richards flyin' high in Philly

MIKE ZEISBERGER -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 10:28 AM ET

Championships seems to follow Mike Richards around like a faithful puppy.

There was a Memorial Cup title with the Kitchener Rangers in 2003.

There was a world junior crown last January, a tournament that featured Richards captaining Team Canada to its first gold medal since 1997.

And there was a Calder Cup triumph last spring with the Philadelphia Phantoms, a team Richards joined midway through the playoffs after his junior season has ended.

If the trend continues, Richards might have to make room in his trophy case for a Stanley Cup ring.

The Philadelphia Flyers certainly hope so.

"It has been pretty whirlwind experience," the promising Flyers rookie said about his string of successes the past few seasons. "It has been hockey, hockey, hockey the past couple of years. But it has been great. They are memories you will never forget."

Just 20 years of age, Richards received another thrill this week when he and Flyers teammate Jeff Carter, another talented freshman, were included on Hockey Canada's list of players being considered for the Olympic team.

"I had no idea," he said.

"There are so many great players there, it was totally unexpected. It's so cool. Any time there is a chance to represent your country it's an honour."

For the time being, Richards is focusing on his first appearance on Hockey Night in Canada, a debut that takes place tonight when his Flyers visit the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

It is a moment he often thought about during his formative years in his hometown of Kenora.

"Like any kid growing up in Canada, I grew up watching it dreaming maybe one day I'd be on there," he said. "There wasn't any particular team I grew up (cheering for). I followed Montreal, Vancouver, you know, the Canadian teams.

"I wasn't part of the Leafs nation, though."

After finishing among the league leaders in NHL pre-season scoring, Richards, the top two-way centre in the OHL a year ago, has five points in five games and has looked impressive on a line with vets Michal Handzus and Brian Savage. Coach Ken Hitchcock has used him in all situations including power plays and penalty kills.

"He has to develop like any young kid, but we like what we've seen," Flyers general manager Bob Clarke said. "He has accounted for himself very well."

So much so there already are predictions Richards will wear the Flyers captain's C years down the road.

Given his string of championships, don't bet against it.


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