Potulny impresses Flyers brass

DAVID W. UNKLE -- For SLAM! Sports

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

VOORHEES, N.J. -- There were some familiar faces waiting to greet Ryan Potulny, the Flyers' third round selection (87th overall) in the 2003 NHL Entry Draft who signed a two-year, NHL entry level contract on Wednesday.

At a summer hockey camp a few years back, Potulny met up with future teammates Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Freddy Meyer, and R.J. Umberger and the group re-connected at the Flyers' practice facility on Thursday.

The Flyers also gave Potulny a prime piece of real estate -- a corner dressing room stall to the right of NHL greats Petr Nedved and Peter Forsberg, positioning that the 21-year-old native of Grand Forks, N.D. could only describe as "pretty surreal."

"I was like a little kid in the candy store," said Potulny, who said that everyone came up and introduced themselves and welcomed him to the organization.

Opting to forego his final year of NCAA eligibility at the University of Minnesota, the 6'0", 192-pound Potulny will practice with the Flyers for the remainder of the season, hoping to get a look with the team prior to the start of the 2006-07 season.

Signed to an entry-level NHL contract, Potulny is ineligible to play for the Flyers' AHL-affiliate this season since he was not on the Philadelphia Phantoms roster prior to clear day.

Potulny discounted rumours that he opted to sign an NHL contract when he was not announced as one of the three players comprising the 2006 Hobey Hat Trick on Wednesday.

"That's not at all true," said Potulny. "We had the deal started before that announcement even came out. That had nothing to do with it."

"One day out of the box and I've got to tell you, he looks like a very smart, skilled player and you can't have enough of those," said Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock.

"(Ryan) wouldn't be the first guy to come out of college and be a good player. The puck follows him around the rink and you don't score 40 goals (actually 38) in college and have the numbers he's had the last three years by accident."

For now, it's a numbers game and with Branko Radivojevic and Turner Stevenson both healthy scratches, there appears to be little opportunity for Potulny to crack the lineup unless the injury bug strikes the Flyers again or Hitchcock decides to sit another veteran.

In practice on Thursday, Potulny skated on a line with Michal Handzus and Radivojevic, earning praise from his new coach.

"He's got a gift around the net and we saw some of that in practice today," said Hitchcock.

"If (Ryan) looks like he's going to help us, there wouldn't be hesitation on our part in putting him in (the lineup)."

Potulny scored 38 goals and 63 points for the Golden Gophers in the 2005-06 season and concludes his collegiate career with 68 goals and 50 assists for 118 points and 61 penalty minutes in 100 career games.


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