Quick Hits: Riksman Hired, Nolet Retired, Alumni and More
QUICK HITS: AUGUST 9, 2018
1) The Flyers have confirmed the hiring of retired longtime goaltender Juuso Riksman to fill the previously vacant Finland-based segment of the organization's amateur scouting operations.
Riksman, 41, retired as an active player two years ago. A three-time winner of the Urpo Ylönen Award (the equivalent of the Vezina Trophy) and one-time winner of the Lasse Oksanen Award (league MVP) in Finland's SM-Liiga, Riksman also represented the Finnish national team.
The Flyers have had several Finland-based scouts in the past. Now a New York Islanders scout, Matti Kautto scouted for the Flyers from 2008 to 2013. Former Flyers goaltender Antero Niitymäki, who at first served as a goalie-scouting specialist but later expanded his scope of duties to general amateur scouting, came aboard in 2013 and stayed until he was named general manager of TPS Turku in 2016. The late Ilkka Sinisalo was a pro scout for the Flyers but, of course, was well-connected within all levels of hockey in his home country.
With the hiring of Riksman, the Flyers recognized there was an opportunity for improvement in beefing up their leads in Finland. Scouting is a team effort each year, whether it is of North American or European players. Even so, the regional scouts who view players the most times typically have to do the heaviest lifting within their area and provide good leads when their fellow scouts travel for cross-over viewings. That is why it is helpful when there's a home-base scout whose primary duties are in that area in addition to scouting international tournaments and doing cross-over work.
2) On a related note, the Flyers also confirmed the retirement of Simon Nolet. The 76-year-old had been winding down his work in recent years, scouting exclusively within the QMJHL and scaling back on the number of games he viewed.
Nolet has been one of the more unsung figures in Flyers history but an important one. During his playing days, the Quebec Aces product played all or parts of the team's first seven seasons in the National Hockey League. In 1971-72, Nolet earned a spot in the NHL All-Star Game as he produced 23 goals in the best season of his Flyers career. During his final season with the Flyers, he was a member of the 1973-74 Stanley Cup championship team as a lower-lineup winger who still managed 19 goals and 36 points in 52 games. After moving on to the Kansas City Scouts (for whom he served as team captain), Nolet played in a second NHL All-Star Game while producing 26 goals and 58 points.
Nolet retired in 1977 after serving as team captain of the Colorado Rockies. After leaving hockey for a time while working for the Labatt's brewing company, Nolet worked in the front office of the Quebec Nordiques for much of the 1980s. In 1990, old teammate Bob Clarke convinced Nolet to come work for the Flyers as a scout.
Although Clarke was fired as Flyers GM shortly after hiring Nolet -- Simon's paperwork was not done yet, so he technically wasn't an employee yet -- Keith Allen saw to it that new general manager Russ Farwell made good on the hire. For the next 27 years, Nolet served as a Flyers amateur scout. Although based in Quebec, he also did cross-over and tournament scouting for many years, and was one of Bob Clarke's most trusted scouting voices after Clarke returned in 1994 for a second stint as Flyers GM.
Most notably, Nolet had the most viewings of Simon Gagne (the son of Nolet's former Quebec Jr. Aces teammate Pierre Gagne, although that relationship was incidental to his scouting interest) in 1997-98 and of Claude Giroux in 2005-06. Nolet also was the primary scout who stepped up on the selection of University of Vermont forward Patrick Sharp in the third round of the 2001 Draft. In 2002-03, Nolet also recommended the drafting of the seemingly under-scouted Patrice Bergeron in the third-round range of the 2003 Draft but the player (who was not ranked in the Hockey News' top 50 that year) was unexpectedly selected in the second round by the Boston Bruins.
"It's not just me at all. It's funny. People say, 'Simon Nolet drafted this guy, and that guy' but, no. The Flyers draft this guy. We all scout and communicate. With Simon Gagne, of course I saw him play a lot. I saw him more than the other guys because I'm working in Quebec. Just like Dennis Patterson saw Jeff Carter and Mike Richards more [in the OHL]. But we are all traveling and we are all scouting and making sure we see these guys at least five or six times," Nolet said to Jay Greenberg in "Flyers at 50."
"People say 'This guy drafted this player,' and it's not that way. I mean, I saw something in Gagne but so did guys like Dennis and Chappy [John Chapman]. If I did and they really didn't like what they saw at all, the Flyers don't draft him. Or I really have a strong feeling that Carter or Richards can't be a player, even if Dennis likes him, the Flyers don't draft him. Or when we had Inge Hammarstrom in Europe even, same thing. We work together for the Flyers. It's not about my guy from my league or his guy from his league."
3) At 1 p.m. ET today, USA Hockey will announce its 2018 induction class for the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame. There are five inductees this year. I learned of the list but will wait for the official announcement. Here are a few vague hints. One inductee briefly worked for the Flyers after his playing days but is better known for an accomplishment he attained against the Flyers. Another is a relative of an important early figure in team history. A third has a connection to Philadelphia but does not hail from this area and never played or worked for the Flyers. The fourth was one of the first Americans to play in the NHL. The other is a women's hockey player.
4) August 9 Flyers Alumni birthdays: Rod Brind'Amour (1970), Harvey Bennett (1952), Andy Brickley (1961).