How did this happen? Through a variety of transactions, the top three draft choices from the Philadelphia Flyers 2003 draft class, Jeff Carter (11th overall), Mike Richards (24th overall) and Colin Fraser (69th overall), nine years later, have all become key members of the Los Angeles Kings 2011-12 Stanley Cup team.
Richards and Carter have become reunited this year on Los Angeles’ second line. Richards was traded to the Kings prior to the start of the season in a move largely designed to free up salary cap space (Richards is currently in the middle of a 12-year deal worth $69 million). In exchange, Los Angeles sent power forward Wayne Simmonds and prospect Brayden Schenn, who at the time was considered one of the best players in the world not in the NHL. Richards stepped in as the Kings’ second-line center, but had a tough time regaining the scoring touch that made him so dangerous in Philadelphia, and he finished the season with only 44 points in Los Angeles.
Carter, on the other hand, took a longer route to the City of Angels.
Like Richards, Carter was traded out of Philadelphia in order to free up salary cap space, so that the Flyers could bring in goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov, who at the time was thought to be the missing piece for the Flyers championship run. Carter and his 11-year, $58 million contract were shipped off to Columbus in exchange for winger Jakub Voracek, and Columbus’ first and third round draft picks in the 2011 Entry Draft. Carter was reportedly devastated by the deal, and struggled while playing for the Blue Jackets. The perennial 30-goal scored ended up playing in only 39 games while netting a mere 25 points for the Blue Jackets. At the trade deadline, Carter was dealt again, this time from Columbus to Los Angeles, in exchange for Kings defenseman Jack Johnson, and a conditional first round draft pick.
Colin Fraser’s road was even longer, but he did pick up a Stanley Cup ring along the way. Fraser never played a minute on the ice for the Flyers, ending up in Chicago for the first four years of his career, where he won a Stanley Cup in 2010. Fraser then spent the 2010-11 season with the Edmonton Oilers, and joined the Kings, like Richards and Carter, for the 2011-12 season.
And while their respective regular seasons weren’t exactly rewriting the record books, the cream of the Philadelphia Flyers 2003 draft class has been a big part of why the Los Angeles Kings are in position to take home the first Stanley Cup in franchise history.
Fraser has stepped in as a grinding fourth-line center, personifying the Kings’ hard forechecking style. He also scored the Kings’ only goal of regulation in Game 1 of the Cup Final (the first of his career), a game Los Angeles would go on to win 2-1 in overtime.
Richards has become the offensive threat in the postseason that he was supposed to be all along for Los Angeles. Through 16 playoff games, Richards has notched 11 points, good for fifth best on the team.
Jeff Carter, meanwhile, has been the most balanced of the three. Through 16 games, he has 10 points; five goals and five assists, including a hat trick in Game 2 of the Western Conference Final against the Phoenix Coyotes, and the overtime game-winner in Game 2 of the Cup Final to give the Kings the 2-0 series lead the hold now.
It’s been a long road for the top three players Philadelphia drafted back in 2003. And after a series of divergent courses, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Colin Fraser are together again in Los Angeles, and are well on their way to raising the Stanley Cup together.
By Arun Morace