On the eve of the National Hockey League’s trade deadline, the Philadelphia Flyers have dealt forward prospect Rick Kozak and a 2005 second round draft pick to the New York Rangers for defenseman Vladimir Malakhov.
Kozak, 18, was the Flyers’ seventh pick of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft (3rd round, 95th overall). He began this season, his second in the WHL, with the Brandon Wheat Kings, then was dealt to the Kamloops Blazers as part of a seven-player trade on New Year’s Day.
At 6’2″, 210 lbs. and growing, Kozak’s most intriguing qualities are his size and aggressive style of play. The Norway House, Manitoba native is currently ranked 28th in the WHL with 153 PIMs. He has also registered 20 points (13 goals, 7 assists) and a plus-8 rating in 51 games.
In terms of potential, Kozak projects to be a checking line winger-type in the pro ranks. He is not blessed with an abundance of natural skill, but possesses many of the intangibles that make up a solid role player. His willingness to give and take a hit, drop the gloves and pay the price in the slot are definite pluses.
But make no mistake, Kozak has a long way to go in his development. He must learn to play a better two-way game, though that can come with additional coaching and experience. The young forward also has to do a better job of containing his emotions, as his aggressive nature often leads him to take bad penalties at inopportune times.
Some critics have questioned Kozak’s work ethic this season, but by all accounts, both Brandon and Kamloops have seemed pretty happy with him in that regard.
Kozak is the second WHL prospect dealt by the Flyers in the past month. The team traded Red Deer Rebels center Colin Fraser to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Alexei Zhamnov deal on February 19th.
As for Malakhov, 35, the Flyers have added another defenseman in preparation for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The team’s blueline corps has incurred a rash of injuries in recent weeks, and is in desperate need of immediate stability. The 12-year NHL veteran should help in that regard.