Hockey season is officially here! The Philadelphia Flyers opened their Rookie Camp on Monday morning and with it starts a month-long journey leading up to the grind of another NHL season.
For most teams, and most rookies, Rookie Camp is a chance for the prospects and younger guys to get a taste of professional hockey, training camp, and maybe a few preseason games. But these past few years have been different for the Flyers, and this year is no exception.
Last year the Flyers had two rookies in Travis Konecny and Ivan Provorov that ended up making the team out of camp, along with a few others that just missed, and this year the list nearly triples. The Flyers have three forwards and three defensemen that come into camp as NHL hopefuls.
There is one goal in mind for Nolan Patrick going into Rookie Camp and Training Camp: make the Flyers roster. Patrick was the second overall pick in this year’s NHL Draft and all expectations are for him to make it to the show right out of the gate.
Patrick battled with injuries this past season, limiting him to just 33 games for the Brandon Wheat Kings. He still managed 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) while playing at just 60 or 70 percent of his ability. Those struggles subsequently caused him to drop from the consensus number one pick in the draft to the number two pick, right into the Flyers’ lap.
The Flyers operated on a hernia in June that kept Patrick off the ice for a few weeks, but it could be a blessing in disguise. They have likely identified the problem that has been nagging Patrick and he should now be good to go. Patrick will need to prove that he is healthy, which he should be able to do since he has been playing in camp and scrimmages in Brandon before traveling to Philadelphia for Rookie Camp.
Rookie Camp will be the first time Patrick skates on the ice with the Flyers, and it should mark the beginning of something great in Philadelphia. It’s either sticking in Philly or back to Brandon for Patrick, so unless he falls flat on his face, he’ll break camp with the club.
Oskar Lindblom is coming over from Sweden with his eyes on the NHL.
The fifth-round pick from the 2014 NHL Draft has been slowly developing his game in the SHL. He has played above his age-level since then when he recorded 15 points in 37 games for Brynas IF. Since then he has only gotten better.
He got more playing time in 2015-16 and responded with 25 points in the SHL while also getting a taste of the AHL. He played in eight games, picking up seven points, for the Phantoms at the end of the 2016 season. Then last year he took a huge step forward. He was named the best forward in the SHL thanks to a 47 point season.
Lindblom can do it all and is exactly what the Flyers are missing. He is primarily a left wing, but can play all three forward positions. He is great on the forecheck and moving to a smaller rink should only help his game. He was relied upon heavily by Brynas on both the power play and penalty kill and it seemed like he was making plays each and every shift.
Lindblom has the skill and hockey IQ needed to play at the NHL level, but the thing that could hold him back is the logjam of forwards the Flyers have. Unlike Patrick, Lindblom is eligible to be sent to the AHL and could be called up at any point in the season. If the Flyers opt to go with experience and can’t trade a veteran, Lindblom could be the casualty.
If the Swede continues to play the way that he can, and the way that his teammates and coaches in Sweden forecasted, he’ll be lighting the lamp in Philadelphia soon enough.
The college free agent seems a bit out of place after a whirlwind offseason.
When the Flyers signed Vecchione back in March, it seemed like he’d be a lock for a bottom-six role this season. But moving up from the thirteenth pick to the second pick, along with the acquisition or Jori Lehtera, has Vecchione in limbo.
The 24-year old is likely above the level of AHL hockey and should be playing in the NHL, but his waiver-exempt status could slide him down to the Phantoms. He played two solid games at the end of last season and had a good showing in Development Camp as well.
This month should be a big one for Vecchione. He’s past “prospect” status as a 24-year old, and it seems like he should be a part of the bottom-six in the NHL. Rookie Camp and Training Camp will be one long battle for the forward.
The big man enters his final Rookie Camp ready for the NHL.
They always say that bigger guys take longer to develop, and Sam Morin is a prime example of that. Morin was the 29th member of the 2013 first round picks to make his NHL debut when he played last season in New Jersey. The towering defenseman has grown his game in the past four seasons. He finished his final season of junior hockey with 32 points and a +26 rating in 38 regular season games as well as 11 points and a +10 in 19 playoff games en route to the QMJHL Championship.
Since then Morin has been adjusting to life at the AHL level. The points have declined, and the physical mean streak is still there, but Morin has been playing a more polished game over the last two seasons while remaining in the lineup. He has missed just a few games over the past two seasons, suiting up in all 76 games in 2014-15 and missing just two games (one for his NHL debut) last season.
Morin impressed in his lone NHL game last season, and will look to do the same throughout Rookie Camp and the preseason. The 22-year old will be a man against boys — both in terms of height and experience — in Rookie Camp, but then the real test will come when full training camp and preseason games begin this weekend.
It’s either the NHL or back to the AHL for a third season for Morin, and with two spots up for grabs on the blue line it seems to be a near lock that Morin will be in orange and black come October.
Another Rookie Camp, another chance for Sanheim to finally make his way onto the Flyers roster. But, once again, it’ll take some work.
Since being drafted in the first round of the 2014 draft, Sanheim has looked like a potential NHL defenseman going into training camp. It was a longshot the first two seasons, and he ultimately went back and got two valuable junior seasons with the Calgary Flames under his belt.
Then last season he was moving up to the professional ranks. He had moved behind Ivan Provorov in the prospect depth chart, but he was coming off of back-to-back fantastic junior seasons and played well in camp. But, it wasn’t enough. Sanheim spent the full season in Lehigh Valley where he adjusted to professional hockey quicker than most. He had his growing pains early in the season, but by February and March he was right at home and the best defenseman on the Phantoms.
Unfortunately for Sanheim this year might turn out to be much like the past few. He might have one of the highest ceilings of the bunch, but Robert Hagg and Sam Morin seem to be ahead of him. Their experience and the fact that they made their NHL debuts last season give them a leg up.
There are two spots open on the blue line for those three to battle for, but if Sanheim blows the coaching staff away in training camp he could force his way onto the roster either ahead of one of Hagg or Morin, or by forcing a veteran (Andrew MacDonald) to the press box or AHL.
If Sanheim is unlikely to make the roster, then Philippe Myers might need a miracle.
The undrafted free agent is no stranger to proving people wrong. The Flyers have found a diamond in the rough with Myers, and he continues to impress each and every season. He is now 20-years old, meaning that he will be playing professionally no matter what. The only question that remains is if it will be with the Flyers or with the Phantoms.
Myers battled through concussions last season that limited him to just 34 games with the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies. He was also on Team Canada’s top defensive pairing at the World Junior Championship prior to suffering a concussion. But he was impressive nonetheless. He managed 35 points in those 34 regular season games, and added nine more in 13 playoff games.
In his final two seasons, after recording just 12 points in 106 QMJHL games prior to signing with the Flyers, 80 points (27 goals, 53 assists) and a +73 rating in 97 games. He is a tall, right-handed shooting defenseman that has displayed great patience, vision, and skating ability.
Myers has the tools to make it at the NHL level, but his lack of professional experience makes him a deep longshot to make the roster out of training camp. He could eventually become a top-pairing defenseman, but right now he’ll likely need more seasoning in the AHL before getting his chance.
Rookie Camp is just the beginning of a fun, eventful month leading up to the start of the regular season. It should be an interesting few weeks in Voorhees and Philadelphia.
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