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Looking at the five players invited to rookie camp

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Four skaters and a goalie are looking for a contract with the Flyers

Flint Firebirds v Windsor Spitfires Photo by Dennis Pajot/Getty Images

Before the Philadelphia Flyers open training camp on Friday, the team is in the midst of a three-day rookie camp. Along with the team’s draft picks and a few free agent signings over the last few seasons, five undrafted free agents have been invited to camp. Although it isn’t likely any of these kids will earn a contract with the organization it’s not entirely out of the picture, so let’s learn more about these undrafted players.

Mitchell Balmas
Recently a teammate of German Rubtsov, Mitchell Balmas had a hand in the Acadie-Bathurst Titan winning this year’s Memorial Cup. The 20-year-old left winger, who is familiar with Philadelphia thanks to frequent trips to see his aunt and uncle, is considered a sniper and has been slated to come to the Flyers’ rookie camp since late June. Here’s a rundown of the 6’0”, 183-pound QMJHL forward’s stats I presented back in August the day the Prospects Game against the New York Islanders was announced:

“Balmas totaled 42 goals and 30 assists between the Titan and Gatineau Olympiques for 72 points in 68 games regular season games during the 2017-18 campaign. He then posted 13 points in 16 QMJHL playoff games, as well as a pair of assists in four Memorial Cup games. According to Prospect Stats, Balmas was one of 23 QMJHL forwards to take part in 68 games last season (a full season). Of those 23 forwards, Balmas finished first with 26 5-on-5 goals, tied for fifth with 40 5-on-5 points, and second with 180 5-on-5 shots.”

The seventh overall selection in the 2014 QMJHL Entry Draft will be joining his fourth different team in his fifth and final season in the league during the 2018-19 season. He became a member of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in June in exchange for a defenseman Ryan MacLellan, a first-round pick, and a second-round pick.

Hunter Holmes
A 6’1”, 181-pound 18-year-old center, Hunter Holmes is a forward whose hard work and two-way play make him a valuable asset, even if his point totals don’t show it. After a 13-point campaign for the Flint Firebirds in 2016-17, Holmes notched 11 goals and nine helpers for 20 points in 40 games for Flint this past season. A 0.5 point-per-game average isn’t terrible, but Holmes has never been a point-per-game player at any level, as the closest he came was 34 points in a 35-game season when he was captain of the Niagara North Starts of the South Central Triple A Minor Midget league in 2013-14.

The 22nd overall selection in the 2016 OHL Priority Selection Draft didn’t have the worst 5-on-5 numbers when looking at his rate stats. Of the 243 OHL forwards that played in at least 40 games this past season, Holmes finished 78th with 0.23 5-on-5 goals per game, 106th with 0.35 5-on-5 primary points per game, and 124th with 0.4 5-on-5 points per game. Again, he isn’t going to rack up points, but he can still be an effective player, which Astra Groskaufmanis illustrated in their scouting report of Holmes for Hockey Now back in November of 2017:

“Has a good sense of direction of where he needs to take his game on a nightly basis and brings tremendous work ethic each shift. There are some nights where you wish he would get rewarded for his hard work both offensively and defensively. Holmes is a playmaking centre who would rather pass than shoot but when he takes a shot, he can shoot accurately. Has a ton of room for growth physically. Deceiving down low and able to find his linemates through the smallest holes and get the puck to them. Tall, lanky kid is not the strongest skater but works hard on the forecheck and back check. Needs to build strength in the face off circle and a kid his size. Lacks any physicality which would give him an edge in many aspects of the game including battles in the corners and separation from the defence.”

Below is an isolated highlight reel of Holmes from the 2016 OHL Cup.

Bradley Lalonde
The oldest of the five camp invites, Bradley Lalonde has already concluded his junior career. After two years with the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles and two years with the Victoriaville Tigres, Lalonde played for Baie-Comeau Drakkar this past season, where he produced 13 goals and 44 assists for 57 points in 60 games. Lalonde also had three assists, 19 shots on goal, and 12 penalty minutes in Baie-Comeau Drakkar’s five-game first-round loss to the Halifax Moosehead in the QMJHL postseason.

Lalonde’s 5-on-5 numbers are pretty impressive as well. Of the 63 QMJHL d-men who took part in 60 games or more this past season, Lalonde finished tied for 11th with 24 5-on-5 points, sixth with 131 5-on-5 shots, and 15th with 4.69 individual expected goals for at 5-on-5.

Lalonde is set to play for Concordia University next season in Montreal, Quebec.

Yegor Zamula
Yegor Zamula is the camp invite who probably received the most amount of attention during their draft year. Playing in Russia through the 2016-17 season, Zamula recorded seven assists in 38 games for the Regina Pats in the WHL for the first half of last season before being claimed on waivers by the Calgary Hitmen in January. After he posted 11 points in 31 games for Calgary to close out last season, Zamula earned the ranking of 64th on Central Scouting Services Final North American Skater Rankings for the 2018 NHL Entry Draft. Outside of the WHL, Zamula also had a pair of points in five games for Russia at the U-18 World Junior Championship.

At 5-on-5, Zamula’s point totals don’t exactly excite. Of the 42 WHL defensemen that played in 69 games or more last season, Zamula finished 39th with 11 5-on-5 points and tied for 38th with four 5-on-5 primary points.

Although he had 26 points in 36 games during his final U-17 season over in Russia, there isn’t too much reason to believe Zamula will produce at that rate anytime soon. Ryan Pike of The Hockey Writers broke this down in his profile on Zamula back in May:

“While his time with the Hitmen hinted at a higher offensive ceiling than he showed with the Pats, Zamula was consistently a smart, responsible two-way defender. If nothing else, he’s a reliable meat-and-potatoes defender. He showed a willingness to jump into the rush to create offense with the Hitmen, the offensive side of his game remains under-developed and lacks dynamism. (Case in point: the only times he turned over the puck was occasions where he jumped into the rush and over-handled the puck trying to force a pass or shot.) He also struggles at times against fleet-footed attackers, but generally he can rely on his smarts and positioning to anticipate attacks and aid his goaltender in defending.”

Zamula will be with the Hitmen for the 2018-19 campaign.

Liam Hughes
The lone goaltender to be invited to camp, Liam Hughes is a 19-year-old that stands at 6’1”, 200 pounds. After a year with the Edmonton Oil Kings, the 152nd overall pick in the 2014 WHL Bantam Draft was dealt to the Seattle Thunderbirds at the beginning of the 2017-18 season in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 2019 WHL Bantam Draft.

Following the 2016-17 campaign where he posted an .895 save percentage and 3.26 goals against average with a win in seven appearances, Hughes won 16 of his 36 games this season with a .909 save percentage and 3.15 GAA. Unfortunately for Hughes, Seattle faced Carter Hart and the Everett Silvertips in an opening round loss in the WHL postseason. He managed to post a .910 save percentage as well as a 3.77 GAA during the five-game series.

*Stats courtesy of Prospect-Stats