That’s all, folks! With the Flyers’ victory in their rookie game against the Islanders last night, rookie camp has officially come to a close. It was a nice little start to the return of Hockey Happenings. The kids gave us a lot to like and a lot to break down, and that in and of itself is exciting. But we’ve got to narrow it down somehow. So we’re recycling our format from after the close of development camp, and picking out our five stars.
Now, I’m going to level with you guys. This list probably isn’t much of a surprise to anyone, really. Like I said, we saw a lot of flash and a lot of potential, but no one came out of the woodwork and positively stole the spotlight. Exactly who we expected to have the massive camp did just that. So why, then, are we still talking about them? Because we need to note just how dominant these five players looked, how they not only brought us what we asked for, but they also gave us just a little bit more. But let’s just get right into all that.
So this list isn’t a definitive ranking, we’re not going in any kind of order here, other than that in which these five names rattled out of my brain and onto the page. But Lindblom’s kind of an exception here, in that he was both one of the most noticeable players throughout this camp and exhibition game, but also one of the most improved from where he was at this time last year.
Lindblom spent a portion of his summer training in Voorhees for the express purpose of working on his skating. And guess what guys: it really shows. He came into camp looking noticeably quicker—not necessarily in that he’s gained a ton more top-end speed, but that his acceleration to an at-least-slightly-improved top speed is just that much quicker. It showed just in the drills early in the week, but even more so in the game last night—he just looked a lot more mobile, and it helped him in both creating chances on a line that was already buzzing, as well as disrupting the Islanders’ efforts when shifting to the defensive role. In short, we knew already that Lindblom has a very well rounded game, and this added piece just makes it that much more effective.
And, of course, it shouldn’t be glossed over that he had a monster game in terms of offensive production in that rookie game. Notching a hat trick on his own, he also picked up two additional assists, having a hand in each of the Flyers’ first five of six goals. And, I know, I know, small sample, we can lean too heavy on that as being predictive in any way of future results. But still, it’s pretty insane. So a tip of the hat to our pal Oskar.
All things considered, this one really shouldn’t be a surprise. With news that Andrew MacDonald is going to be out through the first few weeks of the season, and with Myers already looking more than ready to take the next step into the NHL, we expected him to look good and like he’s pushing hard for a roster spot. But boy did he ever exceed expectations.
From the get-go, he came in showing he meant business. He came into camp and weighed in at 220, having evidently spent the summer training hard and getting stronger and as close to “NHL size” (whatever that means) as possible.
This is an idea I keep coming back to, whenever I’m watching Myers, in whatever context, but it’s this thought that “he just looks to good to be here,” and this was the case again this week. In drills, he looked dominant—still incredibly fluid and mobile even after putting on some more weight, keeping tight coverage in one-on-one drills, and looking just about unbeatable in puck battles along the boards. In last night’s game, too, he showed a similar type of dominance, but did so more quietly. He brought a bit of flash in setting up Lindblom’s second power play goal of the night, but through the whole of the game he proved quietly responsible and disruptive at both even strength and on the penalty kill. In short, he looked like a guy ready to make a hard push for a roster spot, and one who looked like he should absolutely be in the conversation for it. And it will be interesting to see his usage through full training camp, given this early bit of flash shown.
And then to pivot to talk about players pushing for the other opening in the roster, let’s start talking about centers. After having a very solid development camp and finally getting the nod from Hextall as someone they were considering to fill this role, Vorobyev came into camp looking like he was ready to do just that.
In drills, he was strong. Like, physically strong, not getting pushed around by even players bigger than him, and again, even if it was briefly, he gave us a look at the laser of a one-timer he has. And this would be fitting, considering this is how he collected his goal in the game last night, with a quick shot from the outside, beating the goalie cleanly. But elsewhere in the game, he still shined, working well at even strength to set up chances—he also picked up an assist on the night—and space for his linemates to work, but he also did very good work on the penalty kill, being aggressive in getting after pucks and cutting off passing lanes. The only downside? He got a little feisty in the game, and while maybe you like that part, it did lead to him taking a couple of penalties. And maybe that’s not even something we give a whole lot of weight, as we haven’t seen him present as having a full-on temper problem in this past season. But it’s still something.
Another center had a very good camp? Oh my, now we’ve got a real battle on our hands!
If we’ve talked already about how Vorobyev provided a look at a sort of quiet but incredibly sound game, Frost did just about exactly the opposite. It was a lot of flash, you guys (but, you know, in the good way).
What stood out most, across the board, about his game was his speed—even as he’s bulked up, he hasn’t sacrificed any quickness, and this was on full display this week. In drills he already looked fast, zipping around the ice and eluding would-be defenders in one-on-one drills (with the exception of a couple where he was matched up against Myers, and pretty promptly out-muscled there. But, hey, we get that), but he really kicked it up a notch in the game. He had one particularly dangerous breakaway chance that saw his shot just stopped, but it was good, and gave us a taste of what he can do in regular game situations. But it wasn’t all speed all the time, he did just as much damage when set up on the power play, making use of a quick one-timer, notching a goal with it and setting up a handful more chances with it, as well. In short, he gave us a little flash, but also brought some substance with it, and he’s making it tough to say who was far and away the better center. Very tough, indeed.
And now, the moment we’ve all been waiting for: let’s talk about Carter Hart. He had, as has been the case in the last couple he’s been to, just a very solid camp. Positioned at the far end of the ice, away from the media during the drills, it was tough to get a long look at what he was doing, so our evaluation comes primarily on his play in the exhibition game (which, in a way, seems a little bit more fitting anyway).
Because it was an exhibition game, we don’t have any data available on what kinds and how many shots Hart faced over the course of the game, but we can say that the Islanders didn’t exactly make it easy for him. On the whole, his positioning and reactions were good, but even more impressive was his response from period to period. The first period wasn’t a mess, by any means, but it did see him beat three times. Tough shots, but beat all the same. The second period was a different story—he came out much more composed, was tracking the puck much better, and didn’t allow a single further goal in the next 20 minutes. The Islanders were really firing on all cylinders, and he had to make some nifty saves in quick succession, like the ones below, and, in short, he really brought it.
Carter Hart with three consecutive saves in close! pic.twitter.com/spd8Kxvlu3— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) September 12, 2018
It was a good start, not quite a “get this kid to the NHL immediately showing,” but a very strong foundation, all the same.