Hockey is finally upon us, folks! The season is just around the corner, and the Flyers are gearing up for it, and starting their preparations with their rookie camp this weekend. They made it through their first two days of skates, and we’ve got your quick rundown on all of the happenings.
We’ve got some lines!
First up, they seem to have their lines set! These may be subject to change—the kids have another session tomorrow, and then a morning skate on Wednesday—but these are the forward lines that they’ve been running through the first two days.
Some health notes!
We got a couple of injury updates during the session on Saturday, so here’s a quick rundown of what we were told.
Mark Friedman had minor abdominal surgery over the summer. He’s fully cleared and skating, they’re just being extra cautious with him, so they’re giving him a bit more time off. We should be seeing him sometime this week, whether it’s for the rookie game or later on once full camp starts.
Camp invite Ben McCarthy also sat out the first two days of camp with a hip flexor issue. We don’t have a timeline for him, or know if he’ll be participating in any part of camp this week.
And, in a bit of good news, German Rubtsov is healthy! I mean, we already knew that, he was a full participant in development camp and he said then too that he was back to 100%, but he said it again on Saturday. I just needed some good news to put here. Moving right along.
The camp battles
We’ve been talking a lot about the upcoming training camp battles for the 3RW (or whatever it ends up being) spot, and each of our three big name contenders—German Rubtsov, Joel Farabee, and Morgan Frost—are all having themselves solid starts to camp. In a way, they’re all out there doing their things, and it’s all been very good. Rubtsov isn’t always the flashiest player on the ice, but he always seems to be doing the right thing, while also flexing (ha!) that distinct physical strength we’ve gotten used to seeing from him. Farabee’s effort level stands out with his relentless forechecking. And Frost’s shot jumps out, as well as the increase in the pace of his play.
What are we getting at here? If we were looking for one player to pull himself head and shoulders about the pack, we haven’t really had that yet. Which will make things just that much more interesting, in the coming weeks.
The one other piece we do want to hit on is something you might have picked up on when we dropped the lines a couple of sections back. If these three players are competing for a right wing spot, why is Farabee the only one getting reps at right wing? It’s probably not worth going crazy, trying to read into this. There’s an argument to be made that there’s some positional flexibility with the roster at the NHL level, and additionally, just because Rubtsov and Frost are only playing center now doesn’t mean they still will be in training camp. It’s worth being aware of, but not worth getting too bent out of shape over.
Unsurprisingly, we’re leading off this section talking about Phil Myers. He’s probably been the best player in this camp so far, and as he very well should be! He’s been to his fair share of these camps, and he’s already all but carved out an NHL role for himself, so he should look better than just about everyone else out there. Sunday’s offensive zone drills saw him really shining, as he showed strength in the corners and along the boards, while also bringing a bit of flash with his offensive instincts and puck moving.
Another standout so far has been one Isaac Ratcliffe. He’s a player who we might categorize as being on the fringe of that 3RW battle, and while he may not be as close to competing for an NHL job as some of his counterparts, he’s having a solid start to camp. He seems to have gotten a bit stronger, and as such looks a bit more confident. He’s looked sharp playing alongside Frost and Farabee, and his aptitude at creating and converting on chances at the net front (unsurprisingly) was perhaps the most noticeable part of his game.
And speaking of fringe contenders! (Spoiler alert) we’ll be talking more about Connor Bunnaman in the not too distant future, but we should drop a quick note in here because, if there were a “Most Improved” title to win in this camp, he would also have a strong case for walking away with that one. In addition to looking stronger and just a bit more polished, what really flashed was an increased speed in his game. As we noted above, they’ve got him on a line with some speed (David Kase, hello), and Bunnaman’s having no trouble keeping up, whereas this might not have been quite the case a year ago. So, a hat tip to that.
We’ll close things out with a few interesting last notes, in the coaches and players’ own words.
Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon (who’s running the camp) on roles in camp, and the importance of flexibility:
“I think it benefits every player to be multifaceted. If you’re locked into—like I had a conversation on the plane [when I was] on Long Island, he was a first round pick, who, he was a left winger, and I said to him ‘I know you want more ice time, but you’ve got two guys on the left side in front of you, but we need a first line right winger. Would you play the off-side?’ [He said] no, I’m not a right winger. And if you’re gonna have that mindset, you might ultimately lose an opportunity to play more minutes or have a bigger role with your team. So that’s, as you come in here as a player, to not be able to play both wings, or to go from center to the wing, you look at the roster and there’s four guys of each position, it’s a heck of a lot better to be able to have 12 positions to be able to vie for 12 spots than just being able to vie for four.”
German Rubtsov—who missed the bulk of last season with a shoulder injury—on the main point of focus of his training this summer:
”A lot of gym work, a lot of concentration on the shoulders and the knees to get stronger. Staying healthy.”
Gordon on if he dreams of a future of a Ratcliffe-Frost-Farabee line for the Flyers:
“Sometimes I say ‘this is gonna be a pretty good line for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms!’”