Yesterday, I spent the day at Flyers Development Camp, where Flyers prospects and invitees worked on drills to hone their skills with the Flyers’ development team, including Derian Hatcher, Ian Laperriere and Riley Cote. Obviously at these camps, you won’t learn a whole lot about a player, especially doing repetitive drills. Many of the drills were set up to see what the players could do, with the Flyers brass (including Paul Holmgren) watching. The day was split into two sessions, defensemen early and forwards later.
Most of the fans’ eyes were on both Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier. Schenn seemed to struggle in some of the early drills, but the team will probably take a deeper look at the young center during Flyers’ training camp in September. Couturier showed some nice hands throughout the session. His goal this year is to make the NHL, but between the Flyers’ lack of roster space and no need to rush him, he will likely find himself back with Drummondville of the QMJHL.
Zac Rinaldo is a curious case. Not drafted by the Flyers for his scoring prowess, Rinaldo’s three years in the OHL got him 27 goals, 69 points and 669 PIM. If you include postseason, he has yet to have a season under 200 PIM. He had 331 PIM with the Phantoms in the AHL last year, and collected more suspensions (4) than goals (3). So why is he even worth watching? Well, it’s just development camp, but he looked impressive yesterday. While some of his counterparts coasted through the drills, Rinaldo seemed to give his all throughout the morning. If he can tone down his antics, maybe he can develop into solid role player. That’s a big if though at this point.
Some other quick thoughts:
Erik Gustafsson is a small guy. But he’s quick. Really, really quick. He’s clearly the best defenseman in the group. But with the Flyers’ depth at defense (provided everyone stays healthy), he’ll be back with the Phantoms, stuck in call up duty. But with the questionable health of the defense, he might find himself playing more games in the NHL. Kevin Marshall has been one of the team’s top defensive prospects for a couple of years, and despite his slow progress, should eventually crack the team eventually. He didn’t stand out too much, but was solid. He also might see some NHL time this year if the defense is depleted enough.
On the flip side of Gustafsson, Oliver Lauridsen is a monster. He’s huge, but a pretty good skater for his size. The former St. Cloud State defenseman still a work in progress, but has some potential. Forward Tom Sestito is also a big guy, who looks like he can be an older brother to the rest of the campers.
Derek Mathers wasn’t drafted this year to score goals, but he showed a scoring touch in the 3 on 0 drills. He beat non-roster goalie Kris Westblom a couple of times, but Westblom also made a couple nice saves during the same drill.
To be honest, I didn’t even notice Eric Wellwood was on the ice until halfway through the session. It could have been because of watching other players, but he didn’t catch my eye.
Maybe the Flyers find a diamond in the rough in one of these camps, but at the very least, these kids are getting some instruction from former NHLers.