There aren’t too many things I like better than hockey during the summertime. Okay, maybe that’s stretching the truth just a little but there aren’t too many things that are as much fun as hockey any time of the the year. Last week I got a chance to attend the Flyers’ prospect camp for the first time. My only regret is that I waited so long.
Since the Flyers season ended in the first round of the playoffs I have been missing hockey — a lot. I’m not sure if I was more excited about seeing some of my favorite players from the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, the Adirondack Phantoms, or to see some of the prospects I read and heard about all last season. And no, I’m not talking about the Flyers’ 1st round, No. 2, overall draft pick from 2007, James van Riemsdyk. If you live in Philly, he’s pretty much all you hear about.
Me? I’m not really impressed. But, what excited me most besides just being there, at the rink and watching hockey, was the chance to see two French-Canadian defenceman and the goalie prospects. I wasn’t disappointed at all.
A few random things that amused me about camp
Listening to the coach.
#1 The prospects looked way more dead on Sunday morning than they did on Wednesday. Maybe they had a little bit too much fun in Philly on Saturday night?
#2 On the 2nd to last day of camp the players practice jerseys had changed from boring orange/white/black to a google rainbow!
#3 Things were getting a lot more physical by day 6. Not amusing but fun.
A little less than half of the guys on the ice played for the Phantoms last year and most of those were forwards. The only Phantom d-man invited to the prospect camp was Mike Ratchuk. The main reason for that is some of the defenceman were free agents. We’ve already lost Nate Guenin. But, it seems like the only d-men that were invited to the first camp were those players who are trying to make the Phantoms or Flyers for the first time. Mike Ratchuk, looked impressive for his style of game he plays. He’s not your shut-down defenseman and isn’t the most physical guy on the ice. But, he’s a great skater, has excellent puck handling ability, and that boy can score! He reminds me a little of Mike Green but less physical. The second day I was there he took a nasty fall during a scrimmage and it looked like he might have been really hurt. He got up on his own and managed to get to the bench on his own. He didn’t come back for awhile but I was relieved to see him back on the ice.
Who will make the team out of camp?
Most of the Phantoms at camp were forwards and most of them looked impressive. JVR was a Phantom for seven games last season so I suppose I should include him here. He scored his team’s only goal in the first scrimmage but overall I was disappointed in his play. I barely noticed him during the scrimmage. He is a great skater, especially for someone his size and he can score but he didn’t stand out as much as some fo the other guys. He just didn’t play hard. The guy who impressed me the most was one of my favourite Phantoms, Pat Maroon. He was easily the best forward on the ice. His skating, which was his only real weakness last season, has improved a lot. He won most of his battles along the boards for the puck, and was great with the puck. Pat scored a goal and had an assist at the first scrimmage. It made me more than a little happy to see Pat get recognition from Paul Holmgren, the Flyers stoic GM. During his interview on the Flyers’ webcast, he said Pat had the best hands at camp.
The one thing I noticed about the different abilities and style of play was for the most part the guys who played a full season with the Phantoms last year played a lot more physical and harder than the younger prospects who were coming from juniors and college. There were a few almost fights between the Phantom players. Aww, come on refs, let them fight at least once? No? Last year I know Matt Clackson got into a few fights with the other “tough” guys. He had at least one with Steve Downie and another with fighter Garrett Klotz. I was really hoping for at least one but the “ref’s” broke them up. Maybe I’ll get lucky during regular camp.
Philly defense prospect, Kevin Marshall.
As excited as I was about seeing my favorite Phantoms, I was even more hyped to see our defensive prospects I’ve been hearing so much about. It made me more than a little bit happy that two of my favorites, were the two standouts in camp. I find it interesting that both of them come from the QMJHL. It seems like the QMJHL doesn’t get as much respect as the OHL which doesn’t make a bit of sense to me because some pretty amazing players have come out of that league. But, the Flyers seem to like drafting from that league. I think maybe it’s because they can get some highly skilled players with their usually later picks. Claude Giroux was a steal at 22. His performance in the playoffs is proof of that. And another standout in camp, Kevin Marshall, was drafted in the 2nd round (2007).
The Prospect Camp was my first chance to see Marshall play and just watching him was worth the trip. He’s known as a gritty, stay-at-home defenseman with a mean streak, but at camp he showed some offensive skills too. He scored a goal and blocked several shots during the first scrimmage. He’s not a big guy but more than makes up for it with how hard he plays. Comcast interviewed him for their webcast and Kevin said he worked the entire off-season with Ian LaPerrierre, the tough and gritty forward that the Flyers signed this month. It’s impressive that LaPerrierre would spend his off-season to help a young kid he didn’t really know. But, it’s kind of funny that fate has put them both on the same team. It can only mean great things for Kevin.
Flyers' 2009 fifth-round draft pick, Nicola Riopel.
The third stand out at camp was a draft pick from this year, goalie, Nicola Riopel. Yes, I know another French Canadian. Nicola is another interesting story. He wasn’t selected in the draft for the past two year but worked hard and improved each season. I think part of the reason he was skipped over is he was undersized. Reportedly, he had a growth spurt and is listed at 6’0. Last season was the best of his junior career. He set records with a 2.01 GAA and won the QMJHL player of the year. He’s another steal, not drafted until the 5th round. Even though I expected him to be good, he impressed me, maybe even more than the other players. This was Nicola’s first camp and he was best goalie on the ice. Joacim Eriksson, and Michael-Lee Teslak were both at camp last year. Jeremy Duchesne has been at camp the last few years. I only got a chance to see him play in a scrimmage on my first day at camp but he had a shut out. I’m really hoping this kid makes the Phantoms as the backup. With the loss of Scott Munroe, I think his chances are good.
Now comes the hard part. Waiting till September for the real training camp to start and the start of pre-season. I just wish it didn’t seem so far away.
Photos: By Goddess Kelles. Copyright 2009. All Rights Reserved.