Just weeks after development camp concluded, the Philadelphia Flyers are gathering 28 NHL hopefuls at their training center once again. The Flyers’ 2021 rookie camp opens this Thursday.
They’ll work out on the ice on Thursday and Friday. Then, the prospects will hit the ice for a home-and-home series against the New York Rangers prospects. Those go Saturday, Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. ET at the Rangers’ practice facility in Tarrytown, New York, then Sunday at 5 p.m. at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.
The rookie camp roster is composed of 16 forwards, 10 defensemen and two goaltenders. All 28 also took part in development camp at the end of August.
Just one player is missing: 2021 seventh-round draft pick Owen McLaughlin, who’s off to the Sioux City Musketeers of the USHL this season. NCAA eligibility rules allow college hopefuls to attend development camps but not rookie or training camps. As a local product, McLaughlin plans to suit up for Penn State in the 2022-23 season.
Development Camp vs. Rookie Camp
So the development camp and rookie-camp rosters look similar. But the Flyers organization sets different objectives for each confab.
“Development camp is one thing — we throw a lot of things at these kids and probably try to take them out of their comfort zone in certain situations,” said Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr on Tuesday. “A lot of the situations aren’t game situations. They’re skill situations, and we’re trying to improve little facets of their game.
“Getting into the (rookie) camp here, the intensity level is going to go up in practices and battle drills. We’re going to be able to evaluate players in games here. There are a couple kids here that have shown well for themselves and are coming in in tremendous shape. We’ll see how they do.”
Three first-round draft choices headline the rookie-camp roster. Defenseman Cam York, 20, showed well in his three-game NHL audition last season. Forward Morgan Frost, 22, was on the verge of claiming a full-time roster spot last season. But that plan was derailed by a season-ending shoulder injury, just two games in. As for winger Tyson Foerster, 19, his development curve was accelerated thanks to a full season in the American Hockey League in 2020-21. He’s now looking to build off a solid rookie pro campaign of 10 goals and 16 points in 24 games.
Faces To Watch
Asked about players to keep an eye on in camp, Flahr name-checked defenseman Brian Zanetti. The 18-year-old fourth-round pick was drafted out of Switzerland last July. He’s set to play his first North American season with the Peterborough Petes of the OHL this fall.
“I don’t know how many times he’s even been to North America,” Flahr said. “To come in, get acclimated to play, to fit in, and just keeps getting better every day. He’s a really interesting guy.”
Flahr also mentioned Elliot Desnoyers, the fifth-rounder from 2020 who put tore up the QMJHL in 2020-21. Offseason shoulder surgery limited Desnoyers’ on-ice work at development camp, but it’s hoped he’ll be ready to participate in main training camp, which opens on Sept. 22.
“Just a real impressive kid who’s one of those kids you talk to and he’ll sit and talk hockey all day long,” said Flahr. “He’s down there talking to the veteran guys. He’s learning every day. His work ethic and determination are off the charts.
“I think when he’s 100%, when he leaves here, he’s going to have a tremendous season. Hopefully, he gets to take part in some games or at least playing against the veterans and real hockey here as well.”
Under the Radar
The Flyers have developed a bit of a reputation for taking long looks at rookie-camp invitees who come in on amateur try-out contracts. Defensemen Philippe Myers (2015) and Egor Zamula (2018) were both signed to free-agent contracts as camp invitees.
This year, 6’6″, 235-pound blueliner Jackson van de Leest hopes to follow in their footsteps. He told Sam Carchidi of the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Flyers’ history of offering opportunities was one of the reasons why he accepted their camp invitation over a number of other teams.
When it comes to grabbing a spot at main camp next week, “I’m not going anywhere without a fight,” he said.
Behind Closed Doors
Rookie camp events are closed to the public, but fans will be welcome when the on-ice sessions for the main camp begin at Skate Zone on Thursday, Sept. 23.