As the Flyers’ prospects take a break from the ice and head to Avalon, N.J. for the long running Trial on the Isle, a triathlon followed by a charity softball game, Philabright reviews the first half of camp from the Flyers’ Skate Zone in Voorhees, N.J.
Each morning the team starts like a normal practice, doing conditioning drills. Each forward line in a different color jersey and the defense wearing either orange or black. They practice things like power play set up, dump and chase and 2-on-1’s. Phantoms’ coach Craig Berube runs the practice with help from some unrecognizable assistants and former Flyers’ defenseman Eric Desjardins.
After the practice the team heads off the one rink and to another across the building for a scrimmage. The teams are broken into orange and black and they play two full periods. there are no power plays, so a committed penalty results in a penalty shot for the victimized player.
On Monday and Tuesday, the black team featured James vanRiemsdyk, Steve Downie, Jonathon Matsumoto, Garrett Klotz, Kevin Marshall, Andreas Nodl and Zac Rinaldo.
The orange team featured Claude Giroux, Mario Kempe, Ryan Parent, Luca Sbisa, Michael Ratchuk, Patrick Maroon and Matt Clackson.
The first line for black was JVR and Downie on the wings, with Matsumoto centering, and is by far the most dominant line of both teams. Marshall is black’s top dman and plays consistently against orange’s top line.
On Monday, orange’s top line featured Claude Giroux, Patrick Maroon and Nate Raduns. But after being completely consumed by the defensive play of Marshall, orange changed their top line to Mario Kempe, Jon Kalinski and David Laliberte.
Orange’s top defensive pairing on both Monday and Tuesday was Ryan Parent and Luca Sbisa.
On Tuesday there were two fights. Clackson vs. Downie and Clackson vs. Klotz. Clackson held his own in both scraps, but no one was a clear victor in either. The crowd gasped as the fights broke out as if they were watching two of their good friends throw fists.
There is a balcony located on the bleaches side of center ice. Observing the scrimmage on both day were former Flyer Bobby Clarke, General Manager Paul Holmgren and Eric Desjardins. On Tuesday only, on a balcony located in the corner of the rink stood Flyers television play-by-play announcer Jim Jackson and Flyers radio play-by-play guy Tim Saunders.
JVR – As the top prospect in the Flyers’ organization, vanRiemsdyk had all eyes on him and didn’t disappoint. He is big, strong and fast — everything he was billed to be when he was drafted second overall in 2007. Playing on a top line with Downie, JVR has great size and is very strong on the puck. When he was working against the boards the defense struggled mightily to get the puck off of him. He skates hard and has a long stick that works to his advantage on the forecheck. He drives to the net with ambition and has made smart plays with and without the puck. On the downside, he could be even more of a force if he put on a few pounds of muscle and he isn’t as physical as I would like to see someone his size be. On multiple occasions, Downie has got him the puck in front of the net but JVR hasn’t been able to bury any, but he is making himself available to get a ton of chances.
Downie – Downie has skated well and has played with passion. He has been physical and put together some nice passes. Clearly one of the most refined offensive players on the ice, but that is as it should be with Downie playing against less experienced players. Right now, Downie appears to be out playing Giroux for the Flyers’ final roster spot.
Parent – Looks as solid and poised as a player of his caliber should be. Even playing against the top line of JVR – Downie- Matumoto, Parents has appeared like he’s a men amongst boys. He looks physically more filled out than anyone else on the ice.
Rinaldo – Newly drafted Zac Rinaldo has been the biggest surprise for me at camp. He has hit everything that moves with a fiestyness that keeps eyes locked on him whenever he’s on the ice. Not a big kid, he tallied at least two hits per shift and has had some huge checks, one of which injured Kalinski. I would not be surprised to see Rinaldo get into a scrap before camp is over.
Chris Zarb – Zarb is a much overlooked defenseman in the Flyers’ system. He is really big (6-foot-4 and 180 pounds) and can fly. Not as physical as someone his size should be, his biggest highlight so far was his skillful penalty shot goal on Tuesday, when he faked a wrist shot, waited til the goalie went down and gliding to his left, lofted the puck into the top corner.
Kevin Marshall – Marshall was signed to an entry level contract with the Flyers yesterday which shows how the organization feels about the big hitting blueliner. More stocky than tall, Marshall has been a steady defensive force for the black team whenever he’s on the ice. Not the flashiest player, his ability to rub puck carriers out along the boards really has neutralized orange’s attack.
Line of Kempe, Laliberte, Kalinski – Fast and driven is how I would explain this line’s play. Kempe has moments of pure brilliance carrying the puck and his linemates have helped put consistent pressure on the other team.
Giroux – Giroux is the front runner to make the team out of camp, but has yet to really impress. He has started each scrimmage slow but has picked it up as the game goes along. He hits the blue line with speed and has given a solid effort. The most noticeable player on his line, he seems to get pushed off the puck fairly easily and his linemates have also been weak with puck possession. Giroux is noticeably one of the faster players out there and has been open in the slot numerous times. But since his line’s puck possession is so weak, he never sees the puck. I am expecting to see a bit more from Giroux on Thursday and Friday.
Sbisa – Flyers’ first-round selection in the 2008 draft, Sbisa has been steady. He has gone fairly unnoticeable, but that’s not always a bad thing when it comes to defensemen. I will pay special attention to him on Thursday and Friday to get a better feel of his game.
Nodl – I expected a bit more from a guy compared to Tomas Vanek. Many times I have forgotten he was even playing. He did score a goal on Monday on a redirection from the far corner, but besides that him and his line have been invisible. He is bigger than i expected. Also, he will be at the Flyers’ main training camp and may not want to burn himself out in the prospect camp.
Flyers’ goalies – No one has really stood out. Brad Phillips, Jacob Deserres, Jeremy Duchesne, Michael-Lee Teslak and Joacim Ericksson all have had limited chances put on them and even still, managed to not look stellar. Definitely want to see more from this group moving on.
I will be attending camp on Thursday and Friday and will have daily reports from each.