The Flyers Rookie Camp culminated in a big way Thursday night at the Wells Fargo Center. The Rookie Flyers faced the Rookie Capitals in a big arena showdown and the Flyers came out top dogs. This morning those same rookies are playing with the big boys as Flyers Training Camp gets underway. Although the Flyers will not be offering all of these young men NHL contracts, they are still worth taking a peak at if you so choose to grace the Virtua Skate Zone in Vorhees with your presence. Although there were many players who contributed to the success of the rookies, I give you my top 6 picks to watch (in no particular order) as you squeeze into whatever free spot there is around the Flyers or Phantom rinks today and/or tomorrow.
Blake Kessel – For a guy who was so freshly placed on the rookie team that he did not appear in Tuesday’s practice but managed to rack up 2 points in the rookie game, this…guy….is….it! The Flyers are in need of a defenseman who can put a kibosh on the opponents scoring attempts but can transition into a goal scoring machine and Kessel shows the ability to become a top-scoring defenseman. Even the following day at on-ice fitness testing Kessel was a lap and a half ahead of his rookie counterparts. He is well conditioned and should not disappoint in training camp. Much like many of the rookies, however, Kessel needs a chance to develop on one of the farm teams before he will see decent ice time at the Wells Fargo Center. (Sidenote: He is the younger brother of 2011 Toronto Maple Leafs All Star Phil Kessel, but make no mistake… he blazes his own trail.)
Oliver Lauridsen – At 6’6” with a “take no trash” presence on the ice, it is no surprise that this defenseman emulates Chris Pronger in his mannerisms and style of play. He remains patient against opponents and calculates his moves so as not to be overly aggressive. He has a clean style of play that is worth watching.
Tyler Brown -This left winger made his presence known in the Rookie Game at Wells Fargo Center on Thursday with his commanding defensive play and confident scoring ability. He walked away with a goal in that game and is creating some positive buzz among fans who watched him play.
Sean Couturier – The Flyer’s golden draft pick came away from the rookie game with an assist which is nothing to chirp at but he still did not appear completely focused in the game. He does not yet command the attention and respect of his opponents and as a result could be labeled a pushover. Couturier, however, possesses the raw talent necessary to become a dependable player. He has accomplished a great deal in a short time span and with some training and adjustment to professional hockey, Couturier can make significant strides toward being a top contender in the organization.
Brayden Schenn – Did not make a big splash in his first official game in a home jersey, but Schenn managed to aid his team in small ways throughout the night. Some may say he’s not performing up to his ability as the best prospect not in the NHL, however, there are many factors that go into making a good player into a great player so only time will tell how he fits into the Flyers roster. Schenn knows he needs to light it up this weekend in camp and I do not expect him to disappoint.
Harry Zolnierczyk – He may be 5’11” but he has the heart of a guy at least 6’5”. Harry Z, as his twitter handle calls him, is a standout left winger with a puck-aggressive style that shows confidence and experience. Although he has not seen NHL ice time, Z was captain of the Brown hockey team and received the 2010-11 Ivy League Player of the Year award. Throughout the rookie game he was not afraid to bump and grind with the Caps rookies and was a driving force in the Rookie Flyer puck possession. Although I joke that he resembles Scottie Hartnell in his, ahem, ability to take spills, Zolniercyk has a passion that made him a clear front runner on the rookie squad.