Sorry this didn’t come at 3:00p.m. Sunday afternoon when I got home from the final scrimmage of prospect camp. I felt I needed to marinade in my thoughts before I composed any semblance of a formal post. With all the boys (FINALLY!) home after storms/delays stranded half the prospects Sunday night (you can read about it by following the guys through my Twitter), I have complied a list of observations I made during my 3 trips to camp this past week. Please keep in mind:
1) I am not a hockey analyst by trade, nor do I have years of experience feeding others my brand of BS
2) I only attended the 1st, 4th, and 7th days of camp (which, I think, gave me a good idea of progression)
3) The experience of the following players is from straight out of juniors to NHL experience. Prospect camp in not meant as a “try out” for the organization. It is simply used as a tool for strengthening a player in hopes of creating a more well-balanced athlete. It was also the first time some of them had touched the ice since their respective seasons ended.
I broke the following players into forward, defense, and goaltending. These are just players who stood out. I have no doubt many of this week’s prospects will go home and sharpen their skills for training camp in two months.
Ian Slater – Day one this guy was weaving through wooden blocks and maintaining control of the puck. The recent graduate of Western Michigan University and captain of the Broncos hockey team was doing good things out of the starting gate. With strong skating abilities and puck handling prowess, I was a little shocked he did not stand out more on the ice during Sunday’s scrimmage. I do, however, feel he will be a necessary piece in building up the Phantoms’ depth. With his leadership abilities and work ethic, he will fit well in Adirondack and keep players, both teammates and opponents, on their toes. He was signed by the Flyers in April so I’m sure we will continue to see a great deal of him in the near future.
Chris Clapperton – You know the age old adage that size doesn’t mater? This guy proves it’s not just a saying. Donning white tape on orange socks the entire week, Clapperton made sure he was noticed for more than just his speed and puck handling. A camp invitee from the QMJHL he looked like an experienced 18 year old on the ice. No one seemed to bat an eye when he was placed on the top line with Scott Laughton during the scrimmages, wracking up __ points. The question is will the Flyers pick up this obvious talent or will he become the next Tomas Hyka?
Matt Konan – Another offseason aquisition, Konan was signed to the Flyers from the Medicine Hat Tigers. In an interview 8 months ago by the Tigers’ media, it was noted that Konan was undrafted and when asked what player he most emulates, he answered Chris Pronger. Already accustomed to orange and black, the Flyers’ scouts must have taken note and decided to keep him in those colors. Konan is a big bodied defenseman who did not hesitate to get guys on the boards. Although his speed is not quite where it would need to be for an NHL call up, he definitely should develop well in Adirondack.
Oliver Lauridsen – Ollie, Ollie, Ollie… a year later I still see him as one of the top guys under the prospect/rookie label. As one of MANY players compared to Chris Pronger, he is really the only one I see as a decent replica. At 6’6″, he skates like Pronger but continues to work on having the presence of the star defenseman. Having only left college a couple years ago, he has time and will continue his development with the Phantoms this year and hopefully see a call up or two with the big club.
Brandon Manning: As the only player at camp with NHL experience, I was somewhat surprised he attended, however, he acted as more of a mentor to the young attendees. Although his performance was not especially outstanding during drills, his presence during the scrimmage was felt. Directing teammates on the ice, navigating the puck away from opponents, Manning show his veteran status and should remain a reliable call up for the Flyers this season.
Cal Heeter– As an Ohio State alum, Heeter’s used to playing in red and white, but if he plays his cards right he may be wearing orange and black come October. The prospect camp was not much of a showcase for goaltenders until they were in a game situation and this is where Heeter showed his skill. He, along with 2nd round draft pick Anthony Stolarz, held off the black team, specifically in penalty shots. Heeter stone-walled Shane Harper on a penalty shot, holding him to only 2 goals on the day. Heeter has the height (6’4″) that the Flyers seem to be looking for as of late. He is expected to play back up to Niko Hovinen but roster spots are not set in stone. One concern for Heeter’s year is his stamina. Going from ~40 games to 82 minimum is a giant leap. Adirondack would stand to be a good place to develop Heeter for the big club.
Although many of these players look promising, from what I’ve seen so far, none look set for the NHL. As Flyers fans saw last year, injuries cause things to change so you never know who will be the next Zac Rinaldo, but if any of the above find themselves up with the Flyers, it will be because of great personal growth between now and that call up. Prospect camp proved to live up to its name: prospect. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary put it best. A prospect is something that is awaited or expected : a possibility. And wait we will. You never know who could be coming through the doors of Skate Zone when training camp opens in September.