The Flyers rookie camp continued over the weekend with more drills designed to work on outlet passes and one-on-one challenges. I attended Saturday’s session. The players were split into two groups, but ran through the same drills in each session. The rookies won’t scrimmage until Monday so any observations one reads about skill or work ethic, mine included, should be taken with a grain of salt.
The player that stood out the most among either group was defenseman Erik Gustafsson. Gustafsson, signed as a free agent from Northern Michigan University in 2010, has apparently been working out to improve his conditioning and it was obvious during the one-on-one drills. With the acquisition of Andreas Lilja on July 1, there’s a possibility that Gustafsson can make the roster out of training camp as an 8th defenseman, but that would seem like a waste of his talent if that was the case.
As it stands, Gustafsson is clearly the frontrunner for the first call-up on defense next season. Kevin Marshall, drafted #41 overall in 2007, looked composed during the drills, but I would still rank him below Gus. Of the remaining defensemen, Tyler Hostetter (Lancaster area native signed in 2009) and recent draftee Colin Suellentrop also stood out.
Among the forwards, I can’t say that any player was leaps and bounds more impressive than the others. Jason Akeson (signed in 2011), Brendan Ranford (drafted #209 overall in 2010) and Brayden Schenn showed off some nice toe drags, but the drills don’t replace game time mechanics.
For Ranford, at least, it was obvious that he has impressive puck-handling skills, but he was turned around any time he had to defend. He’ll need to work on the defensive side of his game.
Mike Testwuide (signed in 2010) and invitee Kyle Mountain seemed to have the best conditioning after skating suicides (or a bag skate, if you prefer to call it that). Mountain, who hails from Bryn Mawr, was also on the winning team during Friday’s Trial on the Isle.
Zac Rinaldo threw up after the bag skate.
Speaking of Rinaldo (drafted #178 overall in 2008), it was clear that he has decent hands that are capable for more than fighting, but his history suggests that unless he changes his attitude next season, he’s never going to have an impact at the NHL level. He laid out invitee defenseman Adam Phillips towards the end of a one-on-one drill that was uncalled for and made me shake my head. Phantom Tom Sestito would better serve the Flyers at this point.
Goaltender Niko Hovinen finally made it to camp after having visa issues, but other than an observation that “hey, he’s tall!”, I didn’t see enough to comment about him or the other goaltenders at camp.
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