Flyers Hockey is officially back.
The Flyers will open training camp on Thursday as they look to start fresh and wash away the stink of last season’s disappointing and injury-plagued 25-46-11 campaign.
New coach John Tortorella is the man tasked with turning things around and making the Flyers competitive again, which won’t be an easy task. That begins Thursday at camp, which is Tortorella’s first opportunity, known for his tough training camps, to meet and evaluate many of his players up close.
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Before day 1 we had Giana Han and Olivia Reiner answer some of the most important questions about the Flyers moving into the camp.
GH: Expecting the worst is probably not far from the truth. Cam Atkinson, one of two Flyers (alongside camp invitee Artem Anisimov) with previous experience at tortorella, said he already knows what a tortorella camp is like, but he’s still getting nervous. And it never turns out better than he expected. He added that former Blue Jacket Nick Foligno makes fun of him for having to go through a tortorella camp again.
There will be a lot of hard skating, with an emphasis on learning to perform under pressure and when fatigued, Atkinson said. Tortorella sent an email outlining his expectations and many of the players sought advice from players with experience, so they are all aware that they need to be in better than great shape to survive camp.
GH: While James van Riemsdyk finished the season as the team’s top scorer with 24/, it took him a while to warm up and most of his goals came at a point in the season when results didn’t matter. . Van Riemsdyk has one of the most expensive contracts in the team but he hasn’t consistently lived up to his price tag. If he’s going to earn consistent ice time and another lucrative contract, he’ll need to be more consistent than last season.
OR: Kevin Hayes. With center Sean Couturier expected to be out for some time with an upper-body injury, Hayes will likely be called on to move up to the front row. He did the same last season, although he himself was struggling with injuries that hampered his game.
Towards the end of the season, Hayes finally looked like himself again. In his last 28 games, Hayes has scored seven goals and recorded 15 assists with an average ice time of 19:25. The Flyers need him to match his $7.14 million annual allowance and prove he’s capable of producing at a high level, being defensively responsible and staying healthy.
GH: Forwards Tanner Laczynski, Tyson Foerster and Wade Allison were all expected to play a role last season, but injuries held them back. Now that they are healthy they might be able to take advantage of the other players’ bad luck with injuries.
You’ll be competing with the likes of Morgan Frost, who had an up and down season last year, Owen Tippett and impressive rookie Noah Cates. Defensively, Ronnie Attard might have a chance, but they can also start with Justin Braun and Cam York in the third pairing.
OR: Cates and Allison. Firstly, regarding Cates – the Flyers are hurting for left wingers right now. The organizational depth just isn’t there (assuming Scott Laughton is going to play center when Couturier is injured) and Farabee’s injury is only putting more strain on them.
Cates has a real shot at placing in the middle of the six if he has a strong camp and strong preseason. Allison has a more complicated path to opening night’s roster as the Flyers have more real NHL players on the right wing. But if Allison can stay healthy, he could have an opportunity to contend for a bottom six role at camp.
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OR: The Flyers’ current situation as backup goaltenders is kind of mind boggling.
Realistically, two players are competing for the job: 33-year-old Troy Grosenick and 25-year-old Felix Sandstrom. Samuel Ersson, 22, will also be in camp and competing on the periphery but he is recovering from a groin injury that limited him to five games with the Phantoms last season. Together, Grosenick and Sandstrom have made nine NHL starts (five for Sandstrom, four for Grosenick).
While Sandstrom is still hunting for his first NHL win, I thought he looked solid in his starts last year, especially in his NHL debut against the San Jose Sharks (a 3-2 overtime loss at the he made 43 saves). Grosenick has 288 games of AHL experience over 10 years (2.50 goals average, 0.914 percent defense), while Sandstrom has played 57 games over the past five years (2.93 goals average, 0.904 percent defense). While Grosenick lacks NHL experience, he still has plenty of work experience, which could make him the most logical candidate for the backup role behind Hart.