Flyers 2008 training camp preview

By Evan Davis

The Philadelphia Flyers had a monumental turnaround last season, going from a franchise-worst 56 points during 2006-07 season, to an appearance in the 2008 Eastern Conference Finals.  They will look to build on that this year. Led by a young nucleus, the Flyers possess plenty of depth and talent; they had seven players score at least 20 goals last season.  There could be two to three roster spots earned by Flyers prospects during training camp this year.  However, with the current depth at forward and defense, expect a tough battle for these spots.

Forwards

 
One of the major strengths of the Flyers is their depth at the forward position.  Prospect Steve Downie played in 32 regular-season games last year for the Flyers, totaling 12 points (6 goals, 6 assists). Downie also competed in six playoff games last season and should battle for a roster spot on the lower lines. Downie is a versatile player, and could be used in a number of roles. Look for Downie to provide a physical element, as well as chip in some goals.

A leading candidate to make the roster out of training camp is super prospect Claude Giroux.  Giroux, the Flyers first-round pick at the 2006 Entry Draft, has accomplished pretty much everything a junior player could aim for.  Giroux finished second overall in scoring in the QMJHL for the Gatineau Olympiques (106 points in  55 games) during the regular season, and led the QMJHL in playoff scoring (51 points in 19 games) earning him the Guy Lafleur trophy as MVP of the playoffs. His team won the QMJHL championship.  Giroux also won a gold medal as a member of Team Canada’s National Team at the World Juniors. Giroux should compete for a spot anywhere from the first to third line for the Flyers, and should bring a combination of speed, skill, playmaking ability, and defensive awareness.

With an outstanding training camp Andreas Nodl, the Austrian native who has honed his skills while playing in North America for St. Cloud State of the NCAA, could potentially make the big club’s roster out of training camp.  Nodl is a highly-skilled right winger who has become more of an all-around player while playing collegiate hockey.  Nodl has been praised for his superior skating and offensive ability, however, his development on the defensive end of the rink should allow him to serve as the top call-up from the AHL for the Flyers this season if he does not make the roster out of camp.

Defensemen

This year’s training camp will feature one of the toughest competitions at the position in recent years.  The Flyers will have a plethora of defensemen in camp, and it should be a position battle worth watching.

Twenty-one-year-old Ryan Parent, the centerpiece of the Peter Forsberg trade with Nashville, is the sole prospect in line to compete for a spot.  Parent, a mobile defensive defenseman, appeared in 22 regular-season games last year for the Flyers, as well as four playoff games. Playing in 53 games for the Flyers AHL affiliate, the Philadelphia Phantoms, Parent had eight points and a +8 rating.  Parent has a great shot at making the starting roster out of training camp, especially with the Flyers putting an emphasis on mobility on the blue line.  Parent has the size, skating ability, and poise in the defensive zone to become a top shutdown defenseman. If Parent does not win a roster spot out of camp, expect him to be the Flyers top defensive call-up from the AHL.

Another defenseman worth keeping an eye on in camp is 20-year-old Michael Ratchuk. While Ratchuk likely won’t make the opening day roster, if he is able to continue to develop as a player with the Phantoms, he could be a mid-season call-up due to injuries with the Flyers.  Ratchuk is a speedy offensive defenseman, a role that is no doubt a valuable commodity in the post-lockout NHL.

Goaltending

Marty Biron will be the starter at goalie, with backup Antero Niittymaki out four to six weeks due to a recent minor hip surgery. Look for prospect Jeremy Duchesne to compete for fill-in backup position during training camp. The 21-year-old Duchesne spent time last season with the Phantoms (2 games), and the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL (31 games). Also in camp for the Flyers will be one of their former first-round draft picks in Maxime Ouellet. The 27-year-old Ouellet who spent time in the AHL and ECHL last year has been brought in on a try-out basis. Along with Ouellet, Duchesne will also face competition from Scott Munroe, who played for the Phantoms last season. Other prospects in camp include Jacob DeSerres, the Flyers third-round pick at the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, and Michael Teslak, a rookie free-agent signee.