A newly acquired first ballot hall of famer, a second overall draft pick fighting for a roster spot and a new man between the pipes are just a few of the big stories to follow leading into the start of the Flyers 43rd season.
Flyers rookies and selected vets began their introductory camp on Monday, full camp starts this Sunday the 13th.
The most notable new face this fall is hulking defenseman Chris Pronger. The veteran leader was acquired on draft day from Anaheim in exchange for scoring winger Joffrey Lupul, top defense prospect Luca Sbisa and a combination of high draft picks. Pronger is an intimidating force on the back end which the Flyers lacked last season especially in the postseason. A 5 time all-star, Pronger has made 3 (soon to be 4) Olympic appearances for Canada. He was named league MVP in 2000 and in 2007 led the Mighty Ducks to a Stanley Cup victory.
Pronger paired with veteran Kimmo Timonen lead probably the deepest and most talented group of rear guards the Flyers have had in over 20 years.
With the departure of scoring forwards Mike Knuble and Joffrey Lupul, the team enters camp with an obvious hole at right wing. The competition for the spot is sure to be intense with top prospect James Van Riemsdyk battling 2nd year Phantoms’ Pat Maroon and Andres Nodl. It’s a critical camp for Van Riemsdyk as he is entering his first full professional season after two years at the University of New Hampshire. James has immense talent and great size but has been criticised for getting a reputation as a bit of a floater. At the World Junior Championships Van Riemsdyk mixed some invisible shifts with a highlight reel between the legs goal that gained some fame on youtube. He will make an impact for the Flyers this year but it may not be directly out of camp. I would expect 2 way forward Andreas Nodl to be the front runner for the spot.
The Flyers announced yesterday they added defensive center and former Ranger Blair Betts to their camp roster. Betts joins veteran Mark Bell on a non guaranteed try-out contract for camp. Bell, a former 25 goal scorer for the Blackhawks was convicted of drunk driving in 2006. He rear ended a truck at a stop sign in California during labor day weekend. Bell walked away from the scene and was arrested shortly thereafter. He worked in a California prison over the summer of 2007 and was entered into the NHL’s substance abuse program which included him serving a 15 game suspension. Since the incident Bell has been sober. He played for the Leafs last season and appears to have turned his life around. Bell is a darkhorse to make the team.
“Now, every day I wake up I realize I’m living a dream. It’s taken a while for me to understand that. Now that I have, I’m going to grab it. My fun now is at the rink”.
Other vets hoping to land jobs with the big club are former first round picks Krystofer Kolanos, Lukas Kasper and former Swedish Elite leaguer Mika Pyorala.
Players to Watch
Claude Giroux: The Flyers top prospect flashed signs of his elite level vision and passing last season. Can he be a top liner this year?
James Van Riemsdyk: In his first full pro year will he make the impact we’ve been waiting for?
Ray Emery: The new man in the mask. Can the flashy net minder regain his ’06 form and lead the club to deep postseason success?
Kevin Marshall: With the departure of Luca Sbisa, the rugged Marshall steps into the position of the top defensive prospect for 2009.
Marc-Andre Bourdon: Arguably the top defenseman in the QMJHL last year, Bourdon has a booming shot and will be an exciting prospect for the Phantoms this upcoming year.
Nic Riopel: The late round June selection was named the QMJHL’s top player last season and enters his first pro season in competition for the Phantoms starting goaltending spot.
Johan Backlund: The 28yo swedish elite league vet came over on a 2-way deal and will probably end up in Glen Falls adjusting to the North American game.
Blair Betts: Big bodied veteran who is one of the top penalty killers in the league. Even though he is just in camp on a tryout flier, I would be shocked if he does not make the final roster as the 4th line center.
Riley Cote: The much maligned pugilist had a down year in ’08-’09. With the talented depth forwards in camp, will Riley’s fists be able to keep him on the NHL roster?
Below is a full listing of the training camp roster…
Forwards: Arron Asham, Josh Beaulieu, Mark Bell, Rob Bellamy, Blair Betts, Danny Briere, Dan Carcillo, Jeff Carter, Matt Clackson, Riley Cote, Ryan Dingle, Simon Gagne, Claude Giroux, Scott Hartnell, Jon Kalinski, Lukas Kaspar, Garrett Klotz, Krystofer Kolanos, David Labrecque, David Laliberte, Ian Laperriere, Patrick Maroon, Jon Matsumoto, Andreas Nodl, Darroll Powe, Mika Pyorala, Mike Richards, Zac Rinaldo, Jared Ross, Tomas Sinisalo, Mike Thomas, Jason Ward, James van Riemsdyk.
Defensemen: Oskars Bartulis, Marc-Andre Bourdon, Matt Carle, Braydon Coburn, Sean Curry, Tyler Hostetter, Randy Jones, Joonas Lehtivuori, Kevin Marshall, Joey Mormina, Ryan Parent, Chris Pronger, Michael Ratchuk, David Sloane, Logan Stephenson, Danny Syvret, Kimmo Timonen, Ole-Kristian Tollefsen, Eric Wellwood, Brennan Yadlowski.
Goalies: Johan Backlund, Brian Boucher, Jacob DeSerres, Ray Emery, Adam Morrison, Nic Riopel, Michael Teslak.
BOLD = Expected to make roster