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Flyers' prospects trying to follow in family footsteps

Thursday, 07.12.2012 / 2:24 PM / Prospects

By Adam Kimelman - NHL.com Deputy Managing Editor

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Flyers' prospects trying to follow in family footsteps
Among the players taking part in the Flyers' development camp, Chase Hatcher, John Stevens, Greg Coburn, Trevor van Riemsdyk and Nick Luukko all have family members with connections to the team.

One of the benefits of having a father who works for an NHL team is the opportunity to skate on the same ice and use the same facilities as NHL players.

So for Chase Hatcher and John Stevens, walking around the Philadelphia Flyers' practice facility was nothing new. It was a place they became intimately familiar with when their fathers -- former Flyers captain Derian Hatcher and former Flyers coach John Stevens, respectively -- were active with the team.

This week, however, they're not just kids running around playing ball hockey in the hallway or shinny after practice. They're two of the players taking part in the Flyers' development camp, being put through the same tough tests and drills they've seen other prospects go through.

John Stevens, Nick Luukko, Chase Hatcher, Trevor van Riemsdyk, and Greg Coburn attend the Flyers' development camp. (Courtesy: Philadelphia Flyers)

Hatcher, who played for the London Knights and Peterborough Petes in the Ontario Hockey League last season, has skated at development camps and with the extra players in the playoffs the past few seasons. Now, though, it's a wholly different environment.

"It's a different take on it," he told NHL.com. "I'm looking at it in a whole different way. Right now, I'm here to just give it my all and see what happens with it instead of just here for fun. It's a lot more serious this time."

Stevens had the same opinion. He and Hatcher were linemates on Philadelphia-area youth teams for about five years, so it's a nice feeling to be back together -- only this time wearing NHL-style uniforms.

"We played together on Little Flyers and Comcast for 5-6 years," he said. "We were pretty good friends on that team and linemates, so it's nice to be back on the ice playing with him."

The elder Stevens is also back in the area and was able to see his son on the ice, something he doesn't get to do very often. Hatcher gets to see his father every day, as Derian Hatcher serves as the team's player development coach and is on the ice each day during the camp. It's an odd situation for Chase, who's never been coached by his father before.

"Right now I have to think of him more as my coach than my dad," he said. "I haven't talked to him a whole lot this week."

Ian Laperriere, the Flyers' director of player development who has been leading the camp, has a lot to say about Hatcher and Stevens, both of whom have fared well on and off the ice.

"He's a big body, a big guy," Laperriere said of Hatcher, a 6-foot-2, 184-pound right wing. "I think he's looking for … what kind of player he needs to be. It's good for him to be at this camp because he can compare himself to other guys, he can look at guys that played pro last year and maybe look up to them a little bit and see what he needs to work on to come to their level."

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Stevens, a 6-1, 175-pound center, was a senior at Salisbury School in Connecticut, where he had 28 points in 28 games.

"He looked really good," Laperriere said. "He looked really good in the drills and he's another guy that I'm looking forward to see in the [weekend scrimmages]."

Hatcher and Stevens aren't the only familiar names in camp. Defenseman Greg Coburn is the younger brother of Flyers defenseman Braydon Coburn. The 24-year-old junior at Union College had 15 points in 40 games to help Union reach the Frozen Four for the first time in school history.

"He's a little version of his brother, size-wise," Laperriere said. "He's skilled, he moves the puck really well. Hopefully this weekend, he'll open some eyes."

Another defenseman in camp is Trevor van Riemsdyk, younger brother of former Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk. The 20-year-old had 19 points and a team-high plus-7 rating in 37 games for the University of New Hampshire.

"You can see the individual skills he has," Laperriere said. "Trevor has some good skills for sure, the way he skates, the way he moves the puck. … He's looked really good. As a defenseman you're looking for quick feet and how they move, and he's moving really well in the drills we did."

Also in camp is defenseman Nick Luukko, a 2010 sixth-round pick. The son of Flyers president Peter Luukko, Nick was limited to 17 games as a freshman at Vermont due to an abdominal injury. The previous season, with the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League, he led the team's defensemen with seven goals, and had 17 points in 45 games.

"He's got the size (6-2, 180 pounds)," Laperriere said. "I saw him play in Vermont before he got injured and there's big potential in him. He's a big body out there; he's going to get bigger, stronger. He's doing everything right too. He's in the gym every day."

At his third prospects camp, Luukko said this is the first step toward showing how much he's improved -- despite not playing -- as he prepares to return to Vermont.

"In a way the injury helped me," Luukko told NHL.com. "Even though I wasn't able to play, I was still able to work out, so I was able to get stronger. That's what I felt like I needed to do most so that helped me. I was just focused more on lifting and that stuff."

He also has gotten to renew acquaintances with John Stevens and Chase Hatcher, who he remembered from their days at the rink with their fathers. Now instead of jumping on the ice with their dads or goofing around in the locker room, they're making the next steps in their professional careers in very familiar jerseys.

"To be wearing the Flyer colors is pretty cool," Stevens said.

Contact Adam Kimelman at akimelman@nhl.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NHLAdamK

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