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All Eyes on Giroux

by Kevin Kurz / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ) – If there is one player on which the spotlight is shining a little bit brighter than the rest during this week’s rookie camp at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone, it’s the Flyers’ first round draft pick from 2006, Claude Giroux.

(Giroux talks to the media after first day of rookie camp -

One of the biggest questions heading into training camp, of which the main portion begins on Saturday, is whether or not Giroux will bypass any time in the minor leagues after a stellar junior career in which he helped lead his team to the Memorial Cup Finals a year ago.
Claude Giroux skates against the Ottawa Senators in his NHL debut on February 19 at Scotiabank Place. (Getty Images)

This will be the second training camp for Giroux, who had a strong showing at last year’s camp and was even called up to play in two games for the Flyers last season in February. His debut, ironically enough, came against John Paddock and the Ottawa Senators. Paddock, who was relieved of his duties with Ottawa late last season, is now the head coach of the Philadelphia Phantoms and is running this week’s rookie camp.

“I saw him play one game against us last year, and he had a couple chances in [that game],” said Paddock. “He’s considered one of the bright young prospects in hockey, not just the Flyers. You know his time is going to come, and this is what the next two or three weeks or three weeks to a month are about for a player like him.”

Giroux is generously listed at 5-11 and 172 pounds, but has clearly put on some size and muscle since last year. The 20-year-old Hearst, Ontario native shouldn’t have a problem in today’s NHL when he makes the jump, according to Paddock.

“We know that in the game today, if you can skate, and if you’re willing to work with your skating and draw penalties, and you’re not held up and interfered with as much, I’d say the game is tailor made for him. I think there’s lots of room for big people, but he has the kind of game and kind of hockey sense that should make him successful.”
I’d say the game is tailor made for him. I think there’s lots of room for big people, but he has the kind of game and kind of hockey sense that should make him successful.” - John Paddock on Claude Giroux

“I don’t see size as an issue,” added Flyers coach John Stevens. “The biggest issue I see with any player, and Claude is certainly included in that, is the competitive level that they are willing to get to. It’s a very tough task mentally to play at a high level every night. The schedule is so different in the NHL from the American League or junior where you don’t just play on the weekend, you play almost every other day all year long. You have to be able to get up quickly mentally and be able to gear down quickly on the days in between so you can stay sharp mentally.

“He’s not the biggest guy, but he’s not the smallest guy, and he’s willing to engage physically and he’s responsible without the puck. To me, it just comes down to the competitive level he can get to.”

Giroux has showed signs of maturing not just on the ice, but off of it as well. He has been very conscious of his workout regimen and diet in order to make a push for the NHL roster.

“At the beginning of last year, I started eating better and training and doing the right things to get better,” he said. “You have to do it if you want to be successful.”

Stevens witnessed that first hand, and noticed a difference from when Giroux came to the team’s summer rookie camp last year to the main training camp.

“[Flyers trainer] Jim [McCrossin] put him through the paces and the week after developmental camp showed him how to train and what to eat,” explained Stevens. “The gains he made from mid-summer to training camp were phenomenal. I think he went home and committed himself. He saw what was expected here.

“I think when you get a chance to be here and see what the veteran pros do to get ready, you realize that your skill is not enough anymore and you have to do more if you want to compete at this level. He certainly looked like he did that last summer, so we’re anxious to see how he does this year.”
John Paddock answers questions from local media after the first day of rookie camp. (Phantoms Photos)

Paddock returns

John Paddock, who was named as the Phantoms’ head coach after Craig Berube was named an assistant for the Flyers, is no stranger to the organization. In fact, he coached the Flyers’ AHL affiliates in Maine for two seasons and Hershey for four in the 1980’s.

“There are so many people in the organization that I’ve played with or worked with or coached. I don’t know how many there are for sure, probably a dozen or ten or fourteen or something.

“It’s a very comfortable situation, surroundings, atmosphere and circumstance to come into.”

Paddock is running the rookie camp, and was asked who else impressed him besides Giroux on Day 1.

“Steve [Downie] has been a pro for a year. [Ryan] Parent’s been a pro. Claude’s turning pro. Those players and [Luca] Sbisa, who was pretty calm with the puck, sort of stood out, and they should stand out. They were drafted for a reason, and they had good poise with the puck. They seemed half a step ahead.”

Flyers goaltender Antero Niittymaki will be out for four-to-six weeks after getting surgery on his left hip, according to Paul Holmgren. … The rookies will be back on the ice at 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday at the Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone.
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