The 2019-20 season has been a whirlwind for second-year pros Connor Bunnaman and Carsen Twarynski. Both players entered training camp as longshots to make the Flyers' opening-night roster. Both had strong training camps in September and found themselves making their NHL debuts when the Flyers opened the regular season in Prague against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Thereafter, the campaign was somewhat uneven, as both players soon returned to the American Hockey League's Lehigh Valley Phantoms. They dealt with respective injuries (including a high ankle sprain that kept Bunnaman out for roughly one month and hampered him for roughly an additional month-plus even after his return). There were bouts of inconsistency and streakiness.
On the flip side, both players subsequently earned return NHL trips to the Flyers of varying lengths before the league pause. Bunnaman in particular seemed to be more settled in during his second stint with the big team. Twarynski's best NHL game, which also coincided with him scoring his first NHL goal, came when he skated 10:56 of high-energy ice time in the team's 3-2 shootout loss in Vancouver on October 12.
Overall, Bunnaman dressed in 21 NHL games this season (1g, 1a) and 29 for the Phantoms (6g, 9a). Twarynski appeared in 15 NHL games (1g) and 31 for Lehigh Valley (7g, 5a).
Both Bunnaman and Twarynski are presently in Voorhees, skating with the Flyers during Phase 2 of the NHL return-to-play plan. If all goes as hoped, the two players will become part of the Flyers' expanded roster for Phases 3 and 4, and will accompany the team to their assigned hub city as depth players available to play in postseason games in the event of injuries. Twarynski has been in Voorhees for more than a month, while Bunnaman arrived recently and just skated for the first time.
"Being back at home for just over a month, I was working out. Couldn't get any ice, though, so when the call came and I was invited to come down and have the option to skate, I did that," Twarynski said to Zack Hill, the Flyers senior director of communications.
Added Bunnaman,"It feels really nice to see all the guys. I hadn't seen them in a while. It's nice to have a practice kind of feel. Usually, it's just myself and one or two other guys. It's good to move the puck around."
Twarynski said that it's hard to directly compare Phase 2 of the return-to-play plan to what workouts are more typically like during the period of time late in the summer when players gather on the ice for informal workouts ahead of the official reporting date for the start of an NHL training camp.
"It's obviously a very different scenery this time of year, with everything that's going on in the world. It's good to have some up-tempo skates and get in some ice for awhile," Twarynski said.
Both players concede that it would feel strange to play empty-arena games and live in a "team bubble" during the postseason. However, the 22-year-old players (Bunnaman turned 22 on April 16 while Twarynski will turn 23 on Nov. 24) are both keeping an open mind and viewing the potential opportunity as a learning experience.
"I think it's kind of cool in a way; a once-in-a-lifetime thing. The games will be a lot different, obviously, with a lot different atmosphere and different scenery and how the [round-robin] setup is. But, you know, I'm looking forward to it. I think it will be a cool experience, as nice it would be to have a normal playoffs," Twarynski said.
"It's going to be different. Having no fans, that's going to change a lot of things. Being cooped up is going to be hard. But I know we've got our video games, so we're gonna be alright, I think.... Fortnight, NHL20, anything that's fun," Bunnaman said.