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Camp Notebook: Days 1 & 2

Best news, notes & quotes from the first two days of Rookie Camp

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer

The first two practices of the Flyers Rookie Camp are complete. After an off-day on Monday, the squad will prepare for the Rookie Game on Wednesday night against the New York Islanders' prospects at the PPL Center in Allentown, Pa.

Through the first two days of camp, the biggest standouts have been the players that the organization would hope and expect to come to the forefront -- the recent first-round draft pick forwards, top blueline prospect Philippe Myers and other players who already have some NHL or AHL experience under their belts. 

Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon is running the practices on the ice. Here are quick hits of the action so far.

* Day 1 mostly saw the players getting acclimated with passing and shooting drills and skating up ice from one end to the other. There was also a forechecking drill in which the F1 (first forechecker in to pressure) would try to force a defenseman into a turnover and the defender attempted to elude him for an easy exit before the whistle blew. 

* Day 2 began with some blueline to blueline transitional play with each forward line playing with two defense pairs. The session latter moved to a five-on-five drill starting out of the corner. Finally, things moved to five-on-five play attempting to break out of the defensive zone cleanly against a competitive forecheck.

* The "Orange Line" stood out. All eyes at practice were on Morgan Frost centering Isaac Ratcliffe and Joel Farabee. All three players are coming off monster seasons in their respective junior/collegiate leagues. Both Frost (Team Canada) and Farabee (Team USA) were also standouts at the World Junior Championships while Ratcliffe's team won the OHL championship in underdog fashion and went on to play in the Memorial Cup. 

There is a strong chance that the Ratcliffe, Frost and Farabee trio will play together as a unit in the Rookies Game come Wednesday.

FROST: "I consider myself a playmaker primarily. And Joel is also a playmaker. Ratty is a good shooter. So I think it's a good line. We can play off one another."

RATCLIFFE: "I think we bring different things to the table as players. It's definitely fun to play with those guys. I think we can score some goals together."

Video: Farabee, Sandstrom, Gordon on day two of Rookie Camp* Gordon was asked to assess the progress of the three individual components of the line. In Frost's case, even more than a potential switch from center to wing in main camp order to expedite his potential ETA for the National Hockey League, the main challenge will be one of more consistently using his fleet feet to make plays rather than slowing the play down to study his options as was his frequent preference as a junior.

GORDON: "It was just practice but the one thing that stood out to me when we were doing a forechecking drill was I liked his pace. It was significantly [quicker] than it was last year from what I remember. That's encouraging."

Below are all of Saturday and Sunday's forward lines by jersey color:

Orange: Ratcliffe - Frost - Farabee
White: Strome - Rubtsov - Laberge
Blue: Twarynski - Bunnaman - Kase
Yellow: Sushko - Vorobyev - Serdyuk
Gray: Cyr - Fitzgerald -Golod

* Myers comes full circle. Back at his first Flyers Rookie Camp in 2015, defenseman Philippe Myers was just an anonymous name on the roster... Fast forward to 2019: all eyes in camp are on Myers, who played 21 games in the NHL with the Flyers last year in his second pro season and has a strong shot at earning a starting job come opening night in Prague. 

Even under cursory examination, Myers was a step above the other defensemen in this year's camp. Rookie Camp is no longer much of a challenge for Myers.

GORDON: "His comfort level, you can tell this [camp] is nothing for him. He just goes out there and it's effortless and he's so sure of himself and confident."  

Myers said that his taste of the NHL and major international competition last season -- playing under Alain Vigneault for Team Canada at the 2019 IIHF World Championships -- motivated him to work that much harder this summer to secure a full-time spot with the Flyers out of training camp.

MYERS: "The biggest thing I learned last year was to stay calm and try not to panic under pressure... Don't try to do too much on every shift."

* All is "great" with Misha. Another opening weekend standout was third-year pro Mikhail Vorobyev. The Russian forward, who earned an opening-night roster spot with the Flyers last season after a stellar training camp and preseason but then struggled shortly after the season began, was especially effective on the forechecking drills. In one sequence, he picked a defender's pocket and then made a perfect centering feed for a point-blank scoring chance.

After the Saturday session, Vorobyev said through a translator that he felt fine physically all of last season (despite missing time due to injury) but admitted that he struggled emotionally after he was reassigned to the Phantoms. He later earned a second brief recall to the Flyers before finishing the season back in Lehigh Valley.

Asked how he's feeling now, Vorobyev didn't wait for a Russian translation.

"Great!" he replied in English.

* Millman and Zamula looking smooth. Last year, undrafted defenseman Egor Zamula earned an entry-level contract from the Flyers after impressive showings at Rookie Camp, the first week of main camp and his first of two NHL preseason games with the Flyers (the second was rough). He carried it over into a breakout Western Hockey League season with the Calgary Hitmen to establish himself as one of the better young defensemen in the circuit. 

In the meantime, Mason Millman improved rapidly in his Draft-eligible season for the Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League. He parlayed it into a fourth-round (103rd overall) selection by the Flyers. He had a strong Development Camp and an excellent OHL preseason before reporting to Rookie Camp.

During the first two days of Rookie Camp, both Zamula and Millman were among the blueline standouts in the group that is a step down the development ladder from Myers. Second-time attendee Zamula and first-timer Millman both handled the pace well, moved the puck crisply and showed good wheels.

* INJURY REPORT: Third-year pro defenseman Mark Friedman underwent minor abdominal surgery this offseason, according to Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr. He will not participate in Rookie Camp. However, Friedman is already back on the ice and is slated to be a full participant in NHL camp when it opens on Sept. 13.

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