Skating in front of the crease, Chase Hatcher feverishly tried to slip the puck around a single defender and toward the goaltender during a one-on-one drill Monday morning during the Flyers Prospects Camp.
As Hatcher jostled near the net, a Flyers coach watched closely from the perimeter of the right circle. Typically, there’s nothing unusual in that, but the coach happened to be Derian Hatcher.
Flyers fans know Derian Hatcher as the physical defenseman who once knocked out a few of Sidney Crosby’s teeth during his rookie season with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Chase knows Derian Hatcher as Dad.
Now, Chase is taking part of his prospects camp, a week-long event that his father helps conduct as a player development coach.
“It’s kind of a different take on it,” said Chase, a right winger who played in the Ontario Hockey League last season. “I’m trying to think of him more as a coach right now than as a dad.”
Chase Hatcher, a camp invitee, is just one of a handful of players participating in camp that have direct ties to the organization.
|Former Flyers head coach John Stevens with his son John Stevens |
Defenseman Greg Coburn, 24, is the younger brother of Flyers blueliner Braydon Coburn. Left wing John Stevens, 18, is the son of former coach John Stevens, who now serves as an assistant coach with the Los Angeles Kings. Defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk, 20, is the younger brother of former Flyers forward James van Riemsdyk. All three are camp invitees.
Nick Luukko, the son of Comcast-Spectacor President and Chief Operating Officer Peter Luukko, is the only such familial player in camp that was drafted by the Flyers. The defenseman was a sixth round selection in 2010 and is appearing in his third prospects camp.
“The last two years, you’re younger and you just want to survive,” Luukko said. “Now that it’s my third year, I want to be one of the better players and compete really hard.”
Luukko said the previous two camps have taught him that the game continues to get faster with each level. He said he has stressed improving his quickness in all aspects of the game, but particularly noted quickness is important when playing the point.
“When you’re receiving a puck at the point, you’ve got to catch it and shoot it as fast as you can,” Luukko said.
Luukko said he took the lessons he learned at prospects camp with him to the University of Vermont, where he will be entering his sophomore season. As a freshman he tallied three assists in 17 games before an abdominal injury cut his season short.
“I’m just trying to play the best I can and let everything fall into place,” said Luukko, who has recovered from his injury. “When you work hard, good things follow.”
Still, Luukko said getting the opportunity to showcase his talents for the organization he grew up around fulfills his childhood aspirations.
“It’s a dream come true,” Luukko said. “Growing up in Philadelphia and being around here my whole life, it’s definitely pretty cool.”
Hatcher used the same phrase to describe his first experience in prospects camp.
“The Flyers were my favorite team once my dad (signed) here,” Hatcher said. “I love the organization and all the fans. They’re great. It’s definitely a dream come true.”
Of course, Monday’s practice was hardly the first time Hatcher skated on the Skate Zone ice in the company of immensely-talented hockey players. He said his dad often let him skate with Flyers scratched or injured players.
“Every day that I didn’t have school, I would come in,” Hatcher said. “Weekends, I would come in the mornings. I’d play with him and we’d just go mess around on the ice or hang out with some of the guys.”
When it came time to take part in prospects camp, Hatcher said his dad reminded him that “you’ve done most of these drills out here so just settle down and don’t get too nervous or worked up.”
Greg Coburn said his brother, Braydon, gave him similar advice. Braydon Coburn is the Flyers’ longest-tenured player, having joined the team in February 2007.
“I’m actually living with him right now and training with him,” Greg Coburn said. “He just said to enjoy it. There’s nothing to prove. Just go there and get better and learn a lot.”
Coburn will be a senior at Union College this fall. Last year, he helped the Garnet Blades reach the NCAA Frozen Four for the first time in school history. The Garnet Blades also catapulted to No. 3 in various collegiate rankings.
Coburn has had limited opportunities to visit the Flyers facilities alongside Braydon, given his commitment to his own hockey career.
“I’ve been down about five or six times,” Coburn said. “I’ve been through the locker room and he’s shown me through. So it was nice and it wasn’t such a shock when I got here (for camp). It’s definitely humbling to be here and see so many great names on the walls. It’s definitely exciting to be here.”
Trevor van Riemsdyk also voiced his excitement at the opportunity to display his abilities to the team that made his brother the second overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft. Though James van Riemsdyk was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs last month, Trevor said he did not feel awkward participating in camp and stressed that James has “nothing but praise” for the organization.
“It’s cool to be here, obviously, for myself and I feel thankful that I have the opportunity,” van Riemsdyk said. “I’m going to try to make the most out of it.”
Van Riemsdyk will be a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, the same school his brother attended for two years. As a freshman he was named to the Hockey East All-Rookie team, scoring 19 points (4 goals, 15 assists). He said he’s trying to take in as much as he can during camp.
“They got a lot to teach us and a lot of different things to show us,” van Riemsdyk said. “You just kind of have to be a sponge. Do that and learn as much as you can during this week.”