After being drafted by the New York Islanders in 2007 (6th Round – 166th overall), then becoming a free agent in the summer of 2011, Blake Kessel found himself looking at the open market for his first professional contract.
The Flyers were the team that grabbed Kessel and signed him to an entry-level contract beginning for the 2011-12 season.
“He makes plays and sees the ice good,” said Chris Pryor, the club’s Director of Hockey Operations.
“Guys that can see the ice and make plays back on defense are hard to find now a days. That was one of his attributes that separated himself from other guys.”
Kessel spent some time with the Flyers during training camp and appeared in two preseason games where he posted a plus-1 rating and registered one shot on goal.
He even got to play in a game against his brother, Maple Leafs sniper Phil Kessel, on Sept. 20 where he went on to record over 20 minutes of ice time to help the Flyers to a 4-0 win at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.
Shortly after preseason, Kessel spent his first year as a pro with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate in Glens Falls where he would post 18 points (1G-17A) and 10 penalty minutes in 56 games with the Adirondack Phantoms.
“It was a transition year for him and it’s a big jump for him coming from college to pro,” added Pryor. “We’ll be looking for big things from him now that he’s got a year under his belt and knows what to expect.”
Prior to signing with the Flyers, he played three seasons with the University of New Hampshire of the Hockey East Conference in the NCAA and was a teammate of current Flyer forward James van Riemsdyk.
In his final season with the Wildcats, Kessel recorded five goals and 22 assists for 27 points in 39 regular season games and was named Hockey East First All-Star Team and NCAA East First All-American Team in 2010-11.