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Going up against the varsity

by Brian Smith | PhiladelphiaFlyers.com / Philadelphia Flyers

Highlights of Day 3, plus Sanheim, Leier, Aube-Kubel & Stolarz on entering main camp above


The warmup is in the books. Now the main event begins.

The 23 Flyers rookies and prospects who have been working out at The Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees this week have had the ice to themselves for the past couple of days. With rookie camp over, their next practices will come as part of the 64-player main training camp that opens early Friday morning.

Previously where they were just on the ice with each other, they’ll now be skating amongst players with hundreds of games worth of NHL experience.

“I thought we saw what maybe you would expect to see,” Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol said in summing up the camp. “The guys that have been through this before stepped up and did a good job leading the group and I thought that there was a little more consistency as well. There were individuals that showed a lot of good things.”

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To this point, Hakstol has only been on the ice with the rookies for a limited amount of time. Most practices have been run by his assistants and the Phantoms coaching staff, including new Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon and returning assistant Riley Cote, but they’ve all been at Hakstol’s general direction. Many of the participants are in their first Flyers experience anyway, but some of those who have been through previous camps have noticed a difference in the new regime.

“The drills are different; almost everything else is the same,” said defenseman Robert Hagg, a rookie with the Phantoms last season. All the practices are much harder than they were last year I think. It’s a new atmosphere, everyone wants to show their best side with the two new coaches and I think that’s the way it should be the whole time.”

Left wing Taylor Leier, also a Phantoms rookie last season, is headed into his third Flyers training camp. He’s looking at this one as a chance to further his career ambitions.

“[It’s exciting] to compete with NHLers and all the old guys, and be in battle with them and push for a spot on the team,” he said. “Everyone has their goals, and I always try to aim high and really push myself.”

Even looking past the weekend, many of the younger players are looking forward to the opportunity to demonstrate their abilities in the Flyers’ first three exhibition games – a split-squad day on Monday vs. the Islanders that consists of games at PPL Center in Allentown and Barclays Center in Brooklyn, and then a home game against the Rangers on Tuesday.

“It’s obviously exciting just to put that sweater on and hanging my number with some of those NHL guys,” said defenseman Travis Sanheim. “It’s an incredible experience. Last year I got a chance to play. It’s obviously a fun time for me and I’m looking forward to it.”

The preseason games themselves can be a learning experience. Even if it’s only one opportunity, a game’s worth of ice time trying to shut down John Tavares or gain the zone against Dan Girardi can provide a boatload of perspective and insight for players trying to make it to the NHL.

“I took a lot from the ones I’ve been in,” Leier said. “I got in four last year and one the year before that. You learn a lot, and you learn a lot playing with regular NHL players.”

Regardless of the individual situation, however, fans who come out to Voorhees this weekend are going to see two rinks worth of players who will have an extra jump in their step.

“I think everyone is pumped to get the season started,” Stolarz said. “A lot of the guys have NHL experience and have a great track record in the NHL. I think for us as young guys we’re going to want to go out there and compete and show that we can gel together during camp and can’t wait to get the season started.”

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