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Prospect Camp "Vets" Look to Lead the Way

by Al Alven / Philadelphia Flyers

(Voorhees, NJ) - James van Riemsdyk knows the drill. So does Pat Maroon. Kevin Marshall made it clear that he's on the same page as well.

All three players, members of the Flyers' 2007 draft class, are participating in their third prospect mini-camp. And all three, after the first practice and intrasquad scrimmage sessions on Wednesday, mentioned the importance of getting down to business and leading by example.

"This year, my approach is definitely different," explained van Riemsdyk, the second overall pick two years ago. "My first camp, I was only 18. I was wide-eyed and nervous coming in. It was a totally new experience and I was a little awed by it. Last year, I felt that I came in much more confident but I still had a lot to learn.
James van Riemsdyk signs an autograph at a season ticket holder event at the Wachovia Center last July. (Flyers Photos)

"Now, I've already been through this twice. I want to make the Flyers this year and be a part of the team. There aren't any more surprises. I feel that I'm in the best shape of my life, I'm focused, and I know what I have to do."

Van Riemsdyk signed with the Flyers on April 1, turning pro after registering 74 points (28 goals, 46 assists) in 67 games over two seasons at the University of New Hampshire.

With the promotion of fellow forward Claude Giroux to the Flyers and the recent departure of defenseman Luca Sbisa in the Chris Pronger trade with Anaheim, the spotlight is now squarely on the 6-3, 200-pound Middletown, New Jersey native this summer. And expectations are high.

"I'm fine with that," he explained, "but there's more that comes along with the whole process. It's not just about me; it's about my teammates and growing together. Now I'm one of the guys who has a chance to help out the younger guys in camp, the guys coming in for the first time. That's a role I really want to embrace."

Van Riemsdyk notched the lone goal for the Black squad in the camp's opening scrimmage, beating goalie Michael-Lee Teslak with a rising glove-side wrist shot about a minute in. But the standouts of the session were Maroon, who had a goal and an assist on a beautiful feed to defenseman Joonas Lehtivuori, and Marshall, who had two goals, leading the Orange unit to a 5-1 win.

Maroon emerged as a steady offensive threat as an AHL rookie with the Phantoms last season, recording 54 points (23 goals, 31 assists) and 62 penalty minutes in 80 games. The hulking 6-4, 220-pound left winger from St. Louis battled weight issues early in his career, but has sculpted himself into a lean, cut specimen, ready and determined now to take the next step in his development.

And, with the Flyers potentially looking from within to fill additional voids up front, the opportunity to earn an NHL roster spot in 2009-10 is not out of the question.

"One of the things I've learned is that it's really important to get off to a fast start [in camp]," noted Maroon. "You can't come in and expect certain things, you have to work hard and make it happen. Otherwise, you will fall behind. In rookie camp, every year, there are young guys who are competing for attention. It's very competitive because everyone wants to make a name for themselves.

"But, that's good for everybody. Competition only makes you and your teammates better. I can't take anything for granted, and I have to keep working hard if I want to move up. Same for all of us here. I played with Jonathan [Matsumoto] and David [Laliberte] last season and they showed me a lot. To watch them in camp, they never coast or take a shift lightly in scrimmage. They are out there working hard all the time."
Pat Maroon was among the standout players on the first day of prospect camp on Wednesday. (Pedro Cancel)

Marshall is now generally regarded as the top defensive prospect in the system. The 6-1, 205-pound Boucherville, Quebec native established himself as one of the more highly regarded rearguards in the QMJHL over the past four seasons, the first three with the Lewiston MAINEiacs.

Last year, Marshall was hand picked by Hall-of-Fame goaltender Patrick Roy to serve as captain of the Quebec Remparts. He responded with an outstanding overall campaign, playing against other teams' top lines on a nightly basis and contributing at the other end of the rink with 38 points (9 goals, 29 assists) in 61 games. Indicative of his in-your-face style of play, his 125 penalty minutes easily led the team.

"It's good to get started and to get back out on the ice," he said. "For sure, I feel that I am almost like a veteran of these prospect camps by now, and that it is my role to help some of the younger guys get adjusted. There is a very good mix of players here already. Michael Ratchuk played for the Phantoms last year and Joonas Lehtivuori, from Finland, is very talented. I think he's going to have a real impact.

"Marc-Andre Bourdon, who I played against in the Q, is getting better and better. I think the Flyers have a lot of defensive depth at this time, and as a group, we are only beginning to show it. If all goes well, I'd like to be playing with this same group of players in the NHL in a few years. We are all very determined to get there and want to make that happen."
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