VOORHEES, N.J. – Matt Mangene could have let the frustration get to him.
Limping around at the end of the Flyers prospect camp a couple weeks ago in a walking boot, favoring a foot injury he suffered when he blocked a shot in practice, Mangene was unable to participate in either scrimmage during the last two days of camp that took place in front of standing-room-only crowds at the Virtua Skate Zone.
But, rather than let it bother him, Mangene took the injury in stride and pointed out the positives from the week – his first camp as a professional athlete.
“It was a great time,” he said. “It was my first time meeting all the guys and my first time really being a part of the Flyers organization (he did play sparingly in five games at the end of last season for the Adirondack Phantoms). It’s a great organization. They make it fun and exciting to come to the rink every day and I’m really excited to be part of it.”
So much so that Mangene, who grew up as a fan of teams whose followers generally hate Philadelphia, passed up an opportunity to play for his childhood hero to sign with the Flyers.
A native of Manorville, N.Y., which is located on Long Island and not too far from The Nassau Colesium, Mangene, 23, kept a cursory interest in the Islanders, but because of how his home team struggled, chose to root for the Boston Bruins instead. His favorite player was Bruins legend Cam Neely. It was also the first hockey jersey he ever owned.
Which made it even harder for Mangene to turn aside an offer from Neely, the President of the Bruins, who wanted to sign Mangene last March upon the conclusion of the speedy winger’s junior season at the University of Maine.
“It was really cool to meet him in person and be sitting there in his office,” Mangene said. “And while I was grateful for the Bruins interest, I just felt that coming to Philadelphia would be a better fit for me.”
So instead, he signed a two-year deal with the Flyers, and is expected to be a top six forward for the Phantoms this season – with an outside shot at procuring one of the final roster spots on the big club – if he impresses in training camp in September.
The likely scenario is Mangene becomes a guy the Flyers use as a call up when there is an injury, but he understands there is an opportunity for him to show that he can be more than that.
“My goal is to play up here (with the Flyers) and to help out the team in any way, shape or form,” Mangene said. “I wanted to start as early as I could this summer and keep working as hard as I can to get a leg up.”
Mangene is nicknamed "Red" after his grandfather Robert "Red" Mangene, a smallish halfback for Boston College in the 1940s who made his bones by being a speed back as opposed to a bruising, between the tackles type of runner.
The Flyers like Mangene’s skating ability, which has become the buzzword around the NHL in recent seasons. Speed seems to supersede any other skill set or intangible in the game in today’s game, and that’s certainly Mangene’s calling card.
Continuing a tradition began in recent years under the guidance of new director of player development Ian Laperriere, Mangene has decided to stay in the Philadelphia area for the entire summer and work out with the Flyers training staff and keep his face around the practice facility.
Mangene is sharing a condo with Tye McGinn and Brandon Manning, two other prospects, and aside from training, he hopes to get back to his roots a little bit having access to a big city – like Philadelphia – after being holed up in a small town in Maine for the past three years.
But more than anything, if he treats the time here in the summer as a time to work hard toward his goal, he might be able to make that wanted impression once camp rolls around.
“Those guys who stay, they get into better shape than the guys who go home, so maybe they look a little faster and a little stronger in training camp,” Laperriere said. “It doesn’t mean anything when compared to a veteran player – because you know the guy who has been around is going to be O.K., but looking at one young player with another, sometimes that extra work, that boost in confidence from being here all summer, that familiarity with the way things are done could put you a step or two in front of other guys of the same skill level.”
And that’s the chance Mangene is betting on right now.
To contact Anthony J. SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org. You can follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37