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Reese, Goalies Get Acquainted

by Al Alven / Philadelphia Flyers
(Voorhees, NJ) - Jeff Reese never got the chance to pull on a Flyers jersey during his 11-year NHL career. But, the way the team's new goaltending coach looks at it, this is the next best thing.

"Seriously, it's a dream come true, to work for this organization and to finally be able to call myself a Flyer," said the 43-year-old former backstop, who was named to the coaching staff last week. "I grew up in the Toronto area, but the Flyers were always my team. Bernie Parent was my idol; he was the man! I can't believe I'll be seeing him around regularly.

"This is still sinking in, to be honest. I'm so happy with the way things have worked out."

Reese served for eight seasons as the goalie coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. His tenure in the Sunshine State was highlighted by the Bolts' Stanley Cup championship in 2003-04.
Nicola Riopel was impressive in net at the team's prospect camp in early July. (Daniel St. Louis Photography)

"Basically, the new owners came in down there and made wholesale changes," he explained. "It wasn't easy, because my family called that area home for close to a decade. And, of course, we had a lot of success on the ice during that time. Being a part of a winning team and getting my name on the Cup was incredible. But, they wanted to bring in their own people and go in a different direction."

"Maybe things happen for a reason. I've known [general manager] Paul Holmgren since my time playing in Hartford in the early 90's, so I had that connection. There was an opening here, and it was a no-brainer for me to take the job."

Fittingly, Reese's first official task as a member of the Flyers coaching staff was to guide a group of seven goaltending hopefuls through the team's prospect mini camp, this past week.
"I'm basically as new here as many of our prospects are," he noted. "Actually, most of the goalies (Jeremy Duchesne, Jacob DeSerres, Joacim Eriksson, and Michael-Lee Teslak) have been in camp prior to this year, so they were able to help me out in some ways. It was a learning experience for all of us…a real win-win for everybody.

"It's a really young group of guys, and I'm happy with the way everyone performed. This camp is all about getting acquainted and conditioning. [Athletic trainer] Jimmy McCrossin really runs these guys through the ringer. I mean, man, do they ever work."

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Adam Morrison, the team's top pick in last month's entry draft (third round, 81st overall) readily agreed with that sentiment.

"It was a very tough camp in terms of what we were asked to do, physically," he said, sweat still dripping form his brow after the final workout. "It's kind of an eye-opener, coming in and learning more about the sacrifices you have to make to be an NHL player.

"Working with Jeff was a great experience. He's very positive and has an upbeat approach. I feel like I've learned a lot in just under a week."

As the second-youngest goalie at the camp (after undrafted tryout Cody Rosen), the 18-year-old Morrison understands that his developmental track is just beginning. He will return to the WHL in 2009-10 and attempt to build off of a strong rookie performance with the Saskatoon Blades, for whom he went 9-1-1 with a 2.47 goals-against average, .907 save percentage, and one shutout in 13 appearances. 

Conversely, fellow 2009 draftee Nicola Riopel (fifth round, 142nd overall) is two years older, and feels that he has the chance to contribute to the Flyers system at the pro level soon.

After being passed over in his first two years of draft eligibility, Riopel wanted to make a statement. He did so by posting a stellar 43-15-0 record for the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL, smashing a league record with a 2.01 GAA, while also recording a .931 save percentage and five shutouts in 59 games en route to capturing league MVP and top goaltender honors.

Several reports have listed Riopel as the top-performing goalie of the camp's scrimmage sessions.

"I feel like I'm ready to take another big step," stated Riopel, who has compiled a record of 75-56-0 with a 2.67 GAA, .915 save percentage, and seven shutouts in 143 appearances over four seasons with Moncton. "Last year I was invited to rookie camp by Montreal and that was a great experience. But there were no promises and I didn't get a contract.

"To be drafted by the Flyers and be part of the organization is big for me. I feel like I belong now. I feel like there is more direction now and I am very comfortable with the coaches here. It was a good camp here for me and I am looking forward to the next one."

With two prospect mini-camps under their belts, 2008 draftees Jacob DeSerres (third round, 84th overall) and Joacim Eriksson (seventh  round, 196th overall) commented on the differences between this and last year's sessions.

"For me, it was much easier coming in this year, just knowing what to expect," said DeSerres, 19, who went 11-16 with a 3.41 GAA and .883 save percentage for a mediocre Seattle Thunderbirds team last season. "I'm bigger, stronger, and better prepared for what they put you though. That helped me come in with a lot more confidence. Also, just knowing a lot of the other guys was big.
Seriously, it's a dream come true, to work for this organization and to finally be able to call myself a Flyer." - Jeff Reese, Flyers goaltending coach

"Working with Jeff Reese was great. He keeps it loose out there and is fun to be around. I'm definitely looking forward to working with him in the future."

Eriksson, also 19, led his Brynas team to a SuperElit championship in Sweden last season, recording a 2.43 GAA and .922 save percentage in seven postseason games. He was even better in the playoffs, posting a 1.99 GAA and an eye-popping .930 save percentage in 33 appearances.

"I liked working with Jeff, too," he said. "He is a good coach and, right away, I felt very comfortable. He showed me some things, working on my glove hand and side-to-side movement that I think will help me. I'm a butterfly goalie, I go down a lot. So, I need to have a very strong glove hand. That is what I want to improve most."

Another perspective on the camp was offered by 23-year-old Michael-Lee Teslak, an undrafted free agent signed by the Flyers last March after three seasons at Michigan Tech. Teslak, who went 2-3 in six appearances with the Phantoms in the AHL last year, spent most of his first full pro campaign in the ECHL, where he split time with the Mississippi Sea Wolves and Elmira Jackals.

"Things just seemed a little more organized this year," he said. "Maybe it was because this was my second time around [in camp], I'm not sure. But we have a really good group of goalies here and the competition is going to be tough for roster spots. I got a taste of the AHL last year and it's my goal to play for the Phantoms full-time next season.

"I have no idea who the Phantoms goalies are going to be, but I have a better idea now of some of the things I have to do to play more consistently in the pros. I think I'm ready, but I want to continue to work with Jeff to refine my game."
Jeff Reese is looking forward to working with the Flyers' goalies, including Ray Emery. (Flyers Photos)

According to Reese, the organization is still unsure which goaltenders will be invited back for the team's rookie camp later this summer, as well as the team's main training camp in September.

"Most of the guys here will likely be back for the rookie camp," he said. "And that's when we'll really get to work. But there are still a lot of discussions we have to have and evaluations to do. I'm going to sit down with (Flyers scout) Neil Little, who's going to continue doing a lot of work with our goalies and scouting, and make some decisions. I'm really looking forward to working closely with Litts.

"Obviously, as a coach and a personnel guy, you're always looking for that next prospect that can help you. Especially with goalies, as some guys take time to develop. We're very excited about the players we have here. We also have [free agent addition] Johan Backlund from Sweden in the mix, who we'll be seeing in the Fall.

“It's a really promising group."

In the meantime, Reese has plenty to keep him busy.

"You're always doing prep work, always preparing for the next season and whatever lays ahead," he said. "I was on the ice this morning, working out with Ray Emery. I can tell you this, Ray is absolutely chomping at the bit to get going. He wants to get out there and prove himself so bad. I think he'd have the season start tomorrow, if he had his way.

"I also can't wait to work with Boosh [Brian Boucher]. He's worked so hard and he's one of those veteran goalies who you just want to root for. I'm really happy for him, coming back to have this chance in Philly. It's going to be great to work with these guys, and all of the young goalies in our system. I couldn't be in a better place."

Author: Al Alven |

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