VOORHEES, N.J. – When the Adirondack Phantoms open their training camp at Skate Zone, there will be a lot of familiar faces for Flyers fans.
From the coach running the camp, to his trusty assistants all the way down to the players themselves, there are a number of folks who had an impact in Philadelphia at the NHL level.
From Terry Murray to Kjell Samuelsson to Riley Cote. From Sean Couturier to Brayden Schenn to Eric Wellwood. From Erik Gustafsson to Marc-Andre Bourdon to Brandon Manning, many guys who spent time in the locker room on the other end of the Skate Zone facility will be suiting up for the Flyers’ AHL affiliate.
Many of the players will be staying in shape and honing their skills as they await an opportunity to return to the next level.
However one Phantom will be focusing on parts of his game that he hasn’t been noted for in quite some time.
Zac Rinaldo wants to be more than a pest. He wants to make a mark that isn’t simply the result of plastering an opponent to the glass. Rinaldo wants to be “a complete hockey player.”
“For me I want to build my confidence and just play hockey while I’m with the Phantoms,” Rinaldo said. “I want to keep things simple... I’m going to take [playing in the AHL] as a positive and use it as an opportunity to become a better hockey player because that’s what I want to do.”
Rinaldo, 22, is still a young player. He has just 73 games of experience in the NHL but his ice time has been less than seven minutes per game – on average. Couple that with the fact that he has never scored more than 16 goals, or 32 points in a season – both coming when he was 16-years-old in the OPJL prior to playing major junior hockey and it’s easy to understand why Rinaldo plays the way he does.
But now that he’s back with the Phantoms, he’s going to have a chance to play more, and to be used in roles he hasn’t filled in quite some time.
Like special teams.
“I did a lot of penalty killing in the OHL,” Rinaldo said. “Not as much in the AHL and not really at al last year. But, I think I’ll be a good penalty killer because of a lot of assets that I have in my game. I like penalty killing. I like it better than the power play. Terry Murray is a great [penalty killing] teacher right? So I think he’ll be able to help me out a lot there.”
Rinaldo will also be seeing a lot of time playing on one of the Phantoms top two lines.
“In the OHL I wasn’t sticking on the first or second line for an entire game,” he said. “Maybe I would start a game there and stay that way for a period, but then it would change. But in the OHL I played for a different team every season. I was never situated where I could stay with the same team and focus on my role. I was always that energy guy who was helping different teams.
“Now that I’m kind of established with an organization – and hopefully I can stay here for a while – I can focus on being a good, complete hockey player and not just being an energy guy.”
Rather than playing with other defensive minded forwards, or grinders, or energy players, Rinaldo will likely get a chance to play with skill players. He said he recognizes that he will have pass the puck more and shoot the puck more, but at the same time, doesn’t want people to think that he’s trying to change his image.
“I’m still going to have the ability to hit people - that’s my game,” Rinaldo said. “I’m still going to have that edge, because that’s my personality. But I want to be a better hockey player. I’m still young so I can continue to learn and playing in the AHL is only going to increase my abilities… I wouldn’t say I’m changing my game, or turning over a new leaf… I [have to do different things offensively] with the Phantoms than when I’m in the NHL, but I also have to keep hitting and create a lot of energy.”
Because that’s what’s gotten Zac Rinaldo where he is at this point in his career – and there’s no reason to abandon that now.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org you can also follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37