The primary goal of the Flyers’ Prospect Development Camp is for young drafted players and unaffiliated invitees to hone specific on-ice skills and receive advice on areas to work on in their games and conditioning. The oft-repeated mantra is that there are no NHL contracts or roster spots to be won or lost in July.
Nevertheless, Hockey players are competitors by nature. Even in a scrimmage, no one wants to be embarrassed. Combine the lopsided 7-2 final score in the first of the two scrimmages and the desire of all the participants in camp to make a good impression on the Flyers’ organization, and the stage was set for a spirited finale in Sunday’s scrimmage that closed out the 2012 Development Camp.
The two scrimmages and Wednesday’s Trial on the Isle were the camp’s biggest highlights for fans and the participants alike. Nevertheless, it was the skill development drills and the off-ice camaraderie that were at the crux of the camp organized by Director of Player Development Ian Laperriere, who also served as an on-ice instructor in conjunction with Derian Hatcher, Riley Cote, Joel Bouchard and goaltending coach Jeff Reese.
“Yes, you should work on conditioning but you should also work on some stuff that you don’t have time to work on during the winter,” said Laperriere. “Rarely will you see teams [during the season] work on skills and do drills like we did with the obstacle courses all week. It was a week for those young guys to realize that their skill level needs to go up or stay up like they are.
“I know it’s boring sometimes for people that come and watch, but I don’t believe in scrimmages every day. To have those guys take each other’s head off doesn’t make any sense to me. It’s July.”
Apart from the physical skills that were worked on during the camp, Laperriere and the other instructors assessed the level of commitment shown by the participants. They wanted to see which young players paid attention to detail on and off the ice.
Despite the intentionally relaxed environment, Laperriere and the other instructors still took mental notes on the participants. They noticed which youngsters asked questions and listened closely to the answers, which ones embraced the drills wholeheartedly and which ones merely wanted to get through the skill sessions and return to enjoying the more social aspects of the camp.
“I really love to see a young player who truly loves to play hockey,” said Laperriere. “Not just likes to play hockey, but loves it. There’s a difference, and either you have it in your heart or you don’t. You can’t fake it. You’ve got to love to be on the ice, and always want to find little ways, different tools to get better as a player.”
“I said this before we started on the first day. This camp is for them and not for us. We’re here for them. There’s a lot of NHL experience at this camp, and the kids were lucky to have someone like Joel Bouchard or Derian Hatcher there for them all week. If a guy leaves here without something to think about or without his questions being answered, that’s on him.”
By the same token, Laperriere wanted to see at the end of camp what the young players could do under game conditions. He knew the youngsters were chomping at the bit to play some hockey. That is why he decided to hold a pair of scrimmages on consecutive days, rather than just one at the end.
In Saturday’s 7-2 victory for Team Orange, the biggest offensive standout was Michael Parks, who tallied a pair of goals. Other goals for the winning side came from Christopher Clapperton, Andrew Johnston and Tye McGinn. Taylor Leier and Shane Harper scored for Team Black. Second-round draft pick Anthony Stolarz (Team Orange) allowed just one goal in 30 minutes of play.
The second match was played at a crisper tempo. After trailing 3-0 early, Team Orange (the victor in the both games) rallied to prevail 6-5. Invitee forward Christopher Clapperton scored a hat trick to lead the way. Goaltender Cal Heeter stopped penalty shots by Nick Cousins and Shane Harper in the final 1:52 of play to nail down the victory. Other Team Orange goals were scored by Kyle Mountain, Trevor van Riemsdyk (penalty shot) and Cole Grbavac. Team Black received goals from Terrence Wallin, Shane Harper (penalty shot and even strength), Matt Konan and Luke Pither.
Both scrimmages were physical affairs that saw numerous heavy hits and several fights. Western Hockey League rivals Cole Grbavac and Mitch Elliot dropped the gloves in the first scrimmage. On Sunday, Team Black defenseman Chris Williams had a pair of fights.
In both scrimmages first-round draft pick Scott Laughton demonstrated his hard-nosed brand of hockey with numerous hits and a couple of behind-the-play clashes with agitator Nick Cousins. In the second scrimmage, Laughton stood up for teammate McGinn. After a heavy blindside hit by Williams on McGinn, Laughton immediately went after the defenseman and fought him. Later, McGinn and Williams fought. Laughton also showed some of his emerging offensive skills with several nice setups in both scrimmages.
Unfortunately, even in a prospect camp setting, injuries are a fact of life in hockey. Early in Saturday’s scrimmage, a heavy body check by Laughton on defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (one of the camp’s biggest standouts in the skill development drills) knocked the Union College defenseman out of remainder of camp with an upper-body injury. On Sunday, Fredric Larsson had to be helped off the ice after he appeared to hit his head absorbing a huge hit by Alex Emond in the corner. The Swedish defenseman indicated after the game that he felt OK by that point but did not remember the play itself.
Phantoms rookie forward Matt Mangene was unable to participate in either scrimmage. He sustained a right foot injury earlier in the week. Likewise, the Phantoms’ Tyler Brown was unable to play due to an earlier injury. Fortunately, none of the aforementioned injuries are considered serious. Everyone should be ready to go when formal training camps open for their respective teams.
For his part, Laperriere was pleased with what he saw in the scrimmages from the drafted players and invitees alike. He also realized that everyone was trying to make a good impression on the organization.
“They were hungry to play. I’m proud. There was a lot of those guys who put their name on the board. The [front office] guys upstairs are going to talk about those guys,” said Laperriere.