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Storylines to follow at Rookie Camp

Pay attention to these four stories as Rookie Camp begins Saturday

by Bill Meltzer @BillMeltzer / philadelphiaflyers.com

Flyers Rookie Camp began on Friday with player physicals and off-ice testing at the Skate Zone in Voorhees. On-ice work commences on Saturday (9:30 a.m. to 11) with another practice slated for the same time on Sunday. 

Here are four storylines to watch as the Rookie Camp progresses. In our next article, we'll build off these storylines and look at five specific players to keep an eye on at Rookie Camp.

1. Leadership from "Rookie Camp Vets"

It sounds like an oxymoron to call someone a "rookie camp veteran" but such is the case for some of the attendees who are in their final year of participation. In the case of Philippe Myers, who played 21 games in the NHL last season (25 games is the threshold beyond which a player is no longer defined by the NHL as a rookie), he has come 180 degrees as he enters his fifth and final Rookie Camp with the Flyers. 

Myers started out as an undrafted Rookie Camp invitee in 2015. After going unselected in the 2015 NHL Draft, he attended the Calgary Flames' Development Camp in July but did not earn a September camp invite. However, the Flyers stepped in with a Rookie Camp invite. Myers impressed so much that he earned an entry-level contract, and the rest was history.

This fall, Myers will aim to become a full-season regular in the Flyers' NHL starting lineup. The purpose of his Rookie Camp participation -- as was the case last year for the NHL-bound Oskar Lindblom -- is simply to get a jump on main camp. He will be expected to demonstrate leadership by example, showing the younger participants where they need to get both in their skill development level and preparations to play in order to eventually be in the same position that Myers is now. It's quite often an eye-opener for first-time participants to see the level at which pros operate. 

Along with Myers, "camp vets" such as Mark Friedman and Mikhail Vorobyev will also be expected to step to the forefront in their final camp now that they've experienced the pro game for two AHL seasons apiece and each had their first taste of the NHL. 

2. The Young Forwards

From 2013 to 2015, the Flyers used three first round picks on defensemen (Samuel Morin, Travis Sanheim and Ivan Provorov). Then with their latter first-round pick in 2015 (Travis Konecny) through 2018, the Flyers used a total of six first round picks exclusively on forwards. Although Konecny and Nolan Patrick have graduated to the NHL, many of the other first-round forwards will be featured attractions at the 2019 Rookie Camp.

Listed by chronological order of selection, the focal points at this year's camp will include 2016 first-rounder German Rubtsov, 2017 first-rounder Morgan Frost and 2018 first-rounder Joel Farabee. Due to his college hockey commitments last year, Farabee is attending his first Rookie Camp with the Flyers. Frost is in his third. Rubtsov is, likewise, in his third because he had had commitments to his KHL team back in September of 2016.

Note: Flyers 2018 first-round pick Jay O'Brien is not in Rookie Camp. With O'Brien following the NCAA transfer protocol to maintain his amateur status before attending Boston University next year, this is due both to the NCAA's "48-hour rule"  and the impending start of O'Brien's BCHL regular season this weekend. 

3. Tryouts Aim to Impress

With an exceptionally high number of their drafted prospects unavailable due either to NCAA or Swedish league commitments, there are seven unaffiliated camp invitees this year to fill out the roster. Each one is aiming for a pro contract. 

While the odds are against Rookie Camp tryouts earning a contract, there are periodic success stories. As noted above, Myers earned an entry-level contract off a Rookie Camp tryout in 2015. Likewise, second-time attendee Egor Zamula (WHL's Calgary Hitmen) earned a Flyers entry-level deal off a tryout last fall. 

Failing to earn a contract off a Rookie Camp tryout needn't be a death knell to a young career, either. Back in 2008, the Flyers brought in a little-known undrafted forward by the name of Mike Hoffman into Rookie Camp as a tryout invitee. He did not leave with a contract. However, after a breakout year in the Quebec League with Drummondville, he was selected by Ottawa with the 130th pick of the 2009 NHL Draft and went on to become an effective scorer in the National Hockey League. 

4. Prep for the Rookies' Game

The annual Rookies' Game is a rite of passage for the Flyers' prospects. This year's game will take place on Sept. 11 at the PPL Center in Allentown against the New York Islanders' prospects. Just as would be the case for the pros, after the Rookie Camp participants are acclimated at practice on Saturday and Sunday, the focus will turn on Sept. 10 to getting ready for Wednesday's game. 

Although essentially a scrimmage against another team and not an official "game", the participants all take the Rookie Game very seriously and view it as an opportunity to put their best foot forward and impress the organization as well as the fans. Especially when the Rookie Game is played at an arena venue in front of an enthusiastic crowd, there is a "real game" atmosphere that goes over and above the informality of a typical scrimmage.

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