When development camp rolls around for the Flyers, you usually scan through the roster and look for the familiar names, top prospects like Morgan Frost and Joel Farabee. Newly-drafted prospects like Cam York and Bobby Brink also stand out.
There can be several undrafted and unsigned players who can join a team’s development camp as invites, many of them flying under the radar. One name among that group stood out on the Flyers camp roster. You know him best by his last name.
Carson Briere, whose father Danny Briere spent six of his 17 seasons in Orange and Black, essentially grew up at the Flyers practice facility in Voorhees. Carson was born in Arizona while his father played for the Phoenix Coyotes, but grew up in Haddonfield, NJ. His father welcomed Claude Giroux and Sean Couturier into their home as roommates, putting Carson around two of the top players the Flyers have on the roster at the moment in their earliest professional years.
“I think I was in third grade when I moved to New Jersey, I used to come here every day,” Carson said. “It’s cool to come back and see all these familiar faces that I’ve seen growing up as a kid and seeing how they helped my dad and now they’re helping me, it’s definitely an honor.”
The dream of reaching the professional level is certainly alive and well for 19-year-old Carson, but hockey wasn’t forced on any of the Briere children.
“I never felt like I pushed,” Danny said on Wednesday at development camp. “For example, his younger brother, Cameron, for a couple of years didn’t want to play hockey. And he quit and came back a couple of years later. But I never forced him to play. In Carson’s case and Caelan’s case, you see the skill level and the talent and try to help them and when you realize there is something there, it made me sad when Cameron quit, but at the same time I didn’t want to be the dad who pushed and forced him to play. I tried to give him some space.
“I think the only time I pushed Carson a little bit was a few years ago when he was cut from the Rebels here, the junior team in town and he wanted to quit hockey. And he did. I gave him a couple weeks to think about it and he wanted to come back and play with his friends, and that’s the only time I stepped in and said if you want to play hockey you are good enough to play junior hockey in the NAHL and we will find you a place to play. And he agreed to that and from that point on, that’s when things kind of kicked off for him.”
Things have certainly been a lot different for the Brieres since Danny’s last game with the Flyers. He finished his NHL career with stops in Montreal and Colorado, then returned to Philadelphia following retirement. Danny is now vice president of hockey operations for the ECHL’s Maine Mariners, while the young Carson tries to make a name for himself.
After being cut from the Philadelphia Rebels in the NAHL, he latched on with the Johnstown Tomahawks in the same league and came into his own. He had 10 goals and 12 assists in 39 games in his first season with Johnstown. In his second season, he dominated with 44 goals and 45 assists in 59 games.
As a local product, the Flyers came calling giving Carson an opportunity to work with the other prospects in development camp.
“Brent reached out to me to see if Carson would have any interest, so I thought it was really cool,” Danny said. “The one thing I wanted to make sure with Carson is I had nothing to do with it. I’m not the one asked Chuck or Brent and I made that clear with Carson. It was out of the blue, unexpected, I didn’t see it coming. It was pretty cool for me, too, but I’m sure for him it’s special because he grew up with the Flyers.”
There are a lot of things about Carson’s play that resemble his father. He’s 5’9”, 181 pounds, very similar in stature to Danny. He’s also a right-handed center, just like his dad.
But Carson is going to be his own player. For as great of a career as Danny had, especially in Philadelphia, there is no pressure for Carson to replicate his father’s career.
“I think when I was younger, I felt like there was some pressure, but as I grew up I realized I shouldn’t worry about it,” Carson said. “I just have to go out there and have fun. I was getting frustrated when I wasn’t doing as good sometimes because I felt like I had to live up to something. Once I got older and matured a little bit, I just realized that hockey is hockey and just have fun. Since I’ve been doing that, I’ve been playing better hockey.”
Carson is bound for Arizona State University next season where he will continue his career. There were no expectations entering development camp this week, more so the honor of getting to hone his skills at the same facility where he essentially grew up. But there is always a chance that what he has done this week will keep him on the Flyers radar and earn him another invite in future summers and perhaps a chance to reach the professional level in the same organization he grew up with.
Development camp ends for the Flyers with the 3-on-3 tournament on Friday evening and with a 5-on-5 scrimmage on Saturday evening. It is where the skills that were worked the entire week can get put on display and gives the best chance to see these prospects in as close to a game setting as possible. If Carson happens to score during it, he may just go to a familiar celebration.
“I do it a little bit sometimes, it depends on the goal,” Carson said. “I don’t do it all the time but if it’s a close game I’ll throw a fist pump in there.”