The dawning of the new NHL season begins particularly early for the youngest players. Rookie camps are set to begin across the league, with the Flyers rookies taking the ice for the first time on Thursday morning, ahead of two exhibition games against the New York Rangers rookies this weekend.
With the Flyers now firmly into the rebuilding process, the window of opportunity is open for young prospects to start making a name for themselves and establishing that they are part of the future plans of the franchise. That begins with the rookie camp, more of a competition among peers in advance of the main camp that will certainly ramp up the level of competition.
There are some key distinctions to rookie camp compared to main training camp. For one, the camp is entirely run by the Flyers minor league and development coaches. While John Tortorella may certainly address the team prior to the camp, he will be off the ice as the prospects get work with the likes of Lehigh Valley Phantoms head coach Ian Laperriere.
The roster at rookie camp also is a nod to the rebuilding process. There will be prospects participating that already have professional experience at the AHL level. There will also be prospects coming from junior teams to participate and get some valuable experience in an NHL facility before being returned to continue their development in the junior ranks.
This camp is not about winning roster spots. For those prospects that also will be hopefuls for an NHL roster, that time will come in another week. But this rookie camp can be the first impression that many players need to get on the radar with the Flyers front office. Outside of the few days of development camp in the summer, this is the chance to see the Flyers future in action with even more evaluation.
In the immediate, this week may be more important than the ones ahead as the Flyers construct their roster for the 2023-24 season. It’s about building towards a future and finding the pieces that can at least generate interest to be on the radar for part of it. They may not be the final solution, but they can earn an opportunity to prove they are in future years.
Another important factor to this rookie camp is the players who will not be there. The Flyers prospect pool has risen in league rankings in the last two drafts with the additions of Cutter Gauthier and Matvei Michkov to the system. But with Gauthier returning to Boston College for his sophomore season and Michkov under contract in the KHL with SKA St. Petersburg – and now on loan to HK Sochi – the two highest-ranked prospects in the system will not be on the ice with the rest of the Flyers.
Again, this opens the window of opportunity for more prospects to find their footing and establish a place in the future plans.
After months away from the ice in an organized setting like these practices are, this also marks the first chance that the Flyers new-look front office of Keith Jones, Danny Briere, and company have to start evaluating prospects and their potential going into the season.
In some ways, this week is the calm before the real work begins, before the main training camp gets underway and preparations are made for the 2023-24 roster. Don’t be mistaken, it will still have the intensity of a traditional training camp, and the exhibition games provide a platform for players to show their abilities in that setting.
It gets underway on Thursday and will lead directly into the return of NHL regulars to the ice for training camp.