By: Anthony DiGrazio (@anthonydigrazio)
Hockey was FINALLY back in South Philadelphia last night as the Philadelphia Flyers held a rookie game against the New York Islanders at the Wells Fargo Center. Before getting into a post-game analysis, it is important to note that this game had over 13,000 fans in attendance!
Flyers fans and their passion seem to be unmatched throughout the league. A rookie game needed to be held in an 18,000+ seat arena. Not only was the game at Wells Fargo Center, but the Flyers sold out of tickets the first time and had to hand out more several days later because demand was so high. It was just another showing of being one of the best fanbases in the NHL.
Although the Flyers ended up losing in OT, it was still a great night being able to watch the future of the franchise play together.
When it comes to standout stars, there were several.
- Mark Friedman
Friedman is a defensive prospect that may get lost in all of the hype with the Flyers’ defensive prospects. It is easy to say why with names such as Myers, Sanheim, Morin, Hagg, etc. During the 2016-2017 season with Bowling Green State University, Friedman recorded 26 points in 40 games.
Friedman was skating well and playing very sound hockey. He is able to skate and move with puck as well. His vision in the offensive zone allows him to find open space to be an easy outlet for a winger a long the boards. Not only can he move and find the open lanes, he can is as good with the puck as he is without it. His hockey IQ was easily seen during the game against the Islanders. As a smaller defenseman, it is important to be physical, and that is exactly what Friedman is. He is a gritty player with a high motor that will have no problem going into the corners in the defensive zone to battle for the puck. Friedman will be a great player to have supporting the next core for the future.
2. Mikhail Vorobyev
Vorobyev showed he is comfortable controlling the game with the puck on his stick. He is a two-way center that also plays with a lot of grit. Along with his playmaking ability, his patience was also noted. With his patience comes vision, which helps raise his playmaking ability. Vorobyev also showed a lot of chemistry with Ivan Korosenkov last night as well, which was very fun to watch. Vorobyev will most likely spend the entire season with the Phantoms where he should be a huge part of their team – head coach Scott Gordon will love his terrific two-way play in the middle of the ice.
3. Connor Bunnaman
Bunnaman played for the Kitchener Ranger’s in the OHL. In the 2016-2017 season, Bunnaman tallied 52 points in 64 games. It was obvious to see why he is a goal-scorer. He is an aggressive skater with a power-forward type approach to the game. Winning battles along the boards is no problem for Bunnaman. Add his quick first couple of strides and his hands, and he becomes deadly with the puck. Bunnaman should continue to flourish in Kitchener before potentially joining the Phantoms in 2018-19.
4. Oskar Lindblom
It was great watching the SHL forward of the year play in front of his future hometown crowd. With a great shot at making the team this season, it was great to finally see Oskar play, especially with all of the hype surrounding him. Lindblom is a scorer who will win battles along with boards although he may not be the biggest guy on the ice. Patrick and Lindblom showed flashes of great chemistry.
5. Ivan Kosorenkov
Kosorenkov went undrafted and was invited to camp by the Flyers. Since then, he has shown that, number 1, he should have been drafted, and number two, he has the potential to be a VERY good player. I put Kosorenkov at 5 because is deserving of it. Yes, Patrick should be up here, but for a player to be undrafted while making this much of a splash in a talented prospect pool says something. Not to mention, there is probably a chip on his shoulder since he did go undrafted.
As far as the game goes, it was just how you expected it to be after a long couple days of rookie training camp. I am sure the crowd helped the rookies gather some extra momentum, but by the third period, the rookies were gassed and playing very conservative. After going up 3-1 and dominating in shots most of the game, fatigue had finally caught up with the players.
Regardless of the outcome, it was an amazing sight to see the future of the franchise all on the ice together. What Hextall has done with this prospect pool is nothing short of unreal. Obviously, in a few years fans will want to see it all pay off, but to be where the Flyers are is something special. Having the number one farm system in the league, it is not hard to get excited about the future of the franchise with players such as Hart, Patrick, Morin, Hagg, Sanheim, Myers, Friedman, etc.
**Photo Credit – Flyers.NHL.com**