Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Rookie Camp and Game, Quick Hits



The Philadelphia Flyers announced yesterday that rookie camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ, will get underway on Friday, Sept. 12. One week later, full training camp officially starts for the organization’s NHL roster.

On Tuesday, Sept. 16, the Flyers rookies will play the Washington Capitals rookies at the Skate Zone.

Game time is 3 p.m. EDT. The match has been an annual event since 2007, with the exception of the 2012 game being canceled by the NHL lockout.

As per usual, all practices and the rookies game are open to the public and free to attend.

The Flyers have restocked and significantly strengthened their prospect pool in recent years. There will be numerous participants in this year’s camp and rookies game with legitimate chances of going to lengthy NHL careers if they stay healthy and remain on their current development paths.

This year’s expected attendees include first-round picks Scott Laughton (2012), Samuel Morin (2013) and Travis Sanheim (2014), second-round picks Anthony Stolarz (2012), Robert Hägg (2013) and Nicolas Aube-Kubel (2014). Additionally, there will be several recently contracted draftees from later rounds who are slated to play their rookie professional seasons in the American Hockey League this year, including defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere (third round pick in 2012), winger Taylor Leier (fourth round pick in 2012) and defenseman Jesper “Pitbull” Pettersson (seventh round pick in 2014).

The only non-attending Flyers prospects are their draftees with current NCAA hockey and academic commitments as well as European league players Valeri Vasiliev (seventh round, 2012) and Oskar Lindblom (fifth round, 2014). In the case of collegiate players like Reece Willcox (fifth round, 2012), Mark Friedman (third round, 2012) and Michael Parks (fifth round, 2010), the players would have to pay their own way in order to maintain their NCAA eligibility. In the case of Lindblom and Vasiliev, their regular seasons in Europe overlap with the Flyers camp.

In addition to the drafted and contracted prospects at the camp, there will be three rookie free agents at camp on amateur tryouts: forwards Nikita Jevpalovs and Louick Marcotte and defenseman Beau Rusk.

Latvian forward Jevpalovs will turn 20 years old on Sept. 9. Unselected in the 2013 NHL Draft, he was ranked 152nd among North American skaters on Central Scouting’s mid-term rankings for the 2014 Draft but went unselected again.

Jevpalovs has spent the last two seasons in the QMJHL with the Blainville-Boisbriand Armada. Last season, Jevpalovs was the Armada’s fourth-leading scorer during the regular season with 28 goals, 26 assists and 54 points in 61 penalty minutes. Additionally, he served as an assistant captain for Latvia’s silver medal-winning team at the 2013-14 Division 1A World Junior Championship. He posted four goals and nine points in five games and the Division 1A U20 Worlds.

The Blainville-Boisbriand club is partially owned by Flyers assistant coach Ian Laperriere and steered by former NHL player Joel Bouchard, who has served in the past as a Flyers Development Camp instructor when Laperriere was development coach prior to his promotion to NHL assistant coach. Similarly, the other two unaffiliated invitees have been thoroughly scouted by the Flyers as teammates of players the organization has selected in recent drafts.

Twenty-year-old Marcotte posted a 100-point campaign (42 goals, 58 assists) last season for the QMJHL’s Val-d’Or Foreurs. He ranked second on the team and sixth in the league in scoring. Linemate Anthony Mantha, the Detroit Red Wings’ first-round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, led both the club and the league in scoring. Aube-Kubel was a teammate a teammate last season as well.

Last year, Aube-Kubel was assigned to a supporting cast role on the QMJHL champions in his NHL Draft-eligible season. Now, he is expected to take on a bigger offensive role — thus far successfully, as evidenced by his six goals in three preseason games — with Mantha looking to make the leap to the NHL and Marcotte slated to join the Gatineau Olympiques for an overage season. The winger will turn 21 on Jan. 7.

Marcotte was ranked 198th on Central Scouting’s final North American list for the 2014 NHL Draft. However, he went unselected once again. He possesses an unremarkable natural skill set and is also not particularly big. As such, it is easy to dismiss his big statistical output from last season as the product of playing on a line with Mantha. Nevertheless, the Flyers wanted to get a firsthand look at whether Marcotte could be a late-blooming pro prospect.

Rusk is a defensive defenseman with a massive frame. The Rimouski Oceanic defenseman is a QMJHL teammate of Morin. The 6-foot-5, 230-pound Rusk went unselected in the 2014 NHL Draft. He posted 63 penalty minutes and 10 points in 42 games for Rimouski.

The Flyers full rookie camp roster is as follows: FORWARDS (14)

Brandon Alderson

Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Nick Cousins

Radel Fazleev

Austin Fyten

Kevin Goumas

Tyrell Goulbourne

Matt Hatch

Nikita Jevpalovs

Scott Laughton

Taylor Leier

Louick Marcotte

Derek Mathers

Petr Straka DEFENSEMEN (10)

Mark Alt

Steven Delisle

Brett Flemming

Shayne Gostisbehere

Robert Hägg

Maxim Lamarche

Samuel Morin

Jesper Pettersson

Beau Rusk

Travis Sanheim GOALTENDERS (3)

Connor Knapp

Martin Ouellete

Anthony Stolarz


The annual Flyers vs. Capitals rookies game alternates hosts. Due to the lockout-forced cancellation of the 2012 event, this year’s game marks the first time in three years that the Flyers have been the host team. The game has become something of a right of passage for prospects in both organizations, similar to the Traverse City tournament and other matches that pit the prospects of various NHL teams against one another.

Previous participants in the Rookie Game on the Flyers side who have gone on to become NHL regulars include the likes of Claude Giroux (2007 game), James van Riemdsyk (2009), Brayden Schenn (2011) and Sean Couturier (2011). The best individual performance by a member of either team was JVR’s four-goal outburst in the 2009 game.

Here is a year-by-year rundown of the Rookie Game results and venues:

2007: Flyers 5 – Capitals 3 (Skate Zone, Voorhees, NJ)

2008: Capitals 7 – Flyers 0 (Kettler Iceplex, Arlington, VA)

2009: Flyers 7 – Capitals 3 (Skate Zone)

2010: Capitals 4 – Flyers 3 (Kettler Iceplex)

2011: Flyers 3 -Capitals 2 (Wells Fargo Center, Philadelphia)

2012: Game canceled

2013: Flyers 1 – Capitals 0 (Kettler Iceplex)

Broadcast details for this year’s game have not been officially announced yet, but the match is typically shown on the respective teams’ official websites.

I was privileged to work as a commentator on the broadcast of the aforementioned 2009 game, along with Steve Kolbe, the play-by-play radio voice of the Capitals and longtime Capitals official site writer Mike Vogel as the other commentator. That year’s game, which was played on my birthday, is the one and only game for which I have ever served as a broadcaster (and it showed, because I felt out of place at the start and was nervous as hell).

Thankfully, Steve and Mike didn’t miss a beat. Steve in particular basically led me by the hand through the broadcast, setting me up with quick-response questions about the Flyers’ affiliated players and segments of the game action. As such, I never had to think about what to talk about. I let Steve and Mike do the talking.

Apart from the indelible image of van Riemsdyk’s dominance of that game, I have several other fond memories from the broadcast at the Skate Zone which are humorous in retrospect.

Kevin Kurz, who was the Flyers’ website manager at the time, was the one who asked me over lunch at Champps in South Philly if I was interested in working the Rookies Game as a broadcaster. I said that I would be thrilled.

“Great,” Kevin said. “Just dress business casual for it; a golf shirt and slacks should be fine.”

I did as Kevin recommended. On the day of the broadcast, I met with Steve and Mike and discovered, to my horror, that they hadn’t gotten the “casual dress” memo. They were decked out immaculately in suits and ties.

The game was held on the Phantoms ice at the Skate Zone. We did the broadcast from inside the glass-enclosed room on the upper level, opposite the media workroom. The room where we did the broadcast is the same room where the Flyers hold their press conferences at the Skate Zone.

As we tested out the equipment before the broadcast, we learned that the headset cords were a little too short. was stationed furthest away from the production desk and had to lean slightly to the left and hold my headset in place the entire game. I learned that the hard way. Twice in the first period when I leaned a little too far right or turned my head too fast, the headset got displaced.

Additionally, from our vantage point, we could not see what was going on when the puck went into the left corner on the far side of the rink. My broadcast partners were so smooth that I don’t think anyone else picked up on that complication.


* Flyers Alum Birthday: goaltender John Vanbiesbrouck turns 51 today.

* Today in Flyers history: On September 4, 1979, the Flyers traded the rights to forward Dennis Sobchuk to the Detroit Red Wings in exchange for a fourth-round pick in the 1981 NHL Draft (Dave Michayluk). A fifth-round pick by the Flyers, Sobchuk was taken with the 89th overall selection of the 1974 NHL Draft.

The selection of Sobchuk in the Draft was a pure gamble by Philadelphia. The 20-year-old center had already signed one year earlier to play in the World Hockey Association, which was why he was still available in the fifth round. Otherwise, the talented player would have been a high first-round pick in the 1974 NHL Draft after producing back-to-back seasons of 65-plus-goal, 145-plus point seasons at the major junior level for the Regina Pats.

Sobchuk never became a huge star at the pro level, as initially hoped. Nevertheless, he did have three WHA seasons of 30-plus goals, topped off by a 44-goal, 96 point season with the Cincinnati Stingers in 1976-77. He later played for the Edmonton Oilers and was still a member of the Oilers at the time of the NHL-WHA merger. On June 9, 1979, the Flyers took Sobchuk back in the NHL Reclamation Draft.

By this point, however, Sobchuk’s stock had begun to fall and he was not part of Flyers general manager Keith Allen and head coach Pat Quinn’s roster plan for the 1979-80 season. The Flyers left Sobchuk exposed to the waiver draft but temporarily re-added him to the protected list after the deletion of Bernie Johnston. Shortly thereafter, Philadelphia traded Sobchuk to Detroit.

Sobchuk’s NHL career was unremarkable. He dressed in 35 NHL games for the Red Wings and Quebec Nordiques over parts of two seasons, scoring five goals and 11 assists. Nevertheless, he holds a place in hockey history as the first underage player to sign a pro contract. Additionally, his prolific junior hockey career earned him the honor of having his sweater number 14 retired by the Pats.

This post originally appeared on and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.

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