Bill Meltzer: Meltzer’s Musings: Rookie Camp Finalized, Projected Lines, Quick Hits

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ROOKIE CAMP SCHEDULE FINALIZED

Yesterday, the Flyers announced the finalized schedule for their rookie training camp at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, NJ. Camp will open on Saturday rather than today. Ice times on Saturday, Sunday and Monday begin at 11 a.m. EDT. The length of training sessions each day will vary.

Camp concludes on Tuesday with the already announced Rookies Game at the Skate Zone against the Washington Capitals prospects.

Game time is 3 p.m. EDT.

The Flyers will have 26 players participate in on-ice drills during camp. Tyrell Goulbourne, the team’s third round pick in the 2013 NHL Draft, sustained a preseason upper body injury in training for the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets.

Some prospects at rookie camp are expected to get extended looks with the Flyers when the veterans officially report for camp on Sept. 19 and begin preparations for exhibition games and the start of the season. Among the young players who could see some preseason game action with the big club are 2013 first-round pick Samuel Morin, 2012 third-round pick Shayne Gostisbehere, 2013 third-round pick Robert Hägg, and 2012 fourth-round pick Taylor Leier.

Other notable participants in camp include 2014 first-round pick Travis Sanheim, 2012 second-round pick Anthony Stolarz and 2014 second-round pick Nicolas Kube-Aubel.

Aube-Kubel has shown early signs of being one of the fast-risers from the NHL’s 2014 Draft class relative to his 48th overall selection spot in the Draft. Over the last several weeks, he has torn up the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League with a torrid preseason (six goals and seven points in four games) and a two-goal effort in Val-d’Or’s regular season opener on Wednesday.

*********** QUICK HITS

* From early indications, it appears that the Flyers players took very seriously the mandates from head coach Craig Berube and general manager Ron Hextall to report to camp in the best shape of their lives. CSN Philly and HockeyBuzz writer Tim Panaccio noted the other day that Voracek (a player whose conditioning has been called in question in the past) arrived in Voorhees having dropped about 10 pounds after an off-season change to his diet.

* Word coming out of Voorhees yesterday was that the Flyers have a tentative plan on what their line combinations will be to start camp. Of course, this is all subject to change quickly. There is usually a lot of experimenting, along with possible injury-forced or performance-related line changes between the start of training camp and the start of the regular season. Additionally, the Flyers do not currently have any professional tryout NHL veterans coming to camp. This may or may not change over the next week.

* Currently, it appears that the Flyers are leaning toward giving Brayden Schenn the first opportunity to win the left wing spot on the top line vacated by the off-season trade that sent Scott Hartnell to Columbus in exchange for R.J. Umberger. If so, Schenn would to start the preseason on a line with team captain Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek.

* Another interesting potential line combination to start camp may feature Wayne Simmonds as the third member of the Sean Couturier and Matt Read line; essentially making the Couturier line the Flyers’ offensive “second line” at even strength although Couturier and Read will still be expected to do a lot of defensive heavy lifting against other team’s top lines. Basically, the hope here appears to be that the line will make other teams work harder in their own zone.

* As of now, it appears that Vincent Lecavalier’s linemates to start camp will be R.J. Umberger and rookie Jason Akeson. The Flyers’ organization has made no secret of its desire to add another playmaking forward. Akeson has shown that ability at the American Hockey League level and has fared well in his two NHL regular season games and seven playoff games to date. Umberger would be counted upon to provide a two-way conscience to the line.

* The fourth line is very much up for grabs. Michael Raffl will have a spot, and so will Zac Rinaldo. Raffl could either play wing or center, depending on rookie Scott Laughton’s performance at camp and the preseason. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare will get a long look on this line as well, and either he or Raffl could also be moved to another line depending on the circumstance. For instance, if Akeson struggles or if there is an injury, there could be a spot for Raffl or Bellemare to get a look in the top nine.

* The early scuttlebutt on defense pairings is that, in the absence of Kimmo Timonen, Andrew MacDonald will move up to be the top-pairing left defenseman partnered with Braydon Coburn. Last season’s pairing of Nicklas Grossmann and Mark Streit — which struggled mightily in their first six weeks together but was very good after the Olympic break — would remain intact. Newcomer Michael Del Zotto (who is pretty much exclusive to left defense) will be paired with Luke Schenn. Offseason free agent signing Nick Schultz could also push for a top-six slot but is currently seventh.

* The defense picture could change if one of the young defensemen in camp steps up in such a big way that he makes himself virtually impossible to send down. Samuel Morin, who impressed in the early preseason a year ago, could hang around much longer in the preseason this year as the Flyers assess his progress. While fellow rookies Robert Hägg and Shayne Gostisbehere and second-year pro Mark Alt are probably bound for the AHL’s Lehigh Valley Phantoms before the start to 2014-15 season, they will all get looks during NHL camp as well.

* In the Swedish Hockey League (SHL) regular season opener, Flyers 2014 fifth-round pick Oskar Lindblom dressed in the starting lineup for Brynäs IF Gävle in a 4-0 road loss in Gothenburg to Frölunda HC. Lindblom started the game on the right wing of a line with Jonas Nordquist and Bill Sweatt. Lindblom did not look out of place but also did not particularly stand out in his relatively limited 10:47 of ice time. On the positive side, he was not out for any of Frölunda’s goals. Lindblom did not record a shot on goal but was credited with one hit and blocked a pair of shots.

* Finally, on a personal note, I want to say thank you for all the birthday wishes I got yesterday here on HockeyBuzz as well as via Facebook, Twitter, text message, email and phone calls. It was very much appreciated. I also want to belatedly thank my readers for the nearly quarter-million page views my HockeyBuzz work had in August; which is not too bad at all for the dog days of the off-season.

The passion and loyalty of my HockeyBuzz readers is the number one reason why I write every day of the year. I owe you no less in return. The other reason, of course, is that writing about and discussing hockey is fun. I have held other writing and editing jobs in the past that very much felt laborious on a day-in and day-out basis. Hockey writing is a joy to me. It rarely feels like work, even with the rather crazy hours I keep.

Come tomorrow, I will return to Philadelphia to begin in-person coverage of the hockey season. I will be at rookie camp from Sunday onward. As per usual, I will cover all Flyers home games and most practices in person this season as well as some short-distance road games plus the Flyers’ October road game in Dallas (I will spend a week back in Texas to overlap with the Flyers’ week-long road trip).

Traveling back and forth for such long stretches throughout the year is bittersweet for me for family reasons. However, the start of hockey season is always an exciting time and I very much look forward to getting going. Although the regular season does not start until Oct. 8, things start to move quickly once training camps open and preseason games begin.

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

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