As iron sharpens iron, camaraderie forms during the limit testing skate sessions at the 2022 Philadelphia Flyers Training Camp. John Tortorella, monitoring the body language and skating of his players from center ice, tends to go with his stomach when evaluating. From 1986-1987, when he became the head coach of the Virginia Lancers before the ACHL became the AAHL (then eventually the ECHL,) Tortorella amassed the patience to understand the finer details of what makes a player a quality NHL professional.
He highlighted Justin Braun as a consummate professional. Being a great professional doesn’t exclusively derive from skill. It takes the will. Tortorella sang the praise loudly for Braun:
“The biggest thing with Brauner; if I’m a young player and I’m looking at the ‘try’ that he has, it’s a great lesson for a player just to see how hard he works at everything. Certainly not the most gifted skater, not the most gifted passer, not the most gifted shot, but there’s not too many people here in this building that tries as hard as he does. I think young guys should be looking at that. I think you become a player in the NHL, not just with skill, but with the will. That guy has that.”John Tortorella; 9/25/2022
Braun knows the grind of the NHL. He’ll enter his thirteenth NHL season, fourth with the Flyers. Dating back to the 2022 NHL Trade Deadline, Braun cited he was interested in returning to Philadelphia at the time he shuffled to the New York Rangers. He likes competing against the current crop and assuming the role of a mentor. Braun recounted what it was like when he earned a job in the NHL, comparing it to the 2022 Flyers Training Camp:
“I got to keep working. I got kids coming for my job, I got to be ready every day. That’s how it goes; I came up, took someone’s job, and it just keeps rotating until the end of time.”Justin Braun; 9/25/2022
Cam York, openly picking the brain of the veterans, sees Braun as a mentor. He admitted that the first two days of the 2022 Flyers Training Camp were probably the hardest skates of his life.
Notably, York is learning from Braun, who passes the eye test.
Both defensemen played eighteen games together last year between when York made his 2022-2023 debut and when Braun was shipped to the Rangers. Last season, York showed his confidence on the blue line. He can be decisive on the powerplay and displays impressive passing vision. Braun noticed his poise, and the work he put in this offseason:
“He looks stronger. He’s still got great skills out there, getting pucks through in the scrimmages, which is huge. That’s going to pay off during the season, he’s not getting them blocked.”Justin Braun; 9/25/2022
As probable partners on the bottom pair, York is excited to play with a familiar face. He’ll return to his normal side, left of Braun, which is ideal. A veteran like Braun brings stability to the bottom pair on the ice. Off the ice, it’s the lessons in preparation that become valuable for the young players, as highlighted by Tortorella. Wisely, York realizes Braun is a wealth of knowledge:
“I was able to play with him last year, and that’s really nice; being able to have a familiar face, a veteran like him who played a bunch of games, a bunch of big games, and has been through it all pretty much. He’s a great person just to go to for really anything off the ice, on the ice. He’s a great mentor.”Cam York; 9/25/2022
It’s not just Braun that York pays attention to. Tortorella stated that the first scrimmage yesterday was the best yet. Participating in that scrimmage, aside from Braun, were Nicolas Deslauriers and Tony DeAngelo.
Deslauriers already left a lasting impression on York. To that, he feels protected when Deslauriers is on his team, he said with a laugh:
“Every shift, he’s looking for something. Unfortunately, it was me the other day. My back is still a little sore from that. When he’s on the ice, I think guys are a little intimidated. When I’m out there, I feel protected, at least when he’s on my team.”Cam York; 9/25/2022
About DeAngelo, York realizes they play a similar game:
“I was able to skate with Tony a bunch this summer to get to know him. It was a big benefit. I feel like we’re similar guys on the ice. It’s good to pick his brain and see what he likes to do in certain situations.”Cam York; 9/25/2022
There is an emphasis on controlling what can be controlled. Tortorella bluntly stressed conditioning. “Why can’t we be the best-conditioned team in the league?” The Flyers can be that, and when skill develops around healthy habits, those prospects become better. York has an impression to make heading into 2022-2023, and he’s going about it like an NHL professional.
(Photo by Gregory Fisher/Icon Sportswire)