The two scheduled games between the Philadelphia Flyers and the New York Rangers at the 2023 Rookie Camp are the best interpretation of raw skill before these young skaters advance to the 2023 Training Camp.
If your impression of the Flyers after the 2023 Rookie Camp games is they lack structure, then you’re right. Systems aren’t installed. The camp began on Thursday; then Friday, and Saturday, rosters went to the PPL Center to compete. Yesterday was the second practice since camp opened.
Learning systems aren’t the point of this camp. This camp means building chemistry with rookies and younger prospects in the Flyers system while acquiring new skills and concepts to apply to whichever league these prospects will participate in. Most of the 2023 Rookie Camp won’t feature on the NHL roster. Some are playing to earn a spot in the AHL. Overall, coaches like Ian Laperriere want to see the overlooked aspects of hockey executed, such as playing more north-south instead of east-west or the willingness to block shots.
At the beginning of the 2023 Flyers Rookie Camp, some favorites to battle for a potential roster spot in the NHL included Bobby Brink, Elliot Desnoyers, Tyson Foerster, and Adam Ginning. Other names who made an impression on Laperriere include Matt Brown, Denver Barkey, and Zayde Wisdom.
Nolan Maier and Carson Bjarnason battled Dylan Garand, Olof Lindbom, and Talyn Boyko. The Flyers finished 0-2-0, swept by the Rangers. In these observations, we look at some of the prospects who excelled, a few who underperformed, and a couple who struggled in the 2023 Rooke Camp series:
Adam Ginning and Oliver Bonk (+)
In the first clash between the Flyers and Rangers at the 2023 Flyers Rookie Camp, Ginning and Oliver Bonk were placed on the top pair. These two complemented each other.
Ginning presents stability as a defensive defenseman. A predictable but stable defender allows Bonk to play in the offensive zone with a longer leash. A clear example was when Brendan Furry possessed the puck deep into a corner of the offensive zone. Bonk made himself available at the point, setting up Foerster for a one-timer chance. He knew Ginning had his back, which makes a defensive partner confident with the puck, looking for a scoring chance.
Of the two, Bonk didn’t record a point versus the Rangers. Ginning did, however. The Flyers successfully cycled the puck in the offensive zone, where Ginning notched a secondary assist when Alex Ciernik scored:
Bonk and Ginning could find themselves in the same NHL defense within the next two seasons, making this glimpse from Friday more enticing.
Denver Barkey (+)
Barkey made a positive impact as a playmaker in each game. He had the primary assist on each scoring play he contributed to, beginning with Brown on Friday and then Wisdom on Saturday.
Brown was the star of this play, but Barkey did a great job setting a screen on Garand and deflecting a shot by Brink. That nuance made rebound control difficult for Garand, earning Barkey an assist:
Wisdom properly read the offensive zone entry, pushing the puck to Brown and down the boards to Barkey. Barkey saw Wisdom ride the middle toward the crease, hitting him in stride for a one-on-one finish versus Boyko:
Both points required a different bag of tricks. Aside from assists, Barkey seemed to be all over the ice. He played top-six minutes in the Flyers rookie lineup, and there was a bit of talent to discover at the faceoff circle. Developing a faceoff center is a must in Philadelphia, who finished 30th in the NHL in winning percentage at the dot last season.
Zayde Wisdom (+)
You would be hard-pressed to find a moment during the 2023 Rookie Camp series when Wisdom wasn’t noticeable. He finished plays, tried his hand at Matthew Rempe, scored a goal, and it didn’t go undetected by Laperriere. He praised Wisdom following a 3-1 loss on Saturday:
“He’s [Wisdom] focused to make our team. So far, he’s been our best player right now. There’s other guys that need to be better, and Wis is not one of them. He’s been great since day one, and good for him.”Ian Laperriere; 9/16/2023
Wisdom might be the best story in the 2023 Rookie Camp. Last season, Wisdom went on assignment from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms to the Reading Royals twice in three months. He remained with the Royals in the Kelly Cup Playoffs, scoring eight points (4G, 4A) before losing 4-1 in the Division Finals to the Newfoundland Growlers.
Fighting for his place on the Phantoms, he has the attention of the head coach in Lehigh Valley. He set the bar for the Flyers during those rookie games versus the Rangers. Wisdom made such an impression on the fourth line.
Matt Brown (+)
Brown was a camp invite. He displayed a high motor and awareness in the offensive zone through both contests. The entire scoring play began and finished with Brown on Garand. His engine rewarded him with a rebound goal after he crashed the crease. Along the crease in the defensive zone, he cleared a loose puck out of the crease when Maier lost track.
Floating in the middle six of the lineup, Brown made the most of his opportunity on the second line on Saturday. Laperriere wanted to see more of Brown, promoting him from the third line. The decision paid off when Brown secured the secondary assist on the lone Flyers goal by Wisdom.
Nolan Maier (+)
Another camp invite success story, Maier turned in a mostly clean performance versus the Rangers on Friday. He surrendered three goals in a 4-2 loss, but you could hardly blame him.
Karl Henriksson had a pass deflect over Maier for a goal; puck luck. Barkey and Ginning toppled into each other before Dylan Roobroeck unleashed an uncontested wrist shot, trucking Alexis Gendron. Lastly, Ryder Korczak was point-blank with Maier following a failed clear by Carter Sotheran. In other sequences where the defense offered more resistance, Maier held his ground in an otherwise solid performance.
Maier signed with the Phantoms for the upcoming season in July.
Bobby Brink and Tyson Foerster
Before the 2023 Rookie Camp series, Laperriere provided two significant takes about Foerster and Brink. First, he found Foerster to be a favorite to make the NHL roster:
“He [Foerster] had the swagger all year. He’s been one of our [workhorses] with Desnoyers, Anisimov, Lycksell; he carried the load, especially offensively. Every time a kid gets called up, I watch their games. We all do as a staff. We’re proud of those kids and want to see how well they do. When the Flyers called him up, he was a different player than we saw two years ago, and that’s great news. He was managing the puck like a veteran out there.”Ian Laperriere; 9/14/2023
Then, he said Brink was who he was most excited to see play now that he is healthy:
“He’s [Brink] got great hands, he scores, and produced for us down there [Lehigh Valley Phantoms], but this training camp I’m very excited. That’s the guy I’m looking forward to seeing. I’m going to give him a lot of ice time this weekend.”Ian Laperriere; 9/14/2023
Foerster didn’t register a point. He did get open for a one-timer opportunity with Bonk in even-strength and powerplay scenarios. Brink had chances to display his playmaking tendencies, but his passes didn’t hit the mark. Too often, he made passes in traffic, making puck retrieval difficult for a potential shot. Coaches expected more from Foerster and Brink en route to an NHL roster spot, meaning they’ll need an effective training camp and preseason.
Elliot Desnoyers (-)
Considering the comments about Foerster and Brink, it is hard to give Desnoyers a pass. He kept on the top line but didn’t stand out in either game. At least Ginning, Brink, and Foerster had their moments. Desnoyers seemed to get lost in the lineup.
“The score sheet is one thing, but you want them to create something. They might not score or get assists, but at least do something offensively. I didn’t see that in the first two games. It’s a big camp for all of them.”Ian Laperriere; 9/16/2023
Desnoyers, like Foerster and Brink, must refocus before the 2023 Flyers Training Camp begins.
Matteo Mann (-)
Matteo Mann turned in a short effort on Saturday. He struggled with his defensive positioning and gap control while remaining inefficient in using his 6’6″ and 228lbs frame to block shots.
Although Mann didn’t turn in a good performance, it wasn’t the reason for a short evening on the ice. Mann is a project defenseman from the seventh round in the 2023 NHL Entry Draft. He left due to an upper-body injury.
(Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire)