VOORHEES, N.J. — Dave Hakstol wanted to know right away who can hack it and who can’t.
“It was the hardest day of a first day of camp in my 11 years,” said Jakub Voracek, whose first NHL training camp was with the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2008. “A lot of skating, a lot of battles. On the other hand, it can make us better, so why not.”
“We had a little talk with the coaches and they said they want to do some things different,” defenseman Radko Gudas said. “They want to make sure we’re skating, we’re up the ice, we’re always around the puck even as a defenseman in our offensive zone ... supporting the offense even more than we did last year.”
Ivan Provorov needed that first day of training camp as well.
The Flyers' top defenseman comes into his second NHL season ready to go, but he needed a hard skate to get his legs back from the jet lag of a transatlantic flight from Russia this past Sunday. Provorov found himself falling asleep in the middle of the afternoon recently as his internal clock attempts to recalibrate. He didn’t exactly view this summer as the offseason, but merely a continuation of what was an impressive rookie season.
“The offseason is always busy for me,” Provorov said. “I try to get into really good shape so I can go all season, playing lots of minutes without having any games off, or feeling not so great until after the games.”
Provorov said he still felt fresh even after playing all 82 games in his rookie season, which carried over into the World Championships. While the experience of international competition was invaluable, Provorov and the rest of his teammates prefer a season that includes the Stanley Cup Playoffs, which have excluded the Flyers in three of the past five seasons. A week ago, general manager Ron Hextall stated the organization does not view this upcoming season as part of a rebuilding phase.
“I think if we were in a complete rebuild, [Claude Giroux], [Voracek] and I probably aren’t here,” forward Wayne Simmonds said. “We've still got our older guys. I think we’re kind of transitioning, sliding in a couple young guys hoping their skill can help us out here.”
In the week leading up to camp, goalie Brian Elliott had already spent time working out with fellow netminder Michal Neuvirth and Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh, and already, Elliott likes what he sees.
“People keep asking me, 'Is there any bad apples in the dressing room or someone you know you aren’t going to get along with?' But everybody’s been great,” Elliott said. “Everybody’s been excited. I think the expectations are high internally and that’s what you like to see.”
Friday’s opening day of camp consisted of 10 different forward lines and eight defensive pairings separated into a morning and afternoon group, with an interesting blend of youth mixed together with more established veterans. Hakstol placed a clear emphasis on drills, speed work and conditioning, and less on systems and structure.
“I think our guys have worked real hard over the summer, I really believe that,” Hakstol said. “From all the feedback we’ve gotten and just from talking to the guys throughout the summertime. I just wanted to make sure that hard work transferred and translated onto the ice.”
Of the 57 players invited to training camp, 34 would qualify as first-year players in the league with a handful of rookies aiming for a spot on the opening night roster.
“It’s a fine balance because they want to be recognized and be noticed, but they’re all good hockey players,” defenseman Andrew MacDonald said. “They have to realize that what got them here is playing the way they have. If they continue to do that and play steady, then it’s going to go a long way for them.”
The Flyers have one more morning/afternoon skate on Saturday before they open the preseason Sunday at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum against the Islanders, and Hakstol is already anticipating a sluggish effort as a result of the first day of camp.
“It was a hard day, there’s no question,” Hakstol said. “Playing a game on Day 3, there’s going to be tired legs. I don’t know what other teams are doing. I don’t care. We’re going to get the work in now. We’re going to have another hard, competitive day Saturday and I know our guys will go out and attack it just like they did today.”
News and notes
• Forward Pascal Laberge left the morning practice early and was being examined by doctors, according to Hextall.
• Defenseman Phil Myers was a full participant for Friday’s practice. Myers suffered a lower-body injury in the rookie game against the Islanders and was held out for precautionary reasons.
Morning group lines, pairings and goalies
Oskar Lindblom-Claude Giroux-Travis Konecny (more on that here)
Jori Lehtera-Valtteri Filppula-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Taylor Leier-Mikhail Vorobyev-Colin McDonald
Ivan Kosorenkov-German Rubtsov-Pascal Laberge/Anthony Salinitri
Ivan Provorov-Travis Sanheim
Sam Morin-Andrew MacDonald
Will O’Neill-Mark Alt
Maxim Lamarche-Mark Friedman
Afternoon group lines, pairings and goalies
Dale Weise-Sean Couturier-Jakub Voracek
Jordan Weal-Nolan Patrick-Wayne Simmonds
Michael Raffl-Scott Laughton-Matt Read
Connor Bunnaman-Phil Varone-Mike Vecchione
Carsen Twarynski/Tyrell Goulbourne-Radel Fazleev-Danick Martel
Robert Hagg-Shayne Gostisbehere
T.J. Brennan-Radko Gudas
Brandon Manning-Phil Myers
Frank Hora-Reece Wilcox/James de Haas