VOORHEES, N.J. — The Flyers opened up training camp Friday with 55 rookies and veterans divided between a morning group (28) and an afternoon group (27).
Forwards in morning group
Jordan Weal-Wayne Simmonds-Sean Couturier-Claude Giroux
Scott Laughton-Mikhail Vorobyev-Travis Konecny
Taylor Leier-Cole Bardreau-Corban Knight
Greg Carey-German Rubtsov-Carsen Twarynski
Connor Bunnaman-Pascal Laberge-Radel Fazleev-Isaac Ratcliffe
Player worth watching
Cole Bardreau, C/LW
The 25-year-old on Day 1 displayed the energy and tenacity required of a fourth-line center with quick bursts of speed, strong play along the boards and an ability to protect the puck. Despite his smaller 5-10 frame, Bardreau doesn’t back down from anyone, exchanging jabs with Travis Konecny and hard checks from Scott Laughton. In the final year of a two-way contract, this may be Bardreau’s final chance to crack the Flyers' roster.
Forwards in afternoon group
James van Riemsdyk-Nolan Patrick-Jakub Voracek
Oskar Lindblom-Jori Lehtera-Nicolas Aube-Kubel
Michael Raffl-Morgan Frost-Dale Weise
Tyrell Goulbourne-Colin McDonald-Phil Varone
Matthew Strome-Danick Martel-Mike Vecchione-Maksim Sushko
Player worth watching
Phil Varone, LW
Whether the 27-year-old has a legitimate shot to make the Flyers out of camp remains to be seen, but Varone has spurts on the ice in which his play stands out. One of those quick-twitch muscle players that a coaching staff looks for, Varone displayed an ability to win puck battles and build up a quick burst of speed in small spaces. The question for Varone, who scored 70 points in 74 games with the Phantoms last season, is can he play at a high pace consistently?
The initial belief was that Laughton would be the prime candidate for the third-line center position, but on the first day of camp he was on the left side of Mikhail Vorobyev and Konecny.
With Andrew MacDonald sidelined for the first two-plus weeks of the regular season, head coach Dave Hakstol is experimenting with his pairings, which included Ivan Provorov with right-handed, stay-at-home blueliner Christian Folin, who was the seventh defenseman on the roster when he signed a one-year contract this summer.
The line of JVR, Nolan Patrick and Jakub Voracek appears to be one Hakstol would like to start the season with and they’ll be together again on Sunday.
“It makes sense on paper," Hakstol said. "I liked what it looked like today and we’ll probably split them up as we go into exhibition games, but I wanted to see it right away. It takes time to build chemistry even if all the pieces seem to make sense all together."
Captain beefs up
Claude Giroux arrived to camp having packed on a few pounds of muscle through his off-ice workouts over the summer. The focus on gaining more strength isn’t a direct result of playing left winger where there’s a greater emphasis on winning board battles, but Giroux admitted it doesn’t hurt either.
“When you go in the summer, you kind of look at your game and see how you can come back as a better player," Giroux said. "I just wanted to get stronger and faster. I’ve been training with Tony Greco for about 13 years now, so we have a good relationship. It was a good summer.
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Couturier goes the distance
Despite initial indications that Sean Couturier may be held out of the latter half of practice as he recovers from a knee injury sustained in a charity event, the Flyers' center was only slightly limited during the first day of workouts. Couturier hasn’t been cleared for contact, but his biggest adjustment is the knee brace he’s been wearing that takes time adjusting to the feel and awkwardness.
“Obviously, I’m not going 100 percent in battles but I’m getting the feel for them and trying to get into a rhythm," he said. "I probably have another week of limiting myself."
Couturier doesn’t need much preseason action to get ready for the season opener. My belief is that Couturier plays in the final two preseason games — Sept. 27 vs. Rangers and Sept. 29 at Boston.
'Raising the bar'
This is the mantra of 2018 Flyers training camp as the orange and black look to build on last season’s 98-point campaign and earn a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in back-to-back seasons, which they haven’t done since 2010-12.