VOORHEES, N.J. — Fans made their way in droves to Flyers Training Center for Day 4 of the club's training camp.
A practice session featuring drills and special teams work gave way to an intrasquad scrimmage.
The Flyers offered the first glimpse of their power play groups. On the top unit was Claude Giroux, Sean Couturier, James van Riemsdyk, Travis Konecny and Keith Yandle. The second unit was composed of Ivan Provorov, Ryan Ellis, Joel Farabee, Cam Atkinson and Derick Brassard, while Morgan Frost rotated reps with Brassard.
In the scrimmage, Team Orange beat Team Black, 4-3. Maksim Sushko, Tyson Foerster, Provorov and Elliot Desnoyers provided the goals for Team Orange, while Team Black was led by markers from Max Willman, German Rubtsov and Cam York.
Followed by an off day Monday, the Flyers will host the Islanders in their preseason opener Tuesday (7 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
Let's get into three observations from Sunday's practice and scrimmage.
New buds on the top pair
So much of the Flyers' 2021-22 season — and whether it's a rebound year — will rely heavily on the club's new top defensive pair in Ellis and Provorov.
The duo will eat up minutes and play in all situations for the Flyers, who were ravaged by instability on their back end last season. The Flyers tried to replace the retired Matt Niskanen by committee and the plan didn't go well. Just about everyone played alongside Provorov and the Flyers ended up surrendering an NHL-worst 3.52 goals per game.
General manager Chuck Fletcher wasted no time landing Provorov's new top-pair partner. His first move of an acquisition-filled offseason was trading for Ellis before the expansion draft, entry draft and free agency period.
Head coach Alain Vigneault called Ellis "a pro" who "does it the right way." There's a reason why the 30-year-old grew up with and stayed on the Predators for 10 seasons, a span in which he played 74 playoff games.
"He's got a lot of those same qualities as Niskanen as far as just that steadying presence, no moment really seems to be too big for him," van Riemsdyk said Thursday. "He just comes in, goes about his business and is super effective with how he approaches the game and how he plays the game. A really efficient player. I think he's going to be a big part of what we're doing and we're definitely happy to have him."
So far, so good with Ellis and Provorov. They've shown natural chemistry through four days of camp. They were good in the scrimmage, especially during a lengthy possession that led to Sushko's goal.
"It's been great," Ellis said Sunday. "We're trying to get to know each other on and off the ice as much as possible. Honestly, I'm just kind of following him around, working out together, riding the bike together, obviously skating together. I just want to get to know him as a person and a player as much as possible before Game 1. I think that chemistry goes a long way. When you're friends and buddies off the ice, it promotes good things on the ice."
They seem like two players that will push each other with their work ethics.
"Provy's a beast in the gym, so I kind of just follow him around. I just want to get as big as Provy and do my thing with him," Ellis said with a laugh. "He loves the game. I didn't think anyone loved it more than I did, but he's right up there. He's always here early, we both get here at the same time. We kind of just follow each other around and trying to do our best to get know each other."
The 2020 kids wingin' it
A pair of wingers from the Flyers' 2020 draft class scored modus operandi goals.
Foerster, the Flyers' 2020 first-round pick, scored his goal on a power play one-timer from the slot. He has an NHL shot at 19 years old and has been the Flyers' best prospect over the span of the development, rookie and main training camps.
"I was telling Chuck, I don't want to say surprised because surprised is not the right word, but I remember him from last year when he came around Christmas with our group and I saw him skate," Vigneault said. "And I'm looking at him now, there's definite improvement in his skating, definite improvement in his puck protection and he loves to shoot the puck. That's a great quality to have, especially when you have that release.
"He's a young player, but we're going to give him a look, he's definitely going to get out there in exhibition there and see what he can prove and show what he can do for us."
Desnoyers, the Flyers' 2020 fifth-round pick, willed his way to a goal by being physical with Frost in a puck battle and getting to the net. The 19-year-old likes to score "willpower goals." The Flyers are high on him.
"Just a real impressive kid, he's one of those kids you talk to, he’ll sit and talk hockey to you all day long," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said earlier this month. "He's down there, he's talking to the veteran guys, he's learning every day. His work ethic and determination are off the charts."
'Saw the kid grow up a little bit'
New backup goalie Martin Jones had been on the West Coast for the first eight years of his NHL career before he signed with the Flyers this offseason.
The 31-year-old has a connection to goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh from their days in the Kings' organization. He also has a connection to defenseman Justin Braun from their days with the Sharks. The two went to the 2016 Stanley Cup Final together in San Jose.
Turns out, Vigneault has a connection to Jones, too. Jones' dad Harvey Jones has worked in arena operations for the Canucks since 1994. Vigneault was head coach of the Canucks from 2006 to 2013.
"Jonesy, him and his dad and me go real far back," Vigneault said. "His dad was in charge of the rink when I was in Vancouver, so I was with him for seven years, saw the kid grow up a little bit, more in junior hockey there."
Jones, who has 60 career playoff starts, signed a one-year, $2 million deal with the Flyers.
"He's spending a lot of time, he's spending a lot of time right now with Dilly off the ice and on the ice to get his game where he believes he can get it to and we believe he can get it to," Vigneault said. "Good young man, he's got real good energy and I think he's going to be real fine for us."
Jones and the Flyers believe the netminder can be much better than what transpired over the past two seasons in San Jose, where the Sharks quickly went from a perennial playoff team to a bottom-four club in the league.
"You watch the highlights, some of the goals that were going in, no one's going to stop it — backdoor tap-ins, stuff like that," Braun said Saturday. "It's kind of the guys playing in front of him were kind of leaving him out to dry a bit more than he had been dealing with in the past. Good reset for him to come here and hopefully he gets rolling."
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