VOORHEES, N.J. — Mike Vecchione leaned up against a stick rack in the hallway outside the rookie locker room at Flyers Skate Zone.
No one but an occasional prospect passing through was in sight.
Unlike with some other rookies at training camp, there was no hoard of recorders and cameras surrounding him.
This is just how Vecchione likes it — little anticipation, all behind the scenes.
"I kind of like not having to be in the spotlight," Vecchione said last Saturday. "I just get to go out there, play my game and just keep my head down and work hard."
Nearly a month after the forward signed with the Flyers at the end of March as an attractive college free agent, the organization improbably landed the No. 2 overall pick in the June entry draft, meaning a bona-fide center was coming. Then, another month later, the Flyers expectedly inked rising winger prospect Oskar Lindblom to his entry-level deal.
Within 32 days, the Vecchione signing, his NHL debut, the buzz — much of it had fizzled. Suddenly, a 2017 Hobey Baker Award (top college player) finalist was in the background.
Sort of like his status at training camp, a scene overflowing with youth and hope for the future. Blue-line prospects are everywhere. Nolan Patrick, who just turned 19 years old, is being watched like a hawk. And Lindbolm, 21, is hard to miss with his long blonde hair while playing alongside Claude Giroux for parts of camp.
Still young and blooming at 24, Vecchione is now up against Patrick, Lindblom and others for a spot on the Flyers' roster. No guarantees, but that's a feeling he knows well.
"Obviously when they draft Nolan, it's going to be a little tougher, but it's nothing I haven't seen before," Vecchione said. "They're going to take whoever is the best fit for the team. Right now, I'm on the wing, so it's a little different perspective. But, yeah, that doesn't change my mindset, what I'm going to do. I'm going to go out there, work as hard as I can, show them that I can be a good piece to this team.
"I knew coming in it wasn't going to be easy, they didn't guarantee me anything and I knew I had to work for it, so, like I said, nothing new for me. I'm just looking forward to the challenge."
In fact, knowing beforehand the No. 2 pick would fall in the Flyers' lap wouldn't have changed much for Vecchione and his decision to sign here.
"No, I just had a good comfort level with the Flyers," he said. "It just felt like the best fit. When they got the No. 2 overall pick, it didn't change the way I felt about the organization, how I fit in here and how I could be a good asset to the team. Looking back in hindsight, I probably would have done the same thing. Right now, I'm still happy with it.
"Everything is about competition, competing out there, and that's what I've been trying to do my whole life. It's how I got here, so it fits me pretty well."
Looking at the counterparts in his current competition, Vecchione's résumé should remind many that he comes with a not-so-shabby track record himself. He is the all-time leading scorer in Union College history with 176 points and also ranks first in all-time assists with 105. After 63 points (29 goals, 34 assists) in 38 games his senior year — a single-season program record for scoring — Vecchione stood as the active career leader in the country.
"Nolan, what's he, 19? Oskar, 20, maybe 21? It's a lot of pressure put on the younger guys. For me, I'm 24," he said. "Yeah, I've [accomplished] all those things, but it's nice not to have all that — the media all over me, all the pressure on being the No. 2 overall pick or all the good things that you have to say about Oskar. They're two tremendous players, but you can't harp on them, put all that pressure on them — just let them go out there and play.
"But for me, I've done a lot of great things, I've been able to accomplish a lot. Yeah, I feel like I have a good pedigree, too."
Those achievements aren't as shiny when up against big names in an NHL training camp, but Vecchione, a 5-foot-10, 203-pounder, can look at them for motivation. It's a product of his work.
"It always seems to be that way," Vecchione said. "I think that work ethic, tenacity, all those things that I've had to overcome to get here has helped me a tremendous amount with maturity and mental toughness. Everything I've learned throughout my time playing hockey is you're going to have to work for everything you get and nothing is going to be given to you — hard work is going to get you a long way."
Flyers head coach Dave Hakstol sees it.
"He's a worker," Hakstol said last Saturday. "I think that's the one thing you're looking for out of everybody, obviously. There's an awful lot more to it than that as you progress through camp, but he's worked hard."
Vecchione, a restricted free agent inked to a two-year extension on Day 1 of free agency this summer, doesn't mind where he plays. He'll start the season with AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley if that's the case. He'll play winger instead of center if that's what the Flyers want.
Quite frankly, though, he doesn't care one iota about projections.
"I feel like I can put the puck in the net, make plays out there," Vecchione said. "In college, I started as a third, fourth-line guy, played center and I worked my way up.
"I feel like I have a good shot at being a top-six forward with Lehigh and maybe a bottom-six with Philly. It's all about how you perform up there and maybe you can work your way up. I've been taught to never put a ceiling on anything. The sky's the limit and I've broken a lot of ceilings that people put on me before."