VOORHEES, N.J. — Flyers general manager Ron Hextall has said many times before that development camp is not for evaluation. Instead, it’s for prospects to learn how to be a pro.
What Hextall said the key teaching points are at camp include nutrition, recovery, stretching and weight lifting. Hextall preaches a player's character and that was no different Friday.
Proper workout techniques to the smallest details such as the proper way to lift weights and positioning are all part of the criteria taught at camp.
"Most of these kids work hard," Hextall said Friday during Day 1 of camp. "Some of them aren't working the right way. You've got to work hard, but you have to work smart too.
"If they're in bad shape now, it certainly doesn't help them, but we're certainly not here to evaluate. We're here to give them tools to go work and make themselves better."
One of the assets at Hextall's disposal is Slava Kouznetsov, the team's power skating coach who has helped Oskar Lindblom vastly improve his skating from his draft year.
With a few prospects that need to work on their skating — Matthew Strome and Connor Bunnaman, for example — Kouznetsov is a big influence among development coaches.
While Hextall said he's not evaluating skill at camp, he did say the Flyers will be judging a prospect's character. Part of that is not working on their strengths.
"If a kid is mishandling the puck out there but trying to do something properly rather than cheating," he said, "I would rather see them mishandle the puck because you're getting better. It's not what you should be doing. If a guy's going to his bad side and he's tripping, stumbling, falling, I'm OK with that. I'd rather that than him work on his strengths."
Hextall highlighted players' desires to correct discrepancies in their game in the summer rather than during the season because there's no pressure to win games.
With development camp, it gives the Flyers an opportunity to teach prospects little details that aren't taught at lower levels. Hextall pointed to power skating, specifically pivoting.
An example Hextall used was one of the groups of defensemen. Hextall said the younger blueliners looked awkward doing no-crossover pivots, especially compared to Travis Sanheim, who is in his fourth and final development camp.
"The first-year kids come in and they're like, 'Wow, this is new,'" Hextall said. "They've never been taught this. It's all the little things that we don't understand … these kids, we think they should know. They don't know. They haven't had that level of coaching yet.
"That's why development camps are so important. I wish we had them two or three times in the summer, but the rules are the rules."
Knowing the captain
As time goes on, we'll start to see more of Nolan Patrick's personality.
For months now, the 18-year-old has had to answer question after question regarding his injuries.
On Friday, he showed his NHL sense of humor. Patrick was asked if he had been introduced to any Flyers yet and mentioned how he's known Claude Giroux since he was 14 years old.
"At the Allstate All-Canadians game," Patrick said of where he met the Flyers' captain. "He was my coach for that. I was talking to him a few weeks ago just over text but I haven't seen him."
What kind of coach is Giroux?
"We lost, so …" Patrick said with a smile.
Ivan the … invitee
One of the more intriguing aspects of development camp is non-roster invitees — undrafted players in the junior ranks or college-bound. Think Mike Vecchione.
Vecchione was a camp invitee last summer and used it as an opportunity to impress the Flyers' brass. He eventually signed with the Flyers in late March as a heralded NCAA free agent out of Union College. Vecchione signed a two-year contract extension last weekend.
At 24 years old, he's the oldest attendee of this summer's development camp.
The Flyers have seven invitees in Voorhees this weekend — two forwards, four defensemen and a goaltender. Among the invitees is Ivan Kosorenkov.
Kosorenkov, 19, is a Russian right winger who plays for the Victoriaville Tigres (QMJHL) who went undrafted in last month's NHL draft. A teammate of Pascal Laberge, another Flyers prospect, Kosorenkov registered 34 goals and 63 points in 68 games last season.
"Certainly a kid who could have got drafted but didn't," Hextall said of Kosorenkov. "There's a lot of bubble guys. There were a few guys in the seventh round we would have liked to pick.
"We moved the one pick, made one pick but there were a few guys on the board there we'd like to pick. I wish the draft was 10 rounds, 12 rounds, personally."
Not about to wing it
Patrick is regarded as a franchise center, a multifaceted playmaker up the middle that thrives on creating chances for others.
On Day 1 of development camp, he was asked about the possibility of playing wing.
Many centers transition into wingers or try both before reaching the NHL.
Patrick's ability makes him a different story.
To his credit, he didn't shoot down the idea.
"I played one period of wing in my whole career," he said. "If they wanted to put me on wing, I'd be fine with that. I’m not going to complain as a rookie if I made the team. I could adjust to that. Whatever they want me to do, I'd be happy."
So how'd that one period go?
"I got moved to center right after," Patrick said with a laugh.
Ratcliffe is a big boy
If you saw Isaac Ratcliffe's listed height and thought he was big, wait until you see him up close.
The 6-foot-6 on his bio does not do any justice.
When the Flyers plucked the winger in the second round of last month's draft, that aforementioned height caught everyone's attention.
And on Friday, many fans saw why. Here's Ratcliffe: