This is my first blog. Last week I spent 3 days over at the Flyers practice rink to watch some of their mini camp. I just needed a hockey fix in mid July and this was perfect. I spent Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday over there. Wednesday and Thursday were all drills and your typical hockey practice. Friday was a scrimmage between the two groups. New Flyers asst coach Joey Mullen was joined on the ice by Phantoms coaches Craig Berube and Kjell Samuelson.
I kept my eyes on a couple players I was interested in seeing. I am a big Ryan Parent fan. He has amazing skating ability. Very explosive stride. He seemed to always catch my eye as he did the drills just because he stood out with his overall ability.
I really wanted to get a good look at James vanReimsdyk, the Flyers first pick (2nd overall) this year. This kid kind of scares me. He is huge. He was easily one of the tallest players on the ice. The problem was that even though he was so tall, I had trouble finding him on the ice a lot because he didn't perform as well as I thought he would have. He is a nice player. He is a very good skater for his size and has a knack for the net, but for a number 2 overall pick, I thought he would be better. I'll be interested to see if there is improvement after this upcoming year when he plays at UNH.
Steve Downie was another one I tried to keep my eye on. There is a lot of talk about him having a legit shot at making the Flyers roster this year. He was just coming off shoulder surgery so he did not play in the scrimmage Friday. I did get a good look at him Wednesday and Thursday. It seemed to me that he did not give it his all in every drill. I realize it was only a mini camp in July, but it was tough to get an accurate report on him. Some drills he looked fantastic. He showed explosive moves and had great speed. Other drills you could clearly see him dogging it. You could just tell he wasn't going at his top speed. I'll be interested to see him again come September when the real practices begin.
The one thing that scares me is that the Flyers do not seem to have an up and coming young goalie who could serve as a descent backup if Biron or Niitty would happen to go down for a significant amount of time this season. Martin Houle and Scott Munroe were the 2 main Phantoms goalies last season. Both are nice goalies, but neither ever showed consistency. Houle started out strong last season but played far below average after being sent back down. Houle's size is something that will plague him his whole career. Whenever he goes into the butterfly, he leaves the entire upper part of the net open. Munroe is what he is. He has size, but is shaky in his movements, especially going from side to side. The other goalies at this year's mini camp did not look any better than Houle or Munroe. Rejean Beauchemin looked great in the drills. He did not fair too well in the scrimmage. He played some games for the Phantoms last season, but a hand injury early in the season eventually fueled him being sent to the ECHL. The other 4 goalies, (Phillips, Duchesne, Dupont, and Kovar) are clearly not ready to take over for Houle and Munroe in the AHL. No need to get too nervous right now. Houle, Munroe, and Beauchemin are all descent AHL goalies and should be ok this season with the Phantoms.
Other than that the week was a great time. Would deff recommend it for everyone next summer. Its a good chance to see some of the younger players in a relaxed atmosphere in the middle of summer. You just couldn't ask for much more, except for maybe to see Briere and the rest of the big boys out there with them. Guess that will have to wait until September. The countdown has begun.