The 2009 edition of Labor Day in the United States marks the day that the Flyers’ rookies and prospects converge on Vorhees, New Jersey’s VirtuaHealth Flyers SkateZone to kick-off the 2009 Philadelphia Flyers Rookie Camp. With questions aplenty concerning the 2009-2010 Flyers roster, this year’s camp certainly has many implications with the big club. With that being said, I am going to break the camp down for our readers, dividing the in-depth look into three main topics (I will highlight one or two players in each) (1)Who will turn heads at Rookie Camp? (2) Which Rooks are happy just happy to be in Orange and Black for the week? And, of course the question everyone wants to know: (3) Who out of this group has an immediate shot at being a Flyer?
Who will be a surprise and turn heads at the 2009 Philadelphia Flyers Rookie Camp?
Nicola Riopel, Goaltender I’ve been high on Riopel since he was selected as such a late pick in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (5th round, 142nd overall pick). A mere twenty years old entering this year’s camp, Riopel has a ton of raw talent between the pipes, and should impress a lot of players and Flyers brass in attendance. Coming out of Moncton of the QMJHL (Former Junior hockey home to NHL Hall of Famer Patrick Roy), Riopel had an outstanding season last year as a member of the Wildcats. Riopel had 43 wins between the pipes last season, as well as posting a .930 save percentage and a record-setting 2.01 goals against average, with all totals ranking in the “Q’s” top five. On top of his performance as a Moncton Wildcat, Riopel was awarded two distinguished honors from the league. With his league-record goals against average of 2.01, Riopel was awarded the Jacques Plante Memorial Trophy, which is awarded to the goaltender who posts the lowest goals-against in the league. On top of the Plante Memorial Trophy, Riopel also garnered a much bigger honor: the Michel Briere Memorial Trophy as the QMJHL’s 2008-2009 League MVP. Of all the goaltenders in camp, Riopel will be one of the netminders with less pressure on him, as the Flyers’ brass simply don’t expect him to be a professional hockey player at this point and time in his career. That being said, I am not saying he is going to shock the world and make the Adirondack Phantoms this season, but he will definitely challenge for a spot on the Flyers’ AHL affiliate.
Which rookie is just happy to be in Orange and Black for the Week?
Ryan Dingle, Left Wing Dingle, who’s name is relatively unknown amongst many Flyers fans, perhaps is best associated to the Orange and Black as the “other name” in the block-buster Chris Pronger trade. Dingle, who spent last season with the Iowa Chops of the AHL, who serve as the primary affiliate of the Anaheim Ducks, will likely spend this entire season as a member of the Adirondack Phantoms. The good news on the left winger is that he is only a mere 25 years old, meaning that a year or two in the Flyers system may result in a trip to The City of Brotherly Love. On the other hand, however, Dingle bares a strong resemblance to a player who many Phantoms fans will be familiar with, because, well, he spent basically his entire career inside the Spectrum while the big club was across the street: John Slaney. Although Slaney did see some time with the big club, he was utilized far better by the Phantoms than with the Flyers. Dingle looks to have that type of persona early on in his Flyers career. Dingle will be one of the most seasoned players at camp as far as professional hockey is concerned, but that by no means distinguishes him as the most talented. Don’t get me wrong, Dingle is not a bad player – at all – he’s just not on the Flyers’ radar as far as a roster spot is concerned this year. He may be a player who sees some time in Orange and Black this season if, god forbid, the Flyers lose some players to injury, but don’t count on a Flyers appearance for Dingle consisting of anything more than that.
Who out of this group has an immediate shot at being a Flyer?
Andreas Nodl, Right Wing Nodl, who enjoyed a few stints with the Flyers last year, appears to be one of the favorites to crack the line-up full time in ’09-’10. Last season, Nodl split time between the Flyers and Phantoms, suiting up in over thirty games for each club. In 38 games with the big club, Nodl scored once and tallied three assists for four points. Although those numbers are by no means over-powering, they are respectable for what role Nodl played on the team during his stint: a valuable third and fourth line checking winger. His time with the Phantoms brought a different style of play to Nodl, as he was counted on to be more of a scorer, and had a solid year, scoring six goals and adding 14 assists for 20 points in 39 games. The fact that makes Nodl so appealing is that he has shown he can play at the NHL level already, and certainly would be a good complement as a winger on the third or fourth line. Also, already having NHL experience under his belt puts Nodl in a rare minority amongst his competitors at camp. The right winger will likely use that confidence to have a strong camp and make an even stronger push to becoming a full-time member of the Orange and Black this season.
James vanRiemsdyk, Left Wing Would I really go an entire post about the Flyers’ rookies and top prospects and not mention the #2 overall pick in the 2007 NHL Entry Draft? Please. JVR’s time will come, and obviously he will appear on the Flyers’ line-up card at one point or another this season. As to when that time will, in fact, come – I am still on the fence. When Mike Knuble left the Flyers on the first day of free-agency, it opened up a huge hole in the Flyers line-up for a power forward-esque player to fill. On day one of free-agency, I strongly believed that hole was JVR’s. But this day, as Rookie Camp opens and Training Camp is on the horizon, I don’t believe that hole will be filled by JVR, at least not yet. vanRiemsdyk is a very talented player, and could be the most skilled individual at the Rookie Camp, but judging by how Flyers General Manager Paul Holmgren has treated the situation of JVR’s Flyer call-up, I would not be surprised to see the top prospect spend a majority of the season in the Adirondacks, before getting his shot with the Flyers later on. Of course, this is all speculation, and JVR could just as easily crack the Flyers’ line-up on opening night. The more realistic possibilty at this juncture, however, is having vanRiemsdyk take a half a season honing his skills at the professional level with the Phantoms, before coming to the bright lights of Philadelphia. JVR has an immense amount of experience everywhere but at the professional level, competing in multiple international hockey events as a member of Team USA, and even completing two very successful seasons with the University of New Hampshire Wildcats. Last year was JVR’s first taste of the pro’s, and he performed fairly well, tallying a goal and an assist in seven games with the Phantoms. However, Holmgren still believes JVR has yet to fill out his large body size (he stands at 6’3”, but lacks muscle at 200 lbs), and his thought process is not indicating a movement to the Flyers for vanRiemsdyk at the beginning of this season. Nonetheless, the possibilities with JVR are endless, and with the young power forward only 20 years of age, it appears the Flyers are waiting till the steak is as tender as possible before releasing it to the wolves.
Overall, this should be a very interesting Training Camp. You can view the full list of invites, courtesy of Chuck Gormley, here. The Flyers will close down camp with what has become a traditional scrimmage against the Washington Capitals Rookies and Prospects at the end of this week.