Rookies Stand Strong As Flyers Try To Heal

5 Dec

VOORHEES, N.J. — With all the change that happened in the offseason, the Flyers weren’t supposed to have this kind of offensive output. Then they got slammed with injuries, which made it even less likely they would be proficient in goal scoring. Yet here they are, leading the league with 88 goals.

A big part of it has been the contributions of rookies. There are seven of them on the active roster while the Flyers try to heal a few injured players. Danny Briere, Andrej Meszaros and Brayden Schenn all had maintenance days on Monday and will rejoin the team on Tuesday. Chris Pronger’s status remains the same and James van Riemsdyk is “possible,” according to Paul Holmgren, to play on Wednesday against Buffalo.

In their places, the Flyers have gotten some help from a few young players. The seven rookies have accounted for 17 goals, or 19 percent of the Flyers’ total offensive output.

“My first year in Anaheim we had seven rookies too and we finished the season in the conference finals,” said Ilya Bryzgalov who is impressed with his young teammates. “The next year we won the Stanley Cup. I think we have a pretty good group of young guys here too. It reminds me of the team in Anaheim too and I expect the same thing, same result.”

Part of what makes life easier for the rookies is that there is a bunch of them, not just one which can be a little intimidating.

“It would be tougher if they were only one guy and you’re pushing them on the side,” said Jaromir Jagr, “but because we have so many of them, and coach knows how important it is for them to play in tough situations on the ice, the penalty killing, last minutes on the ice, faceoff situation, that’s where you build your confidence.”

Injuries have forced rookies to contribute even more on the blue line. The Flyers have three defensemen currently on long-term injured reserve, but they’ve been lucky to get help from the Adirondack Phantoms, who play the same system.

“I mean, I think the last few years here we’ve been pretty fortunate with injuries and I’ll knock on wood but it’s just something that we have to deal with,” said Matt Carle. “It just shows the depth of the organization and we’ve had these two young guys come up, and even [Erik Gustafsson] when he was playing here and playing well. It’s been good to see the guys step in and play well and they know our systems. That’s what they’re doing down in the minors so when they come up here not too much changes for them.”

The effect that these seven players have had on the team has been tremendous, and something the coach is very pleased to have in his arsenal.

“They’re good kids. They’re not loud. They’re not cocky,” said Peter Laviolette. “They’ve come into the room and they’ve really fit in. I think everyone sees the value that they bring to the team. Like I said, their roles are different, completely different. Their roles are from A-to-Z in everything we’re asking them to do and they’re doing it really well.

“You’ve got to give them credit because young players look for opportunity but once they get the opportunity, they’re gonna try make the most of it and do the right things and do what’s asked of you and do it properly. Because they’ve done that, they continue to get those opportunities.”

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