As the Flyers‘ prospects continued their development Tuesday, members of the big club continued to take the ice, a reminder that September training camp is not far off in the distance.
Among the group of Flyers was Ivan Provorov‘s new right-hand man.
We’ll get into that and more with five observations from Day 3 of development camp at Virtua Center Flyers Skate Zone in Voorhees, New Jersey.
‘He was really my savior’
Isaac Ratcliffe hardly had a chance to ever get his season off the ground in 2020-21.
During a New Year’s Eve skate at the practice facility ahead of January training camp, the 6-foot-6 winger landed on his side in a fluke play. Little did Ratcliffe know at the time that it would result in a collapsed lung and multiple surgeries.
His chance at the big club’s condensed training camp was gone. He was grateful for Flyers director of medical services Jim McCrossin.
“I kind of got through the rest of the day feeling OK. The rest of that night, it started to get a little worse and worse,” Ratcliffe said Tuesday. “I was in contact with Jim McCrossin the whole time and he was pretty much coaching me through what I needed to do, he was helping me out with everything that I needed. He was really my savior during that time. By that following morning, he was able to get me to the hospital. Spent the next two weeks there, got through a couple of tough surgeries and what I needed to do there.
“Once I came out of that, I felt healthy again. Got put on the COVID list again, another setback, but once I got back there, it was just trying to get back healthy again and I felt like I did that in a short-lived time.”
By the end of the coronavirus-impacted AHL season, Ratcliffe played in 22 of the Phantoms’ 32 games. He finished the season with an ankle injury.
Ratcliffe is champing at the bit for the opportunity to prove himself in training camp ahead of his third pro season. The 2017 second-round pick gained more muscle this offseason and said he’s up to 225 pounds.
“I’m the strongest I’ve ever been,” Ratcliffe said. ”I’m excited to get into camp here in a couple of weeks. Feel good this time and hopefully keep that feeling all the way throughout until the season and keep that going all the way through again.”
Ratcliffe scored 50 goals in his final junior hockey season, but at the pro level, there’s less time and space. Ratcliffe wants to show he can score by utilizing his size and taking contact. The 22-year-old has fallen under the radar, especially after the Flyers have used their top pick on wingers in three of the last four drafts. They selected Joel Farabee in 2018, Tyson Foerster in 2020 and Samu Tuomaala this summer.
Expected to open the season at Lehigh Valley, Ratcliffe shouldn’t be forgotten in the discussion of Flyers prospects.
“I feel ready, I’m ready to go, I’m ready to start this year in the NHL,” Ratcliffe said. ”Last year was definitely a tough year for me but I felt like I came a long way and I definitely learned a lot. This summer was a big one for me, too, I had to focus a lot on my mental strength, as well. Feeling a lot more confident coming into this year because that’s going to be a big part of my game — being able to play my size and being able to go into battles knowing that I’m going to come out on top.”
Keep tabs on Millman
Mason Millman is one of the fastest and slickest skaters in this summer’s development camp.
The 2019 fourth-round pick is a modern defenseman who likes to move the puck with pace. His development at the pro level could take some time as he adds strength, but he’s a potential sleeper in the Flyers’ system.
“I’m a big believer in chasing guys and not being ahead. So like in the gym, lifting with guys who are stronger than you,” Millman said. “So I lift with guys like Ratty and stuff — it really pushes me to kind of see where I need to be to try and get to that next step, knowing how close Ratty is and that he’s going to have a really good shot this year.
“From that and working out this summer and really pushing myself, I think I am going to have quite a bit more of an advantage this year in corners and in battles, for sure.”
Millman played 13 games for the Phantoms last season with the OHL campaign canceled because of COVID-19. This season will be his true first year at the pro level.
There’s going to be a lot of talk about Tuomaala needing to become an all-around player, more of a complete player to reach his potential at the NHL level. The 18-year-old Finnish winger has said he wants to improve his defensive game this season.
But he seems to have the defensive instincts and skill. During the 4-on-4 scrimmage time Tuesday, he cleanly stripped the opposition twice in succession and pushed the puck the other way with his touted speed.
“He’s a fun player to watch,” Mike O’Connell, the Flyers’ senior advisor to the general manager and player development, said. “Every time he gets on the ice, he kind of brings me out of my seat watching this kid go. Very enthusiastic. We just want to educate him as much as possible in a short period of time. He’s going to be a fun player to watch and fun player to watch develop. … We’re looking forward to having this young man in the organization for a long time.”
Wade Allison and Tanner Laczynski did not participate on the ice Tuesday. The Flyers are simply watching their workloads ahead of training camp.
Matthew Strome remained out. He was banged up on Day 1, suffering lacerations to his face.
Maksim Sushko hasn’t been on the ice for camp, which wraps up Wednesday with a 3-on-3 tournament.
Ellis in the building
The Flyers’ big offseason acquisition Ryan Ellis joined some of his new teammates for an on-ice workout Tuesday. He was among a group including Farabee, Travis Konecny, Samuel Morin and former Flyer Shayne Gostisbehere.
Flyers development coach Chris Stewart helped lead the group’s workout.
The righty-shot Ellis is expected to play on the Flyers’ top defensive pair with Provorov. He was understandably shocked when the Flyers traded for him in July after he had played 10 seasons in Nashville, but it looks like Ellis is starting to get settled in the Philadelphia area.
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