Flyers’ top forward prospects get ‘wake-up call’ in rookie games

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Flyers’ top forward prospects get ‘wake-up call’ in rookie games originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Ian Laperriere has had high praise for some of the Flyers’ top prospects in rookie training camp.

But he had no problem challenging them after a pair of quiet performances in front of the big club’s full brass.

With a 3-1 loss Saturday night, the Flyers were swept by the Rangers in two rookie games this weekend at PPL Center. On Friday night, the Flyers fell to New York, 4-2.

Tyson Foerster and Elliot Desnoyers, two prospects who earned games with the Flyers last season, were held scoreless both nights. They’re vying for the Flyers’ roster, hoping to play fewer games at PPL Center and more at the Wells Fargo Center for John Tortorella. Bobby Brink, another top forward with NHL games on his résumé, finished with an assist over the two defeats.

After Game 1, Laperriere chalked it up to some rust. He wasn’t as sympathetic after Game 2.

“Hopefully it’s a wake-up call for some of them,” the AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley head coach said. “At the end of the day, they want to make the big team, but they have to do a little bit more. Hopefully they’ll learn from those two games and be better.”

• Two rookie exhibition games aren’t going to define a player’s camp or ruin their chances. However, a team definitely wants to see its best prospects produce in this setting.

In Laperriere’s eyes, it wasn’t all about scoring. He just didn’t see enough, period, from his big names up front, particularly Foerster and Desnoyers, two of his best players last season. That’s why he was left feeling underwhelmed.

“Score sheet is one thing, but you want them to create something,” Laperriere said. “They might not score or get assists, but at least do something offensively. I didn’t see that in the first two preseason games. It’s a big camp for all of them. All the guys that played for us last year, it’s a huge camp for them and hopefully they can reflect tomorrow and be better when main camp starts.

“It’s the reality. I don’t want to be too harsh, but everybody needs them to raise their level a little bit.”

Foerster didn’t disagree. He believes this can serve as motivation for main camp.

“Oh, yeah, for sure,” he said. “I think me and Desy have a lot more to offer than what we showed. Give credit to the Rangers, they were shutting us down pretty good. But I think we have more and I think we’re going to show up, for sure.”

It’s not a terrible thing when your best prospects find some added fuel. The Flyers will hope that’s the overriding result of this year’s rookie games.

Ian Laperriere, Bobby Brink, Elliot Desnoyers
Ian Laperriere, Bobby Brink, Elliot Desnoyers

• Emil Andrae resembled a prospect that played big minutes in Sweden’s top pro league and shined on the 2022 world juniors stage.

The 21-year-old defenseman often had the puck on his stick and made good reads. He drew a penalty in the second period by using his body to shield the puck. He was composed under pressure and should have the chance to eventually help the Flyers exit their defensive zone at a better rate.

Andrae’s defensive partner was Helge Grans, who came to the Flyers’ organization in June as part of the three-team Ivan Provorov trade.

Also a 21-year-old Swede, Grans was aggressive at both ends. He’s 6-foot-3 and has long strides to cover ground.

Laperriere felt both blueliners played “great.”

“They both have a lot of poise with the puck,” he said. “They both will take a hit to make a play.

“Andrae doesn’t change his style of play because they go after him. They know he’s the best defenseman out there and he’s used to it. I’m sure all his life he has dealt with that. I was impressed last year and he’s the same player, even better right now.”

• Denver Barkey, the Flyers’ third-round pick from this summer, had a real positive weekend.

He has a knack for the puck and the Flyers love his motor.

The 18-year-old center picked up his second power play assist over the two rookie games when he found a streaking Zayde Wisdom in the second period. The goal drew the Flyers within 2-1 after they went into first intermission trailing by two.

“He looks so young, he looks like he’s 12 years old,” Laperriere said of Barkey. “But he’s a smart player, skates well.

“For his size, still young, but very poised with the puck and didn’t look too impressed about what was going on out there. He’s got a bright future.”

Wisdom stood out in both rookie games.

“Most of my summer was spent in Voorhees with the trainers,” the 2020 fourth-round pick said. “I was putting my head down, put the work in and now it’s time to cash out.”

• Carson Bjarnason, the Flyers’ 2023 second-round pick, played the full game in net and made 19 saves.

The Rangers’ third goal came on a breakaway late in the final stanza.

The Flyers traded into the second round to take Bjarnason, so they’re clearly high on his potential. The 18-year-old grew up a big fan of Carter Hart and likes to emulate his playing style. He has gotten to know the Flyers’ netminder recently.

“We got to hang out in the gym a little bit, went to the Phillies’ game the other day,” Bjarnason said Thursday. “Really great guy. Obviously he’s a role model of mine on the ice. Just watching him practice and stuff is going to translate to me hopefully.”

• On the injury front, prospect J.R. Avon will end up missing training camp because of a PCL sprain in his left knee. He suffered the injury just ahead of rookie camp. The 20-year-old forward has been cleared for rehab and is expected to be out approximately four to six weeks.

In September 2021, Avon turned a rookie camp invite with the Flyers into an entry-level contract.

During Saturday’s game, defenseman Matteo Mann left with an upper-body injury and was unable to return.

• The Flyers are off Sunday before they have two more days of rookie camp. John Tortorella’s training camp is expected to start Thursday.

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