VOORHEES, N.J. — Things quickly picked up Friday at Flyers training camp.
The team went from not using pucks on Day 1 to scrimmaging on Day 2.
Head coach John Tortorella felt like the Flyers needed to see more game action in this year’s training camp for evaluation purposes. So the three groups in camp split up two scrimmages Friday. Two of the groups had one scrimmage and one practice, while the other group played in both scrimmages without a practice.
Let’s get into three observations from Day 2 at Flyers Training Center.
Sanheim’s different summers
Last year, Travis Sanheim didn’t have the season he or many expected. A 6-foot-3 defenseman with plenty of offensive ability, Sanheim put up only 23 points in 81 games and had a minus-5 rating. This came a year after he had won the Flyers’ most outstanding defenseman award and was named the team’s most improved player, which led to an eight-year contract extension on the day of the regular-season opener.
Perhaps the struggles could have been, in part, because of an injury he suffered in the summer prior to the season. On Friday, Sanheim revealed that he fractured his foot in late May playing for Canada at the 2022 IIHF Ice Hockey World Championship. Sanheim recovered in time for Flyers training camp and the season, but his offseason training was impeded.
“I got it healed up, but I mean, you go to worlds and you come back, you’re already into June and then you’ve got to take six weeks off because you fractured your foot,” Sanheim said. “It affects your summer training, but I’m not going to sit here and say that it affected my season.”
The 27-year-old started the season without a point in his first nine games and without a goal in his first 17. He seemed to fight his confidence from January to end of the season.
This offseason, Sanheim decided against playing in the world championship.
“I thought it was best this year to try to have a good summer,” he said. “With how the year went, I wanted to come back and be ready to go. I had a really good summer, I’m eager to get going and I’m excited.”
That doesn’t mean his offseason was uneventful.
As trade buzz picked up in late June before the NHL draft, Sanheim’s name was reportedly included in discussions between the Flyers and Blues. Kevin Hayes ended up going to St. Louis and Sanheim stayed put as a bigger trade reportedly never got to the finish line. Four days later, Sanheim’s eight-year, $50 million extension went into effect, a deal that has a no-trade clause.
Was he aware of the trade reports?
“I didn’t see anything,” Sanheim said with a laugh.
He did. But Sanheim said there are no hard feelings and that he had good conversations with Tortorella, president of hockey operations Keith Jones and general manager Danny Briere before training camp.
“There was probably a week there I guess where there was lots going on and I was on my phone pretty well every day. It sucks,” Sanheim said. “It’s not a position you want to be in, but it’s a business and I understand it, I understand where the team’s at. In saying that, I’m here today. There’s a reason I signed here for eight years, I want to be in Philadelphia. I’m excited, I like the group that we have. Now it’s kind of up to me. I’m excited, I had a really good summer.”
After a rebuilding offseason, the Flyers no longer have Ivan Provorov (trade), Tony DeAngelo (buyout) or Justin Braun (retirement) on defense. Tortorella called the Flyers’ training camp “a land of opportunity.”
“I’m hoping to hit the ground running this season,” Sanheim said. “Not be waiting for anything. Obviously there’s going to be more opportunity. … I want to try to grab that and kind of run with it.”
Andrae impresses Torts
Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr expected Tortorella to like prospect Emil Andrae.
The 21-year-old Swedish defenseman definitely has the head coach’s attention.
Andrae set up a Zayde Wisdom goal in one of the scrimmages with a pair of strong plays.
The 5-foot-9 blueliner plays with a composed and competitive makeup after developing as a big-minute guy in the SHL, Sweden’s top pro league. Tortorella saw Andrae’s strengths during one sequence Friday.
“I don’t want to get too carried away that we’re going to make our decisions based on scrimmages, but you do see guys in game-time situations,” Tortorella said. “I watched him today. Either he gets run over or he runs someone over, the puck’s loose. A guy that maybe doesn’t see the ice as well or isn’t as aware would just throw the puck up the wall. He ends up with the puck, if he throws it up the wall, it’s probably a turnover and we’re starting again in that corner. … [Instead], he makes a nice little play to the middle and we’re out. I’ve just noticed that with him.”
Tortorella wants the Flyers to be younger on the back end. Andrae is a candidate to augment that initiative.
“He’s got a nice presence about himself, I think he sees the ice and I think he has got some jam to him, too,” Tortorella said. “We’ll play it out, he’s going to get a lot of exhibition games. He’ll push. He’s going to push people as far as that position is concerned.”
Cam York, who is getting a shot to be on the left side of the Flyers’ top defensive pair, has liked Andrae’s game so far.
“He seems like a really good kid,” the 22-year-old said. “Smooth skater, plays well, I feel like we have some similar attributes. I’m excited to watch him some more and hopefully get to know him a little bit better.”
Battles on the wing
Tyson Foerster scored a goal right off the bat in the first scrimmage and delivered a hit on Travis Konecny.
“I love that stuff, because I would have done the exact same thing,” Konecny said. “It’s a guy trying to make the team, so fair game out there.”
During the second scrimmage, Foerster had an injury scare after taking a spill into the back boards. He skated off the ice hunched over and appearing to favor his right shoulder. After consultation with the trainers, he was able to return to the action.
Foerster was on a line with Noah Cates and Scott Laughton. The 21-year-old winger is trying to win a job and a spot in the Flyers’ season-opening lineup. He had an impressive eight-game audition with the big club last season.
“When Tys came up last year, it was eye-opening,” Konecny said. “Like, ‘Oh, wow, we have a stud here that is just coming up.'”
If Foerster is to make the Flyers’ lineup for the Oct. 12 regular-season opener, he might have to beat out Wade Allison.
“Ally, he’s in a dogfight,” Tortorella said. “Just do the math. And I think he knows that. I hope he accepts the challenge and see where it goes.”
Allison, who turns 26 years old next month, played 60 games last season. When healthy, he can play a highly effective bottom-six role and provide secondary scoring. He plays hard and can shoot the puck. The exhibition games will be important for him.
“I think Ally has improved. I think he has improved even before he gets on the ice,” Tortorella said. “I think he’s more businesslike, at least that’s what he looks like to me. That’s something I wanted him to really work on. You need to have fun, but when you come into the building, it’s time to work, too. So I think he has made tremendous improvements there. I think his game improved. So it’s not so much winning me over, but he has got to keep on progressing. He just has to remember who he is.”
• Konecny, Sean Couturier and Owen Tippett skated on a line together. Tortorella wants to look at Tippett on the left wing because the Flyers are thin there compared to the right wing.
Couturier is a full-go in camp, looking to return from two back surgeries. He hasn’t played a regular-season game since December 2021. Konecny, who knows Couturier well, said the 30-year-old center “looks great.”
“I mean, it’s Coots,” Konecny said. “He’s always steady, so you don’t really see many dips in his game. He just plays the right way.”
• Bobby Brink had a goal and an assist in the first scrimmage, a good showing after a pair of so-so rookie game performances.
• Nicolas Deslauriers scored the only two goals in the second scrimmage. He was on what looked like the Flyers’ projected fourth line with Ryan Poehling and Garnet Hathaway.