Tortorella's purpose, roster spots, more in 5 Flyers camp storylines originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
John Tortorella's first Flyers training camp breaks out of the gate bright and early Thursday.
The head coach is ready to push his team and learn who is going to be a part of its initial attempt at turning around the franchise.
The Flyers are trying to get back up from a 25-46-11 season, which summoned Tortorella to Philadelphia in June.
"Rebuild, retool, whatever language is used," Tortorella said at his introductory press conference. "We’re attacking it."
The 2022 training camp roster and schedule can be found here.
Let's get into five storylines for camp.
Tortorella's training camps are pretty revered and maybe even feared.
A good fear, in the sense of players never quite know how grueling it is until they live it.
You can bet Tortorella is going to turn it up from Day 1 to set a standard early with his new group.
"I am going to coach that team hard right away," he said in June. "It’s going to be a very difficult camp, a high volume of skating. They will be told about this during the summer here as far as how we're going to approach this."
What makes Tortorella's camps so hard?
"The mental aspect of it, playing when you're tired," Cam Atkinson, who spent parts of six seasons with Tortorella in Columbus, said last week. "That's one of his big philosophies is playing when you're tired. That's huge.
"But just the amount of skating, that's another huge component. The legs feed the wolves. It's just taxing on your legs. It's not fun while you're doing it, but it's great when you kind of get over that hump and your legs start feeling great, especially in the third period of a close game."
Tortorella's system is predicated on constant pressure, which requires the legs to always be moving. It starts in camp and practice.
"It's meant to be tough," Atkinson said. "Just work hard. He wants to see who's going to quit and who's going to keep it going when times are not going your way."
Just how much are the Flyers hurting to open camp?
Right now, the club's 2022-23 outlook feels significantly bleaker with the injuries to Ryan Ellis (pelvic region) and Sean Couturier (back). Joel Farabee (neck) is also coming off of surgery he underwent in June.
We should get some clarity on the statuses of all three players. But there's a good chance the Flyers will open the regular season Oct. 13 without those three in their lineup. Farabee has a shot to be ready for the opener, but the Flyers have no need to rush him.
The absence of each player has a trickle-down effect on the lineup.
"Clearly getting guys back to full health and some young players improving has to be a big part of this," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said in June.
Center of attention
Tortorella will make players earn their roles, but it will be interesting to see how he builds his initial lineup/plugs holes from the injuries.
Couturier's absence likely signals Scott Laughton's move to center full-time. The 28-year-old Swiss army knife is valuable on the wing, but the Flyers need him down the middle. He projects to be the club's second- or third-line center.
Kevin Hayes will take on top-line responsibilities if Couturier is to miss a lot of time, while Morgan Frost should be poised for 3C work and potentially a look at 2C depending on how the offensive-minded pivot is playing early in the season.
Patrick Brown will round out the group at center on the fourth line.
The Couturier injury really highlights his importance to the Flyers and the club's lack of depth. For the 2020-21 season opener, Laughton was the Flyers' fourth-line center. Now, he's their second-line center.
The Flyers' situation is screaming with opportunity, ripe for young players to jump on it.
There's a new head coach and two new assistants to impress. The team lost 57 games last season and is dealing with injuries.
The Flyers are pleading for in-house answers.
And with Fletcher's decision to not spring for a top-six forward in the offseason, the club is clearly asking for youngsters to answer the bell.
"Fixing the defense was extremely important to us," the GM said July 13. "Up front, we have a lot of young players that we have to see if they can play."
Cates had an excellent 16-game audition at the end of last season after finishing his final year at Minnesota Duluth. He's the type of player coaches love and he can scale a lineup.
"I don't think I'll see him, I'll be honest with you," AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley head coach Ian Laperriere said Sunday. "He's fun to watch. I watched him on TV last year. But just to see him, the questions he asks, his edges on the ice — they're going to have tough decisions up here and he's going to be one of them because he's a hell of a player."
On defense, with the injury to Ellis, Cam York looks primed for full-time NHL duty alongside Justin Braun. The 21-year-old prospect is an important player to this Flyers regime and his strengths can address a team weakness.
"Cam York, to me, is a young man that's going to have a very bright future in this league, precisely because the attributes he brings are exactly what we need," Fletcher said at his end-of-the-season press conference May 3.
The Flyers are expected to have a new top defensive pair in Ivan Provorov and Tony DeAngelo.
Last season, Provorov and Ellis quickly built chemistry in training camp and through the first three games of the season.
The communication and relationship between top-pair defensemen are critical given those players are on the ice so much.
It will be worth watching how their styles of play complement each other. If Provorov and DeAngelo can click out of the chute, the Flyers should be much better.
"You don't win championships, you don't build a team without any personality," Tortorella said in July. "Tony's going to bring that and, plus, he's a hell of a player."
From a team defense perspective, the Flyers need to make life easier on Carter Hart.
“I think it’s the biggest job, the No. 1 job ahead of me with this team here, is that we have to play better in front of a 23-year-old goalie in Carter (now 24),” Tortorella said in July. “We’ve got to allow him to get himself situated in this league."
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