NEW YORK – Undrafted because he was told he was too small to play in the NHL, Danick Martel defied the odds with his smarts, speed, and tenacity.
And while he was overcome with emotion when he made his NHL debut Wednesday night at the Barclays Center, the Flyers’ 5-foot-8, 162-pound left winger wasn’t overwhelmed.
He didn’t collect any points, but he made a favorable first impression in the Flyers’ 4-3 overtime loss to the New York Islanders
“There was a lot of emotion, for sure,” Martel, 22, said after the Flyers showed marked improvement from their previous game but suffered their sixth straight loss. “Hockey is a simple game and I wanted to keep it simple, play hard, and that’s what I did and had a couple of good scoring chances.”
Recalled from the AHL’s Phantoms earlier in the day, Martel was in the middle of several scoring chances that were created by his quickness.
“I think Danick added pace. That’s what he does,” coach Dave Hakstol said. “He has excellent speed; he’s got really good instincts on the offensive side, getting out of his zone and creating a little bit of pressure on the opposing D in transition.”
Playing on a second line that included Nolan Patrick and Wayne Simmonds, Martel fired six shots, including three on goal, and blocked four shots – and looked like the Flyers’ fastest player.
“If I got one or two more shots, I would have had a goal,” said Martel, whose parents and girlfriend attended the game. “I had a lot of chances in the slot, a breakaway. I battled well in front of the net.”
The Flyers (8-9-5), now 1-7 in games decided in overtime or a shootout, have a rematch with the Islanders (12-7-2) at 4 p.m. Friday at the Wells Fargo Center.
“We’ll see next game, if I stay and am still here,” Martel said in his thick French Canadian accent. “I’m pretty happy with my game” Wednesday.
Martel led the AHL with 14 goals in 17 games this season, prompting a promotion to a team that has had little offense except from its top line.
“I thought he played well,” Simmonds said. “He’s got a ton of speed.”
Defenseman Samuel Morin, also recalled from the Phantoms on Wednesday, made his season debut and was a physical presence — he exchanged words with several Islanders after some of his hits — but committed two penalties.
“They came in and both played a good game,” Simmonds said, referring to Morin and Martel, two of six rookies in the Flyers lineup Wednesday. “Ultimately, it’s Martel’s first game and Big Sam’s second [in his career], and it relies on the shoulders of the older guys. The young guys can come in and give us a spark, but the rest of the guys…just didn’t finish it.”
When defenseman Andrew MacDonald is ready to return to the lineup from a leg injury – perhaps as early as Friday – the Flyers will have to decide whether Morin stays with the team.
Breakaways. Josh Bailey got behind Shayne Gostisbehere and scored on his own rebound to give the Islanders the win 32 seconds into overtime. Gostisbehere is going through a rough defensive stretch. “He’s got to get back to where he was before he was out a few games with that injury,” Hakstol said. “He’ll get there. I’m confident of that.”…..The Flyers’ penalty kill has allowed seven goals, including two Wednesday, in opponents’ 13 chances over the last three games…..Despite surrendering four goals, Brian Elliott (35 saves) was probably the Flyers’ best player and was the person most responsible for getting the team a point…..Michael Raffl (42 games), who had several quality chances, and Taylor Leier (25) ended long goal-scoring droughts. Raffl, in fact, ended a 42-game pointless streak…Jordan Weal, who has one goal in his last 18 games, was dropped to the fourth line and played just eight minutes.