The Flyers defense is going through a renaissance.
Rookies Sam Morin and Robert Hagg are favored to win spots with the team this year.
Highly promising Travis Sanheim, another rookie, is knocking on the NHL door and also trying to win a spot during the team’s training camp.
And the player with perhaps the biggest upside of all the young, talented defensemen, Phil Myers, has yet to play a professional season but is making major strides.
They will eventually grow together, along with current Flyers like Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere, and they have the potential to give the Orange and Black one of the league’s finest young defensive units.
Some, including former Calgary general manager Craig Button, who is now an analyst for TSN in Canada, think the 20-year-old Myers is a star in the making. Earlier this year, Button ranked him as the league’s 10th-best prospect not in the NHL. (He ranked Sanheim 29th.)
Myers, a 6-foot-5, 209 pounder, can be dominating in the defensive end, and he is a smooth skater who can create offense.
And did we mention he is righthanded, making him even more desirable?
A year ago, Myers was coming off left hip surgery and was just cleared to play in September when rookie camp began in Voorhees.
“I was catching my breath a little last year, and this year I’m a little more ready and my conditioning is a lot better,” he said.
Tuesday was Day 2 of the prospect camp, which culminates with a rookie game against the New York Islanders on Wednesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. Camp starts Friday for veterans.
Despite being thrust into veteran camp last year after he recovered from surgery, Myers gave a strong account of himself.
“I gained a lot of experience in those three preseason games that I got a chance to play in,” he said. “… I took a lot in this year; even in development camp [in July] I learned a lot of stuff and I’m going to try to apply it. Keep the game simple and play the way I can.
“Hockey’s a fun game and I’m just going to try and enjoy myself,” he added, “and hopefully push to make the team.”
Making the Flyers this year is a long shot. Myers had 10 goals and 35 points for his junior team in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League last season, a year in which his time was limited because of a concussion.
The defenseman appears ticketed for the AHL’s Phantoms and, if all goes as planned, he will have a great opportunity to play for the Flyers next season.
With the departures of Michael Del Zotto and Nick Schultz, the Flyers have two defensive spots open this season.
“Obviously, I’m aware of it. I try not to think about it too much,” Myers said. “I’m just going to try my best and whatever happens happens. Obviously, I’m here with the mind-set of making the team. I’m confident in my abilities to make the jump. Last year, I held my own in the preseason games and hopefully I’ll get a chance again to prove myself in the preseason games. I’m a lot more ready in terms of conditioning and I feel a lot stronger than last year.”
Coach Dave Hakstol has been impressed with Myers.
“He’s had a couple of pretty good days, which you would expect him to do in this camp setting,” he said. “He’s worked hard.”
Hakstol said Myers hasn’t overdone things on the ice and has been under control. “And I think that’s a sign of maturity,” the third-year coach said. “I like to see that. Sometimes as a defenseman, you have to defend hard and take what the game gives you with the puck, and offensively, and he’s done a pretty good job in that regard.”
Myers and the other rookies will be trying to make an impression in Wednesday’s rookie matchup.
“We’ll be looking for the maturity in their games,” Hakstol said.