LAKE PLACID, N.Y. -- On Thursday afternoon, the Flyers’ training camp roster shrunk to 27.
Gone was rookie Sam Morin, the defenseman selected 11th overall at last June’s draft that impressed so many coaches and fans after just a couple preseason games. Tye McGinn, the forward whose name was on the short list of players expected to have a real shot at making it on to the team, was sent away, too.
But after all of the 32 cuts made before the Flyers arrived in Lake Placid, 26-year-old center Chris VandeVelde, who was signed to a minor-league contract last week, still remained.
Even VandeVelde himself was a bit taken aback when he learned he’d be staying with the team for the next leg of camp.
“You’re always surprised a little bit,” he said. “But I’ve worked hard over the offseason. I gave myself a fair shot. I played pretty good in two preseason games and I’m here, so it’s good.”
Coach Peter Laviolette, it turns out, liked a lot of what he saw from the 6-foot-2, 190-pound grinder.
“I thought the scrimmage, the first scrimmage, I really liked him,” Laviolette said. “I thought he did a lot of good things in practice. He moves well, he skates well. He has some experience in the NHL. He serves different roles here. We're going to continue to look at him."
He did look strong in that game, spending a fair amount of time on the penalty kill, but VandeVelde has largely struggled at the NHL level. Since being drafted in the fourth round by the Edmonton Oilers in 2005, VandeVelde has played in just 28 NHL games -- and has only registered three points.
Though he was never able to fit in with the Oilers, even last year when the team was thin at center, VandeVelde considers the NHL experience he does have to be helpful, and possibly something that can help him as he competes for a roster spot.
“It was very valuable,” he said. “And hopefully I can carry it over here.”
Assistant general manager Ron Hextall is responsible for bringing VandeVelde onto the Flyers’ radar. His son, Brett, played hockey with VandeVelde at the University of North Dakota, and it was Ron Hextall who finally got in touch with VandeVelde earlier this summer, after his three-year deal with Edmonton expired and he became an unrestricted free agent.
VandeVelde says he could see himself fitting in on the Flyers as a third- or fourth-liner, and he hopes to continue to show the team’s coaches he’d make a reliable role player. He said he aims to show the coaches he is “skating hard and working hard,” and that he can “be consistent and reliable and outwork [his] opponent.”
“I think I’ve done that thus far,” he said.
The issue, of course, is that he struggled to do so while in Edmonton. In the 11 games in which he suited up in 2013, he was on the ice for four even-strength goals against. On the penalty kill, things were even worse -- in only about 11 minutes of ice time, VandeVelde was around for three opponents’ goals.
All that said, sometimes a change of scenery is all a player needs to be successful. And VandeVelde believes he has an understanding of what it takes to flourish with the Flyers.
“I know what they like,” he said. “It’s a pretty blue-collar team. They like hard work, and that’s what I’ll do.”