Ivan Kosorenkov

2017 Flyers training camp: 5 sleepers to watch

2017 Flyers training camp: 5 sleepers to watch

Flyers hockey is back … well, sort of.

The rookie game and media day gave way to the official commencement of 2017 Flyers training camp on Friday in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Which means roster spots and jobs are to be won from now until the season opener Oct. 4 in San Jose, California.

Prior to opening night, the Flyers must submit a roster of no more than 23 players. We know a lot of the obvious candidates in line for openings.

However, let's take a look at five sleepers:

1. Taylor Leier, No. 58
Somewhat of a forgotten man in the Flyers' growing forwards competition, Leier was an AHL All-Star last season after a career-high 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 71 games the year prior with Lehigh Valley. He now has 16 NHL games under his belt and even saw a brief stint on the Flyers' top line in 2016-17, when he appeared in 10 games. The 2012 fourth-round pick is only 23 years old and re-signed on a one-year deal in the offseason. He'll be a winger option for the Flyers when camp breaks and throughout the season.

2. Travis Sanheim, No. 57
Not an unknown as he's arguably the Flyers' top defensive prospect, but Sanheim appears destined to start the 2017-18 season with the Phantoms. There looks to be two slots open on the Flyers' blue line and the early favorites to fill them are Sam Morin and Robert Hagg, both of whom made their NHL debuts last April. The two have a combined five years of AHL experience, while Sanheim is coming off his first season in Lehigh Valley. Still, the 21-year-old is not far off and should give both a legit run for their money. "I'm coming to camp to make the team," Sanheim confidently said in July.

3. Ivan Kosorenkov, No. 89
Obviously, Kosorenkov is not making the big club in camp, but he is fighting for an entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent. The 19-year-old Russian winger earned a training camp invite (the Flyers' only one) after opening eyes at development camp with his quick skates and hands. He also played well in the rookie game. The more you see him, the more you wonder how he went undrafted this summer. The Flyers obviously want to see more of him. This isn't quite a Phil Myers situation, but it's similar in the sense that the Flyers are hoping they have something here in another undrafted FA.

4. Cole Bardreau, No. 42
The injury-stricken Bardreau will not be lacking any motivation. He missed training camp last year because of abdominal surgery and also suffered a litany of injuries while at Cornell, including cervical fractures in his neck. The 24-year-old forward owns four years of college experience and two at the AHL level. He'll have his work cut out for him in training camp against the likes of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Mike Vecchione, among others, but he'll be in the running now healthy.

5. Scott Laughton, No. 21
How can a 2012 first-round pick be a sleeper? Considering many thought Laughton could have been in Vegas at this time of the year, the 23-year-old is in a real prove-it point of his career with the Flyers. The organization somewhat surprisingly protected him in the June expansion draft and now he's just fighting for a roster spot among a busy group of forwards. Despite Laughton's playing only two games with the Flyers last season, general manager Ron Hextall was pleased with the prospect's progress at Lehigh Valley. "Scotty had a terrific year," Hextall said in July. "He improved a lot, his focus and his professionalism. Quite honestly, I think Scotty really grew up last year. So Scott is certainly going to be given an opportunity to make the hockey club."

Russian prospects Mikhail Vorobyev, Ivan Kosorenkov show their skills in Flyers rookie game

Russian prospects Mikhail Vorobyev, Ivan Kosorenkov show their skills in Flyers rookie game

Fans flocked to the Wells Fargo Center to check out Nolan Patrick and the organization’s stocked pantry of defensemen.

And yet, it was a pair of Russians who seemed to generate the most buzz during Wednesday night’s rookie game that saw the Flyers lose to the Islanders, 4-3, in overtime (see observations).

The pairing of center Mikhail Vorobyev and right winger Ivan Kosorenkov displayed a unique chemistry on a line with Carsen Twarynski. Vorobyev led all Flyers rookies with a pair of assists, including one play in which he spotted a pinching Travis Sanheim on a backdoor cut.

“Even on my goal there, Vorobyev, his vision to be able to find me backdoor,” Sanheim said. “I thought that was pretty good on him, and I thought all night they were both working hard and creating quite a bit.”

Vorobyev displayed an ability to hold the puck on his stick and wait for plays to develop, whereas other young centers might not have the patience to wait for a lane to open up. Selected 104th overall in the 2015 draft, Vorobyev signed his entry-level deal back in April and will report to the Phantoms when the season begins.

“You can see his skill level — he’s going to make some plays,” Phantoms head coach Scott Gordon said after serving as head coach for this game. “He’s a big body, especially up the middle to have a guy with that size and skill, he’s going to be a nice option for us.” 

Kosorenkov, who is slightly smaller than Vorobyev, has learned to speak understandable English. He came to the Flyers during the team’s development camp back in July after he went undrafted playing one season for Victoriaville in the QMJHL, and was invited back for the team’s rookie camp. Watching Kosorenkov Wednesday, he’s built like a mini version of Blues superstar Vladimir Tarasenko, with a burst of speed once the puck is on his stick and an ability to protect the puck in traffic, an element he’s been working on.

“We learned this thing in development camp, protecting the puck in the corners and battling every day,” Kosorenkov said. “I really worked on that this summer in camps. I think I improved in this area. I know it's very important for the NHL game and the North American game.”

Kosorenkov is hoping he has shown enough throughout development and rookie camp to earn his own entry-level deal, and spending more time in the U.S. will only prove beneficial for both players. 

“Obviously it’s going to be a little harder for them, they don’t speak English that much," defenseman Sam Morin said. "When they get past this language barrier, it’s going to be so much easier for them. I understood them a little bit when I came here, but their skills are unreal. It’s impressive. All those guys are good with the puck.”

News and notes
• One word to describe Nolan Patrick’s first game in a Flyers sweater would be steady. The second overall pick in the June draft felt no pain three months removed from core muscle surgery.

“I felt great until that last play in overtime,” Patrick said. “I ran out of gas going in on the offensive and then trying to get a backcheck. Other than that, I thought I played a good game for my first game since March.”

• Defenseman Phil Myers left the game with a lower-body injury and did not return for precautionary reasons. It’s not known when Myers sustained the injury, but it forced the Flyers to play with five defensemen, where fatigue and a lack of familiarity clearly played a part in third-period breakdowns.

“Our D was pushed to the limits, especially when we were stuck in the zone so much they couldn’t get their gaps,” Gordon said. “I think that’s something where you’re playing an exhibition game, there hasn’t been a lot of system work, so you’re going to get guys who are a little bit off the page.”

• John Stevens, the son of the former Flyers coach (2006-09) with the same name, scored the Islanders' first goal that tied the game at 1-1.  

“Yeah, it was pretty special. I grew up going to games here my whole life pretty much,” Stevens said. “A lot of people in the building are the same people that are here when I was growing up. So it is a pretty cool experience.”

Undrafted winger Ivan Kosorenkov to attend Flyers rookie training camp

Undrafted winger Ivan Kosorenkov to attend Flyers rookie training camp

The Flyers stress that development camp is not for evaluation.

However, in a way it was when it came to undrafted prospect Ivan Kosorenkov.

The Russian winger has earned a rookie training camp invite, according to Flyers general manager Ron Hextall on Tuesday, after opening eyes over the six-day development camp earlier this month. Kosorenkov's agent, Paul Theofanous, confirmed to CSNPhilly.com that the 19-year-old will attend.

The 6-foot, 181-pound Kosorenkov went unselected in the seven-round entry draft last month, despite an impressive junior season with the Victoriaville Tigres of the QMJHL. Kosorenkov put up 34 goals and 29 assists for 63 points and a plus-11 rating over 68 regular-season games.

He attended development camp as an invitee and impressed with his quick hands and skates during 1-on-1 drills and the 3-on-3 competition.

"Certainly a kid who could have got drafted but didn't," Hextall said two weeks ago. "There's a lot of bubble guys. There were a few guys in the seventh round we would have liked to pick. 

"I wish the draft was 10 rounds, 12 rounds, personally."

The Flyers have done a strong job in their homework on undrafted players, such as defenseman Phil Myers, who at 20 years old will be fighting for a roster spot this fall (see story).

Rookie camp is in September and leads into in the Flyers' full training camp. Dates have yet to be announced for either of the two.