VOORHEES, N.J. – Christian Folin played for Los Angeles Kings coach John Stevens last season and so he might already have a bit of a “psychic’’ connection to the Flyers.
Stevens once played for and more recently coached the Flyers, including a trip to the Eastern Conference finals in 2008.
The two men are what you might call “thinking man’s’’ defensemen, that is, what they lack in physical skills they make up for with a cerebral approach to the game.
Folin, who signed a one-year $600,000 free-agent contact during the offseason, could hold immediate value for the Flyers, who will be without veteran Andrew MacDonald (lower-body injury) for approximately the first month of the season.
The 27-year-old Folin, a native of Sweden, could open the season as the Flyers’ second-oldest defenseman behind only 28-year-old Radko Gudas.
Having played for Stevens, Folin should have a good sense of what it takes to play smart defense.
“I learned a lot from him,’’ the 6-3, 204-pound Folin disclosed after Saturday’s training camp session at the Skate Zone. “Actually from the first day, he sat down with me and told me what he wanted out of me, how he wanted me to play.
“So I have a really good relationship with him. I even sat down with him after the year, we went through what I did well and how I improved throughout the year. I think I took some really big steps under him last year, I think I developed into an all-around NHL defenseman.’’
Passing along that knowledge to young players like Travis Sanheim, Robert Hagg and Ivan Provorov would only seem like a natural.
“When I signed here, I knew they had a fairly young D-corps,’’ he said. “Even though I haven’t played that many NHL games (183), I’ve played a lot of important games.
“I feel confident I can help those guys be prepared for those games.’’
Folin came over from Sweden in 2010 to play a couple years of developmental hockey, then joined the University of Massachusetts-Lowell squad for a pair of seasons, which included a trip to the Frozen Four.
He had gone undrafted in his teens, so he wound up signing a free-agent contract with the Minnesota Wild in 2014. That tenure lasted parts of three seasons before signing a free-agent contract with the Kings last year.
“Some games last year I was even playing against the other team’s top line,’’ he said. “I was playing 20 minutes a night. I want to keep building off of that.’’
Funny thing was, just before the Wild signed Folin in 2014, one other team was seriously involved in securing his services.
That was the Flyers and general manager Ron Hextall.
“I was talking to him (Hextall), too, when I was leaving college,’’ Folin explained. “It was between him and Minnesota. So I think I kind of built a relationship with him there.
“So when I talked to him last summer, he said, ‘After four years now, you’re finally a Flyer.’ I laughed but it was pretty exciting, I wanted to be a part of this team and come to this city. I really look forward to playing here.’’
Just another reason why Folin seemed destined to become a Flyer.
The Flyers head back to the future on Sunday when they open their eight-game preseason schedule at the Nassau Coliseum on Sunday, 1 p.m., against the Islanders in Uniondale, N.Y.
This was the place where the Flyers and Islanders staged some epic battles over 40 years, most noteworthy Game 6 of the 1980 Stanley Cup finals, when the Flyers lost in overtime in the infamous Leon Stickle no-offside game.
The Islanders moved to Brooklyn’s Barclays Center a few years ago. In the meantime, the old barn on Long Island has been renovated and refurbished. The Isles will play some of their regular-season games here while they wait for their new barn next to Belmont Race Track to open in a couple years.
So it will be a nostalgic day to say the least, especially for veterans (depending on who plays) such as Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Wayne Simmonds and Sean Couturier, who played here for a number of years.
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