VOORHEES – Either Mikhail Vorobyev impressed the Flyers with an improved work ethic in his 32-game return to the Phantoms or the Flyers’ season is beyond hope and it’s time to take a look at the young guys in the system.
Maybe it’s a little bit of both.
The talented 22-year-old Russian center was called up from the Phantoms on Sunday and veteran Dale Weise, who cleared waivers last week, was assigned to Allentown.
Vorobyev was perhaps the biggest surprise coming out of training camp in September and made the opening night roster.
At the beginning of a seven-game trial, Vorobyev was impressive. He scored in the second game of the season, at Colorado, and appeared to be comfortable at the NHL level.
But his performances took a big drop after that.
There were whispers that his work ethic was not where it should be.
That was then – including a past GM (Ron Hextall) and a past coach (Dave Hakstol) – and this is now (Chuck Fletcher, Scott Gordon respectively).
Vorobyev is well familiar with Gordon from when the two were together with the Phantoms. He knows what’s expected of him now.
“I know what he (Gordon) wants from players on the ice,’’ Vorobyev said. “If he says I’m going to the net, I’m going to the net. I’m going to do everything he says.’’
The Flyers are keeping an open mind about this. If Vorobyev plays well, he could finish the season here. If he doesn’t, it could be a ticket to go back to Allentown.
For now, though, let’s not spoil the occasion.
“I was so happy (to get the word),’’ he said. “It’s another opportunity for me. I want to stay in the NHL for all my career.’’
During his stay with the Phantoms, Vorobyev had six goals, 22 points and a plus-3.
“I started to move my feet much more,’’ he explained. “I made some simple plays in the defensive zone, no turnovers. I want to help for everything. . .penalty kill, power play, whatever.’’
About that work ethic rumor?
“I tried to work hard every game,’’ he said. “No matter where I play – AHL, NHL.’’
Gordon sounds like Vorobyev can make the best of this second chance, if he sticks to the game plan.
“He’s got a real passion to play the game,’’ Gordon said. “The first half of the year (last year) was an adjustment for him (from Russia). . .the smaller ice surface, the importance of supporting the puck.
“As the season went on, prior to an injury in March, I thought he was one of our best forwards. What made him one of the best forwards is his ability to make plays, read the play. He’s a great passer, he’s got great vision. That’s what I saw in training camp this year and I think that got away from him as he stopped playing as much as he did throughout training camp.’’
Can he turn it around again?
“It’s a slow process to get it back but by all accounts he has,’’ Gordon said.
The coach says it’s not about work ethic.
“I think he just gets into a habit of not skating,’’ Gordon said. “I don’t think that’s work ethic, I think that’s just a habit. Because I’ve seen him work as hard as anyone in our practices.
“It’s not about his work ethic, it’s about how to work and where to work.’’
Players such as Jake Voracek and Robert Hagg were impressed by what they saw in Vorobyev’s brief October tryout.
“Very smart player,’’ Voracek said. “One of the best backhand (shots) I’ve seen from a player. Real intelligent with the puck, can read the play very well.
“The speed of the game, obviously you have to adjust to it. Maybe that half year (in Allentown) helped him. We’ll see what he’s going to bring this time.’’
Vorobyev figures to start on the fourth line for Monday night’s home game against Winnipeg, taking over Jori Lehtera’s spot on a unit with Phil Varone and Michael Raffl.
“He (Vorobyev) brings a lot of skill,’’ Hagg said. “He’s so good with his stick in passing. It’s ridiculous. He adds a lot of skill to this team.’’