Bunnaman could be the wild card for vacant center spot

Connor Bunnaman

VOORHEES – Persistence can pay off, particularly in this Flyers training camp for someone not named Joel Farabee or Morgan Frost.

Those two former first-round draft picks could both make the opening night roster and no one would think twice about it.

But a fourth-round pick (2016) named Connor Bunnaman might just raise a few eyebrows if he’s on board the Flyers’ jet to Europe this Friday.

The 21-year-old center has impressed the Flyers coaching staff to the point where he could see action in Monday’s final preseason game against Lausanne in Switzerland.

And given the fact head coach Alain Vigneault announced on Wednesday that third-line center Nolan Patrick (upper-body injury) probably won’t be on the trip overseas, that only enhances Bunnaman’s chances of making the roster.

“Right now, because Nolan is not here, there might be a spot in the middle,’’ Vigneault said after Wednesday’s practice. “There are a couple decisions to be made.

“He’s got a big body (6-foot-3, 214 pounds). I spoke to (Phantoms coach) Scott (Gordon) and he got close to 20 games in the middle last year. Came to camp in great shape and has skated extremely well.’’

Bunnaman, who hails from Guelph, Ont., posted 19 goals and 32 points in 62 games last season.

“He impressed us right off the hop,’’ Vigneault said. “He got our attention. We’re going to try him in the middle tomorrow (vs. the Rangers) and see how he does.’’

Bunnaman knows this could be an opportunity to stick with the Flyers, especially if Patrick is out long-term.

He’s gratified to hear people like Vigneault and general manager Chuck Fletcher are bringing up his name during interviews.

“It just shows I’m doing well,’’ he said. “All my hard work is being paid off. Knowing your coach got your name in there, it’s kind of huge. It’s a confidence-booster for me.’’

Bunnaman doesn’t mind operating outside the spotlight.

“That’s kind of the way it’s been with me,’’ he said. “I’m not really the fastest guy. I just keep my head down and do my job.’’

Having a new coaching staff isn’t so bad either. It’s a clean slate for everybody.

“I haven’t been here that long,’’ he said. “But a new coach is a great thing.’’

What would it mean if he’s on the plane to Europe?

“It would be amazing,’’ Bunnaman said. “It’s going to be the memory of a lifetime. I hope I get on that trip.’’

>Myers could be odd-man out

In the battle for the sixth defenseman spot, Philippe Myers appears to have fallen a bit behind incumbent Robert Hagg, with rookie Sam Morin still in the mix.

“I’m not sure if we’re going to keep seven or eight,’’ Vigneault said. “Myers is not a shoo-in right now. I think he can play better than he has. I think he’s been a little bit nervous, wants to do a little too much on the ice.

“We’re spending a lot of time with him off the ice, showing him some areas where he could be a little bit more high-percentage. At the end of the day, he’s only played 20-some games. . .he’s a young guy and he’s only going to get better.’’

>Short shots

Carter Hart will start in goal for Thursday night’s game at the Rangers and play the full 60 minutes. . .Tyler Pitlick (wrist surgery) continued to intensify his workouts on Wednesday and said he hopes to be ready in time for the season-opening game in Prague vs. Chicago on Oct. 4.

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About Wayne Fish 2451 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.

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