VOORHEES, N.J. – While the Flyers haven’t officially set their lines for next week’s season opener, early scrimmages indicate Joel Farabee should have a significant role on an upper unit.
Not many second-year players get to skate with talents such as Claude Giroux and Kevin Hayes.
But if coach Alain Vigneault decides to go with a threesome of Nolan Patrick centering Jake Voracek and James van Riemsdyk as a “third’’ line as he did on Wednesday, Farabee might very well be skating with some elite company.
Perhaps sensing an increased presence in the lineup, Farabee spent much of the offseason improving his size and strength. He added about eight pounds through weightlifting, etc.
“The first year gave me a good idea of where I needed to be for my second year,’’ said the 2018 first-round (18th overall) draft pick during a media Zoom call. “I spent a lot of time back at home (Cicero, N.Y., a suburb of Syracuse) working out, trying to build a lot of leg muscle and stuff like that.
“I think I put on close to seven or eight pounds since I finished in the bubble there (in Toronto). So I’m definitely feeling strong, feeling good and ready to get going here.’’
He said he finished the playoffs at about 177 pounds and now is up to 185.
Adding the weight was necessary for the puck battles in the corners and in front of the net.
“Playing in the NHL, the ‘D’ are big and stuff like that,’’ Farabee said. “I think more of it is just down low play, being able to shield guys off, protect the puck. Waiting for plays to open up.’’
Farabee, 20, spent one year at Boston University before turning pro. He played in 52 games for the Flyers (five for the Phantoms), posting eight goals, 21 points with a plus-six in NHL play.
That gave him enough experience to feel more sure of himself for what’s ahead.
“It’s my second camp so I definitely feel a lot more confident,’’ he said. “I know everybody around here, so I didn’t have to worry about figuring out where people are, so that’s a huge thing.
“I think for a lot of guys that come in for their first year, they don’t really know what is going on. But I’m feeling confident about my game on the ice. I think last year, I feel like I got rid of the puck a lot when I didn’t have to. So just focusing on holding on to it, maybe waiting for a play to open up and stuff like that.’’
Vigneault has witnessed the change in Farabee’s physique. Last season, Farabee averaged just a shade over 14 minutes of ice time per game. A higher number could be in store due to the new size and strength.
“I have taken notice of that,’’ Vigneault said. “I have taken notice of his protection skills and his one-on-one battles where he has been involved. There’s no doubt that’s going to be beneficial to him.’’
With Vigneault, it’s all about earning trust and Farabee seems to have done that.
“He’s come here extremely prepared,’’ Vigneault said. “He’s got almost a full year of experience with him starting last year in the minors, getting called up and obviously the stoppage of play. He’s a good young player who’s in his learning curve. He hasn’t reached his full potential yet, but he’s working real hard. I do think that extra muscle is going to help him moving forward here.’’
Farabee wore number 49 for the Flyers last year but this season has decided to go back to the number he wore in youth hockey, 86.
“I kind of always had it in the back of my head that if I ever made the NHL I would love to eventually get back to 86,’’ he said. “It kind of worked out perfect. Nobody in this organization had that. I’m really excited to be wearing it. It’s my favorite number and I’m really happy to have it.’’
Toward the end of the season and in the playoffs, Farabee was generating scoring chances but couldn’t seem to finish on many of them. In the playoffs, he posted three goals in 12 games but some believe that number could have been higher.
Anything he can do to complete plays down low?
“Just little things,’’ he said. “I think that comes with the strength I’ve put on. Just trying to finish pucks. Goalies in the NHL are really good and being able to shoot on ‘Moose’ (Brian Elliott) and ‘Hartsy’ (Carter Hart) everyday, it definitely helps me. Hopefully that gives me a lot of confidence heading into the next season.’’