VOORHEES, N.J. – Young NHL players often take a step back after their first season. That’s why they call it the sophomore slump.
Didn’t work that way for the Flyers’ Joel Farabee.
After notching a respectable nine goals in a split 52-game rookie season (due to the pandemic), Farabee came roaring back with a team-leading 20 goals in 55 games last season.
That performance didn’t just happen by luck. Farabee, now still just 21, worked hard at his game and there’s a good chance he can improve those numbers even more in a full 2021-22 campaign.
“A lot of guys take that step back,’’ Farabee acknowledged during a Saturday press briefing at the Flyers Training Center. “For me, I was put in a unique spot. . .my first season was kind of two seasons in a way because of that break. Hopefully I don’t take a step back. That’s not something I anticipate. It’s going to be a challenge this year for sure. A lot of new guys on the team so it’s going to be a challenge to find that chemistry early.’’
One area Farabee wants to work on is his compete level close to the net, including deflections, rebounds and chasing down loose pucks for passes to teammates.
“There’s always ways to get better,’’ he said. “Down low is an aspect I’m always trying to work on. Being a smaller guy, just trying to get bigger legs, things like that, be able to shield the puck and things like that. Playing with JVR (James van Riemsdyk) and ‘Frosty’ (Morgan Frost), I think we have some pretty good chemistry.’’
The Syracuse native signed a six-year, $30-million contract and that gives him a lot of security and peace of mind.
Even though the Flyers were basically a disappointing bunch last season, it didn’t seem to affect Farabee. Now things look brighter with stars such as Cam Atkinson and Ryan Ellis joining the roster.
“All of the additions in the offseason really helped the team,’’ Farabee said. “I’m excited. I think we have a bigger leadership presence. This camp is different than my first two camps. The guys came in and they were in a lot better shape. The test scores showed that.’’
Coach Alain Vigneault likes what he sees of Farabee so far in this training camp.
“I firmly believe we haven’t seen the best of Joel yet,’’ Vigneault said. “There’s obviously been a significant improvement in his game. A lot of that, for me, is due to two reasons. One, he’s an extremely hard worker. And two, in hockey an attribute that a player has to have is hockey sense. He’s got great hockey sense. That’s why he plays five-on-five, power play and kills penalties. The organization has shown a major confidence in him by signing him to his extension. We believe he’s going to be a good player for the Flyers for a long time.’’
>Ristolainen leads fitness testing
Vigneault said Rasmus Ristolainen’s fitness tests basically topped everyone on the team.
“The whole group is in tremendous shape,’’ Vigneault said. “Our most powerful player is Rasmus. We have him right now with Travis (Sanheim). I sense that could be a solid pair. Two big guys who can skate; we’ll have to see how it plays out.’’
>Laczynski sits out
Rookie Tanner Laczynski sat out Saturday’s training session with a hip issue. It’s not the one he had surgery on during the offseason. Vigneault isn’t sure of the severity of the problem but wants to play it safe with the young center.
>Lindblom in top shape
One day after reporting Oskar Lindblom’s health tests came back cancer-free, Vigneault said Lindblom’s recent fitness tests have returned to “pre-cancer’’ level.
That was exciting news to hear by all of Lindblom’s teammates.
“That’s a real positive sign,’’ Vigneault said. “My first year (2018-19), he’s back to that. We’re banking that we’re going to see is the Oskar pre-cancer.’’
>Big help for the Warriors
The Philadelphia Flyers Warriors team, which consists of former U.S. military vets, received a major sponsorship check on Saturday when Toyota wrote out a check for $35,000.
Head coach Brad Marsh expressed appreciation for that gesture. The team is getting ready to host the USA Warrior Classic in South Jersey on Nov. 5-7.
“Our goal is to practice and put ourselves in a position to compete,’’ said Marsh, mindful that the Philadelphia team won the 2019 Warrior Classic in Las Vegas. “Which is what leads us to this moment and this press conference. The Flyers bid and won the right to host this year’s Classic. Because the Classic was not held last year, we are the defending champions.’’
Marsh said Toyota has been on board since day one and shown unwavering support for the project.
Team president Bill Duffy also thanked Toyota. “Their support is what drives us to be a better team. This is a therapeutic thing for us, to be around like-minded individuals on and off the ice. We’ve grown from 36 players to now 73.’’