VOORHEES, N.J. – Since there isn’t too much to get excited about with the Flyers’ present, maybe a glimpse into the future will provide some holiday cheer.
Over the past few games, youngsters such as Cam York, Noah Cates, Morgan Frost and Owen Tippett have demonstrated a more confident dimension of their games.
All are 24 or younger and each has made a significant contribution in wins over New Jersey and Columbus.
In Tuesday night’s game against the Blue Jackets, Tippett had a pair of goals, Frost another and York tied a career-high for points in a game with two assists.
A big part of this progress goes to John Tortorella’s doctrine not to “over-coach’’ the kids but rather allow for mistakes of aggression and ultimately think about finishing plays.
After Wednesday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center, Tortorella said his philosophy of a steady rebuild plays into his thinking.
By putting the youngsters into key situations and having them succeed, it’s a winner all around.
“That’s how the process works,’’ Tortorella said. “There are some encouraging things as far as some of the spots they have been put in. I try to temper myself because I think there are potholes, too. You think some of them have it figured out but then you realize in a set of games they haven’t.
“With all the injuries, it force-feeded some guys in there. If not, maybe they wouldn’t have gotten all these minutes. We’re going to continue going with that.’’
If there’s a mistake committed here or there, so be it. It’s all part of the growing process.
“Mistakes are part of the game,’’ the coach offered. “We have a saying down there and I’m paraphrasing, ‘Don’t worry about the mistakes, just worry about the risk.’ Risk to me is situational play. I’ve been saying that a lot lately here. Because we have so much to learn.
“If you’re making mistakes, then you’re not treading water. You’re trying to make a difference. I want these guys to try to make a difference. And we’ll punch out the mistakes along the way.’’
York is a good example. Expected to make the opening night roster, the defenseman had a nondescript training camp and spent the first couple months with the Phantoms. But he learned a lot down there from coach Ian Laperriere and you can see the improvement now.
“It’s not the mistakes. . .York has come back up here and he’s tried to make a difference,’’ Tortorella said. “He just lay in the weeds throughout camp. I didn’t know who he was. That’s the biggest difference in his game and that’s what I’m looking for the kids to do.’’
York has picked up on that and looks like a completely different player than the one back in September.
That’s why he’s getting some treasured time on the power play.
“It definitely helps,’’ York said. “If you’re not being put in good situations, it’s tough to show confidence. Anytime you get thrown out there in key situations, it boosts your confidence for sure.’’
The latitude given by the coach brings out the best in York’s skill game.
“I feel like I have some freedom for sure,’’ he said. “I definitely don’t have a long leash with Torts – I have to be responsible to a degree but at the same time I can play my game and do what I do at the blue line.’’
Laperriere has played a part in the steps taken forward by York.
“That’s why I really like Lappy,’’ York said. “He gave me the freedom. Obviously you have to play in the structure. But he gave me the green light whenever I really wanted. It’s a huge boost of confidence.’’
Cates has already blossomed into what amounts to a first-line center. Things are going upward on his chart as well.
“A couple big games from Frosty, Tippett and York,’’ Cates said. “They’ve been huge for us. It’s a good trend for us, having the young guys step up and taking a bigger part in this team.’’
>Laughton comes in handy
Without a doubt, Scott Laughton is one of Tortorella’s favorite players, which is why he’s the only player wearing a letter (“A’’ for alternate captain). He can play virtually any of the four lines, kills penalties and has even gotten some power-play time when James van Riemsdyk was sidelined with a fractured finger.
“I can bounce him around the lineup,’’ Tortorella said. “I think he’s done a great job killing penalties, I use him on faceoffs. It’s so good for a coach to be able to use him as a wing, center, top six, grinding. . .
“I hold him in higher regard than a grinder. He brings so many intangibles so I consider him a very important part of the team. But if we struggle, I won’t hesitate to put him in the top six (forwards) to spark something. That’s what he is for me, he’s a guy I look for when it needs a jolt or to watch over something – help a guy, help a kid. He’s a huge part of the organization.’’
Backup goalie Felix Sandstrom took ill and did not make the trip to Toronto, where the Flyers will play the Maple Leafs on Thursday, 2 p.m. . .Laughton had a maintenance day off from practice.