NEWARK, N.J. – It’s that time of the hockey year when teams basically out of playoff contention start bringing up prospects to see how they handle the size, strength and speed of the NHL.
Count the Flyers in that mix.
For Saturday night’s game at the New Jersey Devils, the team called up center/left wing Elliot Desnoyers from the Lehigh Valley Phantoms for his NHL debut.
Officially, the promotion came because left wing James van Riemsdyk was scratched. Coach John Tortorella said JVR was “banged up.”
But with Friday’s NHL trade deadline rapidly approaching, it’s pretty much a given JVR will be moved, so take that injury news with a large grain of salt.
Desnoyers, a fifth-round (135th overall) pick in the 2020 NHL Entry Draft, has enjoyed a strong season with the Flyers’ AHL affiliate. In 48 games he’s registered 19 goals/36 points with a plus-9.
Prior to the game at the Prudential Center, Tortorella said he would play the Quebec, Canada native at center between Scott Laughton and rookie Olle Lycksell.
Desnoyers and Lycksell were frequent linemates on the Phantoms.
On Friday night, Desnoyers was watching the Flyers-Montreal Canadiens game when his phone rang. On the line was Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere with some good news about the promotion.
“He called me, it was a good moment,” Desnoyers said. “He just wished me luck. He said I worked hard, keep playing the same way I did down there.”
Desnoyers’ parents quickly started a 13-hour drive from Canada to make it to “The Rock” to watch their son’s historic moment.
“They were actually at my brother’s (Caleb) Canada games,” the 5-foot-11, 183-pound Desnoyers related. “They started driving last night at 2 a.m. Long drive. My mom’s always emotional. I was hoping they would get here. I’m happy about it.”
Desnoyers admits he wasn’t completely surprised to get the call. He’s been playing well and some people have been paying attention.
Has he played better than expected?
“I’m not trying to put any expectations on my season,” he said. “I’m just trying to play my game. Be hard in everything I do.”
Tortorella confessed he doesn’t know that much about Desnoyers but has heard only good things.
“He played really well down there,” Tortorella said. “Chases things around. Plays the right way. He’s been one of the best all-around players. I’ve had interest in a little while here to see him and anxious to see him play. I know he’s excited.”
Desnoyers could be the first of a number of young players the coach get to see. The Flyers started the night eight points out of a playoff spot with just 22 games to play.
“I don’t know how many we will get to see,” the coach said. “But he’s one of them that we’ve wanted to look at. And he deserves it, too. I don’t remember him in camp. . .there were so many (players) in camp. I was just starting. I’m just anxious to see him play because I’ve had so many good reports on him.”
Tortorella believes Desnoyers can bring an infusion of energy to a team which has lacked spark of late.
“I think when you bring youth in, they bring energy,” Tortorella said. “Just talking to him, his personality, that’s what he brings. So hopefully he drags people along.”
>Seeler wants to stay a Flyer
Defenseman Nick Seeler is one of several Flyers veterans who could be moved on or before the trade deadline.
Contending teams have noticed Seeler’s stellar play.
That said, Seeler said he would like to remain a Flyers for the duration of his contract, which runs through next year.
“I want to be here, I love it here,” he said. “Love the organization, the team. I want to be a Flyer.”
Can trade rumors be a distraction and, if so, how does one prevent it from affecting someone’s play?
“I think it’s just controlling what you can,” Seeler said. “Especially this time of year. Prepare the same way and go about your business. You can’t control what happens. You just need to continue to play your game.”
It’s always nice for a player to hear he’s wanted. Seeler’s been at this for a number of years and it has to give his pride a little boost to hear other general managers are interest in his services.
“I don’t read into that stuff too much,” he said. “It’s nice to have interest in you. But at the end of the day you’re a Flyer. I want to be here.”
Whenever Tortorella has a defensemen who is struggling, he pairs him with Seeler and “Mr. Fix-It” seems to get the job done.
He’s come a long way from taking a year off from hockey a few years back.
“It’s been great,” he said. “A few years ago, not playing a year, then ultimately here we are. It’s a combination of a lot of things: Hard work, people supporting me and having the right fit.”
Tortorella has complete faith in this player.
“He’s just a good pro,’’ Tortorella said. “Simple, straight-ahead player. He saves the day sometimes, he stays at home and makes big plays at key times. He’s a glue guy. You know what you’re going to get from him every night. He’s shown tremendous improvement throughout the year.”