VOORHEES, N.J. – No doubt Egor Zamula was disappointed back in October when, after making the Flyers roster out of training camp, he was returned to the Phantoms after playing just six NHL games.
While he was recalled for two pairs of games across November and December, he went back to Lehigh Valley on Dec. 3 and has played there ever since.
To his credit, the young Russian defenseman kept his chin up and has held his own in Allentown. In fact, one could say he’s been a fairly integral part of LV’s somewhat unexpected run at a playoff spot.
According to Flyers coach John Tortorella, Zamula is one of those young prospects the team wants to take a look at for its future. That’s one of the reasons why he was recalled to the Flyers on Monday.
And due to an opening in the Phantoms’ schedule – they don’t play again until Sunday – Zamula is likely to be around for the rest of the week and see action in home games against Florida on Tuesday and Minnesota on Wednesday.
Tortorella suggested Zamula might return to the Phantoms by this weekend.
Zamula, 22, was signed as an undrafted free agent back on Sept. 20, 2018 and continues to show promise. Overall, he’s now played in 23 NHL games with a respectable minus-6 over three seasons in which the Flyers either missed (or are about to miss) the postseason.
“We want to see him play,” Tortorella said after Monday’s practice at the Flyers Training Center. “He’s someone we’ve been interested in. We feel he’s ready to be looked at.’’
Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere has had Zamula playing in all situations, including power play, penalty kill and late-game/close-game scenarios.
What are the expectations for him while he’s here?
“I just want him to play,” the coach reiterated. “We’ll see where we go. We’re concerned about that team (the Phantoms) down there. He’ll get some games and probably go back Sunday.”
Tortorella indicated there might be a similar strategy with rookie right wing Tyson Foerster, who registered his first NHL goal in Saturday night’s 5-4 overtime loss to Carolina.
As for Zamula, he’s made strides since those earlier 11 games.
“He takes up a lot of space,’’ Tortorella said of Zamula, who stands 6-foot-3. “The thing that caught our eye was his ability to see the ice, make a play. I thought before we sent him back down it was a struggle for him at the speed of what the game was being played.
“Down there he’s played some really good hockey. He’s been involved in all of it. We’re going to bring him up and see where’s at with this pace.”
Tortorella didn’t disclose which defenseman Zamula will be paired with but veteran Nick Seeler seems like a likely candidate.
Zamula wants to make the most of this brief opportunity.
“I think I need to play my game,” he said. As for his early demotion, he admitted: “I know I need to be better. It (Lehigh Valley) was a good experience for me as a young player. I’ve been playing 27, 28 minutes a game.”
Defenseman Ivan Provorov, a fellow countryman, agreed with Tortorella that another stay at Lehigh Valley was probably in the player’s best interests.
“Sometimes you can tell if a player’s done developing or he still has a lot more potential,” Provorov said. “A lot more growth. I think that was the case with him. When you’re in that stage, it’s important to keep playing, to keep getting the minutes, to be put in those situations where you’re able to grow.
“When you have another Russian on the team, you’re automatically close. Obviously I’ve been trying to help him as much as I can, whether here or down there. I think he’s done a great job so far. Everyone’s road to the NHL is different. . .you just have to put your head down and work.”
>No progress for Laczynski
Center Tanner Laczynski has played in 26 games after coming off IR. He’s posted two goals/four points with an even plus-minus.
Tortorella said he isn’t satisfied with the center’s progress.
“I need to see more,” Tortorella said.
>Saturday’s loss has a plus
Even though everyone from the players to the coaches to the fans were upset with Saturday’s brutal overtime loss, Tortorella said there was at least one positive.
“There was plenty of upside to what we did in that game,” the coach said. That’s what we will concentrate on. I watched our group practice today, they practiced hard, they practiced with life.
“So many good things happened in the game (like coming back from a 3-1 deficit to take a 4-3 lead). I don’t know that we don’t come away with a win but a great learning experience. Those last few seconds, it gives me an opportunity to teach. There’s absolutely no negative thought in losing the game.”
>Maintenance day for Tippett
Owen Tippett got nicked up a bit in the Carolina game and was given a maintenance day off on Monday. But Tortorella expects him to play against the Panthers.