VOORHEES, N.J. — It’s not easy for a rookie to crack an NHL team’s lineup, even if that club is a virtual lock to finish in the bottom two or three in its division.
That said, defenseman Emil Andrae isn’t fazed by his uncertain chances of making the Flyers.
He knows a couple veterans (Ivan Provorov, Tony DeAngelo) were traded away during offseason so there could be an opening or two.
Plus, the Flyers can always use a backliner who knows how to play a physical brand of hockey.
After Saturday night’s rookie game against the New York Rangers at the PPL Center in Allentown, the 21-year-old Andrae discussed what he’s trying to accomplish in this six-day camp for young hopefuls.
“I was a little bit rusty, I started out slow, as the team did,” he admitted. “But I became better and better. First game under the belt.”
One thing the young Swede doesn’t lack is confidence. He finished up last year with the Flyers’ farm team, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, and the experience (10 regular-season and three playoff games) showed him he could play with the North American professionals.
“I know the guys on the team, I know the guys around the team,” he said. “With the smaller ice (surface), I got a feel for it. Now I’m trying to keep it up this year, too.
“I have to believe in myself the best I can. I’m just trying to come to work everyday, show my best and see what happens.”
Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere likes what he’s seen so far.
“He was great (in Saturday night’s game),” the coach said. “He moved the puck well. They (including partner Helge Grans) will take a hit to make a play. Andrae doesn’t change his style of play. They (opponents) go after him. They know he’s the best defenseman out there. I’m sure all his life he’s dealt with that. I was impressed last year and he’s even better this year.”
There’s no off switch in Andrae’s game.
“I think I see the ice very well,” he said. “I move the puck, I’m competitive. I like to give a hundred percent out there every game, every shift. I like to join the rush and be involved there, too.”
There seems to be a certain calmness to Andrae’s game. He doesn’t get rattled easily. Or rushed. This allows him to make some extraordinary plays to trigger the offense.
“I try to use my vision on the ice,” he explained. “So I try to do that the best I can to help the team.”
Last Thursday on the opening day of camp, he went into more detail about what makes his style successful and why he thinks he has a shot of making the Flyers.
“I’d be stupid if I don’t have the goal of playing in the NHL,” the 5-foot-9, 183-pound Andrae said. “I’m going to do as best as I can in training camp and try to prove to the coaches that I’m too good to play in the AHL.”
Andrae, a second-round pick (No. 54) in the 2020 NHL Draft, had 26 points (six goals, 20 assists) in 51 games with HV 71 in the Swedish Hockey League last season, then had six points (two goals, four assists) with the Phantoms.
“My body feels better, more powerful,” he said of the Phantoms experience. “More explosiveness. Those few games made me more prepared for it (North American hockey).”
As for smaller North American rinks he added: “I feel like I’m a pretty smart hockey player. I’ve tried to adjust the best I can. They aren’t that much different. I played a couple tournaments in some smaller rinks so I did know what to expect. But there were some adjustments in gap control.”
Andrae hails from the town of Vastervik, Sweden.