VOORHEES, N.J. – The list of candidates for the seventh Flyers defenseman’s job looks rather substantial.
It carries a little extra weight because that player most likely will be first in line should one of the top six go down due to injury.
Some believe Russian backliner Egor Zamula could have the inside track on the position provided he’s fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery.
Zamula, 23, got into 14 Flyers games last season, posting no goals and four assists with a minus-4. For a player his age, he made relatively few mistakes.
He had actually played in a dozen NHL games spread out over two seasons before that, so technically he’s no longer considered a rookie.
So far, the shoulder hasn’t been a problem.
“I am already cleared and I’m ready to go tomorrow,” he said after Thursday’s practice session at the Flyers Training Center. “It’s not a tough rehab but it’s long. That’s why I stayed here this summer. Every surgery is tough but right away I thought it was the perfect time to get bigger. I put on 20 pounds this summer.”
So now he weighs 200 pounds and those fit nicely on his 6-foot-3 frame.
Making it through coach John Tortorella’s skating sessions and battle drills hasn’t been easy but Zamula has done it.
“It’s a hard camp, the hardest one in my life,” said the Chelyabinsk, Russia native, who signed with the Flyers as a free agent in 2018. “It’s good to have a coach like ‘Torts.’ He’s pretty tough. It’s good for young guys.”
Zamula learned a lot from fellow Russian Ivan Provorov, who was traded in the summer and landed with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“I worked all (this past) summer to get stronger,” Zamula said. “That was my biggest problem the last two years.”
Tortorella likes what he sees of Zamula but cautions him that nothing is written in ink on the lineup sheet just yet.
“He doesn’t have a job to lose, he has a job to try to win,” Tortorella said. “But he’s going to get a look. We’re very interested in him. He’ll get his opportunity.”
The coach confirmed Zamula is ready for full contact.
“When camp opened, we weren’t sure when he was going to be able to have contact,” Tortorella said. “But he’s been really good. He’s way ahead of schedule.”
>Atkinson ready to go
After missing Monday night’s game and Wednesday morning’s practice due to some soreness from last weekend’s heavy skating drills, right wing Cam Atkinson was back on the ice Thursday morning looking pretty upbeat.
Later he said he’s fine and the two scratches had nothing to do with last year’s back operation which caused him to miss all of the 2022-23 season.
“I’m going to play preseason games,” he insisted. “It has nothing to do with the injuries I had last year. They were just kind of tough practices, a lot of volume skating. Sometimes I need a little bit more rest.
“I felt great today, just keep grinding away today.”
Atkinson, 34, said once he got cleared four months after surgery, it wasn’t even an afterthought.
“I was practicing in the summer and guys were hitting me,” he said. “But (last weekend) there was a lot of skating and my legs were kind of tired. But I feel good.”
Atkinson’s teammate, Sean Couturier, said after Monday’s game at New Jersey he was trying to shake off the rust after missing a season and a half due to a pair of back surgeries.
“The first couple of games are tough no matter what,” Atkinson noted. “Just because of the amount of skating you do. It’s almost like you’re one and done. You’re on the ice for 10 seconds and you’re almost like you have nothing left in the tank.
“It will be nice to get a couple preseason games out of the way. I’m sure I’ll be playing in one of the next couple coming up.”
Tortorella said he was impressed with the play of former second-round draft pick Samu Tuomaala in Wednesday night’s 2-1 loss at the Islanders. “I watched him last night (at the Islanders)come out of a corner with the puck and just explode out of there,” Tortorella said. “I don’t know much about him. I watched the explosiveness, I just think he’s had a good camp. He’s been noticed. I would like to play him in more of a top six role. I’ve been impressed with his camp.”