Connor Bunnaman, arguably the Flyers’ biggest surprise in training camp, didn’t seem intimidated in his NHL debut.
The sturdy 6-foot-3, 214-pounder centered an effective fourth line that produced what turned out to be the winning goal in a season-opening 4-3 victory Friday over Chicago in Prague.
“It means everything,” Bunnaman, 21, said about being on the opening-night roster and contributing. ”Obviously it’s a little different experience than what I thought was going to happen, but it’s a cool experience and a once-in-a-lifetime thing.”
Bunnaman played 11 minutes, 6 seconds and was plus-1, centering Michael Raffl, who scored the winning goal, and Tyler Pitlick.
No one from his family was able to make the trip overseas, but they are expected to be at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday for the home opener against New Jersey and Wayne Simmonds.
“It would have been nice after the game to hug them and thank them and tell them how much I love them,” Bunnaman, an Ontario native whose speed has improved noticeably since last year, said of his NHL debut in Prague. “But hopefully when we have our next game in Philly, a bunch of my family and a bunch of my friends are going to come, so it’ll be just as happy.”
Bunnaman, a fourth-round draft pick in 2016, scored 19 goals in 62 games for the AHL’s Phantoms last season.
Two years ago, Samuel Morin was on the Flyers’ season-opening road trip to the West Coast but never got into a game and went back to the Phantoms.
Now the Flyers’ seventh defenseman, Morin knows he might not play for a while at the start of this season, either.
“I have to work in practice and be in game shape, so when I get a call I’m ready to go,” he said the other day. “I think it’s the only thing I can control right now.”
Morin is healthy after missing almost all of last season with injuries, and he came on strong late in the preseason.
“I was happy with my camp,” he said. “My first two games in preseason, I was still adjusting, but I was really happy with the two last games, I think I stepped up. I was playing with [Phil Myers], and we have a real good chemistry together.”
Morin, 24, a first-round selection (11th overall) in 2013, was asked how difficult it will be to be game-ready if he is called upon after sitting out for a while.
“I’m in game shape right now. I worked hard in the summer,” the 6-7, 230-pound Morin said. “Right now, every time I’m touching the puck in practice, I pretend it’s a game situation and it’s real — and it’s not my teammates coming after me, it’s a real opponent that wants the puck.
"I need to be ready. If I get a game in, I’m not going to get too many chances. I need to be ready and play well. … I want to be in the lineup. I want a long NHL career. I don’t want to be a seventh D [man], that’s for sure.”