Brian Zanetti was somewhat of a surprise selection when the Flyers took him in the fourth round (110th overall) of the NHL draft in July.
The 6-foot-2, 183-pound defenseman was ranked 149th among European skaters by NHL Central Scouting, but the Flyers liked what they saw when he played last season for Lugano’s Under-20 team in Switzerland, collecting nine goals and 29 points in 41 games.
Zanetti, 18, a left-hand shot, will play in North America for the first time this season with the Peterborough Petes of the Ontario Hockey League, and he impressed new Phantoms coach Ian Laperriere during the first day of rookie camp Thursday in Voorhees.
“He’s one of the kids who stood out for me today,” said Laperriere, who ran the 27-player camp.
Laperriere said Zanetti “picked up the details” he was trying to get across as he introduced the system to the young players.
Zanetti and all the rookies need to bulk up, get stronger, and work their way up the ranks. You can’t rush maturation, Laperriere said.
“A lot of these kids have been here for weeks, since development camp,” said Laperriere, who worked on neutral-zone play Thursday and plans to implement the organization’s forechecking system on Friday. “They’re skating, they’re in the gym and they train like a professional. You want them to become a professional, but you can’t just jump a step. They are here doing their work. They see the Claude Giroux’s of this world and how they train and they learn from it.
“It’s going to take time,” he added. “We don’t have a Connor McDavid who is going to take the step [this] year; it’s just normal for them to learn every day and that’s what it takes to become a pro.”
Zanetti said he will be like a sponge during camp and try to learn as much as possible from veteran players such as defenseman Ryan Ellis.
“It’s an amazing feeling being here with them,” he said, referring to gym workouts with the established NHL players. “They go 100 percent all the time.”
Zanetti said he was mildly surprised to be drafted where he was , “but I know it’s a long way to playing in the NHL. It’s a good start, but I have to keep working hard all the time.”
When he attended the Flyers’ recent development camp, Zanetti thought it would be a major adjustment getting used to the smaller North American rinks.
“But after two or three trainings and practices, I was getting better every time,” he said. “And now I’m used to playing here, so it’s not difficult.”
Yes, the speed of the game is faster in North America, he acknowledged, “but it’s hockey, so it doesn’t change [anything].”
Center Morgan Frost, who was 186 pounds at last year’s camp, has bulked up to 190 and added muscle. Frost noticeably stood out among the rookies.
“I’d do anything for that skill,” right winger Wade Allison cracked.
Frost had shoulder surgery in January.
“It had to be tough for him not to be playing, but he’s putting the work in and games are going to come fast,” Laperriere said. “So far, he looks great, he looks healthy, he looks excited. If he can become the player everyone thinks he can, it’s going to help the organization.”
Frost, 22, is expected to start the season in the AHL, but with a strong camp, that could change.
The Flyers’ morning skates this season will be held at the Wells Fargo Center instead of Voorhees. ... Winger Maksim Sushko, coming back after knee surgery, did not participate in the first day but skated after the session. ... Center Jon-Randall Avon, a camp invitee trying to earn a contract, said he was closely observing the impressive work ethic displayed by Kevin Hayes and Travis Konecny during workouts. ... The veterans worked out on one side Thursday, the rookies on the other. ... Former Flyer Mark Recchi is among the inductees who will go into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame on Nov. 4 at the Rivers Casino Event Center. ... Left winger Isaac Ratcliffe, who is listed at 6-6, 201 pounds and is coming off an injury-plagued season with the Phantoms, is back to full health. “If he can ever put everything together, he’s going to have a chance to play for the big club,” Laperriere said.