Good morning, folks. If you have hockey withdrawal — the season would normally be in its seventh week — hang in there. Training camp is around the corner. Maybe. The coronavirus will decide.
The virus has affected all hockey levels.
Many of the Flyers prospects slated to compete in one of Canada’s three major junior leagues, for instance, are not playing because their seasons have been delayed during the pandemic.
The Ontario Hockey League is tentatively set to start Feb. 4 — more than four months later than usual — and the Western Hockey League plans to open Jan. 8. The Quebec Major Junior Hockey League started in October, but many teams had to stop playing because of coronavirus outbreaks.
But don’t call this a lost season for the prospects.
In fact, right winger Zayde Wisdom, selected by the Flyers in the fourth round of last month’s draft, says he and other prospects are using the extra time to hit the weight room and do more on-ice workouts to get faster. The time “off,” he said, might end up helping some players.
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No checking in hockey?
Two of the Flyers’ top picks from last month’s draft — first-round right winger Tyson Foerster and Wisdom — will play in the OHL. Camp is scheduled to start Jan. 23, giving players lots of free time over the next two-plus months.
Both aforementioned wingers play with an edge, but they will have to alter their styles.
The league has said it will not allow contact because of the coronavirus. That could change, but that seems unlikely because of the virus' spread.
Wisdom, a 5-foot-11, 195-pounder who had 29 goals and 59 points in 62 games for Kingston last season, says it will “definitely be tough” not to check an opponent. He said he hopes the league abandons the no-checking rule.
“If there’s no hitting, what’s the point of playing hockey?” he said Monday in a phone interview from Toronto. “Hopefully, that doesn’t happen, but if it does, it’ll be hard to adjust to it. I’ll just have to bring out more of the skill part of my game than the physical part to help my team.”
OHL teams normally play a 68-game season; the league is planning a 40-game season in 2021.
“Even though it’s just a 40-game season, hopefully this will be the first time since I’ve played there where we have a team good enough to make the playoffs — and hopefully go far with it." Wisdom said. “It’s something I can take away from the season.”
Wisdom has been following an ambitious workout plan devised by his trainer, Derrell Levy. He’s in the weight room Monday through Friday, and on the ice three times a week.
Brent Flahr, the Flyers' assistant general manager, says a delayed and shortened junior season doesn’t need to stall the development of prospects, including Foerster and Wisdom.
“A lot of these kids never get the time to train because in the summer they’re busy with camps and World Juniors and things like that,” Flahr said. “So for some guys [the extra time is] beneficial and they have to make the most of it.”
And some of them will soon be involved in intense scrimmages.
“I know Foerster and [defenseman Mason] Millman have the opportunity to go to the Canadian World Junior camp, and I know they’ve been engaged in video sessions and penalty killing and doing lots of stuff with Hockey Canada," Flahr said. “That gets the brain going, but there’s nothing like playing games.”
Things to know
Mid-December: Expected start of training camps. No specific date has been announced.
Jan. 1: Expected start of season.
From the mailbag
Question: Things are obviously up in the air with the pandemic, but what options is the NHL considering to complete a 60-plus game season if things don’t get better? Other than realigning the divisions, is there a chance we’ll see some form of an NHL bubble again? — @EastVanPhilly1 via Twitter
Answer: Appreciate the question. At this point, the NHL seems to be leaning toward playing a 48- to 60-game season. I spoke Friday with Bill Daly, the NHL’s deputy commissioner, and he said that teams are likely to play home games at their own arenas but that nothing was off the table. In other words, if the coronavirus keeps getting worse, playing in a bubble is a possibility. Daly said the NHL season will ideally end by mid-July at the latest. The earlier it ends, the better chance the 2021-22 season will begin in early October and normalcy will return to the NHL.
Question: Who do you think is a dark horse to make the team this year? — Len Starr (@medikinman) via Twitter
Answer: Thanks for the question, Len. Not sure how much of a dark horse Linus Sandin is, but the high-scoring 6-1, 209-pound winger could make the team with a strong camp. He’d probably have to beat out Michael Raffl or Nic Aube-Kubel for a fourth-line spot.
Sandin, 24, is playing in Sweden, so he will have games under his belt when camp starts next month (hopefully) and that could help him be ahead of some of the players he is trying to beat out. If he doesn’t make the Flyers, he figures to play for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, whose AHL season is expected to start Feb. 5.
Send questions by email or on Twitter (@broadstbull), and they could be answered in a future edition.