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Flyers prospect Giroux confident

A year ago, right winger Claude Giroux got the attention of Flyers management during training camp. Never mind that he was just 19. His speed was impressive, and he displayed a knack for finding an opening and slithering around a defender.

A year ago, right winger Claude Giroux got the attention of Flyers management during training camp.

Never mind that he was just 19. His speed was impressive, and he displayed a knack for finding an opening and slithering around a defender.

"He was a guy we thought about keeping," Flyers general manager Paul Holmgren said the other day. "Internally, we spent some time on him."

The internal discussions will heat up this year. The Flyers open camp Saturday at the Skate Zone in Voorhees, and Giroux, now 20, has a good opportunity to land a spot with the club.

After three sensational junior seasons, the highly touted Giroux is confident but not cocky.

"I'm going to go to camp, and, in my head, I'm saying I'm going to be part of the Flyers organization," said Giroux, the Flyers' No. 1 pick in the 2006 draft. "But I think I have to prove myself and I have to work hard. There's a lot of veterans out there that deserve their spot, and I have to try to work as hard as them."

He believes he is ready to play in the NHL. This year.

"I think when you go into camp, you have to be confident," he said. "If you don't believe in yourself, I think your chances aren't very good. So I'm going to camp and be positive about my game and, hopefully, play well."

Giroux's rather small stature - he is 5-foot-11 and about 178 pounds - has led to questions about his ability to make a mark in the NHL.

Both coach John Stevens and Holmgren downplayed the size factor.

"I don't see size as an issue," Stevens said. "The biggest issue I see with any player - and Claude is certainly included - is the competitive level they're willing to get to. It's a very tough task, mentally, to play at a high level every night. The schedule is so different in the NHL than it is in the American League or juniors. You don't just play on the weekends; you play almost every other day all year long, so you really have to be able to get up quickly, mentally."

Holmgren said size isn't the issue it was before the 2004-05 lockout because of "the way the game has opened up now. And Claude's a smart [player]. His hockey sense, to me, is exceptional. He's just a good player, and he's going to play in the NHL, whether it's right away or sometime down the road."

After watching the fleet Giroux during the Flyers' prospect camp this week, new Phantoms coach John Paddock said the fast-paced game is "tailor-made for him."

Stevens said Giroux "sees the ice better than most. He can make more tight support plays in traffic than a lot of players can, and he's a competitive guy who has a passion to play the game, so I don't see size standing in his way."

Giroux, who scored 106 regular-season points in the Quebec Junior League last season and added an eye-opening 17 goals and 34 assists in 19 playoff games, is taking his off-the-ice regimen seriously. He hired a personal trainer two years ago. He is following a strict diet and is a weight-room devotee.

"I'm excited to see how he does," Holmgren said.

"He had a great year last year after we sent him back; he didn't pout; he was on a mission and had a great year with his junior team and was able to take part in Canada's gold-medal win in the world championships; he was a big part of it. So it's an exciting time for him."

And for the Flyers.

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