Last year at this time, Darroll Powe left Flyers training camp disappointed.

No one had given Powe - a relative unknown on the Phantoms' roster in 2007-08 - much of a chance to even challenge for a spot on the big club.

But he did. And he didn't make the team.

It didn't take long for him to break through and get there. Just 3 weeks after camp ended, Powe made his NHL debut with the Flyers.

"My first goal coming into camp was to just compete and make the team," Powe said. "I went down and worked hard and pretty soon into the season, I was called up.

"From then on, I just tried to add whatever I could."

Powe, 24, played three games in October but went back down to the Phantoms for all of November. When he came back in December, he was on the roster to stay.

He wound up playing in 60 regular-season games and all six playoff contests against Pittsburgh.

"It was fun to be a part of the team, with a young group of guys that want to win," Powe said. "John [Stevens] just expects a good work ethic and a positive attitude. I think I brought that."

He also chipped in with six goals and five assists, not including the important goal he scored in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals at Mellon Arena.

Now, the Princeton graduate - he traveled back to his alma mater this summer for a hockey alumni event from his offseason home in Kanata, Ontario - is in a different frame of mind this time around.

"I have a new mind-set," Powe admitted. "I am a little more comfortable. I know what I need to do. I try and bring energy and bring intensity. I hope it rubs off."

That intensity translated into a fight and two roughing penalties in Saturday's 5-4 preseason loss in Toronto. He is also a regular on the Flyers' second penalty-killing unit.

"Powe continues to get better," Stevens said. "He's got great speed, he competes all the time. He's really been a pleasant player to see him progress over the last year and a half."

Despite his relatively comfortable spot on the roster, Powe isn't ready to concede anything yet.

"You never want to feel too confident in this position," he said. "A lot of guys are battling for spots to make the team. And if you made the team, you're always looking to move up on the depth chart."

Two other young players - Andreas Nodl (38 games last year) and Jared Ross (10) - are in a similar boat as Powe. But neither Nodl nor Ross has a spot guaranteed.

"Jared Ross is a terrific guy that plays without fear," Stevens explained. "At the minor league level he puts up pretty big offensive numbers, but here it seems like we can play him at any of the three forward positions.

"Nodl is a third- or fourth-line checker, but we'd like to see him get a little more offensively in between the dots."

Ross, from Huntsville, Ala., is keeping a positive attitude.

"It's a pretty deep camp," Ross admitted. "But I feel pretty confident that I can add to the depth of the team if I keep working hard."

Nodl spent 2 months of his summer in Minnesota working out at St. Cloud State, his alma mater, to prepare for the season.

"Obviously there are a lot of people battling for spots," Nodl said. "You just need to worry about your game. You need to make it as hard as possible for the coaches to cut you."

The decision rests with the coaching staff. But Stevens said, rest assured, the players will dictate who makes it.

"Where they end up is really up to them," Stevens said.

Answering the Bell

Stevens was pleasantly surprised with Bell on Saturday, perhaps throwing Bell's name back into the mix for the Flyers' final contract.

"He played an awful lot better," Stevens said. "He played with a lot more intensity and urgency. It was certainly nice to see him rise to the occasion with a second chance to play."

Bell said at the start of training camp that a two-way contract would be unacceptable and said on Friday that he has other options in his back pocket in case things don't work out with the Flyers.

Slap shots

Danny Briere was also one of the players lauded by Stevens after Saturday's game. Briere netted two goals and Stevens said he was the "best player on the ice for both teams" . . . In a head-scratching move, Chris Pronger played 29-plus minutes in Toronto. He did not play on Thursday but worked 26 taxing minutes on Wednesday. While that's near the rugged defenseman's career average, it is still the preseason . . . The Flyers are looking for their first win of the preseason tomorrow night against Detroit at home. The game will be televised on the Comcast Network. *

Mark Bell must have heard John Stevens on Friday. Stevens said that in his first exhibition game on Thursday in London, Ontario, Bell looked "just OK" and implied that he had no identity on the team.