Call it an early-season rookie-fest at the Air Canada Centre.

Six of the NHL's top rookie scorers will be playing Friday night when the Flyers (6-6-2) visit the Toronto Maple Leafs (5-5-3).

Heading into Thursday's NHL games, Toronto right winger William Nylander was second among rookies with 12 points, while his linemate, center Auston Matthews, was third with 11 points.

Toronto's Mitch Marner (10 points, tied for fifth) and Nikita Zaitsev (six points, tied for 11th) are also impressive rookies. Ditto Flyers left winger Travis Konecny (nine points, tied for seventh) and defenseman Ivan Provorov (six points, tied for 11th).

"There's more young guys in the league these days, and they're making an impact sooner," Flyers forward Brayden Schenn said Thursday after practice in Voorhees.

"I think it's pretty exciting for the league," coach Dave Hakstol said.

The powerful 6-foot-3, 216-pound Matthews was the No. 1 overall pick in the June draft. He scored four goals in his NHL debut but has managed just two goals in his last 12 games.

"I played with him at the World Cup, so he's obviously a pretty special player and he's pretty talented," said Flyers center Sean Couturier, who figures to be matched against Matthews at times in the game. "He's going to be a dangerous player to play against."

During World Cup practices, Couturier sometimes went head to head with Matthews.

"He's big guy and can skate. He does everything at a high speed," Couturier said. "His execution is at a high speed and he has a quick release. He just does everything so quick that it's tough to play against."

Couturier was asked to compare the 5-foot-10, 184-pound Konecny with Matthews.

"It's two different players. One guy is 6-3 and the other one is 5-10, 5-11 . . . or 5-8 maybe with[out] his skates. I mean, it's tough to compare them. T.K. plays with a chip on his shoulder. He likes to get dirty and go to the dirty areas. Matthews is more of a pure, talented, gifted player. He gets involved, too. But there's no comparison to me. It's two different players."

With so many rookies, there's a chance the teams could get into a game of freewheeling "pond hockey."

"That's one thing we don't want," Schenn said. ". . . That's what those guys want - the Matthewses and Nylanders. When you have that much skill, you want a run-and-gun style of game and let your skill take over. We can't let them do it."

The lights went out at Toronto's practice Wednesday, but coach Mike Babcock, upset with the 7-0 loss to Los Angeles the previous night, kept his players on the ice.

"What, they can't skate in the dark or what?" he told reporters.

Hakstol, whose team is coming off what he called a "low-energy performance" Tuesday in a 3-2 overtime loss to Detroit, said he had his North Dakota players occasionally skate in the dark after a poor performance.

"Something called a Black Sunday," he said. ". . . Not very often. Sometimes the best way to clear the minds of everybody is to just go out and do some work."


Schenn was back as the top-line left winger at practice, and Matt Read dropped down to the fourth line. . . . Konecny, who played against Matthews at World Juniors, grew up about three hours from Toronto and will have several friends and relatives at the game. . . . Based on practice, Nick Cousins will center Michael Raffl and Dale Weise on Friday, and Chris VandeVelde will be scratched for the first time this season. . . . Roman Lyubimov returned from the Phantoms - it was a one-day demotion, apparently because of salary-cap ramifications - and was on a line with Read and center Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. . . . Steve Mason will make his second straight start. . . . The Flyers will all wear No. 88 in warm-ups Friday in honor of Eric Lindros, who will go into the Hall of Fame on Monday.