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September 30, 2023

Five thoughts on Flyers-Devils: Emil Andrae, Bobby Brink state their cases

Emil Andrae was quick and decisive with the puck, while Bobby Brink continues his push for a Flyers roster spot.

The Flyers dropped their first preseason home game, 3-2, to the Devils in overtime Saturday night.

The final result ultimately matters little, but the overall performances do. Here are five thoughts on those...

Emil Andrae's decisive and fluid passing is his greatest appeal as a defensive prospect, and that skill was visible on Saturday night, though with plenty of room for growth still evident.

Just over a minute into the opening period, Andare, with plenty of time and space back in the Flyers' own zone, sprung a perfect tape-to-tape pass to Wade Allison over center along the farside blueline, which allowed him to break right toward the net then pot the puck home after a smart drop pass back to Bobby Brink let him step back to the opposite post for the feed right back. 1-0, Flyers just like that, with Andrae's read and accuracy jumpstarting the play.


Later in the period, with the Flyers on the power play, he kept the puck cycling well from up high, but maybe passed up a chance or two to just try and thread a low wrister through. The puck did come back to him one more time as the man advantage expired when he did finally windup for the slapper dropping down into the high slot, but a Devil was right there to block it for an unlucky bounce that fell right to New Jersey's Tyce Thompson just as he left the box. Every Flyer was caught too far down, Thompson took it the other way with Curtis Lazar for the 2-on-1 as Andrae hustled back to try and recover, but he couldn't break it up in time and Carter Hart couldn't make the stop. Tie game.

"On the power play, he was doing good things," Flyers assistant coach Rocky Thompson, who ran the bench Saturday night, said postgame. "That second unit, actually, was doing a lot of good things, and then he made a young guy mistake a couple of times late in the power play, not kind of recognizing the clock and forcing something, which created those chances against. 

"We talked about it in the room. That happens, and you learn from it."

Andrae skates well, has great vision of the ice, and has the passing ability to match his anticipation. You could see it all Saturday night – especially on a later possession where he tried to sneak a shot in on the short side after a give-and-go along the left half-boards, and then in overtime when he pressed for a scoring opportunity at 3-on-3. But his NHL readiness might not be there just yet. Granted, he's 21. There's plenty of time. With a rebuild, the Flyers definitely aren't short on that.

"I like how he handles things," Thompson continued. "He doesn't get down on himself or anything. He just kind of goes about his business."

• On the subject of turnovers, the Flyers did give up a couple more dangerous ones that came from some risky decisions at the offensive blue line, which led directly to odd-man rushes for the Devils. Carter Hart, in his first go at game action this year, was sharp enough to bail them out, but the killer one came from down in their own end late in the first. The defensive pairing of Adam Ginning and Ronnie Attard struggled to break the puck out from behind their own net with the Devils' Nico Hischier and Timo Meier bearing down on them on the forecheck.

A flailing attempt to clear got caught between skates and bounced out to Meier along the goal line, who then fed the puck right across to an Alexander Holtz crashing in toward the net. Camp invite Brendan Furry, as the center, completely lost sight of him, and the Devils went ahead.

Results-wise, it's preseason. Far from the end of the world, but with spots up for grabs and an overall roster only expected to go so far this season, you don't want to see things get any sloppier than they need to be.

"In terms of tonight, our mistakes were like big, huge mistakes," Thompson said. "Carter had to come up big and make saves, but for the most part – man, I can't even remember – we didn't defend at all in our own end tonight."

• After a delay in camp, Cam Atkinson finally suited up and skated in a game for the first time since the end of the 2021-22 season. He skated 20:35 and generally held up, taking contact without issue, and generating an odd-man rush with Sean Couturier crashing in toward the net late in the second. A defender took away the passing lane, so Atkinson fired a slap shot right into Vitek Vanecek's pads before running out of space.

Atkinson got moved up the lineup to Couturier's wing as the game went on, and the two did well to keep the puck moving the Flyers' way. Far from a guarantee, but a promising sign for the two core veterans who have become some of the team's bigger question marks entering the new season.

"The first period, no matter what, it's always kind of a feel-out process," Atkinson said. "I made a couple of plays in the first period, but I feel like once the second period started, I got my legs underneath me, my wind was there a little bit better, and just felt more comfortable with the puck, and trying to get open, making little area plays. It was good."

Attard and Ginning are two prospects who might be on the cusp of NHL looks at some point this season, but as a defensive pairing, they were a bit unsteady Saturday night. Attard especially isn't afraid to try and jump in on offense, which led to a couple of shots, but that also left him caught out of position a few times – though granted, that's always the risk of a defenseman jumping in. There's talent there, but still with some refinement needed.

Brink has definitely been skating hard after a roster spot. He came up with a goal and an assist up in Boston on Friday, then played in perfect support of Allison on the drop pass for Saturday night's opening goal in the back-to-back. 

Now that he's skating fully healthy, it seems that he's able to get back to flashing his offensive skill again, which – if he can bring it consistently – could be a boon for a Flyers team that lacked a lot of it last season, provided, of course, that he makes it.

"He's fighting for a spot," Thompson said. "Without a doubt. He's answering some tough questions right now, and it's gonna make our decision hard. That's what you want."

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