Coming off a strong and generally healthy second half to his rookie pro season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms after an injury-marred first half, 21-year defenseman Philippe Myers has a chance to earn an NHL spot with the Flyers this year.
The righthanded-shooting defenseman is in the hunt for an opening-night roster spot, albeit in competition with the more experienced Christian Folin, among other candidates.Â
An off-ice training injury sustained by Flyers alternate captain Andrew MacDonald, who averaged 19:51 of ice time last season, has opened the field of competition in camp. MacDonald is expected to be sidelined until late October.Â
In order to work his way onto the NHL roster this October, Myers will have to seize the opportunity via his play on the ice. He took a good first step, arriving in camp in outstanding physical condition and putting forth a strong first day of work in Rookie Camp. Myers came to camp carrying a muscular 220 pounds on his 6-foot-5 frame. He’s also trying to take a strong mental approach.
“It’s an opportunity. There’s a spot open, but that doesn’t mean anything. I still have to work my butt off and try to earn that spot,” Myers said at the end of the first day of Rookie Camp.
Myers knows that nothing will be handed to him, and he is quite comfortable with competing to prove himself. The same drive has served him well since vaulting from signing an entry-level contract with the Flyers as an undrafted ATO (amateur try-out) player in Rookie Camp in 2015 to becoming a highly-anticipated prospect by the time he turned professional last year.
Over the course of the 2017-18 season, he dealt with injury-related absences and adjustments from the junior hockey game to the pro level. Although the process is ongoing, he made great strides in knowing when to be aggressive and when to make safer plays.
“I learned to simplify my game a little more,” Myers said. “There’s stuff you can do in junior hockey that won’t work very often up here, so that was something I had to adjust to.“
The rookie lost much of the pre-Christmas portion of his rookie season – including a lengthy stint from late November to late December – to a nagging lower body injury. The lost time temporarily stalled the progress he’d been making at a rapid clip following some ups and downs in his play during NHL training camp and the very early portion of the 2017-18 AHL regular season.Â
By January, however, Myers was hitting his stride again. He carried it through into a strong second half of the season and a fine playoff run in which he logged massive ice time across all game situations. Most notably, Myers skated a staggering 66 minutes worth of the ice time in the Phantoms’ five-overtime marathon victory in their second-round series against the Charlotte Checkers.
“I think I covered a lot of ground with my game last year, getting a lot of experience with my first pro year. I’m really excited coming into camp. I feel more confident. Last year, I got a lot of experience in the playoffs. Played a five-overtime game and that was huge and good for my development,” Myers said.
Myers also credits his coaches in Lehigh Valley, including head coach Scott Gordon, assistant coach Kerry Huffman and Flyers development coach Kjell Samuelsson, for the role they’ve played.
“Huff has been great to me, explaining things and looking at video. Kjell has been a big help. Gordo, obviously, too. It’s all the coaches. I think I have improved in a lot of ways, and they’ve been huge,” Myers said.Â
Myers makes very good breakout passes, with an ability to deliver many of his medium-range passes right on the tape and also ability to periodically spring a teammate with a stretch pass behind the opposing defense. He has a heavy shot from the point, joins the rush effectively and has enough speed to cancel out some mistakes. Especially for a defenseman his size, Myers’ mobility is one of his biggest assets. Â
His positional play, stick-on-puck work, and gap control were sometimes issues early in the season but improved significantly over the course of his rookie year. He also brings a certain degree of physicality.
Myers, like virtually all young defensemen, is still navigating a learning curve as he enters his second pro camp. Even in the Eastern Conference Final during the 2018 Calder Cup playoffs, Myers occasionally got on the wrong side of the puck, misread a coverage or tried to force a risky play with the puck.Â
“The guys are a lot bigger and a lot faster, so it was a little bit of an adjustment. It’s about not hanging onto the puck too long and not trying to complicate things and do the fancy play. The simple play is always the best play,” Myers said.
On the whole, Myers’ good plays outnumbered the miscues with ever-increasing frequency when he was finally able to stay healthy for an extended period of time. He showed good poise under pressure and quick bounce-backs from adversity. All of these traits will serve him well as prepares to make a push to advance from the Phantoms to the Flyers.