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New Flyers defenseman Ronnie Attard set to make NHL debut

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Ronnie Attard, Philadelphia Flyers
After an outstanding career at Western Michigan, Flyers D-man Ronnie Attard will make his NHL debut Saturday. Photo: Zack Hill.

For Philadelphia Flyers fans, watching their young players develop is about the only interesting part of the remaining 15 games.

Hello, Ronnie Attard.

The 6-foot-4, 210-pound defenseman will make his NHL debut Saturday against visiting Toronto.

“Obviously, he’s a guy we want to get a real good look at here,” interim coach Mike Yeo said after Attard took part in his first practice with the Flyers on Thursday. “It’s not going to be one of those situations where he goes out and makes a mistake and he doesn’t get back on the ice. We’re going to give him an opportunity to play. I’m excited for him to play his first game.”

Attard, 23, signed a two-year, entry level deal ($888,750 annual cap hit) Tuesday after three strong seasons at Western Michigan, where he had 72 points (27 goals, 45 assists) in 94 career games.

This season, he helped Western Michigan reach the NCAA’s Elite Eight, and he ranked No. 3 among defensemen in the nation with 36 points (13-23) in 39 games. He led Western Michigan with a plus-22 rating.

In the Flyers’ last game, Tuesday’s 4-1 loss in Minnesota, left winger Noah Cates made a strong NHL debut for the Flyers.

Now it’s Attard’s turn to try to make a favorable first impression.

“I liked what I saw in practice today, as far as the tool set that he has as an NHL potential player,” Yeo said. “You’ve got size, you’ve got mobility, you’ve got the ability to move the puck and shoot the puck. It looks like he has a good stick in the D zone coverage drills we were working today. So I’m excited to see him in some game action.”

‘Whirlwind of emotions’

Attard, who was drafted in the third round (72nd overall) in 2019, said it has been a “whirlwind of emotions” during the last week or so, winning the first NCAA tourney game in Western Michigan’s history, later being eliminated, and then signing with the Philadelphia Flyers.

“The guys here have been awesome,” Attard said. “They’ve done a really good job of making me feel welcomed. It’s all moved pretty fast, but it’s awesome to be settled in now.”

Attard, a junior, said he signed because there’s a “great opportunity here. I just thought it would be a great fit.”

The right-handed-shooting Attard may get some time on the Flyers’ last-in-the-NHL power play, which has clicked at just 13.4% and is barely above the worst percentage (13% in 2001-02) in franchise history.

Strides in his game

Attard said he has improved his game since his draft year.

“I’ve worked on my defensive game, and just my ability to close on players,” he said. “My foot speed is something I still continue to work on.”

At Western Michigan, he was once teammates with right winger Wade Allison, who is now with the Flyers but is injured.

“I’ve been blowing Wade’s phone up the last couple days,” Attard, a Michigan native, said with a smile. “We’ve been talking quite a bit; just questions about what to bring, what to pack, what to expect. He’s been a huge help.”

Attard led the stretch at the end of practice as his new teammates tapped their sticks on the ice.

“It was really cool,” Attard said.

His parents will be at Saturday’s game and perhaps his two sisters. “And a couple of the guys from Western were talking about driving out,” he said, “so we’ll see if they end up coming out.”

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Sam Carchidi is in his 14th year covering the Flyers. He can be reached on Twitter @BroadStBull or on email at samcarchidi55@gmail.com

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