So how does Bobby Brink fit into Phase 1 of the Philadelphia Flyers’ Great Reclamation Project this season?
Brink, a diminutive right winger who is hoping to play his first full season since undergoing hip surgery last summer, could gain valuable NHL experience in a rebuild.
Yet, unless the Flyers suffer injuries or are overwhelmed by a trade offer for Travis Konecny, Brink will have a difficult time earning a spot on the opening-night roster.
It doesn’t help Brink that right wing happens to be the Flyers’ deepest position among skaters.
Assuming high-scoring right winger Owen Tippett is shifted to left wing, the Flyers top four right wingers appear to be Konecny, Cam Atkinson, rookie Tyson Foerster, and recently signed Garnet Hathaway heading into training camp in September.
Could Brink, 22, crack that group? Certainly. But the odds are against it. He will have to look explosive and will have to shine during camp.
Quickness Is The Key
To be effective, the 5-foot-8, 166-pound Brink needs to use his speed to avoid big hits and be able to show off his many offensive skills.
That will be a challenge because Brink tore the labrum in his left hip last summer and required surgery. Some wonder if Brink’s skating ability is good enough to make him a valuable NHL player.
Brink says it’s not an issue.
“I think I’m better than I was pre-injury,” he said earlier this month. “Every year I’ve improved my skating as well as other aspects of my game. I know it’s a big talking point in my game, but I’m feeling good out there. I’m feeling quick, feeling fast.”
His frame has also filled out.
“You can tell his body is changing,” said Riley Armstrong, the Flyers’ director of player development. “He’s going from a teenager to a man.”
Making Up For Lost Time
Because of the surgery, Brink didn’t play with the Phantoms last season until January. Despite not being in the same shape as the players who were in midseason form, he still managed 12 goals and 28 points in 41 games.
After taking a month off, Brink has been working out and skating at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees since June. He has been working with the training staff and feels his skating has gotten more powerful, and that his strength has grown because of time in the weight room.
“This summer is big for me, and I’m kind of taking advantage of the time I didn’t have last summer,” said Brink, a second-round draft choice in 2019.
He is confident his quickness will keep getting better – and knows it must if he is going to make his mark in the NHL.
“There’s a lot of big defensemen, and as a smaller guy, I (need) to use my quickness to my advantage,” he said.
With the Philadelphia Flyers in a rebuild, Brink figures to get an opportunity at some point this season – whether it’s in October or after he gets some fine-tuning with the AHL’s Phantoms.
‘Good Year To Be A Prospect Here’
“I think there’s some opportunities in the lineup for a lot of guys,” he said. “It’s a good year to be a prospect here, and I think this organization is going in the right direction in the way they’ve drafted.”
Brink starred at the University of Denver, and made his NHL debut late in the 2021-22 season, collecting four points in 10 games.
Now he wants to start the season with the Orange and Black.
“Everyone’s goal in camp is to make the Flyers,” he said. “No one is going in there trying to make the AHL team. My goal at the end of camp is to be an NHL player.”
If the Flyers are going to have a successful rebuild, they desperately need their recent high draft picks – guys like Morgan Frost, Joel Farabee, Foerster, Cutter Gauthier, Emil Andrae, Cam York, Samu Tuomaala, Matvei Michkov, Oliver Bonk, and Brink – to make major strides in the upcoming years.
The Flyers traded up 11 spots in the 2019 draft to select Brink at No. 34 overall. In effect, then-GM Chuck Fletcher twice bypassed on Cole Caufield – who was picked by Montreal, where he has thrived – and instead got York and Brink.
“You’re only as good as you’ve played recently,” said Brink, a Minnesota native who was the nation’s top collegiate scorer in 2021-22, the season he helped the University of Denver win the national title. “There’s always something to prove.”
The sooner the better.