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5 Players to Watch at Flyers Development Camp Scrimmage

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The Philadelphia Flyers are making and taking away NHL futures at their annual development camp at the Flyers Training Center in Voorhees, New Jersey, this week.

The development camp is designed for young players to learn from the Flyers’ best, then take and apply their newly learned skills in a scrimmage to finish the week. On Saturday, the young NHL hopefuls will get their chance to do that at 6 p.m., but not everybody gets to come out on top.

All that said, there are a handful of Flyers prospects worth paying special attention to as development comes to a close.

No. 5: Right Wing Lee Parks (40)

The only invitee on this list, Lee Parks is not a player whose name will be familiar to most, if not all, Flyers fans. But for the development camp finale on Saturday, the 6-foot-2 winger wearing No. 40 is a player to keep an eye on.

Parks really piqued my interest on Friday afternoon with his laser-like shot and puck skills. I didn’t find myself particularly watching the camp invitees and was instead locked in on players like Massimo Rizzo and Oliver Bonk, but I kept noticing that every time this tall, right-handed forward got the puck, it was going in the net.

And that’s with Carson Bjarnason in the net and not the two other goaltenders who were invited to the camp.

Parks already has plenty of size at 6-foot-2, 218 pounds, and has been a goal-scorer everywhere he’s played. The 19-year-old scored 30 goals in 62 games with the Fargo Force in the USHL last season and tallied 23 goals in 52 games with the Vernon Vipers of the BCHL the year prior.

Parks also won the Clark Cup as the Force won the USHL last season, so he has some winning pedigree, too. I don’t know what the future holds for the Stittsville, Ontario native, but the Flyers need to make an effort to hang onto this guy in some way. Parks is clearly talented, and I wonder where he could end up if he keeps developing on an upward trajectory like he’s been.

Parks is committed to playing in the NCAA for UMass-Lowell in 2024-25.

No. 4: Defenseman Hunter McDonald (41)

Hunter McDonald made his professional debut in the Flyers organization last year after finishing his collegiate tenure at Northeastern and played in 11 AHL regular season games for the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, registering three assists.

Offense is never going to be McDonald’s strong suit, however, the 22-year-old is every bit as physically dominant as you hear about online. Any player that goes up against McDonald along the boards or behind the net gets pasted to the wall and isn’t allowed to move until McDonald allows it.

The 2022 sixth-round pick faces an uphill battle to make the Flyers’ NHL roster out of the gate with Egor Zamula and Adam Ginning higher up in the pecking order, but the Flyers are very high on McDonald. He also possesses a powerful shot, to boot.

Saturday’s development camp scrimmage is just another opportunity for the Fairport, New York, native to make his case for the NHL.

No. 3: Defenseman Oliver Bonk (59)

Ok, this one is little less lowkey. I get the sense that most fans are going to fixate on Oliver Bonk anyway, and that’s fine! One of the Flyers’ two 2023 first-round picks, Bonk scored 24 goals and 67 points in only 60 regular season games for the OHL London Knights last season, and he’s apparently intent on making a legitimate push for an NHL roster spot as a 19-year-old defenseman.

I don’t know how realistic that is, especially if Rasmus Ristolainen is actually healthy and has rehabbed his injury, but that kind of approach is only going to further endear him to the Flyers and Flyers fans.

And it’s not just smoke, either. Bonk has looked legitimately better than most of his peers at development camp this week, even if he isn’t an athletic freak like Jett Luchanko or a dominant physical presence like McDonald. Knowing your strengths and weaknesses and being able to act on them after reading the ice is arguably far more important than physical traits.

Before jumping to any conclusions, though, let’s see how Bonk fares against his fellow Flyers prospects in a test game setting.

No. 2: Center Owen McLaughlin (72)

Owen McLaughlin, a 21-year-old center, is about to be heading into his third season of NCAA competition as a member of the University of North Dakota. The 2021 seventh-round pick had dismal 2022-23 season in which he scored only two goals and 15 points in 37 games, but bounced back with a very strong 2023-24 campaign.

McLaughlin posted a career-high 13 goals, 26 assists, and 39 points in 39 collegiate games this season and also developed into somewhat of an ace in the faceoff circle, too. For comparison, top NHL prospects like Frank Nazar, who scored 41 points in 41 games, and Jimmy Snuggerud, who scored 34 points in 39 games, were very similar offensive producers to McLaughlin.

That should be music to the Flyers’ ears.

It would not be unreasonable to foresee McLaughlin turning pro at the end of the 2024-25 college season, but he’ll have to earn his NHL contract. That process already started this week. The Flyers will hold McLaughlin’s NHL rights until Aug. 15, 2026.

No. 1: Goaltender Carson Bjarnason (64)

With Alexei Kolosov not being able to make it back for development camp this year, Carson Bjarnason is the Flyers’ lone representative between the pipes this week. Invitees Matteo Drabac and Arthur Page will get their reps too, to be clear, but Bjarnason is going to be the main focus, and understandably so.

The Flyers think very highly of the 19-year-old netminder, and that was evidenced by the move they made to trade up and draft him with the 51st overall pick in the second round of the 2023 NHL Draft. Bjarnason was a brick wall in the final day of camp on Friday leading up to Saturday’s scrimmage, and another strong outing is only going to solidify him in the minds of Flyers management and Flyers fans.

Pressure is not something that gets to the Carberry, Manitoba native; he puts it on himself instead, and actually invites it.

Before going back to juniors, Bjarnason will have one more chance to show what he’s made of in the development camp scrimmage. In 46 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings last year, Bjarnason compiled a 24-17-5 record, a 3.01 GAA, a .907 save percentage, and two shutouts.

Honorable Mentions: Carter Sotheran, Ty Murchison, Alex Bump, Heikki Ruohonen, Noah Powell, and Devin Kaplan

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