VOORHEES, N.J. — At the end of development camp in July, Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said his guess was that John Tortorella would like Emil Andrae.
Sounds like Ian Laperriere thinks that’s a pretty good guess.
He saw the Swedish defenseman join his team toward the end of March last season as the Phantoms were amid a playoff race. Lehigh Valley had no choice but to immediately hand Andrae significant responsibilities. Laperriere was left impressed by the diminutive but dogged prospect.
“He’s thick, but he’s not tall,” the Flyers’ AHL affiliate head coach said Thursday after Day 1 of rookie training camp. “Moves the puck well, he’s got a hell of a shot. But his biggest quality is he competes. Like, he wants to be the guy.
“It’s a huge camp for him. I don’t think Torts knows much about him other than what we talked about, but he’s a kid that I’m sure will make a hell of an impression on the Flyers’ coaching staff.”
Since being selected by the Flyers in the second round of the 2020 NHL draft, Andrae has steadily developed. He was one of the best players at the 2022 world juniors and played big minutes last season for HV71 in the SHL, Sweden's top pro league. He signed his entry-level contract in March, but this summer, there was still a lingering possibility he’d have to return to the SHL.
However, Andrae and his representation got it worked out. He’s going to be in North America this season, playing for either the Flyers or Phantoms.
“There was a discussion between my agent and HV and me,” Andrae said Thursday. “I wanted to stay over here. If I go here, I wanted to stay and give it a shot.”
The Flyers, now embracing a rebuild, have desperately needed some homegrown, long-term stability on their back end. They’re hoping Andrae can be one of the pieces.
The 21-year-old lefty shot stands at a generous 5-foot-9. But those that have scouted and watched him speak highly of his cerebral and competitive makeup.
“He’s got vision, he can shoot the puck,” Phantoms assistant coach Jason Smith said Friday. “I think he has all the tools that you want to have to be in an opportunity to get yourself to play at the highest league and highest level. He’s got confidence, but he’s got some feistiness. Really competitive for not being a large guy, which is obviously very important.”
An opposing coach at the 2022 world juniors and Flyers director of player development Riley Armstrong both likened Andrae to former defenseman Kimmo Timonen.
Laperriere, who played with Timonen, pumped the brakes a bit on the comparison.
“It’s a little bit early in the ballgame for that,” Laperriere said, “but if he becomes close to Kimmo, I think everybody is going to be pretty happy.
“I’m excited to see what he’s going to do in those preseason games with the big club. He’s going to open eyes, for sure.”
Andrae might not open the season with the Flyers but he should be knocking on the door, starting with the rookie games against the Rangers and followed by main training camp.
After all, what he knows and does best is compete.
“I think that’s how I am as a player and as a human being,” Andrae said. “I don’t want to do anything in half speed. I just want to give it all every time I’m out there. Otherwise, there’s no point being out there. That’s just how I am and how I’m going to still be.
“I would be stupid if I have a goal other than to play in the NHL. I’m going to do as best as I can in training camp, try to prove to the coaches that I’m too good to play in the AHL. I’m going to do as best as I can and see what happens.”