Flyers analysis

Brink flashes, interesting late-round prospects and more from Flyers development camp

Flyers held Day 2 of development camp Monday

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VOORHEES, N.J. — As Danny Briere stayed busy with another signing Monday, the Flyers' prospects were back on the ice.

Day 2 of development camp unfolded at Flyers Training Center before a day off for the Fourth of July.

Here's what we saw on Day 1. Let's get into five observations from Monday.

1. Pushin' it to the Brink

After being out of action last season until January, Bobby Brink has looked strong, quick and sharp at development camp.

You notice a difference when his turn comes up in a drill.

The 21-year-old had a challenging year in 2022-23. There was pretty much no way he could catch up when he joined AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley in January. He was jumping in after a lengthy recovery from surgery he underwent during last July to repair a torn labrum in his left hip.

Now, he feels like he has had the chance to rest and build.

"The trainers here have helped me a lot," the 2019 second-round pick said Sunday. "I've been out here since June. Just taking that original month or so off and then a lot of mobility work. As long as that mobility works, then some strength training to where now I feel like I can get to new ranges of motion and I'm much more powerful. I'm feeling pretty good."

During one drill Monday, Brink made a nifty move to the net and somehow finished from a crazy angle.

A stronger and healthy Brink at training camp in September will be worth watching.

"You can tell that his body is changing," Flyers director of player development Riley Armstrong said Sunday. "He's going from a teenager to a man."

2. 'It's hard not to love the kid'

If you're searching for an under-the-radar prospect in the Flyers' system, Hunter McDonald is a good one.

The 21-year-old defenseman was a 2022 sixth-round draft pick of the Flyers out of the USHL. He's a mobile skater for 6-foot-4, 207 pounds and he's a true defenseman.

As a freshman at Northeastern last season, McDonald had 14 points (one goal, 13 assists) and a plus-21 rating in 35 games. He ranked third in the country with 94 blocked shots and was named Hockey East's best defensive defenseman.

"It's hard not to love the kid," Flyers assistant director of player development Nick Schultz said Monday. "You watch him out there, like, he's so competitive and the size that he has. Looking at him and Adam [Ginning] on the left side right now is pretty exciting as an organization, having two big, strong guys that defend hard, they still have good puck skills and can make plays.

"I think the Flyers' future on D is really, really bright with the prospects that we have and these guys coming up through the system. In our role right now, it's really exciting."

McDonald will be back at Northeastern for his sophomore year. He'll still need to earn an entry-level contract from the Flyers in the future. For NCAA players, when they sign their ELC, they forfeit any remaining college eligibility. McDonald isn't in any rush.

"I'm kind of just trying to be where my feet are, to be honest," he said Monday. "Just let that stuff take care of itself."

Does he model his game after anyone?

"Maybe Brandon Carlo," McDonald said, "but just kind of trying to be myself and play."

He appreciates hard-nosed defense.

"I definitely think you see good playoff teams, you can't just win based off skill," McDonald said. "You've got to have a full-rounded team. So I think guys like me are important. I definitely like to play my role and I'm not going to stray away from it."

3. Bumping up

Alex Bump, the Flyers' 2022 fifth-round pick, showed his shot during a 2-on-2, short-ice sequence.

The 19-year-old winger was a big-time goal scorer at the Minnesota high school level. In 2021-22, he put up 48 markers and 83 points over 31 games for Prior Lake High School, finishing as the Associated Press' Minnesota Player of the Year.

"I think my shot's big, I think I've got a heavy shot, also accurate," Bump said Monday. "But the goalies get better as you move up, so I think I'm going to have to improve it a little bit more, too."

After playing in the USHL last season, he's headed to Vermont this year to play for head coach Todd Woodcroft.

"It was just our connection, I think we had a good relationship," Bump said. "I think that's what matters most for college. If I'm going to spend four years there, I think I have to have a good relationship with the coach. That was the biggest piece for me."

Bump wants to grow into a tough-to-play-against player with the Catamounts to help him reach the next level.

He felt he had a slow year in the USHL. Playing for two teams, Bump recorded 14 goals and 25 assists in 48 regular-season games. He added three goals in four playoff games.

"Not as many goals as I wanted," Bump said. "I think I should have probably reached the 25-mark but didn't."

He'll have a good chance to prove himself as a freshman at Vermont.

4. 'A total package'

In two days of working with Oliver Bonk, Schultz has liked what he has seen from the 2023 first-round pick.

Bonk is a 6-foot-2, 180-pound, righty-shot defenseman. The Flyers grabbed him at 22nd overall last Wednesday.

"To me, he looks like he's a total package watching him in these drills," Schultz said. "He enjoys defending, he's not just one-sided. He's a big, strong kid. Obviously everyone loves that he's a right shot and he's a big kid, but I think he's very competitive."

The 18-year-old had a strong defensive sequence during one of the drills.

Bonk's dad Radek Bonk had a long career in the NHL. He faced the Flyers 40 times and for two playoff series.

"He said the fans were crazy when he played," Bonk said Sunday with a smile. "I know that they're still probably some of the best fans in sports."

5. Avon's climb

In September 2021, J.R. Avon turned a rookie camp invite with the Flyers into an entry-level contract.

Last season with the Peterborough Petes, the undrafted product won an OHL championship. He had 60 points (29 goals, 31 assists) and a plus-21 rating in 59 regular-season games. The Peterborough native followed that up with 15 points (nine goals, six assists) in 23 playoff games.

"It was awesome," Avon said Monday. "With a great group of guys we had there and to win the OHL with them was something special. Especially being a hometown kid there, I had a lot of my friends and family watching the game, it was special."

Avon has shown good speed and playmaking ability at development camp. He's expecting to turn pro this season, so he'll be on the Phantoms' radar.

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