ALLENTOWN, Pa. — When Tyson Foerster was announced as the game's first star, he found an elated young fan along the boards.
He skated to the youngster and flipped him the OT-winning puck from the Flyers' 2-1 rookie game victory over the Rangers.
Nicely done, kid. Both of them.
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Foerster is only 20 years old and Friday night was just a matchup of prospects at PPL Center. But the 2020 first-round pick put on display exactly what the Flyers were hoping for when they selected him 23rd overall.
Go win a game with that shot.
With the Flyers' front office looking on, Foerster didn't hesitate burying the overtime winner just 39 seconds into the bonus session.
Foerster's shot had to be a small but sweet reprieve for the Flyers' brass after the organization went through a 2021-22 season in which little went right. The club is coming off of a 25-46-11 finish and has lamented its need for more top-end talent.
The best and cheapest way to find that talent is through the entry draft. The Flyers believe they have a shoot-first talent in Foerster.
"Wow, that's how it feels to win in overtime," AHL affiliate Lehigh Valley head coach Ian Laperriere said with a laugh.
"The sky's the limit for that kid. He can shoot, that's great. ... But he's showing me, he's showing everybody a little bit more with his physicality, he's winning those battles. It's impressive."
Let's get into observations from the first of two rookie games at the home of the Phantoms.
• The Flyers' hockey ops booth at PPL Center probably let out a collective "shoot it, kid," as it watched Foerster gain steam toward the net in overtime.
The club has needed more pure shooters from the circles. Guys that can beat a goalie without help. It's a significant reason why the Flyers drafted Foerster, who was a winger with some rawness in other areas but had an advanced shot from the flank.
"We don't have a lot of natural scorers from that area, nor have we for a long time," Flyers general manager Chuck Fletcher said Nov. 30 last season. "It's certainly something we've looked to try to address in the draft the last few years going forward."
Foerster had defenseman Adam Ginning to his right and loading up.
Did Ginning call for it?
"No, no, no," the Swedish native said with a big smile.
They all know Foerster can shoot and should look to shoot.
"Tys is like that," Elliot Desnoyers, who assisted the winner, said. "You give him an inch, he'll take 10."
Foerster was happy to give up his game-winning puck.
"It was pretty cool," Foerster said. "I just saw the little kid come out of the stanchions there. I just saw him, gave him a little heads up and he wanted the puck."
After missing much of last season because of shoulder surgery, Foerster is a safe bet to open this year with the Phantoms. The Flyers will want him pushing, though. He'll need to continue to work on his well-roundedness.
"I'm sure growing up, that was his main job — scoring goals. That's why he was drafted," Laperriere said. "He's got that big smile on his face, he loves to score goals, which is great.
"But to play at the next level, it's one thing to score goals, but if it's the only thing you do, you better do it every night. There's not too many guys at the next level that do that. They've got the guy in Washington, who's pretty good at it, but even him, he's physical.
"[Foerster is] still young, we've got to help him. Hopefully he makes the big team, I hope he does for his sake, but if he comes here, we're going to help him become a 200-foot player, help him win those 1-on-1 battles like he did tonight. It's only going to help him for the rest of his career."
• The line to watch for the Flyers on Friday night was Foerster, Noah Cates and Jackson Cates.
It's not yet known if Joel Farabee will be ready for the start of the regular season Oct. 13. He underwent disc replacement surgery in his neck area fewer than three months ago. He has been participating in informal workouts at Flyers Training Center and we'll know more on his status next week.
But if he's unavailable early (and the Flyers will be highly careful with him), Noah Cates has a real shot at cracking the season-opening lineup.
Surprise, surprise, the brothers read each other well in the rookie game. They played in all situations, won battles and created some looks.
"The Cates brothers, they looked great with Tyson on that line," Laperriere said. "Looked really good."
• Olle Lycksell, a skilled 23-year-old Swedish forward, made a nice play to draw the Flyers even at 1-1 during the second period.
He did everything on the unassisted goal.
The 2016 fifth-round pick is coming off of a 14-goal, 34-point season for the Vaxjo Lakers in the SHL, Sweden's top pro league. This season with the Phantoms will be his first in North America.
"It's a bit more compact, but I liked it," he said of the smaller ice surface. "You get some more chances when you're an offensive player in this league I would say. It's going to be fun out there."
• The Flyers like just about everything with Desnoyers.
They love the way he works. He creates chances off of pure effort and smarts.
The 20-year-old forward did that late in the first period of a scoreless game when he forechecked, forced a turnover behind the Rangers' net and found Zayde Wisdom for a Grade A look in the slot. Wisdom was denied, but Desnoyers' play will grab the eyes of the Flyers.
"I wanted to prove some stuff and I think I did the right thing," Desnoyers said. "Tomorrow's going to be another one and I need to bring more."
The 2020 fifth-round pick is set for his first season at the pro level. He had 42 goals and 88 points last season with the QMJHL's Halifax Mooseheads in his final year of junior hockey. Fans should like him in Lehigh Valley.
Laperriere already knows Desnoyers pretty well. He played with his father David Desnoyers.
"Just a real impressive kid, he's one of those kids you talk to, he’ll sit and talk hockey to you all day long," Flyers assistant general manager Brent Flahr said last September. "He's down there, he's talking to the veteran guys, he's learning every day. His work ethic and determination are off the charts."
• You can see the upside with Ethan Samson. The 6-foot-3, 183-pound defenseman made good decisions with the puck in his own end and has offensive ability.
The Flyers grabbed him in the sixth round of the 2021 draft. He just turned 19 years old last month. He'll be a prospect to follow at the junior level this season with the WHL's Prince George Cougars.
Defensive prospects Ronnie Attard and Egor Zamula did not play Friday but will suit up for Game 2.
• Camp invites Nolan Maier and Jonathan Lemieux split Game 1 in net.
Maier denied 11 of 12 shots before giving way to Lemieux, who converted nine saves.
• Round 2 for the Flyers and Rangers rookies is Saturday (5:05 p.m. ET/NBCSP+).
Swedish goalie prospect Samuel Ersson will play the full game.
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