Following the first day of on-ice training for the Flyers ahead of the 2021-22 season, head coach Alain Vigneault came to the microphone for his press conference wearing a t-shirt that displayed what the message to the team will be throughout the season. The shirt read “something to prove.”

“This is what our guys are walking around in this year, ‘Something to prove’ and then the back is pretty simple, ‘got to get to work.’ That’s what it is,” Vigneault said. “Everyone on our team, coaches have something to prove, young players coming in have something to prove. Veteran Philly players have something to prove, and new veteran Philly players have something to prove. We all have something to prove individually or collectively. The only way to do it is by getting to work, which is what we are trying to do.”

That message rang loud and clear from multiple players on Thursday. The wholesale changes that were made to the roster have brought many new faces to Philadelphia. It is a new chapter of Flyers hockey about to begin. So, yes, there is a lot to prove after a disappointing and at times insufferable season. The start of training camp also presents the team with three weeks and six preseason games to “get to work” before the real challenge begins.

“We have an older team and I think guys we brought in have a lot of experience. Some guys feel like they have something to prove and as a team we definitely feel like we have something to prove,” Claude Giroux said. “First day was great.”

“Ultimately the team last year underachieved, and it didn’t go our way which can be deflating. I think everyone took the chance to go back home, reset and have a really good summer to get yourself prepared,” James van Riemsdyk said. “Some of the guys we brought in definitely have that infectious energy about them and you can feel it coming back. I got here like a week or so ago, but just feeling the vibe around the team and the vibe around the locker room was really good. I am definitely really excited for us to get going. It is now up to us to go out on the ice, prove it, and show what we can do.”



Ivan ProvorovRyanEllisTravis SanheimRasmus RistolainenKeith YandleJustin Braun

The forwards were going to be more interesting, especially now that Kevin Hayes is out of the picture currently with an injury. The proposed top line here featured Giroux and Travis Konecny on the wing with Sean Couturier centering as expected. Also as expected, Morgan Frost centered the second line in place of Hayes with van Riemsdyk and Joel Farabee on the wings. The third line is where things really start to get interesting. Derick Brassard was the center with Oskar Lindblom and Cam Atkinson playing wing. That left a fourth line of Scott Laughton, Nate Thompson, and Nicolas Aube-Kubel.

Even as evaluation begins with training camp sessions, it's still difficult to know how these combinations truly work until we see them in game action. That will likely come in the first preseason game on Tuesday night. While this entire lineup won't play in the same game, getting a look at specific lines over various preseason games can allow the Flyers to focus in on potential tweaks as the season draws closer.

Hart Focused on ‘Clean Start’

One of the key areas facing the Flyers this season is goaltending. Carter Hart was on top of the world as the Flyers started to pick up steam in a late-season run in 2019-20 before the pandemic paused play. After that long pause, he was even better through the Round Robin contests and the first-round victory against the Montreal Canadiens.

Last season, however, everything seemed to go against Hart. His confidence disappeared. He got away from his fundamentals. It was a season to forget and it couldn’t end soon enough, eventually ending several weeks before the Flyers 2020-21 season ultimately did due to injury.

Hart is refreshed now, and looking forward to a new and fresh season.

“Last year is in the past so it has no effect on this upcoming season,” Hart said. “I think this summer we have made a lot of great moves. Lost some great players but I think some of the guys coming in will fill some big roles and step up. I think we’re just looking forward to a clean start here this season and getting going.”

Hart said he spent parts of the summer working on every aspect of his game, not making big changes to his workouts, but focusing in on little things. He also said that getting out there on Day 1 among the rest of the group after his summer was spent primarily in goalie-specific work.

Hart’s sense of confidence, a typical quality of his game when he’s on, was noticeable to his coach and teammates.

“I like his face right now and his demeanor. He’s smiling,” Vigneault said. “The fact that he was able to have a normal summer of training with other players and his goaltending coach. I think it was a real good summer for him and for the rest of our group. I believe that is going to help moving forward.”

“Carter is looking good right now. He looks confident,” Giroux said. “Mentally, he looks loose and ready to go. I am personally really excited to see him play.”

Ristolainen Looking to ‘Make the Other Team Hate Me’

One of the newcomers to the lineup this season will be Rasmus Ristolainen, who was acquired by the Flyers on the first night of the NHL Draft on July 23 for Robert Hagg and two draft picks, including the team’s first-round pick that night.

While the trade brought mixed reactions, one part of Ristolainen’s game is well-known. His physicality and edge has been on display for several seasons. The Flyers are hoping to get a lot of that from Ristolainen this season, and his new teammates have expressed their pleasure in no longer having to face him as part of the opposition.

“It’s a big part of my game. I like to take hits and give hits too. Obviously, try to make the other team hate me and not want to play against me,” Ristolainen said. “I’ve had some good battles against my new teammates so it’s a big part of my game. I can’t wait to get going.

“We had some fun texts after the trade. It’s hockey. What happens on the ice, happens on the ice and after the game we’ll all have fun and become buddies.”

“He is bringing a skill set in that skill set that is that physical dimension, that tough, hard to play against. That other team is going to step out on the ice and see him and his big body who won’t be afraid to go through you,” Vigneault said. “He’s got to play that way. That’s one of the reasons why Chuck made that deal. We figure that with a little bit more stability and obviously 8 years in the league. 5 or 6 head coaches and 5 or 6 general managers. A little bit of stability should help him become the best player he can be.”

It’s no secret that Ristolainen has experienced a world of changes around him in Buffalo with numerous head coaches and general managers in and out during that time. Vigneault and Chuck Fletcher now enter their third season together in their roles as head coach and general manager with the Flyers, presenting a newfound stability that made an impression on Ristolainen.

“You can see he’s been around, and he’s experienced. He knows what it takes to win in this league,” Ristolainen said of Vigneault. “It’s great. I’ve really enjoyed talking with him and having my first skate with him. It has been fun so far.

“It felt great and that I was wanted here. Can’t wait to bring my game to help the team and to see how far we will go with this good group of guys.”

Day 2 of Flyers training camp will take place on Friday with on-ice sessions happening at the same times as Day 1. A group of players likely destined for the AHL with the Phantoms or to be returned to their respective junior leagues are part of Group C, which takes the ice from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. The main two groups will be on the ice from 10 to 11:45 a.m. and from 1 to 2:45 p.m.

Kevin Durso is Flyers insider for 97.3 ESPN and Flyers editor for SportsTalkPhilly.com. Follow him on Twitter @Kevin_Durso.

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