GLENS FALLS -- When Eric Wellwood and Brayden Schenn left the Glens Falls Civic Center after practice Wednesday, they were carrying hockey bags stuffed to the zipper and heading home to pack up their apartment.
Wellwood and Schenn, along with Zac Rinaldo and Tye McGinn, had just gotten the good news that they were off to the Philadelphia Flyers’ training camp. Sean Couturier, the fifth Phantom invited to camp, is already in Voorhees, N.J. after a previously-scheduled doctor’s appointment in the area.
No official roster moves have been made, as the NHL cannot do anything until the new collective bargaining agreement is signed by both the league and the NHLPA, but the players are expected to leave town Thursday morning in anticipation of camp starting on Sunday.
“At the beginning of the year, this is what a lot of us were waiting for,” Wellwood said. “Obviously it took longer than anticipated, but obviously we’re happy and ready to finally get going.”
Couturier, Schenn and Rinaldo were all but guaranteed to be returning to the NHL with the end of the lockout. At the beginning of the season, Wellwood was close behind, but his slow start made it more of a question.
Through the first 25 games of the season, Wellwood was nearly invisible on the ice. He scored only four points and was a healthy scratch three times — not what anyone expected from someone who played 35 NHL games, including all 11 playoff contests, the previous season.
“My start of the season was pretty bad, so I didn’t know if I was going to get the call or not. To finally get the official word is obviously a big relief,” Wellwood said. “When I saw other guys outplaying me — I would admit they were outplaying me — I had to step up my game a bit and obviously (the Flyers management) sees that.”
Wellwood turned his game around just about immediately. He went from a non-factor to a strong presence in the last eight games, scoring three goals in four games at one point.
“His game has been a lot better in the games we’ve been at in the last two or three weeks. He’s been able to use his assets, his speed to force things and get opportunities and be a good player again,” Flyers assistant general manager John Paddock said.
Whereas Wellwood said it was a relief, McGinn said it was a bit of a shock.
The second-year professional didn’t know what to expect. He was a “black ace” in the playoffs last year, but has not played in an NHL game. McGinn has played largely on the top two lines with the Phantoms this season and has had a big impact on the first power-play shift. He fills a role that has proven effective in the NHL: big body in front of the net.
“We’ve been pleased with how he has continued to develop since the start of last season,” Paddock said. “Teams are always looking for guys with a little more size and he has those attributes. He’s a player who provides the role of standing around the net, take some punishment and score some goals. Power plays need certain ingredients and he provides some of those elements.”
McGinn is looking forward to getting on the ice with the NHL players and having a chance to show what he can do.
The hole created in the Phantoms’ lineup will be filled by the return of four players who had been playing in the ECHL.
Forwards Shane Harper, Matt Mangene, Andrew Johnston and defenseman Tyler Hostetter arrived from Trenton on Wednesday and expect to be on the ice for Thursday’s practice, though the official transactions had not be made as of Wednesday night.
Harper, Mangene and Johnston all started the season with the Phantoms and were sent to the ECHL to get more ice time. Hostetter made brief appearances with Adirondack each of the last two seasons, but this will be his first trip to the AHL this year.