ALLENTOWN, Pa. - When the public address announcer at PPL Center bellowed out Philippe Myers' name during the starting lineup introductions, the 22-year-old defenseman received a hearty applause from the fans.
Last season, he became a popular guy in Lehigh Valley as one of the Phantoms' better players before graduating to the Flyers for a 21-game taste of the NHL.
He returned to the home of the Flyers' AHL affiliate Wednesday night for the club's rookie game against the Islanders' prospects.
And everyone probably knows he won't be back anytime soon.
Myers didn't take long to make his mark Wednesday night as he bounced around a defender on the perimeter and beautifully fed German Rubtsov for the game's opening goal. The play was not representative of a rookie game.
It was big-league stuff.
"He's an NHL player to me. He played like it," Lehigh Valley head coach Scott Gordon said following the Flyers' 5-4 shootout loss (see observations). "There's no panic, he's done a great job of preparing himself the last two years to be an NHL player. He just has to have a good camp and everything else should fall into place for him."
The 6-foot-5, 218-pound Myers transformed himself from an undrafted player into a top-50 NHL prospect. The Flyers appear ready for his full-time impact within their group of defensemen. While Myers possesses intriguing offensive qualities like we saw Wednesday night, he has improved in all other areas. He moves the puck up ice, retreats well and stays within himself.
When general manager Chuck Fletcher called up Myers during February of last season, the Flyers were the NHL's hottest team and gaining steam in the playoff race. Fletcher did not have a problem trusting Myers to play important games.
The experience was extremely beneficial.
"I think the biggest thing that I learned is just try to stay calm and composed under pressure," Myers said last weekend at rookie camp. "Try not to panic out there. I got a little bit more comfortable as the games went on. I'm happy I got those first steps out of the way and that I got my feet wet in the NHL. I sort of know what to expect this year."
Gordon was summoned by the Flyers in December to serve as interim head coach. He remembers catching up with Myers back in Lehigh Valley when the blueliner was starting to get comfortable and catching the attention of others.
"I had gone down to Allentown to pick up some things and I stopped by the locker room and he was there," Gordon said last weekend. "We were just talking about his probably two-week period that I had been gone and he had said to me at that time, he goes, 'I'm getting it now. It's starting to come together where I don't feel like I have to win the game every single shift and just let the game come to me.' That's just maturity."
A maturity that has Gordon realizing he might not see Myers back in Allentown.
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