‘Underdog' Cole Bardreau Hoping to Surprise Flyers

VOORHEES, N.J. -- All it took to change the course of destiny for Cole Bardreau was a shove from behind on a dangerous puck chase in the corner.
His head was down when the Cornell forward slammed into the boards over three years ago.
“I went into the boards awkwardly and I felt a little numbness in my fingers," Bardreau said this week during the Flyers' development camp, "but by the time my trainer got to me, it went away and it was something I thought I could shake off as the game went on.
“So that’s what I did. I just played it off and it actually wasn’t until two days later that I still had a little bit of neck pain.”
That little pain nearly caused him paralysis because after team medical personnel had him get a CT scan, they found he had cervical fractures (C-7) in the front and back of his neck.
All of this happening a couple days after he and fellow Team USA members had celebrated a gold medal victory at the World Junior Championships in 2013.
Bardreau missed three months as his spine fused. He also missed the NHL draft.
“I was able to get clearance right as the summer started," he said, "so I had the whole summer to gain back my strength and get back on the ice and I had a pretty good turn around from there."
The Flyers had tried to sign him and failed. Bardreau, who turns 23 later this month, eventually penned his name as a free agent in March 2015.
“He came in, had a little bit of a tough start,” Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said. “He’s tenacious, irritating, hard-working. Plays hard and [he's a] physical type of player.
“He was really quiet the first 20 games [last season], but then he really started to come on. Then he was back to the Cole Bardreau that we saw at Cornell.”
The 5-foot-10, 193-pound forward is one of those bottom-six pests every NHL club has a spot on its roster for. He’s not a bonafide scorer — just 13 goals in 54 games with the Phantoms in 2015-16.
Flyers defensive prospect Reece Willcox played with Bardreau at Cornell and can attest to his on-ice personality.
“He’s a guy you love to have on your team, but hate when he’s on the opposite side,” Willcox said. “He competes so hard and he’s not afraid to get under people’s skin. He plays that role to a T.”
Even during his U.S. National Team days from U-17 through U-20, Bardreau was that type of player. His collegiate totals at Cornell were 18 goals in four seasons and countless scrums.
He plays a heavy game above his size and is a better-than-average faceoff guy, too.
Whether that’s enough to get onto the Flyers' roster at some point remains to be seen. Zac Rinaldo made it off thunderous, borderline illegal hits and little else.
“At the end of the day, everyone wants to make the next step," Bardreau said, "but at the same time you want to win so any time you can bring in guys that are going to help you do that it’s a positive and I’m looking forward to it."
Hextall pegged Bardreau as a dark horse candidate to watch during the Flyers' main camp in September.
“I wouldn’t say how close [I am], but they just let me know that I have to bring the energy, I have to be the best out there and to not get away from that,” Bardreau said. “When I do, that is when I struggle and I’m farther away from making that jump.”
Bardreau likens his game on the ice to that of Tampa Bay’s Ryan Callahan.
“I would say I bring that edge every night, the compete level, in your-face-kind-of-guy that can also have a little scoring touch at the other end,” he said.
Bardreau is hoping when he returns to Flyers Skate Zone in the fall, he’ll fly under the radar with so much attention focused on highly-touted winger Travis Konecny. He sees himself as the underdog and prefers such as well.
“Absolutely, I think that kind with all my injuries it’s kind of been the story of my whole career,” he said. “I’ve always been the underdog that really surprises people and that’s something that I like to play with.
“Last year my goal was to come in and help out the Phantoms and be a stable position, but this year the goal is to try and get a few games up with the Flyers. It’s important for me to come in with that mindset, it’s going to help me along the way.”

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