BUFFALO – Chris Vandevelde figured his fate had destined him to go to Europe.
That was until he received a late summer phone call from a friend’s father.
“I didn’t have much going in the summer and I was talking [with my agent] about going overseas,” Vandevelde said. “Then I got a call from Ron Hextall and I signed an AHL-only deal.”
Vandevelde knew the assistant general manager of the Flyers because he was teammates and friends with Hextall’s son Brett in college at the University of North Dakota.
Hextall got to see a lot of Vandevelde, and when the Flyers were looking for depth forwards who could come up to the big club in a pinch and be versatile enough to play in multiple roles, he immediately thought of his son’s former teammate.
And even though Vandevelde could have gone to play somewhere in Europe, taking an AHL-only deal had him closer to the NHL and a shot at getting back to the big show, so he decided to stay stateside and see what happened.
“The fact that someone was on my side like Ron – I played with his son at UND - the fact that someone who is pretty high up in the organization knew me was good and I know he was pushing for me and wanted to sign me,” Vandevelde said. “ I thought maybe I could eventually get an NHL deal and I did.”
But not right away.
A last minute addition to training camp, Vandevelde had an excellent camp and actually stuck around on the roster longer than other forward prospects on two-way deals like Michael Raffl and Tye McGinn.
He even was part of the group that went on the retreat to Lake Placid, N.Y. and was hoping he would get that shot.
But it didn’t come right away and Vandevelde was sent down to the Adirondack Phantoms.
“The fact that I got sent down was good for me,” he said. “ I went [to Adirondack] and I was a leader there. I played power play, I played penalty kill, I put up some points and the signing was a reward for a lot of hard work and now here I am.”
Vandevelde, 26, posted seven goals and six assists for 13 points in 23 games for the Phantoms, before being signed to a two-way deal and recalled in mid-December.
He played in six games before Christmas and then served as a healthy scratch for four games before being re-inserted into the lineup where he has slowly been seeing more and more ice time, both rolling the fourth line and also getting time on the penalty kill.
“Our line has been playing pretty well,” he said. “We’ve been playing pretty strong and we had a few chances. I had some chances shorthanded there.”
And head coach Craig Berube has noticed too.
“He’s done his job very well,” Berube said. “He’s done a good job killing penalties and in 5-on-5 play he’s good in the middle of the ice. He’s big, can skate and handles the puck decently. He’s been a pretty good player for us. His line did a good job for us in New York.”
Originally a fourth round pick (97th overall) by the Edmonton Oilers in the 2005 NHL Draft, Vandevelde spent four years at North Dakota before playing in small parts of three seasons with the Oilers. His lone goal at the NHL level came during the 2011-12 season against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Ironically, the goalie was Steve Mason.
Edmonton decided not to re-sign him after last season and he went into the summer not knowing about his future until that call from Hextall came in late August.
There were no promises by the Flyers, but they did tell him if he played well enough with the Phantoms there was still a chance he could sign a two-way deal and make t to the big club at some point.
“They definitely mentioned that,” Vandevelde said. “If you go down there and work hard there might still be an opportunity up here and I guess they weren’t lying about that. It’s great to be here and I’m having a great time.”
NOTES: Matt Read returns to the lineup tonight after missing six games with concussion-like symptoms. Read said the biggest problems were more vestibular than anything else. “I was having vision problems when I would exercise,” he said. “I would look around and things were cloudy and then I’d get pressure [in my head]. It’s gotten better every day and now I’m feeling good. The vision problems are gone and I just had to get back in shape.” … Steve Mason starts in goal for the Flyers against Jonas Enroth, the backup goalie for the Sabres… Steve Downie, Erik Gustafsson and Hal Gill are all healthy scratches for the Flyers… Around the League, the Florida Panthers announced they will host the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The 2014 draft, of course, will be held in Philadelphia.
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