VOORHEES, N.J. – Tye McGinn was a pleasant surprise last season.
A player with only one year of professional hockey under his belt, McGinn looked strong during the first half of the season with the Adirondack Phantoms – enough that the Flyers brass thought he would have a shot to make the Flyers out of camp when the NHL finally returned from a work stoppage in January.
McGinn had a good camp. Although it was brief and there were no exhibition games, he definitely didn’t seem out of place practicing with NHL players on the Flyers.
He was the final player sent back down to the AHL before the start of the season, but it was made apparent that it wouldn’t be long before McGinn made his NHL debut.
By the third game of the season, he was in the lineup.
He ended up playing 18 games for the Flyers, some of them on the top line with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek, and finished with season with three goals and two assists.
He may have had even better numbers and played even more games had he not missed more than a month with a fractured orbital bone suffered in a fight with Toronto tough guy Mike Brown.
McGinn isn’t complaining though. His first foray into the NHL was a success. But now, after the Flyers re-tooled their forward depth by keeping late-season additions Jay Rosehill and Adam Hall and adding Vincent Lecavalier without really giving up any young talent, McGinn is again an underdog when it comes to securing a roster spot to start the season.
But at the same time, he’s right on the cusp and will fight to prove it again when camp opens next month.
“I always have high expectations of myself,” McGinn said. “But I think that’s even more now that I got to play in the NHL last [season]. Now that I’ve been there, I want to get back there and stay there. I still have to prove I belong.”
He has that mentality because he knows the competition is going to be high in camp, but McGinn’s always been a fighter – and not just in the drop-the-gloves sense.
After all, McGinn was cut by his original OHL team and had to switch leagues to play in the QMJHL.
He also was skipped over in the NHL Draft – twice.
And yet, there he was, 30 months after being drafted, playing with Giroux. He averaged nearly 13 minutes a game in his time with the Flyers, which is telling.
It means the Flyers do not think of McGinn as a fourth line guy at all – which is why he probably didn’t make the roster to begin with last July. Instead, they think he is a top nine forward.
Ultimately he is most likely to make his bones as a third line winger who plays some power play minutes, but he does have the ability to play higher up in the lineup – and with his work ethic – which is what excites the Flyers – he could end up developing the skill necessary to be a top six winger.
“I wanted to go into the summer with the mindset that I still have to be better,” McGinn said. “Every workout I was saying to myself, ‘Get better.’ It’s the little things ithat makes the difference between an AHL player and an NHL player. Sure, it’s a team game but anything you can do to improve yourself individually is not only better for you but better for everyone else on your team in the long run.”
What makes McGinn so intriguing for the Flyers as a possible third liner is the fact that he’s a player who isn’t afraid to go into the hard areas of the ice – the corners and in front of the net. He showed a true adeptness to tip pucks in front of the goal and to set excellent screens.
And, of course, he isn’t afraid to play the game hard and physical – even if it means he has to drop the gloves to protect himself or a teammate from time to time.
“There’s always high expectations at this level – not just for me personally, but for every guy who plays and those expectations are both individual and by the organization,” McGinn said. “I feel like there is an expectation there for me right now – both from myself and the team – and I have to go into training camp next month and prove that I’m ready to be a full-time member of the Philadelphia Flyers this season.”
It’s going to be a tough road to he through the exhibition season for McGinn to get there. If you assume the tip six forwards are Scott Hartnell, Claude Giroux, Jake Voracek, Brayden Schenn, Vincent Lecavalier and Wayne Simmonds. Then you also assume Matt Read, Sean Couturier, Max Talbot, Adam Hall, Zac Rinaldo and Jay Rosehill are all going to be on the team, McGinn will be battling with top prospect Scott Laughton and Giroux’s best friend in the sport Jason Akeson – for the 13th forward spot on the regular season roster.
However, the Flyers do need to shed some salary before the season begins but it seems more likely that they’ll do that from the blue line - where they currently have eight defensemen on NHL-only contracts.
So, McGinn’s challenge will be a sturdy one, but that’s never held him back before.
Every time in his career so far that he’s had what seemed like an insurmountable obstacle, he’s found a way past it – and usually not by traversing it either, but more so by plowing right through it.
He’ll get plenty of chances to prove it during exhibition season too. With captain Claude Giroux likely to miss the first week or two of training camp recovering from surgery on his index finger as the result of a strange golf accident, players like McGinn are sure to get longer looks.
Of course, if there are any injuries up front, McGinn will also be a guy who the team knows can be a capable fill-in.
So, it’s a good bet that McGinn will see action this season as a member of the Flyers, it’s just a question of when.
If McGinn had his druthers, it would start on Opening Night against Toronto – and he’ll fight as hard as he can to try to make that a reality.
To contact Anthony SanFilippo, email firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AnthonySan37
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