General manager Paul Holmgren said the fans - nearly 11,000 filled the lower bowl for the free scrimmage - were the No. 1 stars of the game. But on a night that was hyped for big names like top prospect Brayden Schenn and No. 8 overall pick Sean Couturier, Hyka was a close second.
It turns out that Hyka, 18, was one of the players the Flyers passed on in June's entry draft in Minnesota, opting instead to select bruiser Derek Mathers in the seventh round.
Hyka, who doesn't speak a lick of English, instead ended up in the Flyers' rookie camp as an invitee, hoping to earn a contract. Last night's scrimmage will keep him firmly planted on the Flyers' radar - even if they don't end up having the room to sign him to a contract.
"He's a good-looking young player," Holmgren said. "He's one of those kids that we liked and we ended up not drafting. He's playing for Claude [Giroux's] old junior team in Gatineau and we were fortunate enough to get him in here on a tryout."
The Flyers may have ended up passing on Hyka, one of the youngest players in rookie camp, because of his small, 5-10, 158-pound frame. But the Mlada Boleslav, Czech Republic, native - who was scooped up by Gatineau (QMJHL) eighth overall in their import draft - showed moves and deft puck-handling skills that cannot be taught. Even at such a young age, he also has experience in the Czech's top senior pro league.
The tricky thing is that if the Flyers don't find a way to make room for Hyka, he will be up for grabs again next summer in the draft. The Flyers may well not be able to nab him if he posts a breakout season in Gatineau.
Schenn and Couturier, both thought to be battling for jobs on the Flyers' Opening Night roster, played strong games but only Couturier registered on the scoresheet, with an assist. Newly signed defenseman Blake Kessel posted a goal and an assist.
"I thought it was an entertaining game," Holmgren said. "Brayden did a lot of good things. He played the body, he won a few faceoffs at the end for us . . . He made some good plays for us."
Jaromir Jagr arrived in Philadelphia yesterday afternoon from Europe as the last of the Flyers' regulars to join the team . . . Most players began strength testing yesterday in preparation for tomorrow's opening of training camp . . . The rookie game also featured three fights, with Flyers prospects Campbell Elynuik, Derek Mathers and Tyler Hostetter dropping the mitts . . . Tickets to the 35th annual Flyers Wives Fight For Lives Carnival on Feb. 19 go on sale today at ComcastTix.com.
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