September 15 Philadelphia Daily News
“Luke Pither knows he may only get one crack to get it right.
Pither’s test officially began Monday as the Flyers opened their annual rookie camp at the Skate Zone in Vorhees, N.J., just 5 days before their full-fledged training camp starts Friday afternoon. Although Pither, a 21-year-old center, signed a 3-year entry-level deal in March, he faces more pressure than most rookies: He can’t be sent back to junior hockey; he’s exhausted all of his eligibility. It’s either pro hockey or pack your gear.
“I’m definitely feeling the pressure,” Pither said. “I need to find a spot. I need to make a spot for myself or I won’t be playing at all. I’ve got to solidify that, work hard at camp and prove that I belong.”
That pressure may not be such a bad thing, Adirondack Phantoms coach Greg Gilbert said.
“There’s always pressure,” Gilbert said. “You want to put pressure on yourself to work hard and get as far as you can and realize your dreams. Pressure’s a good thing if you use it the right way. It’s a bad thing if you let it get to you and crumble you. You’ve got to direct it in the right way.”
Pither’s gaudy numbers – 36 goals, 58 assists in 67 games with Barrie in his fifth season in the Ontario Hockey League – are what earned him a contract. Displaying some grit and toughness, to dispel the knock that he is unwilling to play the physical side of the game, could be what sets him apart.
“Coming to the prospect camp they had early in the summer has just made me realize that the next step is that much greater,” Pither said. “I think I benefited from thinking about it all summer. It’s been pretty cool to be here and turn your head and see Chris Pronger walking by.”
The Flyers‘ coaching staff will get their first game-action look at Pither tomorrow afternoon when the rookies travel to Arlington, Va., to take on the Capitals rookies. That scrimmage could help determine whether Pither will see preseason NHL time.
“He’s got good skills,” Gilbert said. “He’s got good vision, some finish and a playmaking ability. He has a lot of success in the major junior ranks and he’s going to get a good opportunity.””
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