Whether it’s an 18-years-old or a seasoned veteran, the first time an NHL player takes the ice for a new team always gives them nerves.
Forward R.J. Umberger is making his second stint in Philadelphia after three seasons from 2006-2008, and stepping onto the ice at the Wells Fargo center Monday evening during the Flyers first home preseason game gave the 32-year-old a few butterflies.
“It was fun,” Umberger said. “I was a little nervous, trying not to overthink, making sure I’m in the right system. That first game, it was a good win and I’m glad that first game is over with.”
Umberger and the Flyers power play unit held on to a 5-4 win over the Capitols, a result that was more or less meaningless but it was a game that saw several Flyers make their NHL (preseason) debut in Philadelphia.
One Flyer who impressed was 18-year-old Travis Sanheim, who was drafted this past spring and played more like a 20-something than a wide-eyed teenager.
“A couple of shifts in I felt pretty comfortable and with playing with [Mark] Streit,” Sanheim said. “It just makes things a lot easier and definitely worked well.”
The Flyers fell behind by two goals early but the youthful defense settled in and showed head coach Craig Berube the reason they were there in the first place.
“I thoughtthey were a little jittery,” Berube said. “But after that I thought their composure came around.Sanheim looked impressive to me.”
Umberger was impressed by Sanheim, as well as Shayne Gostisbehere and Robert Hagg, all of them hoping someday to be mainstays in the Flyers roster.
“I noticed a few of them out there making plays,” Umberger said, “and I think that’s a good thing when they’re noticeable. They were probably nervous though, but they play hard and will get better as the preseason goes.”
Another teenager,Nicolas Aube-Kubel joined the young defensive core, all of them hanging on to help the Flyers earn a preseason win, and all of them helping the team net four power play goals.
“Kubel looked impressive to me,” Berube said. “You’re talking 18-year-old kids playing againstmen out there.”
Now there are no more excuses about jitters or nerves to be made. The rookies know what to expect in the NHL and if they want to remain in orange and black they need to adjust, and fast.
“Already realizing the pace and you’ve got to think out there,” Sanheim said of becoming accustomed to the high-level of play. “It helps to get the first one out of the way and hopefully there’s many more to come.”