Syvret looking for an edge

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:53 AM ET

Danny Syvret was an American Hockey League all-star this past season.

He was one of the top-scoring defencemen (12 goals, 57 points) in pro hockey.

But the only time the Philadelphia Flyers called him up was on an emergency basis in mid-March when Randy Jones got hurt.

And even then, he only played two games.

Most thought Philly would be the former London Knights star's big shot. But the 2005 Canadian Hockey League defenceman of the year played more in the big leagues when he was with Edmonton, who dealt him away last season.

"It can be frustrating at times," the 24-year-old from Millgrove said. "When you first come in, you have to prove yourself, but then you feel like you've done everything you can at this level and are ready to take the next step.

"You're told you're part of the future, but you're waiting for your opportunity and don't know why."

For some, the opportunity never comes. Londoner Dave Simpson, one of the great scorers in Knights history and the 1982 CHL player of the year, never played in the NHL.

Former Ottawa 67's scoring star Corey Locke filled the net in junior and the AHL, but has only played once with the Montreal Canadiens. He was the CHL top player in 2003.

As the years go by, it becomes harder to catch the eye of someone willing to grant a player that chance.

"We're starting training camp for the Euro Can Cup (Aug. 24-31 at the John Labatt Centre) here in London and I think that'll help me," he said. "Hopefully, by playing in it (with a gaggle of fellow Knights alumni against three European clubs), it'll give us that extra step heading into NHL training camps.

"Yes, it's quicker and the players are stronger up there, but all you want to do is be noticed, to prove you can play there."

Syvret is a head-scratcher because he brings those tools that are so popular in NHL circles right now -- that smaller, offensive-minded defenceman such as Washington's Mike Green or Windsor's Ryan Ellis who can skate, control the puck, run the power play and chip in a big goal.

"There's nothing that says you only need one of those on each team," Syvret said. "There's a stigma against smaller players that follows them around. I'm five-foot-11, but I'm 200 pounds. You can be six foot and 160 pounds and that doesn't matter.

"I'm OK with it. I've accepted my height."

His brother Corey, a Guelph Storm defender, has that size.

"He's really big now," Danny said. "He's getting into Marc Methot territory."

The Flyers, of course, bulked up this summer by trading for towering blue-liner Chris Pronger, known for his ability to suck up tons of ice time.

That didn't discourage Syvret.

"It was a one-for-one really because the Flyers brought in Pronger but traded a defenceman (Luca Sbisa) who was even younger than me," he said. "I don't think I moved up in the organization, but John Paddock coached me with the Phantoms this year and he was just named the Flyers' assistant GM.

"He knows what I can do. I got the kind of minutes and power-play opportunity that I did when I was with the Knights. I believe he's in my court."

The business part of the game becomes huge in deciding which players stay.

"Because (Pronger) makes all those millions, they'll need someone on the blue-line who makes near the lower end," Syvret said.

Right now, Syvret is a restricted free agent.

He doesn't know if he'll end up back with Philly or another organization. He just knows he doesn't have any control over where he ends up.

He'd love to play in the Flyers-Maple Leafs exhibition game on Sept. 17. So would fellow former Knights Josh Beaulieu and Pat Maroon, Syvret's Phantoms teammates.

"Philly played there last year and they didn't bring us on the trip," Syvret said. "It would be great. We didn't score a lot of goals with the Phantoms last year, but Pat (Maroon) emerged as one of our top offensive forwards."

And whether he gets his chance this year or not, no one can take Syvret's joy for hockey.

I'm still playing a game," he said. "It's fun."


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