PHILADELPHIA | Eric Wellwood spent much of this season injured in the minor leagues, taking a season that could have been a chance to make a real impact with the Philadelphia Flyers and sending it off the rails.
“You don’t go into a season expecting to get hurt, and when you do, it’s more of a letdown and a disappointment because it’s unexpected,” said Wellwood, who is now fully recovered from a shoulder problem. “It comes with the territory and you learn how to move forward.”
How Wellwood moved forward is quickly, as the blazing-fast 22-year-old winger has six points and a plus-9 rating in 15 games with Philadelphia, including the only goal last month in a victory over the Washington Capitals.
Because he spent so much time away from the ice, Wellwood is happy with how his game is rounding into form.
“I’m really happy with it. I had a plan coming in. I didn’t know how many games I would get,” he said. “I take it day-by-day, and each game is an opportunity for me to showcase what I could bring.”
Wellwood brings a little bit of offense, some defensive ability and a lot of speed. His wheels make it tough for slower defensemen to keep up on the rush, and his chameleon approach to getting out there in all situations makes him a dynamic option for the Flyers.
They know that I can play first line to fourth line, any role. That’s the type of player that I am,” Wellwood said. “It’s not that I’m highly skilled or anything, but I work really hard. Sometimes that comes with goals.
“I just see what they want for me. Each game is a different game it seems. One day I’m playing on the fourth line as a shutdown guy or an energy guy. The next day I’m second line with Danny [Briere]. I think it’s been changing up and down. But I just take each day-by-day and try to play the role they slot me in.”
Recently Wellwood has played on a line with Briere and Jakub Voracek, but the 2009 sixth-round pick who has already exceeded expectations doesn’t want to take too much credit for his own recent success.
“They’re unbelievable players. Danny, he’s one of the most skilled players I’ve ever played with. And Jake, his shot, his work ethic, his speed, is something special,” Wellwood said. “It makes it easier, and I think that’s the reason why people seem to [think] that I stand out.”
Unfortunately for Wellwood’s modesty, he has stood out on his own merits. And now the Flyers count on him for offense, something that he’s able to provide thanks to a bevy of confidence that comes with experience.
“Your first couple games, you’re a little nervous, and you just want to make the right play, and I think you’re thinking a little bit too much,” Wellwood said. “As of now, I think the coaching staff has a lot of trust in me, and I think that gives me the most confidence. That’s lets me step outside the box a little bit.”