Wade Allison spent this offseason a bit differently than previous ones.
It was the first time in three years the 23-year-old forward wasn’t rehabilitating an injury when trying to prepare for the upcoming season.
“It’s new having the body feel good,” Allison said during Philadelphia Flyers development camp in August. “It’s nice. You’re able to put in the work that you need to every day and you’re not thinking about it, you’re not mentally stressed about whether your leg, shoulder, ankle, whatever it is, can support you. You just know it’s going to be there.”
Unburdened physically and mentally, Allison displayed the size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), strength and dynamic shot that earned him his first NHL opportunity last season.
“He’s a terrific, enthusiastic kid, very personable, loves the game,” Flyers senior advisor to the general manager/player development Mike O’Connell said. “Right off the bat, watching him his first couple of workouts, it was really his shot that impressed me. He’s got an incredible release, NHL shot. … I think he’s got a really good chance to be an outstanding NHL player. Use that shot, get him in the open spots, get him to understand where his spot is on the ice, where he’s going to score. He looks like a scorer to me, and I’m excited about his future.”
It’s a brighter future in part because Allison, a second-round pick (No. 52) in the 2016 NHL Draft, finally is injury-free.
Most of his issues can be traced to Jan. 13, 2018, when he tore the ACL in his right knee and injured his shoulder during a game in his second season at Western Michigan University.
Lingering knee pain limited his ice time during his final two college seasons, which hurt his production and conditioning.
Then during training camp with the Flyers in December 2020, he sustained an ankle injury, and after surgery didn’t play last season until March 14, with Lehigh Valley of the American Hockey League.
After scoring nine points (four goals, five assists) in eight AHL games, he made his NHL debut April 15 and scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in 14 games, including two goals against the Washington Capitals on May 7.
Allison said that experience gives him confidence he can earn a spot as a top-nine forward with Philadelphia this season.
“It was huge to get just a sample of what the speed, what the physicality is like,” he said. “Just a guide, kind of test out the water and stuff. It’s good. I feel confident in my ability and I think that hopefully I can make a push for the team this year.”
Helping that push will be the freedom to focus on becoming a better hockey player rather than becoming a healthy one.
“You go to work and you’re banged up and you’ve got to take care of that before you have to perform, it’s an added weight,” O’Connell said. “A young player trying to prove himself in the best league in the world makes it even more difficult. Having him fresh, having him in the right frame of mind physically, is only going to promote his mental health and his confidence and to deal with all the little setbacks that are going to happen when you’re playing in the best league in the world, or trying to play in the best league in the world.
“To remove that whole physical part of it, the whole injury part of it, is huge.”