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[#] Thu Sep 01 2016 06:20:34 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: I've got a golden ticket...

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Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...

*...and a very golden jersey, apparently. So what do you think, folks? [BSH]

*If you missed parts one and two of Charlie's most excellent long read on the Flyers penalty kill, well, you're going to want to go and read them. Today we've got part three, which focuses on play in the defensive zone. [BSH]

*Up next in our 25 under 25 ranking is Mr. Mark Friedman, who doesn't get a lot of attention because of the Flyers' extremely crowded corps of defensive prospects. Man that feels nice to say. [BSH]

*Provorov Provorov Provorov!! [Sons of Penn]

*The roster has been announced for the All American Prospects game, which is being held in Philly this year. [SBN College Hockey]

*Speaking of prospects, the Flyers and Islanders will host a prospect game this month. THIS MONTH YOU GUYS. [BSH]

*In other news, the Pittsburgh Penguins continue to ruin Phil Kessel. [The Hockey News]

*Jaromir Jagr is releasing a calendar for charity and,'re welcome. []

*And finally, Jakub Voracek is an absolute delight. Even if did block me on Twitter. [TSN]

[#] Thu Sep 01 2016 10:41:52 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: High expectations for Alex Lyon entering his first pro season

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The latest in the Flyers' foray into undrafted college free agents, Alex Lyon comes to Philadelphia with a long track record of success. How big of a role can he push for within the organization this year?

The undrafted college free agent pool is one that the Flyers have always liked. Rarely does a spring go by without the Flyers plucking at least one player out of the college ranks to add to their prospect pipeline. This was a bit of a problem in the earlier part of the decade, when the college free agent pool was largely what the Flyers relied on to put together a prospect pipeline -- that's what'll happen when you regularly trade your first- and second-round picks for NHL pieces and rentals -- but as simply another way to add to the system, it's a good place to look.

But other than the signing of Matt Read in the spring of 2011, the names the Flyers were getting in free agency were mostly low-ceiling ones. Despite stated interest in a lot of the "bigger names" on the market (remember Christian Folin? Eric Hartzell? Andrej Sustr? Danny DeKeyser? J.T. Brown?), the Flyers were usually not the ones pulling in the big fish.

That changed this past April, when the Flyers got one of the best goaltending prospects on the college free agent market.

No. 22: Alex Lyon

Position: G
Age: 23 (12/9/1992)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Yale (NCAA) - .936 SV%, 1.64 GAA in 31 GP
Nationality: American (Baudette, MN)
Acquired Via: Signed as an undrafted free agent in April 2016

The Flyers appealed to Alex Lyon in a number of ways. Lyon himself admitted, via the Inquirer's Sam Carchidi, that the team's long-term uncertainty in net (with both Steve Mason and Michal Neuvirth being free agents after next season) played into his decision to sign here, and he also mentioned that he really hit it off with Flyers goaltending coach Kim Dillabaugh.

Still, the team did have to get a bit creative to sign Lyon, a then-junior at Yale who had at least a dozen teams bidding on his rights. Since he was signing his entry-level deal at 23 years old, the maximum contract length any team could offer him was a two-year deal. The Flyers signed him on April 5, just five days before the end of the NHL regular season, and they offered start the clock on the first year of his contract right away -- meaning the first year of his two-year contract expired five days later.

In some ways, that's appealing to the player, since it puts him a year closer to free agency; Lyon will now be able to negotiate a new contract next summer, as opposed to in the summer of 2018. On the other hand, there's some risk there on the player's end. He's essentially passing up a full year of salary, he's now got just one year to prove that he's for real, and if that one year doesn't go well for him then the Flyers can just drop him next summer. Lyon surely knows this, so if nothing else, you've got to admire his confidence in himself.

His confidence seems to be fairly justified, though, because it's tough to find any year in recent history that hasn't gone well for Alex Lyon.

Above, via the excellent, is Lyon's career résumé, from high school to American juniors to college. Simply put, the guy stops pucks. It's tough to find any year in there with a save percentage that doesn't look very good -- only 2011-12, in his first year in the USHL, does he have a number (.910) that leaves a bit to be desired. And in his last two years at Yale, he was incredible, with save percentages well over .930 and goals-against averages well below 2.

And he's received plenty of recognition for his strong performances in those last two years. He was a finalist for the Richter Award -- given to the NCAA's best goalie -- in both 2014-15 and 2015-16. He was one of the 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award this past season. And after his excellent sophomore season, he was even one of Team USA's three goalies in the IIHF World Championships

Over at Canucks ArmyGreg Balloch of In Goal Magazine gave a brief scouting report on the ex-Bulldog earlier in the spring:

Alex Lyon has become something of a workhorse for Yale University this year. The notoriously strong program has been hit hard with injuries, and have relied on Lyon more so than usual. The 23-year-old hasn't wavered, and is posting the best numbers of his collegiate career.

Lyon's strengths are his hands and his ability to adapt and develop. He uses his posts well, and makes smart, confident decisions with his save selections. His hands also play an important role in his game, because he doesn't have the natural skating ability that you would like to see from a goaltender with average size. When he is caught out of position, he is able to make up for it with above average tracking skills.

Although he has made considerable improvements each season, it's hard to say what his ceiling is. His willingness to learn certainly helps his case, but the pro game will be his toughest challenge. As the speed of the game around him increases, he will need to make positional adjustments to account for his skating ability. There's obvious risk involved with that, but he's a prospect that is worth a look because of his raw skills and reputation as a hard worker.

The "hard worker" thing is important here, because Lyon is going to be fighting for every start he gets in the organization in this upcoming season. Lyon himself has said that he's gunning for a spot on the NHL roster, and while that's an admirable goal and mindset, it is obviously quite unlikely that he will break camp with the Flyers unless he outplays Anthony Stolarz and we see an injury to Mason or Neuvirth. In fact, with the signing of Mark Dekanich to an AHL contract a couple of weeks ago, it's not even guaranteed that Lyon has an AHL spot locked down, though you'd have to think he has the inside track for it.

Ultimately, there's little risk for the Flyers when it comes to Lyon. Their goaltending pipeline is half-a-dozen deep at this point, and if he doesn't work out, then the team can move on after the season ends. But there are a lot of potential rewards for him and the team if things do work out this year. At worst, Lyon can push Stolarz from the backup spot in Lehigh Valley and keep both of them on top of their games. At best, Lyon comes out and plays the same way he's played for years, and shows the Flyers that they have not only another call-up option this season but another legitimate goaltending prospect holding his own in the pros.

It'll be an adjustment for Lyon, who didn't play any professional games last year after signing with the organization. Going from college to the AHL will likely take some time, and as with any prospect there's no guarantee for success. But it's tough to bet against the guy who's done nothing but stop pucks for his whole life, isn't it?


How we voted for Alex Lyon:

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
n/a 19 19 25 24 15 n/a 15 n/a 18

How we voted at No. 22:

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Carter Hart Jordan Weal Merrick Madsen Petr Straka Petr Straka Cooper Marody David Kase Radel Fazleev Connor Bunnaman Mark Alt


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Thu Sep 01 2016 11:42:51 EDT from Charlie O'Connor

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Penalty Kill Analysis, Part 4: Recommendations for 2016-17

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Through three days, we learned more about the Flyers' penalty kill tactics, and determined which were most efficient in terms of preventing shots and goals. What changes can Philadelphia make to the PK to improve next year?

This is part four of a four-part series by Charlie O'Connor describing and evaluating the penalty kill of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2015-16. In Part One, we outlined and defined the different formations that the Flyers' penalty kill used in their forechecking and defensive zone strategies. Part Two delved into the manually-tracked forechecking metrics. Part Three did the same for defensive zone metrics. Today, we use our findings to recommend potential adjustments to the Flyers' PK strategies in 2016-17.

This week's series on the shorthanded units of the Philadelphia Flyers was, first and foremost, meant to be an informational exercise. By breaking down each of the most-used forechecks and defensive zone schemes, the hope was that readers would begin to recognize these patterns while watching games in the future. Also, by providing statistics that measured the efficiency of each of those tactics, it would provide a glimpse into the thought processes of coaches, who are constantly trying to evaluate the best practices for their systems.

But this type of deep dive into tactics and statistics also gives us the opportunity to speak intelligently about how the team might go about improving the PK. Our new knowledge of the effectiveness of these tactics, combined with an understanding of the tactics themselves, makes it possible to suggest how the Flyers' penalty kill could adjust for next season to become a better shot and goal prevention unit.

Before I outline those recommendations, however, let's recap our basic findings.

What do we know now about Philadelphia's penalty kill?

First, on the forecheck:

  • The Flyers' main forechecking tactics were the Passive 1-3, the Retreating Box, Same-Side Press and Tandem Pressure.
  • The Passive 1-3 was used 39.42% of the time -- by far the most of any tactic.
  • The Retreating Box came in second at 24.57 percent, and saw its usage skyrocket by the Flyers over the final three months of the season.
  • The Tandem Pressure forecheck was the most effective in generating full breakups of rushes and in limiting opponents' ZEFR rate -- yet it was only used 11.04% of the time.
  • The Retreating Box was the second-most effective in limiting ZEFR rate, while the Passive 1-3 ranked third and the Same-Side Press came in last.
  • The Passive 1-3 was the most effective forecheck in preventing successful opponent entries into the offensive zone from turning into full power play formations or dangerous rushes.

And then, in the defensive zone:

  • In the defensive zone, Philadelphia mostly shifted between a Passive Triangle +1 formation and a more aggressive Czech Press.
  • The Flyers used the Passive Triangle +1 a whopping 72.2% of the time, and Pressure-Based defensive zone tactics just 27.8%.
  • However, Pressure-Based tactics did a better job by 25-30 percent at limiting defensive zone shots allowed over the Passive Triangle +1.
  • Despite this, the Flyers' overall defensive zone shot prevention metrics did not get worse over the final three months of the season, even though the penalty kill's ratio of Passive-to-Pressure tactics increased.
  • After accounting for the type and number of entries (controlled, uncontrolled, and faceoffs) that the Flyers allowed in 2015-16, the penalty kill performed at basically a league-average defensive zone shot suppression rate, based on the data from Corey Sznajder's All Three Zones project.
  • The Flyers' worst three penalty killing months were caused by three distinct issues -- in October goaltending, in December neutral zone entry prevention, and in January defensive zone shot suppression.

Recommendations for 2016-17

Armed with this information, it's time to make some suggestions on what the Flyers could do next year tactically in order to improve the state of their penalty kill. The goal is simple -- return the Philadelphia PK to where it was just three years ago, when it held a position as one of the league's best shot and goal prevention units.

Recommendation No. 1: More Tandem Pressure

The most glaring disconnect between our findings from the forechecking data and the Flyers' penalty kill usage percentage was the fact that the Tandem Pressure was the least used yet most effective forecheck when it came to halting opponents' rushes and preventing them from setting up in the Philadelphia zone. Employed just 11.04 percent of the time, the Tandem Pressure successfully broke up 39.29% of rushes, and finished the season with a ZEFR Against Rate of 38.10% -- another team-best.

But the Flyers seemingly jettisoned this tactic in the 2016 calendar year, as its usage dropped below 10% in January, February, March and April. Even though the Philadelphia penalty kill delivered some of its best shot and goal prevention rates in the later months of the season, that's no reason to justify the abandonment of the Tandem Pressure. The metrics are clear -- it should be given a second chance.

That's not to say that the Tandem Pressure should be used as the base of the Philadelphia penalty kill. It can't be used effectively in all situations -- it's at its best when opponents are regrouping deep in their own zone -- and it does carry risk. Our ZEFR tracking implies that risk is overblown, but there likely is a threshold of usage (or matchups against certain opponents) where teams will begin to exploit the Tandem Pressure.

Still, I find it hard to believe that a move back to the 20 percent range (which is around how much it was used at the start of 2015-16) would surpass that threshold. And even its worst-case scenario -- that only the two remaining defensemen are left in the neutral zone in the event of the forecheck failing -- isn't much different than a failed Same-Side Press, except the Tandem Pressure usually sees the two forwards backchecking furiously and therefore skating with speed to help attack the opposing power play as it tries to set up in the offensive zone.

Recommendation No. 2: Use Pressure-Based tactics more often in the defensive zone

Here's the big one. If you're looking to really move the statistical needle in terms of shot and goal prevention for the Flyers' penalty kill, this is the recommendation that would have the biggest impact.

As I noted on Wednesday, Philadelphia used the Passive Triangle +1 a whopping 72.2% of the time, leaving just 27.8% for pressure-based tactics like the Czech Press. But the stats indicate that the penalty kill gave up less shots of every type when employing aggressiveness in the defensive zone rather than sitting back.

Defensive Zone Strategy Times Used Shots on Goal Per Formation Unblocked Shots (shots on goal + missed shots) Per Formation Shot Attempts (shots on goal + missed shots + blocked shots) Per Formation
Passive Triangle +1 322 0.54 0.89 1.29
Pressure-Based 124 0.40 0.66 0.88

This table seems to be the smoking gun in favor of pressure-based tactics taking up a larger percentage of the mix in 2016-17. But one curious fact remains. As I found yesterday:

But now we run into a legitimate issue with our data. If the Flyers performed better in the defensive zone when using pressure, and they used less pressure over the final three months of the season, the logical conclusion would be that their penalty kill became less effective as they cut back on pressure. Interestingly enough, that wasn't the case.

[In 2015-16 there was] no real correlation between "frequency of defensive zone pressure" and a good Flyers penalty kill.

If pressure is so much better than passive defensive zone tactics, then why did the Flyers post two of their best penalty killing months when very little pressure was used in the defensive zone? Are pressure-based tactics even necessary? Did the Flyers get better at passive techniques as the year progressed?

Fortunately, we can answer these questions by looking at the shot prevention outcomes for each defensive zone tactic on a monthly basis. As it turns out, our explanation is not that the Passive Triangle +1 became significantly better at shot suppression at the tail end of the year. It's that the Flyers' pressure-based tactics, though used much less than earlier in the year, got really really good.


Aside from a terrible month of January, the Flyers generally allowed around 0.80 unblocked shots per usage of the Passive Triangle +1 strategy. Pressure-based tactics produced consistently better shot prevention outcomes, but they reached their peak effectiveness at the end of the year. If anything, the team's late-season improvement in defensive zone shot suppression can be credited to pressure-based tactics, rather than being a repudiation of their usefulness.

So what are the arguments against adding more pressure in the defensive zone to the gameplan? One is that increased pressure may help in terms of shot suppression, but it will result in the penalty kill allowing a higher percentage of dangerous chances. After all, increased aggressiveness could result in penalty killers ending up out of position more often, leaving areas like the slot and net front more open for power plays.

Let's test this theory. Luckily, Corsica.Hockey added scoring chance data over the summer, so by dividing 4-on-5 scoring chances allowed by total shot attempts (Corsi) allowed on a team level, we can determine what percentage of shot attempts permitted by the Flyers were of the highest quality. And it turns out that over the past two years, the Flyers have been near the top of the league in limiting scoring chances relative to all shot attempts allowed. Last season, they ranked sixth with just 22.42% of all attempts categorized as scoring chances, and in 2014-15 they were fifth with 22.89 percent.

But just because the Flyers have been efficient at preventing 4-on-5 scoring chances does not guarantee that passive defensive zone structures were the main cause. Nor does it even mean that preventing scoring chances relative to total shot attempts is a repeatable skill. Both of those assertions must be tested.

We'll start with the latter. If scoring chance suppression is a repeatable skill, you can expect that teams will mostly retain it year-over-year. Sure, there will be slight personnel shifts and some teams might adjust their tactics, but we should still see a relationship between team performance in year one vs. year two if it truly is a skill. Via Corsica.Hockey, we can go back as far as the 2007-08 season to test this relationship.


A R-squared of 0.0896 implies that there is something of a year-to-year relationship, but it's not particularly strong. Therefore, it's probably not prudent for a team to view strong scoring chance suppression percentages in one season as a guarantee that the next year will produce the same results.

And there's another reason why the Flyers' recent move towards passive defensive zone strategies on the PK shouldn't be credited for the team's success in suppressing scoring chances. In the two years preceding this most recent stretch (2012-13 and 2013-14) Philadelphia also ranked in the NHL top-five in scoring chances allowed relative to all shot attempts. In fact, during the 2013-14 season, no team was better in that area.

While I did not manually track penalty kill data from 2012-2015, the general consensus locally is that Philadelphia dialed back on their defensive zone pressure starting with the 2014-15 season. What this data shows is that even if you believe scoring chance suppression on the PK to be a sustainable skill, the Flyers were already successful in this area prior to cutting back on the pressure. Passive defensive zone play clearly isn't a prerequisite to limiting scoring chances, making it less risky to re-introduce more aggressive tactics.

The other argument against increasing pressure is more difficult to fully rebut -- the game theory argument.

In addition, there's a game theory element at play as well. Maybe tactics like the Czech Press worked better precisely because they were used infrequently. Teams grew accustomed to the Flyers sitting back, so when they did attack 28% of the time, it caught opponents off guard. Overuse of pressure-based tactics potentially could blunt their effectiveness.

Without league-wide manually tracked data, it's tough to fully refute this theory. My best response to this line of thinking is, "What's the harm in trying more pressure?" After all, pressure-based tactics were superior in terms of shot suppression each month last season for the Flyers, even when the distribution was closer to 60/40 in favor of passive defensive zone play. There might be a passive-to-pressure ratio threshold where pressure-based tactics stop being more effective than passive ones, but Philadelphia clearly has not found it yet.

And the rewards are potentially enormous. Let's assume for a second that the "shots per formation" averages from this past year hold for next, and that the Flyers allow the same total number of power play set-ups. Move from a 72/28 passive-to-pressure ratio to just a 50/50 ratio, and that shaves 23 unblocked shot attempts off the Philadelphia total allowed for the season. Assuming the same 4-on-5 time on ice next year, such a change would place the Flyers' PK sixth in the NHL in Fenwick Against per 60, sixth in Corsi Against per 60, and fifth in Shots (on Goal) Against per 60.

With that kind of reward and with the risk seemingly limited, I feel comfortable advocating for more use of pressure-based tactics from the Flyers in the 2016-17 season.

Recommendation No. 3: Stick with the Retreating Box/Passive 1-3 hybrid and scrap the Same-Side Press

The Flyers may have actually lucked into this adjustment. The Retreating Box became a larger part of the Philadelphia PK game plan in February, right around the time Sean Couturier went down with injury. Through my video study, it was obvious that Couturier was far and away the most effective forward in the F1 role in the 1-3 formation, whether that meant harassing the puck carrier as the only real pressure on the Passive 1-3, or directing traffic to the desired side of the ice on the Same-Side Press.

Possibly due to the absence of Couturier, the Flyers ramped up their usage of the Retreating Box, a forecheck that places less emphasis upon the assertive defensive instincts of the forwards involved and more upon forcing the power play to commit to their entry strategy and then reacting as quickly as possible. Surprise, surprise -- the new tactic worked beautifully. The Retreating Box finished the season with a higher breakup percentage (28.34%) and a lower ZEFR Against rate (44.39%) than any forecheck not named the Tandem Pressure.

The truth is, beyond Couturier, I'm not sure the Flyers have the personnel to run an effective standard 1-3 formation that switches between the Passive 1-3 and the Same-Side Press. Especially now that Ron Hextall seems intent on decreasing Claude Giroux's role on the PK to save wear-and-tear, it seems to me that Philadelphia lacks the dynamic two-way forwards up front necessary to extract the most value out of that strategy. Therefore, the Retreating Box appears to be the best way (for now) to proceed.

One positive of the Retreating Box is that it can be used in tandem with the Passive 1-3, especially when opponents utilize drop passes. As noted on Monday, one way to beat the Retreating Box is move just up to the extent of its range, drawing in the first line of penalty killers, before sending a drop pass to a trailing teammate.

In this scenario, the forward who did not commit to the pressure could still retreat back into the center spot at his own blue line as his fellow forward recovers, essentially creating an impromptu Passive 1-3. As we explored on Tuesday, the Passive 1-3 may allow a higher-than-ideal percentage of controlled entries, but its strength lies in its ability to attack the power play post-entry, as they are setting up in their formation. This gives the power play two options: attack the Retreating Box directly and try to beat it, or execute a drop pass and face the Passive 1-3 in the offensive zone.

As for the Same-Side Press, I don't believe it is an inherently flawed forechecking strategy. In fact, I suspect a forward corps filled with elite two-way guys with speed could execute it to perfection and overcome its weaknesses. Do the Flyers have that kind of forward depth right now? I have my doubts.

That's not to say it should be abandoned entirely. There will be matchups where the coaching staff believes that the Passive 1-3 should be the main look shown in the neutral zone, and in those cases, the Same-Side Press would be a great audible option. But based on the data, the Flyers might be better served with this forecheck solidly in the fourth position on the "Most Frequently Used" list.

Conclusion and Areas for Further Research

To all of those who took the time to read through this entire four-part project, my hope is that you gained a better understanding both of the penalty kill of the Philadelphia Flyers in 2015-16, and of PK tactics in general. Statistics remain essential in evaluating on-ice performance, but I believe that a greater knowledge of coaching strategies at the team level only serves to increase the depth of analysis.

But even a four-part series isn't enough time to analyze every element of the Flyers' penalty kill. There remain avenues for future analysis and research that I did not include in the series, and I would encourage any readers with interest in this topic to explore these areas.

To start, this series focused on team-level tactics and statistics. Adding in player-level analysis -- from individual microstatistics such as Breakups Created to on-ice metrics determining whether certain tactics are used more or less often with specific players on the ice -- could be a massive aid to teams looking to optimize their personnel. This is an avenue I hope to have time to explore in the coming weeks, but it involves additional manual tracking and data scraping capabilities that I was not able to complete before publication. I imagine the results could be eye-opening.

Second, an interesting quirk in the data appeared when tracking the Flyers' outcomes in terms of entry types. While their average number of unblocked shots allowed on dump-ins matched up with Corey's data from the All Three Zones project, the Flyers did a much worse job than expected at shot prevention on carry-ins, and a much better job than expected against defensive zone faceoffs.

This could just be noise, so it would be intriguing to check if shot prevention by entry type at the team level shows signs of being repeatable in Corey's dataset. In addition, tape study could show if the Flyers' strategies for shot prevention against carry-ins have some sort of flaw, and if their post-faceoff strategies are particularly effective for a specific reason.

Finally, a league-wide tracking project of each forecheck across the NHL would be invaluable in helping us to understand which ones might be "the best" in preventing entries and limiting ZEFR rates. Merely studying the Flyers leaves too many variables open (personnel, tactical unknowns) but a larger project could give us insight into which forecheck types are generally more effective than others over large samples and distinct personnel sets.

In any case, I hope that the information that was presented in this series helped to provide a clearer picture of the Philadelphia Flyers' penalty kill. And in a little over a month's time, we'll see if Ian Laperriere and Dave Hakstol largely stick with their 2015-16 blueprint, or adjust in the hopes of better outcomes. Armed with this data, we'll now be there every step of the way to keep track of their progress.

[#] Fri Sep 02 2016 06:17:24 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Friday Morning Fly By: Whatever who cares it's a long weekend.

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Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...

*Good news everyone: your captain Claude Jefferson Giroux is READY for some hockey. And he feels great. []

*Charlie wraps up his series on the Flyers' penalty kill with his recommendations for what strategies the team should employ in the upcoming season. Since you're not doing any work today (get serious), you should read this. [BSH]

*Ranking the top-10 prospects in the Flyers' organization, for funsies. [Sons of Penn]

*Speaking of prospects, 25u25 rolls on with a look at Alex Lyon, one of those fun undrafted college types. [BSH]

*You know who is awesome? Wayne Simmonds that's who. [Today's Slapshot]

*One of the cool things about Dave Hakstol is he provides a steady pipeline of solid prospects from UND. The Phantoms got a new one yesterday. [Highland Park Hockey]

*Meltzer has some thoughts about the new jersey. [Hockeybuzz]

*The World Cup of Hockey is mere WEEKS away and the numerical rosters have finally been revealed. [ProHockeyTalk]

*Speaking of, it is kind of annoying how good Team Canada is all the dang time. [Sportsnet]

*A few NHL rookie hopefuls share their first favorite hockey players. [Puck Daddy]

*And finally, DGB on the biggest stories from the last Canada Cup - the precursor to the World Cup - back in 1991. [The Hockey News]

[#] Fri Sep 02 2016 09:20:24 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Mark Alt coming up on a big season with the Phantoms (or Flyers?)

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Mark Alt comes into his fourth full year with the organization hoping to crack the NHL roster, but there's an important role for him with the Phantoms if that doesn't work out.

The Lehigh Valley Phantoms' defense could and maybe even should be one of the best in the entire AHL this season. The team will have a number of exciting, young players on the blue line this year, with -- in particular -- Travis Sanheim entering his first professional season and Samuel Morin coming into his second. And Ron Hextall's decision to bring in AHL vets like T.J. Brennan and Will O'Neill should only make that group more formidable.

But beyond the journeyman AHL vets and tantalizing young prospects, there's one name that Scott Gordon will likely be penciling into his lineup night in and night out without giving it much of a second thought. And that's the one guy who sort of falls in the middle of those two groups: Mark Alt, one of the last Phantoms holdovers from Glens Falls.

No. 21 : Mark Alt

Position: D
Age: 24 (10/18/1991)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Lehigh Valley (AHL) - 4 G, 15 A in 72 GP
Nationality: American (Kansas City, MO)
Acquired Via: Traded from Carolina along with Brian Boucher for Luke Pither in January 2013

Alt -- who is the oldest member of our countdown, as he'll turn 25 in less than two months -- is entering his fourth full year with the Flyers' organization. In that time he's played one single game with the Flyers, as he was an emergency injury-fill in late in the 2014-15 season for a single game. He's otherwise been a mainstay on the Phantoms' blueline, and while by all accounts it sounded like he was doing a fine job on the farm, he never seemed to be given serious consideration as an NHL-level prospect.

In a lot of ways, it's easy to peg alt as a sort of tweener prospect who's running out of time to prove that he'll ever be more than just an AHL player. And that's not totally untrue -- on his fourth year in the system, if he can't make a lasting impression soon, it's tough to know when he'll have the chance to again.

And with the influx of prospects and young, talented defensemen coming in and the roster crunch that the Phantoms are staring at, it wouldn't have been that surprising to see the organization not renew Alt's contract this past summer. Yet the Flyers shot that idea down quickly, giving Alt a one-year, two-way contract the day before they even extended qualifying offers to the remainder of their restricted free agents.

Clearly, there are some things the Flyers like about what Alt brings to the table. What could those be?

First of all, Alt it a fairly simple, steadying player. Nothing about his skillset necessarily screams "wow", but he does most things fairly well. He's not a big-time scorer, but he's got a solid offensive game; he's averaged .29 points per game in his Phantoms career, which is around 22 points per 76-game AHL season -- respectable for a defenseman who's only sparingly been used as a power play player. (Alt is also a right-handed shot, which is something the Flyers still don't have much of.) And his defensive game is solid as well.

On a team full of young players, a good but still safe player like Alt is a valuable thing to have. Look at how the team used him almost exclusively this year: on a pairing alongside AHL first-timer and prized defensive prospect Samuel Morin, on a pairing that was (per Highland Pack Hockey's Tony Androckitis) regularly used as the team's shutdown pairing. Morin's a good prospect, but you don't throw a player like that to the wolves in his first professional season unless you're confident he's got the right supporting cast in place around him. For Morin this year, that supporting cast was Mark Alt, which shows you what Gordon and the coaches in Lehigh Valley thought of him.

It remains to be seen exactly what the Phantoms have in mind for Alt this season. They could keep him with Morin again as the team's shutdown pair, or maybe they could run him out as Travis Sanheim's safety net. There are a lot of ways for the Phantoms to use a player like Alt, which is exactly why he has so much value to the organization even if he's not going to become a full-time NHLer.

But, since we asked: is there still time for him to make that leap?

On the one hand, it's tough to be too confident in it. As mentioned, in Alt's three years with the Phantoms there's never been much noise at all of him really being considered as a meaningful NHL replacement. Given how the Flyers' defense has been in the past few years (read: not too good!), the fact that no one in the organization ever looked at him as a potential improvement isn't a great sign.

Still, sometimes all it takes is one break. We know that the Flyers would prefer not to use any of their not-quite-ready-yet prospects as injury call-ups, and if Alt gets out to a strong start, he could be the guy who gets a look over the likes of T.J. Brennan should a call-up be necessary. Or, maybe he can hope the cards fall his way Brandon Manning-style: work your way through with the minor league team for years, then have a good enough camp that the team feels like it can't afford not to keep you around. This year very well may be his last chance to do so (at least within the Flyers' organization), but it's not that hard to see a scenario where he at least gets a chance to show his worth at the NHL level.

Yet for now, as Alt comes up on 25, we may know what he is, and he may just spend this year as the all-around pretty good AHL defenseman who works well with the prospects in Lehigh Valley. And even if that's it, that's a pretty important role for this franchise.


How we voted for Mark Alt :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
10 21 n/a n/a 23 21 20 21 17 22

How we voted at No. 21 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Radel Fazleev Mark Alt Mark Friedman Phillippe Myers Danick Martel Mark Alt Felix Sandstrom Mark Alt Cole Bardreau Radel Fazleev


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Sat Sep 03 2016 10:32:19 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: How will Carter Hart follow up his outstanding 2015-16 season?

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The reigning CHL Goaltender of the Year and arguably the top goaltender in the 2016 draft, Carter Hart has already set the bar for himself pretty high. Can he clear it again this year?

The goalies we've discussed so far in our Flyers Top 25 Under 25 series are guys who came into the Flyers' system with different kinds of entrances. Merrick Madsen, an honorable mention, was more or less an unknown who may have only been drafted by the team in the sixth round of the 2013 draft because Peter Laviolette stumbled upon him while looking for high schools for his son. Felix Sandstrom, at No. 24, was a fairly well-regarded goaltending prospect, but opinions of him varied somewhat widely coming into his draft, and still do today. And our 22nd-ranked player, Alex Lyon, was found via the undrafted college free agent ranks -- meaning three straight drafts went by without any team taking a chance on him.

Contrast those guys' pre-draft standing with that of Carter Hart, this past draft's only goaltender drafted by the Flyers, and you'll notice a difference rather quickly.

No. 20: Carter Hart

Position: G
Age: 18 (8/13/1998)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Everett (WHL) - .918 SV%, 2.14 GAA in 63 GP
Nationality: Canadian (Sherwood Park, AB)
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft -- Round 2, Pick 48

Whether Flyers fans, in a vacuum, were excited or disappointed in the team's decision to use a second-round pick on a goaltender, it's hard not to think they got decent value out of the pick. Hart was the first goalie to come off the board in the entire 2016 draft -- at No. 48, the latest a first goalie of the draft has come off the board in 30 years -- and that's probably because you're hard-pressed to find many qualified people who didn't think Carter Hart was one of the two or three best goaltenders, if not the best goaltender, in the 2016 NHL Draft.

Hart was ranked first among goalies by ESPN's Corey Pronman, by Future Considerations, by TSN's Craig Button, and by goalie-centric publication InGoal Magazine, just to name a few. He was second on NHL Central Scouting's ranking of North American goalies, and was the third-ranked goaltender in Bob McKenzie's rankings.

It's not surprising that draftniks liked Hart, since everyone else who watched him seemed to like him pretty well, too. Hart was named the CHL Goaltender of the Year this past year for his work with the Everett Silvertips. (For those of you keeping score at home, yes, the Flyers did have the CHL's best defenseman and its best goaltender last year. Pretty soon we'll have taken over all of Canada.)

And he received that honor at 17 years old. Quite an accomplishment, and it's a deserved one. After splitting time in net in his first season with the Silvertips, Hart was the team's workhorse this past season, playing in 62 of Everett's 72 regular-season games. And for those who are interested in "clutch" and all that, Hart has also elevated his play in the playoffs in both of his two seasons with Everett.

(For context on the above numbers, the league-average save percentage in the WHL was 90.16% this past season, and was 90.03% in 2014-15.)

What makes Hart so good? Let's ask Pronman, who just earlier this past week called him the seventh-best goaltending prospect in the league:

Hart is a very smart goaltender. His knowledge of how to read the game and anticipate pucks using proper positioning in the net is high-end. Scouts describe how easy he makes it look and how he never gets out of his technique on tough saves. His athleticism is fine. He moves around at a solid level, and he has an above-average glove hand, but he doesn't have that explosive element in his game.

This all bears true when you watch him play the net. Not to try and glean too much insight from a highlight video (always important to remember that they're the highlights and not the full picture), but watch the video embedded at the bottom of this post. You don't see a ton of movement as Hart makes these saves; rather, you see (for the most part) a goalie who's put himself in the right position and just has to finish out the job. Whether or not it makes for a sexy highlight reel doesn't matter nearly as much as whether or not it leads to pucks being stopped, and Hart seems to be doing just fine a job on that front.

Since Hart, who didn't turn 18 until about three weeks ago, can't play in the AHL until he turns 20, it's very likely he'll spend another two years in the WHL. He's definitely going to be there next year, and it's extremely tough to envision a scenario in which he breaks camp with the Flyers team in 2017-18. If nothing else, it'll give him a chance to further refine his game before he reaches the pro level, which isn't the worst fate. He'll get a chance to make the Team Canada roster for the World Juniors both this and next season (he was at their Evaluation Camp earlier this summer, though it wasn't his best showing), and who knows what other hardware he may pick up in that time.

But more than any other goalie prospect the Flyers have grabbed since the decade began, there will be a lot of eyes on Carter Hart. He may not be a can't-miss goaltending prospect (so few of those exist any more), but a lot of people -- from the Flyers to the Everett Silvertips to Hockey Canada to the fans of all of those organizations -- are rightfully going to be expecting nothing short of excellence from him this year. If he can't follow up his goaltender-of-the-year season with similar levels of success this year, there will be a lot of questions. But if he can pull together another outstanding season? Then by the time we're doing next year's Top 25 Under 25, we could be talking about Carter Hart like he's one of the best goaltending prospects in hockey.


How we voted for Carter Hart :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
22 n/a 20 19 18 18 n/a 17 20 19

How we voted at No. 20 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Tyrell Goulbourne Danick Martel Carter Hart Wade Allison Mikhail Vorobyov Petr Straka Mark Alt Nicolas Aube-Kubel Carter Hart Felix Sandstrom


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Sat Sep 03 2016 16:54:11 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Radko Gudas injured, will be evaluated on a “week to week basis”

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Some surprise injury news pops up over the holiday weekend, as we learn that defenseman Radko Gudas will miss the World Cup and likely some of training camp as well.

Earlier today, news broke that Radko Gudas would miss the World Cup of Hockey — he was set to compete with Team Czech Republic — with what Czech reporter Roman Jedlicka claimed was a wrist injury. While we still can’t confirm the wrist injury part, we now know for sure that Gudas was somehow injured, as the Flyers have released a statement on the status of their big defenseman:

"Radko Gudas sustained an upper body injury during his offseason training and will be evaluated on a week to week basis. We are hopeful and optimistic that he will not miss any regular season games.”

This news is a bit out of nowhere and, since it’s the Flyers and all, we’re unlikely to receive any more specific details from them. That the team is “hopeful and optimistic that [Gudas] will not miss any regular season games” is good, I guess, but the statement would suggest that Gudas will likely be limited for some or possibly all of training camp.

Gudas, coming off of a very solid first season in orange and black, signed a four-year, $13.4 million contract extension back in June. This is not quite the start you were hoping to hear about if you want him to repeat that strong season, but we’ll wait to panic much until we get closer to October 14.

[#] Tue Sep 06 2016 06:14:05 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Tuesday Morning Fly By: After summer comes hockey.

[Reply] [ReplyQuoted] [Headers] [Print]

Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...

*Summer is finally (unofficially) over and you know what that means right folks? It's hockey time. Only 11 days 'til the World Cup gets underway, and unfortunately we won't get to see Radko Gudas do his thing with the Czech Republic. [BSH]

*Speaking of the World Cup, Team North America might end up being the most fun to watch, but they'll have to overcome their inexperience to really compete. [Sportsnet]

*Another fun team to watch will be Team Finland. [ProHockeyTalk]

*After last week's 50th anniversary jersey reveal, Meltzer gives us a look back at all the sweaters the Flyers have worn over the years. [Flyers]

*It may have been a holiday weekend but your friends at Broad Street Hockey kept the 25 Under 25 rolling with a look at goalie Carter Hart... [BSH]

*...and defenseman Mark Alt, who hopes to finally find himself a spot in the NHL this year. [BSH]

*Former Flyer Mike Richards future Edmonton Oiler? Could be, the team needs a bit of a veteran presence. [Edmonton Journal]

*And finally, could the answer to the NHL's perceived scoring troubles lie in a simple change to the schedule? [The Hockey Writers]

[#] Tue Sep 06 2016 10:33:19 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Petr Straka likely on his last chance to make a statement

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A white-hot start to last season likely bought Petr Straka one more chance to prove himself to the Flyers. Can he take another step forward this year, or is he what he is at this point?

Around this time last year, the headline "Petr Straka sits at No. 15 heading into make-or-break year" was one that ran on our website (in this very same 25 Under 25 feature, of course). The premise of Charlie's article there was fairly straightforward: Straka hadn't really established himself as a strong prospect in his two years (to date) with the organization, and he was likely coming up on his last chance to prove himself as a potential future NHLer.

This was more or less the same blueprint that I'd written out in my head when I went to write this year's article about Straka. A pessimist would interpret that fact by saying that Straka spent his "make-or-break year" down in the minors, never really even in the conversation for NHL playing time. An optimist would look at that fact and say that, despite Straka's seemingly uneventful year and the logjam of forwards the Phantoms look like they'll have this year, the Flyers still retained Straka this past summer, signing him to a one-year, two-way contract extension back in July.

So which one is it?

No. 19: Petr Straka

Position: RW
Age: 24 (6/15/1992)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Lehigh Valley (AHL) - 19 G, 18 A in 64 GP
Nationality: Czech (Plzen)
Acquired Via: Signed as an undrafted free agent in April 2013

Truthfully, calling Straka's year "uneventful" isn't totally fair to him. If you were looking for him to get out to a good start to his contract year, you couldn't have asked for much more out of him: he had 14 goals by the time November had ended -- already matching the total he had from the entire 2014-15 season. He was the AHL leader in goals for much of the season's early going, positioning himself as a call-up option were a winger on the Flyers to get injured.

The fact that some regression would ensue is unsurprising -- Straka had just 2 goals in December -- but things took an unfortunate turn for the young Czech winger in early January, when he blocked a shot in a game in Portland on January 3 and ended up missing about a month of game time with the dreaded lower-body injury (which, according to Highland Park Hockey's Tony Androckitis, was a knee injury). Things never quite got back on track for Straka, who played in 26 games after returning from said injury and tallied just two goals (and nine assists) in that time.

To be sure, some bad luck was likely in play for Straka down the stretch. His shooting percentage in those 26 games was a paltry 3.3 percent, a number which should be expected to rise given time alone. And it's very possible that he wasn't playing at full strength for some or all of that post-injury time, or that he came back too soon and it hurt his play, or that he was otherwise affected by the injury in some fashion. The play Straka showed in those 26 games is probably at a level below what we should expect him to play at this coming season.

But the problem is that we don't know what we can expect him to play at this season. His torrid pace through November was fun to watch, but we can pretty safely say that he was playing at a pace there that he can't maintain long-term -- Straka shot 26.4 percent during that time, something that no one can reasonably expect him to do with regularity. And taking the whole season into account -- the highs of October and November to go with the lows of February to April -- Straka's overall production, on a per-game basis, was just .58 points per game.

That's a respectable number in a vacuum. But Straka's a 23-year old who's played in three AHL seasons, and he's a guy mostly hailed for his offensive ability. If you're looking for a guy on the cusp of being a point-producing NHL winger, you probably want to see a more dominant performance than that.

Also, that per-game total is comfortably a career-best for Straka in his three-year AHL career. Again, there are two ways to look at this: the pessimist would think that this may be the best he can do and think it's time to move on, while the optimist would think that at 23 there's still a chance he has a breakthrough coming.

The Flyers, though, seem to be taking the optimist's view on Straka, as they gave him that aforementioned contract extension in mid-July. And truthfully, it's a perfectly fine for them to give. There's little downside for them; it's a two-way contract, Straka's not blocking anyone important at the AHL level, and at worst, he's shown that he's at least a decent AHL winger who helps the Phantoms win now. And at best, Straka finds some of the magic he had during that early-season run last year, scores a bunch of goals, and gives the team a reason to take an even longer look at him -- whether that's in the form of a call-up this year or another contract next summer.

Still, it does feel like this is an actual make-or-break year for Straka. His first two months last year likely bought him a longer look this upcoming season. But at 24 years old and going into his fourth year, he can't afford to have an AHL season that's anything short of dominant if he wants to keep himself in the Flyers' long-term conversation.


How we voted for Petr Straka :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
13 15 n/a 22 22 20 17 n/a 18 24

How we voted at No. 19 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Oskar Lindblom Alex Lyon Alex Lyon Carter Hart Radel Fazleev Taylor Leier Danick Martel Robert Hagg Radel Fazleev Carter Hart


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Wed Sep 07 2016 06:21:03 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: Bunch of schmelts around here...

[Reply] [ReplyQuoted] [Headers] [Print]

Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...

*The Broad Street Hockey 25 Under 25 keeps rolling along with our next victim, Petr Straka. [BSH]

*If you are a confused and distressed person, perhaps you'd like to buy one of those 50th anniversary jerseys. [Sons of Penn]

*In case you missed it, the great Elliotte Friedman dropped an incredibly great piece giving tons of insight on the two blockbuster trades that rocked the league on free agency day. Must read, if you ask me. [Sportsnet]

*And in that piece the Oilers, particularly Peter Chiarelli, look like a total clown show. [Puck Daddy]

*So get ready for the hockey world to focus on the World Cup for the next couple of weeks, for obvious reasons. Not everyone seems particularly excited about it, though. [Winging It In Motown]

*YOU KNOW WHAT IS EXCITING? A possible Captain Couturier, that's what! [ESPN]

*Russia has a seriously sick crop of forwards for this tournament but can their defense keep up? [ProHockeyTalk]

*The starting goaltender for Team USA is still up in the air. [USA Today]

*Ten questions you might have about the upcoming tournament are answered. Hooray for the internet! [Puck Daddy]

*Bill Daly says everyone is happy with the current CBA, which means we'll definitely have another lock out when it expires. [ProHockeyTalk]

*On weighing shot rates based on passing numbers. [Hockey Graphs]

*You know how sometimes hockey players don't look that athletic when the pads come off? Brooks Laich is not one of those players. [Pension Plan Puppets]

*And finally, watching players define hockey slang never gets old, so here we go. [TSN]

[#] Wed Sep 07 2016 10:25:04 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Pascal Laberge is the newest playmaker in the Flyers' system

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The former second-overall pick in the QMJHL Draft has gone through some tough times in recent years -- on and off the ice -- but he looks like he may have been a second-round steal for the Flyers.

It's been a long, long journey to where he is now for Pascal Laberge, the French-Canadian forward who was taken with the Flyers' first of three second-round picks in this past June's draft. The past few years have been trying for Laberge, who lost his stepmother to cancer while witnessing his father also struggle with cancer. Laberge put together a touching story about how difficult that experience was for him, and how hockey helped him get through it.

From the start, Laberge showed a ton of promise, so much so that in 2014 he was the second overall pick in the QMJHL draft in 2014. But a rough start to that first season in the Q -- a mere 10 points in the 27 games he played with the Gatineau Olympiques -- saw him get traded midway through said season to the Victoriaville Tigres.

Things have improved for him since then, to the point where the Flyers getting Laberge in the second round of the draft could arguably be seen as a steal.

No. 18: Pascal Laberge

Position: C/RW
Age: 18 (4/9/1998)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Victoriaville (QMJHL) - 23 G, 45 A in 56 GP
Nationality: Canadian (Châteauguay, QC)
Acquired Via: 2016 NHL Draft -- Round 2, Pick 36 (Pick acquired via Winnipeg along with Pick No. 22 in 2016 for Pick Nos. 18 and 79 in 2016)

So what happened to Laberge in his first year? (Note that, from what we know, the 2014-15 season took place before any of Pascal's aforementioned family tragedy.) It sounds like he and the coaches in Gatineau never really meshed, as noted hardass Benoit Groulx may have ran him into the ground a bit too early, necessitating the trade to Victoriaville where things improved slightly.

Laberge, who was initially drafted as a center, really took off partway through his second season, when his coaches in Victoriaville met with him and decided to move him out to the wing. Habs Eyes On The Prize points out an interview with then-Tigres head coach Bruce Richardson, indicating that said meeting took place in December.

If that is the case, then the shift certainly appears to have worked out alright for Laberge.

Timeframe Games Played Points Points Per Game
9/11 to 11/27 25 23 0.92
12/10 to 3/19 31 45 1.45

Richardson mentioned in that interview that part of the idea behind the move from center to right wing was the fact that he wanted Laberge "thinking way less in the defensive zone". And maybe that isn't ideal. If that's where he is in the QMJHL, odds are he's not going to be a great defensive forward if he reaches the NHL level. But you can look past that for a player with the offensive skill that Laberge has, and any move that allows him to unlock that skill is probably for the best. (Which is to say that we can probably expect Laberge to be a right wing prospect moving forward.)

Clearly, the Flyers like Laberge -- they've already given him an entry-level contract, making him the first player of their 2016 draft class so far to receive one. And beyond his exciting highlight videos (do check out the one below when you've got a few minutes), he's given fans who've watched him reason for excitement: our own Charlie O'Connor called him "the second-best forward at [Development Camp]" this past July, behind only Travis Konecny.

There's work to be done here. Richardson talked about wanting Laberge to play a power kind of game, and if that's something he wants to do at the NHL level, he'll need to add some weight to his 6'1", 175-pound frame. And after a dominant half-season in the later part of his draft year, observers will surely be looking for a dominant full-season from Laberge this year in the QMJHL, hoping he can string together strong performances with consistency.

But if nothing else, the Flyers look like they have a playmaking forward who's got the talent level of a legitimate NHL prospect on their hands.


How we voted for Pascal Laberge :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
n/a 18 14 16 15 n/a n/a 9 n/a 16

How we voted at No. 18 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Cole Bardreau Pascal Laberge Jordan Weal Merrick Madsen Carter Hart Carter Hart Radel Fazleev Wade Allison Petr Straka Alex Lyon


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Wed Sep 07 2016 12:42:18 EDT from Kurt R.

Subject: Flyers to host alumni game with Penguins on January 14; partial roster revealed

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The alumni teams will play indoors in Philadelphia a month before the current NHL teams play outdoors in Pittsburgh.

As many teams do prior to hosting an outdoor game (you’ll likely remember the Flyers-Rangers alumni game played on New Years’ Eve in 2011), the Flyers confirmed today that they and the Pittsburgh Penguins, as part of each of their 50th anniversary celebrations, will host an alumni game in early 2017, prior to the teams’ outdoor showdown in Pittsburgh.

The game will be held on Saturday, January 14, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. (the modern-day Flyers have an afternoon game that day in Boston), and it will be indoors in the Wells Fargo Center rather than outdoors or in Pittsburgh. The Flyers also announced part of their roster for that game, and it includes names from every era of their 50-year history, from Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach to Eric Lindros and John LeClair to Danny Briere and Brian Boucher. (Danny Briere is on an alumni roster. We’re all old.)

Season ticket holders will be able to purchase tickets as soon as tomorrow (September 8), per the team, and tickets will be open to the general public on Friday, September 16.

The Flyers’ full press release on the event, including all of the confirmed names on the roster so far, is below:

In honor of the 50th anniversaries of the Philadelphia Flyers and Pittsburgh Penguins, alumni legends from both clubs will renew their rivalry in a special, cross-state contest on January 14, 2017 at 7 p.m. at the Wells Fargo Center.

Flyers season ticket members will enjoy an exclusive alumni game ticket pre-sale – and the opportunity to reserve their own seats – beginning tomorrow, September 8 at 11 a.m. Tickets will go on sale to the general public on Friday, September 16 at 11 a.m. at

This official alumni game will feature representation from every era of Flyers Hockey and will stand as the largest gathering of alumni since the 2012 Winter Classic outdoor game at Citizens Bank Park. Flyers fans will get to see the return of some of the most popular players in franchise history, as well as the debut of first-time alumni players.

“This game is a celebration of the past 50 years of Flyers Hockey,” said Brad Marsh, president of the Flyers Alumni Association. “To bring five decades’ worth of players and fans together to share in the one thing we all have in common – fiercely representing the orange and black – that’s not something that happens every day.”

Flyers Alumni confirmed to play in the January game include:

60’s / 70’s

Forwards - Bob Clarke, Bill Barber, Reggie Leach, Bob Kelly, Orest Kindrachuk

Defense - Joe Watson, Jim Watson


Forwards - Tim Kerr, Dave Poulin, Brian Propp, Murray Craven

Defense - Mark Howe, Brad Marsh, Kjell Samuelsson


Forwards - Eric Lindros, John LeClair

Defense - Luke Richardson, Terry Carkner


Forwards - Danny Briere, Simon Gagne

Defense - Eric Desjardins

Goaltender - Brian Boucher

Full alumni rosters for both teams, in addition to other special guests attending the game, will be announced closer to the game date.

50th Anniversary Season Ticket Memberships are available now and can be reserved by clicking HERE or calling 215-218-PUCK.

The Flyers-Penguins alumni game is presented by AAA.

[#] Wed Sep 07 2016 14:13:49 EDT from Ari Yanover

Subject: WATCH: Claude Giroux is a wonderful dork in World Cup of Hockey commercials

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His name is shaved into someone’s chest. Because reasons.

The fun thing about international hockey tournaments is it gives us an excuse to watch and cheer for players outside of our own nationalities. Take Claude Giroux, for instance; he’s great, but he’s not American. What’s a Flyers fan to do when he’s wearing red and white instead of orange?

Well, of course, we can still appreciate him for his art - both on the ice and, uh, in commercials.

First up, there’s a very French commercial here, but even if you don’t speak a word of it, just wait until the 11 second mark or so...

That dude didn’t shave "CANADA" into his chest. He shaved "GIROUX". Good call, dude.

Also, please watch this commercial about mini-sticks and Giroux being a conniving thief and saboteur, if only because his dorky grin at the very start almost makes the entire thing on its own (and because he's probably thought of doing this in real life, too).

Poor Russia. Should’ve known better than to go up against Giroux like that.

[#] Wed Sep 07 2016 16:00:33 EDT from Ari Yanover

Subject: Todd McLellan has a lot of praise for Shayne Gostisbehere

[Reply] [ReplyQuoted] [Headers] [Print]

He definitely is a special player - and this is just the beginning.

Generally, Todd McLellan has nothing to do with Shayne Gostisbehere. He was the longtime coach of the San Jose Sharks; now, he’s the latest bench boss entrusted to advance along the Edmonton Oilers’ rebuild.

Two teams in the Pacific Division - you can’t get much further from Philadelphia than that.

But for a couple of weeks before the real season starts, McLellan has a lot to do with Gostisbehere. He’s the coach of the World Cup of Hockey’s Team North America, featuring the best of the best 23-and-under Canadian and American players: one of whom so happens to be Gostisbehere.

Camp has only just started, but McLellan already has a ton of praise for one of his young defensemen.

McLellan probably isn’t actually going to use him like that - there’s a lot of talent at his disposal on Team North America - but he’s definitely on one of those powerplay units.

And remember, this is a coach who’s going to have to play against him a couple of times a year.

And remember remember - the Flyers still have even more young, exciting defensemen coming up through the ranks.

Things were already looking good for the future of the backend; comments like this from someone who is, most of the time, an opposing coach just serve as an exciting reminder for what we can probably expect to come.

[#] Thu Sep 08 2016 06:15:52 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: Wait it's only Thursday?!

[Reply] [ReplyQuoted] [Headers] [Print]

Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...

*This look back at Pelle Lindbergh by Bill Meltzer is exactly the kind of wonderfully random content it'd be nice to have more of during the offseason. [Hockeybuzz]

*Next up in the 25 Under 25 is playmaker Pascal Laberge. [BSH]

*The Flyers are set to flop this season? Say what now? [The Hockey Writers]

*Who would you include on a list of the Flyers' best forwards in their history? [Pattison Ave]

*World Cup of Hockey practices are in full swing right now and it seems like Claude Giroux and Sidney Crosby love playing together and like..that's weird, man. [Sons of Penn]

*Sean Couturier and Shayne Gostisbehere are shaping up to be leaders on the North American team. [Inquirer]

*Team USA is...kind of trash, top to bottom. And they're playing "gritty" hockey which good god if there was ever a time to go with finesse, boys... [ProHockeyTalk]

*Speaking of Team USA, they've named their captains. [USA Hockey]

*The World Cup will have some different overtime rules, which is kind of fun. [Puck Daddy]

*Big big news from the Flyers yesterday was the partial roster reveal for an alumni game against the Penguins ahead of the Stadium Series. ERIC LINDROS BACK IN TOWN BABY! [BSH]

*Mustachioed tough guy George Parros joins our old friend Chris Pronger in the Department of Player Safety. Wonder if they'd ever consider like...a medical expert. [ProHockeyTalk]

*DGB brings us his list of five classic hockey video games. [The Hockey News]

*And finally, Claude Giroux in World Cup promos is kind of the best thing ever. [BSH]

[#] Thu Sep 08 2016 10:35:07 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25: Radel Fazleev will bring scoring touch to Lehigh Valley this season

[Reply] [ReplyQuoted] [Headers] [Print]

20-year old Radel Fazleev will from major junior to pro this season. Will he continue to build off of his WHL success?

Coming off a wildly successful final year in the WHL with the Calgary Hitmen - Fazleev was the team's top scorer in the 2015-2016 season, scoring 71 points and was honored with the team's Player of the Year award - Radel Fazleev jumps one spot to number 17 on our ranking, in the same year that he makes the jump to the AHL.

If there is one thing that is an absolute certainty heading into next season, it's that the Lehigh Valley Phantoms are going to be a heck of a lot of fun to watch. A big part of that will be due to the crop of young forwards that the team has assembled. Now that he's aged out of juniors, Radel Fazleev will join guys like Nicolas Aube-Kubel and Taylor Leier on a team that should score a lot of goals next season.

No. 17: Radel Fazleev

Position: C
Age: 20 (1/7/1996)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Calgary (WHL) - 19 G, 52 A in 59 GP
Nationality: Russian (Kazan)
Acquired Via: 2014 NHL Draft -- Round 6, Pick 168

Sometimes, taking a look at a player's simple box stats is enough to get you excited about having him in your organization. Over the course of three seasons with the Calgary Hitmen, Fazleev's point totals have risen each year, from 25, to 51, to a career-high and team-leading 71 points with the Hitmen last season. His final season in the WHL wasn't a total success, though, as the Hitmen were ousted by the Red Deer Rebels in the WHL playoffs, in part due to a late-season hand injury that made it impossible for Fazleev to shoot the puck effectively. It gave us a look at how Fazleev deals with adversity, though, and it's promising. From the Calgary Herald, after his team was eliminated:

But he never considered sitting out.

"I didn’t have a choice," Fazleev said. "I had to play. I know that the team and coaches were counting on me. I had to play. Still, I didn’t play the way I had to play.

"I tried my best but I wasn’t able to show my best game. I think it was a big part of our loss."

The injury that kept him scoreless in the playoffs also kept him from joining the Phantoms at the end of last season, so we are still waiting to see what Fazleev's pro debut will bring. It's always hard to predict how a player's game will translate from juniors to the bigger, faster pro leagues, but we have reason to be hopeful about Radel. Plus, he's already making himself at home in Philly.

How we voted for Radel Fazleev :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
21 16 n/a 15 19 14 18 22 19 21

How we voted at No. 17 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Philippe Myers Philippe Myers Wade Allison Felix Sandstrom Taylor Leier Jordan Weal Petr Straka Carter Hart Mark Alt Jordan Weal


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Thu Sep 08 2016 15:55:23 EDT from Ari Yanover

Subject: Pierre-Edouard Bellemare is already trashtalking Claude Giroux... in French

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What better way to trashtalk?

Even though players have had to drop out of the World Cup of Hockey, there are still some members of the Philadelphia Flyers going. Two of them are Claude Giroux and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, with Giroux representing Canada, and Bellemare, a Frenchman, being a part of the Frankenteam known as Team Europe.

Team Canada plays Team Europe at 8 p.m. on Sept. 21. And so...

Full disclosure, my French is not super great, but it would seem Bellemare is telling Giroux that on Sept. 21, he’s going to "eat one".

If it’s not clear enough to us Anglophones, though, I think that "#Bangbang" hashtag makes it understandable enough. Bellemare is coming for Giroux. (In a friendly-but-still-competitive way, I would think, that results in fun hockey for all and zero injuries to speak of. That’s the ideal, here.)

Everyone keep your heads up!

[#] Fri Sep 09 2016 06:10:45 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: Friday Morning Fly By: Yoooooo hockey!

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Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...

*Hockey returned to your dull and empty lives yesterday! Did you watch any? If you're on the fence about the World Cup, allow this to convince you to get on board Team North America and have a little fun. [Pension Plan Puppets]

*The Flyers are getting pumped! [BSH]

*Here's what we can expect from our boys during the tournament. [Sons of Penn]

*Here's a fun little distraction for your Friday at work: predicting who will fall into the Flyers' top six. [Evening The Score]

*Dale Weise credits his time spent in the Netherlands with improving his overall game. [Courier-Post]

*Speaking of Weise, he also thinks the Flyers are poised to do some damage in the Eastern Conference. [CSN Philly]

*Flyers fans think Ivan Provorov is ready for the NHL. [Inquirer]

*The 25 Under 25 rolls along with Radel Fazleev. [BSH]

*Evidently no one likes ESPN's hockey coverage. [Puck Daddy]

*Hoo boy apparently Steven Stamkos wanted quite a pay increase if he was to consider moving to Toronto. [Raw Charge]

*And finally, now that the World Cup exhibition games are in full swing, DGB brings you the 15 people you should expect to meet at an international hockey tournament. [Sportsnet]

[#] Fri Sep 09 2016 11:46:15 EDT from Kelly Hinkle

Subject: 25 Under 25, No. 16: The curious case of Jordan Weal

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Jordan Weal can't seem to find a place on the Flyers; what's up with that?

When Ron Hextall worked his magic earlier this year and sent Vincent Lecavalier and his albatross of a contract to the Los Angeles Kings, it seemed as though he may have made a real steal by getting Jordan Weal in return along with that draft pick.

But after spending nearly the entire season in the press box, where does Weal go from here?

No. 16: Jordan Weal

Position: C
Age: 24 (4/15/1992)
2015-16 League/Team/Statistics: Los Angeles / Philadelphia (NHL) -- 0 points in 14 GP
Nationality: Canadian (Saskatoon, Sask.)
Acquired Via: Traded from Los Angeles along with a third-round pick in 2016 for Luke Schenn and Vincent Lecavalier in January 2016

So the short answer to the above question is, of course, to Allentown. After Weal filed for arbitration earlier this summer, he and the Flyers came to terms on a one-year, two-way contract extension would seem to be a clear indication that they intend for Weal to play a role in the Phantoms success going forward.

And it's not hard to see why. In his last season with the Manchester Monarchs Weal scoring a pretty nice number of points, 69 in 73 games. He had 22 points in in 19 playoff games, the Monarchs went on to win the Calder Cup and Weal was named MVP.

There's not a lot to be said about a guy who spent nearly all of last season in the press box, but if not for having the clear waivers he would've been with the Phantoms last year, probably lighting things up. It'll be much easier for the Flyers to clear him through at the start of this season, when the waiver wire is a mess of up-and-down moves as players are evaluated in camp and teams set their final rosters for opening day. We've said it a lot recently, but the Phantoms really are going to be a ton of fun to watch next season and you can expect Weal to be a large part of their success.


How we voted for Jordan Weal :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
12 22 18 7 16 17 15 n/a 16 17

How we voted at No. 16 :

Kelly Travis Charlie Allison Kurt Brent Collin Kevin Al Community
Mark Friedman Radel Fazleev Cooper Marody Pascal Laberge Jordan Weal Nicolas Aube-Kubel Taylor Leier Oskar Lindblom Jordan Weal Pascal Laberge


Previously in Philadelphia Flyers Top 25 Under 25, Summer 2016:

[#] Sun Sep 11 2016 17:51:52 EDT from Ari Yanover

Subject: Radko Gudas spent his Sunday wisely

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He was ready for some football.

A hairline fracture in his wrist is keeping Radko Gudas from playing in the World Cup of Hockey. Fear not, though, because he's found something else pretty awesome to do with his time today.

It’s the first Sunday of the NFL season, and Gudas was in Philadelphia. You know what that means...

The Eagles are back! And Gudas was there, with a sweet view.

So, play in the World Cup, or go to the Eagles home opener and watch them beat up on the Browns from up close? Both are probably fine options, but that second one is a little extra awesome.

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