Subject: NFL Draft Rumors: Eagles met with Reuben Foster again recently
But will the Birds really draft him?
There’s been a lot of speculation about where one of the top defensive prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft, Alabama linebacker Reuben Foster, might end up. On talent alone, Foster could warrant a top 10 selection, but it’s not as simple as that. Foster comes with a number of red flags.
For what it’s worth, the Philadelphia Eagles are doing their homework on Foster. In fact, the Eagles recently met with Foster, according to a report from Eliot Shorr-Parks.
This report might excite people who want the Eagles to draft Foster. “Hey, look, they’re interested in him!” But is that really the case? Will Philadelphia really take him if he’s on the board at No. 14?
I don’t think so. Numerous reporters have shot down this possibility lately. PhillyVoice’s Jimmy Kempski said pretty definitively that the Eagles will not draft Foster in the first round. Jeff McLane of the Inquirer also said “no way” when asked if the Eagles would draft him.
In addition to these denials, the source of this latest Foster report is worth considering. I don’t doubt ESP when he says the Eagles met with Foster. The team could easily be trying to gather more information on him, especially given the recent news of a failed drug test. But I do think a report like this so late in the draft process is interesting.
ESP was the same person who first broke the story about Foster having an official pre-draft visit in Philadelphia. Is this latest report coming from Foster’s camp in an attempt to boost his draft stock at a time where he’s perceived to be in danger of falling? Hard to say for sure, but you always have to consider there are often hidden agendas behind draft rumors, especially at this time of year.
Adding Foster to the Eagles’ defense would be fun in theory. The combination of him and Jordan Hicks could be pretty great. But again, I don’t think Foster is the likely pick at No. 14.
Subject: NHL expansion 2017: Which defensemen and goalie will the Flyers protect?
The Flyers have a couple of key decisions to be made when it comes to the last few protection spots heading into the expansion draft.
On Monday, we began what will be a week-long look at the Flyers’ situation heading into this June’s expansion draft by going through each of the seven forwards on the team that could either a) get the last protection spot that is realistically up for grabs among forwards, or b) get chosen by Vegas. Today, we’ll do the same for the Flyers’ defense and goaltending, taking a look at the four players who are really a part of the expansion puzzle in those groups.
We’ll assume, as spelled out in Monday’s post, that Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas are locks to be protected, which means that there is one spot for defensemen and one spot for goaltenders that remains up for grabs. There are probably four players that could fit into those two spots, so let’s talk about them now. We’ll go through the two defensemen and two goalies, listed within each group by the likelihood that the Flyers protect them.
Contract Status: Manning is under contract for one more season at a cap hit of $975,000.
Chances of being protected: Pretty low. Manning has admirably played the role of third-pair/press box swing guy for the past two years, and he’s an NHL-caliber player, but it’s fair to say he’s a pretty replaceable player with the talent the Flyers have coming up into the system in the next couple of years. As we’ll get to momentarily, the only way I can see the Flyers protecting him is if they decide they want to expose Andrew MacDonald, at which point Manning may get the spot by default.
Why Vegas might want him: Because they play in the same division as the Edmonton Oilers and it would be funny to have Manning harassing Connor McDavid four or five times a year. Also, he’s inexpensive and only tied up for one more year.
Why Vegas might not want him: Because he’s probably a sixth or seventh defenseman on a typical NHL team and Vegas can find nine guys who are better options than him across the other 29 teams.
1. Andrew MacDonald
Contract Status: MacDonald, of course, is under contract for three more seasons at a cap hit of $5 million per year.
Chances of being protected: Pretty high. Put your pitchforks down, people, let me explain. MacDonald’s contract isn’t a good one, and the Flyers — who sent MacDonald to the AHL in October of 2015 knowing that his contract was specifically why he wouldn’t get claimed — probably wouldn’t be devastated were they to lose it, as well as the $5 million a year cap burden that comes with it. But MacDonald was second on the team last year among defensemen in average ice time per game, and the coaching staff has stuck up for him when given the chance. And unlike in the forward ranks, where there are three or four guys you know the Flyers would be disappointed to lose for nothing based on their current roles, there’s no obvious alternative to get the Flyers’ third protection spot on defense, no guy that you look at and say “yeah, I bet they really want to keep him around”. From where we stand now, it looks like MacDonald, a nominal top-4 defenseman on this team, is the closest to that kind of player that the Flyers have to account for.
Essentially, the only way Andrew MacDonald won’t get the Flyers’ last protection slot on defense is if they outright decide that they want to expose him, because the costs of his contract outweigh the benefits he brings on the ice and they’re not in a position to overpay anyone. Right now, I think they believe that balance is a favorable one to them, so he probably gets it. We’ll see.
Why Vegas might want him: MacDonald is a guy that it seems a lot of NHL front offices like. He’s seen as defensively responsible, he’s a solid skater who is considered by some to be a solid passer, and he can play on both special teams units. All of this leads to him getting a lot of ice time, here in Philadelphia as well as back when he was with the Islanders. The Flyers paired MacDonald with their top young defenseman this season, Ivan Provorov, and they wouldn’t have done that unless they trusted both of those players to take on big minutes. Multiple teams were interested in MacDonald back before he was traded to the Flyers in 2014, and chances are there are a number of front offices that still like him as a player. Vegas could be one of those, and could decide that they can stomach the hefty cap hit for a guy they may see as a top-4 defenseman.
Why Vegas might not want him: There’s that contract, and then there’s also the matter that MacDonald may actually not be nearly as good as some teams think he is. Possession numbers have always cast MacDonald as somewhere between “a third pair defenseman miscast in the role of a top-4 guy” and “an AHL-caliber player”. And while the “eye test” is certainly subjective, it didn’t seem like MacDonald looked that good on the ice this past season, either. If Vegas has a particularly stats-friendly front office, it’s hard to imagine them deciding that MacDonald is worth a selection. And if the Flyers did decide not to protect a guy that they gave 20 minutes a night to last season, doesn’t that seem like the kind of thing that may set off a warning sign if you’re Vegas GM George McPhee and co.?
Contract Status: Neuvirth will begin a two-year, $5 million contract next season.
Chances of being protected: A bit below 50 percent. The Flyers clearly like Neuvirth, having given him a contract extension mid-season this past year. They see him as a guy who, at the very least, is a competent backup at this level, and they may decide that’s worth protecting. (Some are convinced that the Flyers signed Neuvirth to that aforementioned extension solely so they could expose him in the expansion draft, but that seems a little conspiratorial when we’re talking about a two-year deal that involved a raise in pay.)
Why Vegas might want him: One interesting aspect here is that of familiarity; McPhee was the GM who drafted Neuvirth back when he was in Washington, and he oversaw Michal’s rise to the NHL. In addition, Neuvirth’s a year removed from a season in which he was one of the NHL’s better goalies, posting a .924 regular season save percentage and then basically winning the Flyers two playoff games by himself. His career save percentage is a .911, and that’s a mark fitting of a quality backup or timeshare kind of guy — in a vacuum, a useful kind of player for a team to have.
Why Vegas might not want him: Neuvirth’s coming off of a year in which he was literally the worst semi-regular goalie by save percentage in the NHL, and in which he couldn’t stay healthy (which is a recurring thing for him, it seems). The way the expansion draft is set up, there will be a number of goalies out there who are either more established starters that have shown they can handle a #1 goalie’s workload, or are younger guys who have played well in limited time and might have the potential to be a goalie like that given a larger workload. Neuvirth, who is 29 and hasn’t played more than 32 games in a season since 2011-12, is neither of those, and it’s fair to ask how much appeal he has to Vegas while he’s sitting in the middle of those two more-appealing endpoints, all while holding a contract that’s probably more expensive than that of a typical backup. And while McPhee did draft Neuvirth, he also traded Neuvirth just three years ago (for another goalie who will be eligible to be taken in this very expansion draft). Familiarity swings both ways.
Contract Status: Stolarz is a restricted free agent.
Chances of Being Protected: Around 50 percent**. Stolarz, whose season came to a premature end due to a leg injury, has manned the net for Lehigh Valley admirably for the last three seasons, even being named an AHL All-Star in 2016, and he’s played well in very limited NHL time. The Flyers surely don’t want to lose him. At the same time, they also have one of the deepest groups of goalie prospects in the NHL, and may think that the certainty of an established NHL backup in Neuvirth outweighs the upside of a young guy who has potential but also has been overall just-OK for the Phantoms.
** (We’ll leave a tiny bit of cushion here between Stolarz and Neuvirth just in case the Flyers and Steve Mason have a Say Anything moment between now and the draft, but I’m not holding my breath on that front.)
Why Vegas might want him: As mentioned above, it’d make sense for Vegas to look for a goalie or two that fit the profile of young goalie who hasn’t had a chance to be a starter for an NHL team yet. Stolarz could be that, and if he doesn’t make the team’s NHL roster out of camp he could be Vegas’ top AHL goalie. He’d make sense to have around as a prospect/potential “goalie of the future” type.
Why Vegas might not want him: Stolarz’s AHL resume is decent but not incredible — he’s been pretty average by league standards during his time with the Phantoms — and Vegas may just see guys out there with higher potential. For instance, Bruins goalie Malcolm Subban, who was drafted 21 picks before Stolarz back in 2012, is a lock to be exposed in the draft, and his AHL career as a whole has been more impressive than Stolarz’s has been. That’s not to say Vegas couldn’t prefer Stolarz to Subban or some other talented but unproven goalie, such as Columbus’ Joonas Korpisalo or Washington’s Philipp Grubauer. And it’s possible that the Golden Knights take a number of these kinds of guys — they need at least three goalies, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them take four. But in terms of the “mystery box” types of choices they’ll have in terms of goalies, Vegas may just find some of the other ones to be more appealing than Stolarz.
While we’ve covered just about everyone at the NHL level that could get taken, let’s briefly run through the remaining names of players that are under contract/team control through next year but are almost certainly not going to factor into expansion matters:
- T.J. Brennan is the only person not mentioned so far who could, by some stretch of the imagination, feasibly be protected or taken in the expansion draft. Brennan is one of the best defensemen in the AHL, he’s under contract for next year at a six-figure cap hit, and is a crucial part of the best team the Phantoms have had in a decade, one which should only be better next year. If the Flyers decide they want to expose MacDonald and think that Brennan’s value to the Phantoms makes him a crucial part of the organizational depth chart, he could get that spot over Manning. Similarly, if Vegas wants to take a shot on a defenseman who’s torn up the minors but hasn’t really gotten a regular chance at the NHL level (the same way they may like Jordan Weal, as we discussed on Monday), he could be chosen here. But either of those things is a very long shot to happen.
- Taylor Leier is a restricted free agent this summer, and is maybe the only expansion-eligible “prospect” left that we haven’t discussed. He may get a chance to make the Flyers next season, but he’s got a low enough profile here that it seems highly unlikely that he’s thought highly-of enough by McPhee and co. to be taken over the players mentioned on Monday.
- There are some other Phantoms who are under contract through next year that are eligible to be taken - Colin McDonald, Greg Carey, Will O’Neill, Jesper Pettersson — but all of them are going to remain with the Phantoms and/or won’t be retained. For expansion draft purposes, they can largely be forgotten.
Tomorrow, we’ll step back and take another look at the names we’ve looked at so far, and try and pin down which one Vegas would be most likely to take and which ones the Flyers would have the toughest time replacing. Until then, vote in the poll below to let us know what you think the Flyers will do, and feel free to chime in down in the comments as well.
Subject: Our goalies are cursed, this is Philadelphia.
The gang’s all here for episode #109, in which we yell a little bit about injuries and expansion drafts.
It's been weeks since the Flyers' season ended, but the BSH Radio gang is as passionate as ever. Joe Thornton's decision to play through a serious knee injury, the demise of the Maple Leafs, and the cautionary tale of Justin Williams are key topics of conversation, in addition to Carter Hart's Hinkie-esque admission that he "trusts the process" when it comes to his development. Using Hart as a springboard, the gang jumps into the Phantoms' playoff run, which has seen territorial dominance overshadowed by goaltending misfortune. Expansion draft planning closes out the show, as Bill imagines mass trades accompanying his long-standing "Michal Neuvirth to Vegas" theory, while Charlie and Steph try to evaluate more likely scenarios.
Follow us on twitter @BSH_Radio and tell us what you think!
Subject: Wayne Simmonds named a finalist for the NHL Foundation Player Award
He’s being recognized for his outstanding work with Wayne’s Road Hockey Warriors as well as Snider Hockey, among other things.
No Flyers will be nominated for NHL on-ice awards after this season, but the team’s 2016-17 MVP has now been named an NHL award finalist for his outstanding efforts off the ice.
Flyers winger Wayne Simmonds was announced today as one of two finalists for the 2016-17 NHL Foundation Player Award, which, per the NHL, is presented to "an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey - commitment, perseverance and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in his community.”
Since arriving in Philadelphia six years ago, Simmonds has been active with the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation, and has been a member of their board since 2014. He also hosts an annual hockey tournament with Wayne’s Road Hockey Warriors in his Toronto-area hometown of Scarborough, where he’s worked to provide opportunities for young members of the community there to get involved in hockey.
Giving back to the community has always been a huge deal for Simmonds — and not just because he promised his mom he’d do it if he made it to the NHL. Via NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman in an excellent piece about the Wayne Train from 2014:
Wanda Simmonds remembers the conversation she had one day a few years ago with her son Wayne.
It was before Wayne Simmonds grew into a 6-foot-2, 183-pound forward for the Philadelphia Flyers; before he was a second-round pick (No. 61) by the Los Angeles Kings in the 2007 NHL Draft; even before he was a budding star in the Ontario Hockey League.
It was when Simmonds was an unknown minor player, one of many skating in regional leagues across Canada.
Wanda Simmonds made her son make a promise.
"I said to him, 'There's two things I want to you to do if you ever make it to the NHL,'" she told NHL.com. "'I want you to give back [to your community] and I want you to give to your church.'"
Obedient son that he is, Wayne Simmonds followed his mother's wishes. And the next generation of hockey hopefuls from the Scarborough, Ontario, region has benefited from Simmonds keeping his word.
And now Wayne, one of the most beloved athletes in the city of Philadelphia, is being recognized for his efforts. Tough to imagine many guys who deserve it more.
Simmonds was named a finalist along with Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic, whose D-Partner Program has helped hundreds of children who have lost a parent at a young age. We here at BSH are of course partial to Wayne and hope that he takes that award home, but are of course thankful for Hamonic’s efforts and are happy to see him honored here as well.
The award will be given out on Tuesday, June 20, the day before the NHL’s awards ceremony, though the winner will be re-recognized during the awards ceremony itself on June 21.
The NHL’s full press release can be read below.
NEW YORK -- New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic and Philadelphia Flyers right wing Wayne Simmonds are the two finalists for the 2016-17 NHL Foundation Player Award, which is presented to "an NHL player who applies the core values of hockey - commitment, perseverance and teamwork - to enrich the lives of people in his community," the National Hockey League announced today.
NHL clubs submitted nominations for the NHL Foundation Player Award, with the finalists selected by a judging panel. The NHL Foundation will present $25,000 to the chosen charitable organization of this year's recipient.
The winner of the NHL Foundation Player Award, as well as the winners of the Mark Messier Leadership Award and King Clancy Memorial Trophy, will be announced Tuesday, June 20, at the 2017 NHL Humanitarian Awards, a special event at the Encore at Wynn Las Vegas that will honor the League's leaders both on and off the ice. The winners of the 2017 NHL Humanitarian Awards also will be recognized the following day at the 2017 NHL Awards at T Mobile Arena.
Following are the finalists for the NHL Foundation Player Award, in alphabetical order:
Travis Hamonic, D, New York Islanders
A reliable defenseman throughout his seven-season NHL career, Hamonic has used his personal experiences to positively impact the community. Through his D-Partner Program, Hamonic has bonded with and directly touched the lives of more than 200 children who, at a young age, have suffered the loss of a parent. The 26-year-old St. Malo, Man., native has spent more than $50,000 hosting D-Partner Program participants at Islanders games, providing VIP treatment as well as special meet-and-greets. Hamonic also has served as an event ambassador for the Children's Wish Foundation and spearheaded various Islanders community events, including the team's school and hospital visits.
Wayne Simmonds, RW, Philadelphia Flyers
Simmonds, one of the top scorers in the NHL, has hosted Wayne's Road Hockey Warriors each summer since 2012. Aimed at providing opportunities for youth in his hometown of Scarborough, Ont., to learn and play hockey, Simmonds has raised more than $100,000 through this annual event that features several other NHL players. The 28-year-old also has purchased private suites at Flyers games for military personnel, hosted a Make-A-Wish experience and actively supported the Ed Snider Youth Hockey Foundation (ESYHF). Inspired by his similar background, Simmonds joined the ESYHF board in 2014, often spending time on his off days with children from the program.
NHL players have a longstanding tradition of supporting charities and other important causes in their communities. NHL member clubs are constant in their quest to help local schools, hospitals and charitable organizations. Clubs submit nominations for the NHL Foundation Player Award, with the finalists selected by a judging panel. This award was first presented in 1998.
The finalists for NHL Trophies are being announced by NBC Sports in the United States and Sportsnet/TVA Sports in Canada during pregame programming for the Stanley Cup Playoffs through Tuesday, May 2. The series of announcements continues on Wednesday, April 26, when the finalists for the Jack Adams Award will be unveiled.
2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft at T-Mobile Arena
The 2017 NHL Awards returns to Las Vegas and includes the NHL Expansion Draft in a two-hour television program. The 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft will celebrate the League's top talent from the 2016-17 season and reveal the initial roster of the League's 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights, on Wednesday, June 21, at T-Mobile Arena.
Televised live in the United States on NBCSN and in Canada on Sportsnet at 8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT, the 2017 NHL Awards will showcase hockey and Hollywood's biggest stars with the excitement and energy that only Las Vegas can provide. As part of the program, the Golden Knights' 30 selections in the NHL Expansion Draft will be revealed, providing the home fans - and national viewing audience - the opportunity to learn the initial composition of the team's roster. The show will highlight team majority owner Bill Foley and general manager George McPhee as well as select players chosen by the Golden Knights, who begin NHL play in 2017 18.
Information on an exclusive ticket pre-sale for Golden Knights season-ticket holders will be sent by the club in the coming days. This opportunity is for tickets to the 2017 NHL Awards and NHL Expansion Draft, and will be available on a first-come, first-served basis, while supplies last. Tickets will be available for purchase to the general public beginning on Wednesday, May 3, at 1 p.m. ET / 10 a.m. PT.
A full lineup of presenters and entertainment, as well as official fan travel and hospitality packages through PrimeSport, will be announced at a future date. In addition, fans can tweet about the event using the official hashtag #NHLAwards.
Subject: Mikhail Vorobyov signed to entry-level contract
The Flyers were able to convince their top prospect in the KHL to take his talents to North America.
Now that the Philadelphia Flyers’ season is over, general manager Ron Hextall has the ability to focus primarily upon getting his house in order and preparing for the upcoming offseason. One aspect of that process is evaluating which prospects in the organization who have yet to be inked to a contract are deserving of that status.
Last Friday, Hextall signed 2016 fourth round pick Connor Bunnaman to his entry-level contract. Today, it was the organization’s fourth rounder from the prior year, Mikhail Vorobyov, who received his first official deal from the Flyers, per Renaud Lavoie of TVA Sports.
Mikahil Vorobyov signed his ELS contract with the Flyers. 4th round pick in 2015. #tvasports— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) April 26, 2017
Bunnaman’s contract negotiation was relatively simple, as he currently plies his trade in the OHL and therefore can be signed with ease. Vorobyov, on the other hand, spent this past season playing professionally in the KHL, and certainly had the option of re-upping with his club in Russia rather than coming west.
But Vorobyov had hinted in recent months that he was interested in coming over to North America, and today he confirmed those rumors by officially signing his ELC. In 44 games with Salavat Yulaev Ufa, Vorobyov finished with three goals and eight assists, statistics that may not jump off the page at first glance, but are more impressive when accounting for the fact that the KHL is the second-best league in the world, and Vorobyov just turned 20 years of age in January.
Even more impressive was his performance in the World Juniors back in December. Centering Russia’s top line alongside top prospect Kirill Kaprizov, Vorobyov finished the tournament with 10 points, tied for fourth among all players in scoring. His ten assists led all players as well.
Vorobyov slid in at #22 in our February Top 25 Under 25 rankings, but some contributors (hint: this one) ranked him far higher in the pecking order. Vorobyov is one of the few pure center prospects in the pipeline, and his success in carving out a meaningful role on a KHL squad before reaching his 20th birthday is undeniably impressive. He’s not an especially flashy player in terms of style, but his passing ability, vision, and strength all appear to be above-average for his age. He may not project as a future 1C, but a solid middle-six center is not a bad way to describe his ceiling.
Almost certainly, Vorobyov will spend next season with the Lehigh Valley Phantoms, familiarizing himself with the North American game. Assuming his rookie season in the AHL is a success, and accounting for his previous experience in a professional league against men, it’s not crazy to hope that Vorobyov might make a push for a roster spot with the Flyers as soon as training camp in 2018.
Subject: Wednesday Morning Fly By: Let's go The Phantoms!
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*The Phantoms are in a do-or-die situation tonight in Hershey; here's a preview of the game!
*With their top two netminders injured, the Phantoms have a decision to make when it comes to who will start in goal tonight. [The Morning Call]
*Now that Anthony Stolarz has had surgery; how might that affect the Flyers' expansion draft plans? [Inquirer]
*Speaking of, Expansion Draft Week™ continued here at BSH yesterday with a look at which defensemen and goaltender the Flyers might end up protecting. [BSH]
*Wayne Simmonds is the best, and he's being recognized for being an awesome human being. [BSH]
*There are...shockingly few hot takes in this first set of reviews of the Flyers' forwards from our pal Panotch. [CSN Philly]
*Eric Lindros is amazing and is working towards making sure kids are safe from concussions in sports. [Today's Parent]
*So what changes might be in store for the teams that got bounced in the first round of the playoffs? [The Hockey News]
*DGB has worked up some draft lottery power rankings. The Flyers are in it! Also it's pretty funny. [Sportsnet]
*And finally, a new episode of BSH Radio! We talk a lot about the expansion draft. It's good times. [BSH]
Subject: NHL expansion 2017: Who would the Flyers be most likely to lose to Vegas?
Now that we’ve established who the Flyers need to make decisions on, who will they keep? And who will they lose?
On Monday, we took a look at the seven forwards that the Flyers will really have to make a decision on by the time the expansion draft rolls around in late June. On Tuesday, we did the same with two defensemen and two goalies whose fates are still up in the air.
Today, we’ll bring everyone back together and try and take a few big-picture looks, across all positions, regarding who the Flyers are most likely to protect and who they’d be most likely to lose. Let’s dive right in.
Re-examining the field
At a high-level, we’ve spent the past two days breaking down the eleven most viable candidates for the Flyers’ three final expansion draft protection spots (which will go to one forward, one defenseman, and one goalie). Let’s run through each of those groups one more time, ranked from most likely to be protected to least likely to be protected.
These rankings are largely based on how likely we (well, I) believe it is that the Flyers want to keep these players around. For the most part, I think the answer to that question lines up pretty well with the answer to the question “who are the Flyers most likely to protect?”.
Before we move on, though, let’s circle back to a point that I admittedly overlooked a bit on Monday but may well be crucial in determining how the Flyers go about planning for expansion.
The Jordan Weal loophole
This is a point that a couple of people brought up in the comments of Monday’s post, as well as something that Charlie mentioned in Monday night’s episode of BSH Radio (which, hey, if you didn’t listen to that yet, why not? Go do that). Jordan Weal is an unrestricted free agent (UFA) as of this July, and the prevailing wisdom out there now is largely that he should be re-signed due to his excellent performance down the stretch with the Flyers and should be given the inside track on a top-9 spot in the lineup in training camp. This seems like something that the Flyers want to do. The simplest way they can make sure that happens is to re-sign him and protect him in the expansion draft.
But it might not be the only way, and if the chips fall the right way, the Flyers may be able to keep Weal around and protect one other forward that they’d like to keep around — in all likelihood, one of Michael Raffl or Pierre-Edouard Bellemare.
First, let’s review what the policy is when it comes to the expansion draft and unrestricted free agents. ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun broke these details in late October, and you can read through there if you want, but the long and short of it is as follows:
- If a pending UFA is left unprotected by his team, Vegas has a 48-hour window (at some point between the time protection lists are submitted and the time that Vegas’ expansion picks are submitted) within which they can negotiate contract terms with that player.
- If the Golden Knights and a pending UFA reach an agreement prior to the closing of that window, that counts as that team’s expansion choice. (So, for instance, if the Flyers expose a contract-less Jordan Weal on June 17, and he and Vegas agree to a deal on June 20, the Flyers will not lose any more players to Vegas via the expansion draft.)
- If the Golden Knights and that pending UFA do not reach an agreement prior to the closing of that window, then Vegas is free to take another player from that team. However, they could draft said pending UFA anyways, at which point they would have up until July 1 to negotiate exclusively with said player until he would become a UFA again. (Vegas can draft as many as 10 players that do not have contracts for 2017-18; this includes both UFAs and RFAs, but does not include players described in the previous bullet point who reach an agreement with Vegas during the exclusive window.)
Essentially, Vegas will get the first shot at anyone who’s a UFA on June 17. But that doesn’t mean they’ll get anyone they want — they’d have to agree to a contract first.
And that’s where the Flyers’ opportunity may lie.
If both sides were able to reach an agreement, the Flyers and Jordan Weal could draw up a contract in the sand some time before late June, say “this is the contract we’ll sign as soon as expansion is done with”, leave Weal exposed, and protect Raffl/Bellemare instead. Then, if Vegas reaches out to Weal during the 48-hour window, he could simply tell them “thanks, but I’m not interested”, and then the Golden Knights would go about their way drafting a different Flyer, such as Laughton or Neuvirth. Then, shortly after the expansion draft, the Flyers and Weal would announce the contract they’d already agreed on in principle.
Weal’s unrestricted free agency could essentially buy the Flyers an extra protection slot, if they play it right and if Weal goes along with it. It would help them turn a sticky situation into one that might work to their advantage.
That’s not to say there aren’t potential risks involved. For one, as long as there’s no pen to paper, there’s nothing holding Weal to this deal. He could very well enjoy Vegas’ pitch, be enticed by the possibility of getting ice time befitting of a no-doubt top-6/top-PP forward on a team that’s probably not going to have much in the way of dynamic offensive firepower, get offered a bit more money than Ron Hextall is willing to offer him, and say sayonara to the Flyers. That’s one possibility.
The worst-case scenario if the Flyers try to play this out, though, could involve them losing two players instead of just one. Let’s say the Flyers protect Raffl, draw up a tentative contract for Weal, but then he talks to Vegas, enjoys their pitch, but doesn’t come a way with a contract. Then, on June 21, Vegas drafts some other Flyer — Scott Laughton, let’s say. What’s to stop Weal, at that point, from asking the Flyers for a bit more money, knowing that they just lost one forward in expansion and that there’s at least one team (Vegas) out there in free agency that’s interested in his services? What’s to stop him from waiting until July 1 to make a decision, at which point Vegas or some other team can maybe offer him more money than the Flyers are willing to?
If Weal gets offered more money from some other team than the Flyers should offer, so be it. Good for him, and good for the Flyers for not paying more than they should to a guy with 37 NHL games to his name. But that doesn’t change the fact that losing two skaters to expansion — including one of the ones that they’re most likely to want to keep — would be a major drag. Not a tragedy, but a disappointment — about as much of one as can be expected here.
Essentially, the Flyers need to have a good read on this situation, in terms of who they want to keep and whether they’re willing to risk losing Weal by initially exposing him. With that, let’s try and guess how they’ll play it.
Who will be kept?
Armed with the knowledge of the Weal dilemma, and with what we’ve sifted through so far this week, let’s try and sum up how the Flyers may see their current situation, first through the lens of who they’re most likely to protect with their final spot in each position group.
As mentioned a couple of times, I think this decision comes down to three forwards for the Flyers: Weal, Raffl, and Bellemare. The other four guys we discussed on Monday are either largely unremarkable (Cousins), overpaid (Weise), some combination of both of those (Read), or spent most of last season in the AHL (Laughton). Raffl and Bellemare are both players who have had prominent roles on this team in the recent past, and Weal’s late-season emergence makes him tough to ignore.
It’s tough for me to say how the Flyers would evaluate Raffl vs. Bellemare at this very moment. Bellemare’s prominence within the team grew as the season went on, while Raffl spent the entire last six weeks of the season dealing with injury. But Raffl’s spent meaningful time in the team’s top-6 over the past couple of years, and it’s tough for me to ignore that no matter how much the Flyers obviously like Bellemare. So Michael Raffl is my guess to be protected, while I think the Flyers will take their chances that Weal, who has publicly and clearly said that he wants to return next season, will not take any bait that Vegas may send his way and will quickly move to re-sign with the team after the expansion draft.
This was discussed a bit in Tuesday’s post, but I actually believe this situation’s fairly cut and dry. As little as we may want to admit it, the Flyers see Andrew MacDonald as a top-4 defenseman on their team right now, and most teams aren’t going to expose top-4 defensemen when they’ve got an open protection spot staring them in the face. As such, unless they’re more disgusted with his contract than they’ve publicly let on to, MacDonald probably gets the nod here over Brandon Manning, who is really the only other option to get this spot. For now, at least.
Of all of the questions confronting the Flyers, this is the one that may be the most fascinating. Ron Hextall has basically come out and said that the Flyers will sign another goalie this summer, and that Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz will not be the two goalies on the opening night roster next year. The presumption there is that Stolarz — who was fairly average with the Phantoms this season and will be spending his summer recovering from torn MCL surgery — will be back at the AHL level next year, while Neuvirth will be in some sort of timeshare with a new NHL goalie, be it one in which they’re roughly splitting starts or one in which he’s more of a backup. Where Neuvirth fits in long-term is a bit unclear, while Stolarz at least has a set short-term role as Phantoms starter that’s likely to go unchallenged for at least one more year, which is why I’m led to believe Anthony Stolarz gets the Flyers’ protection spot in net.
Stolarz may well end up being nothing special long-term. But he’s got a chance to be something legitimately good, as does every other person in the stable of goalie prospects the Flyers have built. If one of them emerges within the next couple of years, they can take over just in time for whoever the Flyers pick up this summer to leave, and Stolarz could feasibly be the guy that does that. Whereas in saying “we’re going to get another NHL goalie this summer”, the Flyers are basically acknowledging what we already know: that Neuvirth can’t be counted on to play more than 30 or so games in a season. He will almost certainly not be “the guy” for the Flyers for any meaningful stretch in the near future. Hence why he’s probably seen as more replaceable, and as such why Stolarz will probably be protected over him.
(I’m also going to assume that Steve Mason is not coming back. I will very happily eat these words if I am mistaken, but indications are that both team and player are probably going to move on. If he is re-signed prior to the expansion draft, then this entire equation changes, but we’ll cross that bridge in the off-chance we ever reach it.)
Who will Vegas want?
If we take the three bolded players above out of our list, and also assume that Jordan Weal will not sign with Vegas, then the Golden Knights are left with the following seven names out of which they can pick one player:
- Pierre-Edouard Bellemare
- Nick Cousins
- Scott Laughton
- Brandon Manning
- Michal Neuvirth
- Matt Read
- Dale Weise
That’s ... a heck of a list there. The NHL’s least productive 5-on-5 scorer of the past three seasons (Bellemare), the NHL’s worst semi-regular goalie last season by save percentage (Neuvirth), and five other guys who were all healthy scratched at some point last season. If this is the reality in front of the Flyers on June 21, I’m willing to guess they can live with it.
But they’d still be losing one of these players. Which one of them has the most appeal to Vegas? We’ll group them into four categories that will hopefully capture how Vegas may see them.
Veteran Bottom-6 Forwards: This includes Bellemare, Read, and Weise. These are guys for whom we more or less know what they are at this point, even if they’re each fairly different players from one another. My guess is that there are going to be a few guys like this available on every team out there, and the best chance that any of them are taken is that Vegas’ scouts just really like one of them for whatever reason. Maybe they love Bellemare on the penalty kill, or maybe they remember Weise more fondly from his time in Montreal and think he can bounce back. But one of them would have to really stick out to be the pick here, since dozens of other guys just like them are going to be on the expansion block.
Young Bottom-6 Forwards: This includes Cousins and Laughton. Both guys who are currently under the age of 25, Cousins and Laughton have mostly shown to be third-liners during their brief NHL careers. But it’s still feasible that either (or both) of them grow into more than that, and that’s why they may have a bit more upside than the guys in the first group. It wouldn’t be surprising for Vegas to look at Laughton and see a guy who just needs a change of scenery to maybe take off in the NHL, for instance.
Third-Pair Defensemen: Brandon Manning sits alone in this group. Much like with the first group listed here, there are going to be a lot of guys like this available in the expansion draft pool. Again, Vegas could see something in Manning that they really like and decide he’s the pick here, but it wouldn’t be surprising to see them pass here.
Backup Goaltenders: Here’s where we’ll find Michal Neuvirth. As we talked about on Tuesday, Neuvirth falls in the area between “established starter” and “young backup with upside”, in that he’s an NHL-level backup but probably not much more than that. If I were putting a team together, I’d mostly try and pick goalies that are in one of those first two groups, but it’s fair to note that I don’t have a line into George McPhee’s office and he very well may look to take a more established NHL backup in addition to a legit starter and a young gun or two. Couple that with the general lack of appeal of the guys in the other groups above, and there’s a puncher’s chance that Neuvirth is the pick for the Flyers.
In a vacuum, the guy that I feel like has the most appeal here to an expansion team is probably Scott Laughton. He’s a fairly recent 1st-round pick, one who is probably too soon to write off, and a team that has confidence in its development staff and needs players that bring some level of upside will probably find the appeal in having a guy like him around. He’d probably relish a new start at this point and will be hungry to show what he’s got.
But it’s worth noting that those are just the four groups that (likely) expansion-eligible Flyers players fall in to, and without knowing who else is really available across the league, what groups those other guys all fall into, and how Vegas is looking to put its roster together based on those groups, it’s tough for us to say with confidence that they’ll take any particular player on this roster. And also, this analysis kind of assumes that we get the guesses regarding the Flyers and their own expansion priorities right. The above picture would certainly change if someone like Michael Raffl would be dropped in there, for example.
We can make guesses for now (and we’ll do that, don’t worry!), but we won’t have a real good grasp on this until we know who’s being protected — and exposed — both here and elsewhere around the league.
Tomorrow, we’ll see if there’s anything else the Flyers can do between now and the expansion draft that may change this picture, such as a possible trade with a team that has significant expansion draft questions of its own.
Subject: 2016-17 Flyers season review: Brayden Schenn needs to better at even strength
Great on the power play, awful at even strength. How do we fairly evaluate the season of Brayden Schenn?
The long-awaited breakout season finally came for Brayden Schenn in 2015-16. After four seasons of hovering somewhere in between “perfectly solid” and “perpetually disappointing,” Schenn rode a stellar final four months to the best scoring rates of his young career. He finished with 59 points in 80 games — tied for 41st in the NHL among forwards in total points and comfortably in first liner territory.
Yes, it helped that Schenn had earned a full-time role on one of the league’s best power play units. But his point production at even strength was also strong (1.95 Points per 60 at 5v5) and his play-driving metrics (49.78% score-adjusted Corsi, -0.25% Corsi Relative) were at least passable. With his play in 2015-16, Schenn truly earned the four-year, $20.5 million contract that the Flyers gave him last July.
The concern surrounding Schenn was more with regards to his future performance. After all, his previous-best in terms of full-season scoring was 47 points, 12 less than his total in the breakout 15-16. Schenn’s play in a contract year may have justified the size of the deal, but there was no guarantee that he wouldn’t regress back into the 40-50 point player who constantly frustrated fans.
But Schenn’s scoring this season didn’t regress much at all. In 79 games, he racked up 55 points, and exceeded the 25-goal threshold for the second straight season. By the boxcar statistics, Brayden Schenn followed up his breakout season with an almost-as-good year that established him as a impact scorer at the NHL level.
Yet if all of that is true, why didn’t Schenn’s year feel like an unqualified success?
Schenn truly is fantastic on the power play
During his breakout 2015-16 season, Brayden Schenn’s power play production was nothing short of stellar. His 11 PP goals tied him for 12th on the NHL leaderboard, and his 22 total points placed him 34th. He truly was one of the better power play forwards in the league.
This year, Schenn was even better.
He matched his assist total from 2015-16, but this time was able to chip in with 17 power play goals, which placed him in a tie for first in the entire NHL alongside Nikita Kucherov and Alex Ovechkin. Yup, you read that right — Schenn scored as many power play goals in 2016-17 as one of the most feared snipers in league history, a player who is able to create all of his goals from the exact same spot because his one-timer is basically unstoppable. Schenn matched him goal-for-goal this year. The boost in scoring allowed Schenn to jump into the top-10 leaguewide in PP points, finishing seventh behind only Claude Giroux (fourth) among Philadelphia forwards.
It’s been argued by many (including myself) that Schenn might be “replaceable” on the top unit — at least relative to teammates Giroux, Wayne Simmonds and Shayne Gostisbehere. The thought process behind that theory was that much of Schenn’s PP success was a product of the talent around him. Yes, a player must have a fast, accurate shot to rip one-timers in the slot past opposing goaltenders, but it’s much easier to do so when the player is on the receiving end of perfect passes from Giroux and has the benefit of a goaltender screen courtesy of the best netfront man in the NHL. It’s hard to envision the Flyers’ top unit humming along without Giroux as QB, or Simmonds making netminders miserable, or even Shayne Gostisbehere ripping shots from the point. But Philadelphia already survived the loss of one slot trigger man (Scott Hartnell) on the PP, and it seemed like it would be much easier to find an in-house replacement for the “lefty shot who can tee up one-timers” role than any other on the top unit.
After this season, I’ve changed my tune. Schenn has become a far more versatile, complete package on the power play than ever before, and it’s a major reason why his goal production spiked this year.
Let’s start by reviewing Schenn’s 11 power play tallies from last season, and place each into distinct categories that describes the way that the goal was scored.
We get three types — one-timers from the slot, rebounds, and deflections. While each type requires high-end skill to execute, it’s fair to note that each are heavily dependent upon teammates to create the initial shot. There’s also a high amount of reliance (45.45%) upon the slot one-timer, which goes back to the initial skepticism regarding Schenn’s PP prowess — that he’s just a creation of Claude Giroux.
Now, we’ll review Schenn’s categories from this season, and it’s immediately obvious that the 25-year old was able to diversify his goal scoring.
No longer is the slot one-timer Schenn’s primary weapon. He’s getting better at the deflection play, continues to showcase great instincts when the puck is loose in front, and is even finding new ways to score. On two occasions, Schenn surprised the penalty kill by temporarily moving over into the right faceoff circle (Voracek’s usual spot) to blast away, and he even scored twice by carrying the puck into a more dangerous area before beating the opposing netminder. Schenn’s 2016-17 PP goal-scoring profile is not that of a player that can be easily schemed out of the game by a smart coaching staff. Instead, it’s hinting at one who can beat opponents in any number of ways. Last year, seven of Schenn’s 11 goals came on what could probably be categorized as “set plays.” This time, only seven out of 17 deserve the same designation. The rest were either creative or instinctual, and it’s my belief that those skillsets are far more difficult to defend.
But what about Schenn at 5v5?
Considering Schenn’s improvement in power play scoring in 2016-17, it’s a bit surprising that his overall point production took a slight dip this season versus his breakout year in 15-16. That’s until one takes a glance at Schenn’s performance at even strength, however, and then the answer comes into focus quickly. Brayden Schenn’s play at 5-on-5 this season was basically a mess.
Over the course of Schenn’s first five seasons in a Flyers uniform, he established something of a predictable pattern to his 5v5 play. Schenn’s scoring rates were generally fine, usually somewhere between that of a good second liner and a decent third liner, while his play-driving metrics were poor but not devastatingly so. The total package was that of a middle-sixer at 5v5, as Schenn could be reasonably expected to score like a second liner and drive play like a third liner. This year, however, his statistical performance cratered.
Yearly rank among NHL forwards with at least 300 minutes at 5v5.
I would not recommend using just one statistic to measure scoring or play-driving efficiency, but Points/60 and Corsi For% RelTM at least give us a basic ballpark of where Schenn ranked in the league among his peers over each of his last five seasons. If we assume that 1-90 is first line quality, 91-180 is second line, and so on, we can approximate around what level of performance Schenn posted in each of these categories. Before this year, Schenn always scored like a top-nine forward at 5v5, and while his play-driving was never especially strong, the point production generally counterbalanced that weakness.
In 2016-17, however, Schenn’s scoring rates dipped into fourth liner territory and the play-driving went completely into the red. When playing with Schenn, teammates saw their Corsi For drop (on average) by 4.1 percentage points, an impact that was the 365th-best among regular forwards this year. For reference, it was identical to the impact that Chris VandeVelde had on his linemates this year, and that’s not exactly company that Schenn wants to keep.
In Schenn’s defense, he performed a bit better (-0.80% Relative after score-adjustment) when it came to on-ice Expected Goals, which attempts to weight the quality of each shot attempt for and against. But from a pure territorial standpoint, Schenn was a massive drag on almost all of his linemates. Giroux had a 48.4% with Schenn; 53.1% without him. Simmonds was 47.2% with Schenn and 52.3% without him. Jakub Voracek was the worst — 46.4% in his 160 minutes alongside Schenn and 51.7% away from him.
It’s no surprise that the Flyers only scored 46.8% of the goals with Schenn on the ice at 5v5 this year — they were consistently losing the shots battle when he played, even when placed with star talent.
Was Schenn better at wing?
In his early years with the Flyers, Brayden Schenn was a man without a concrete position. Originally drafted as a center, Schenn bounced back and forth between the pivot position and the wing for years. But last season, he seemed to finally find his niche as a top-six winger at the NHL level. He had his best scoring season as a professional, and was especially impressive in terms of underlying metrics over the second half of the year. Last offseason, it was difficult to imagine Schenn ever returning to the middle.
A month into the 2016-17 season, however, and Schenn was right back to center. First, it was the combination of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare predictably flailing in the 3C role and Nick Cousins failing to earn his coach’s trust at center that pushed Schenn back into the middle. Then, it was the knee injury suffered by Sean Couturier that drove Hakstol to elevate Schenn to 2C, a role which he held for over two months. In the end, Schenn had 41 games in which he took at least three faceoffs, and 38 primarily on the wing — almost an even split.
Schenn did finish the season strong, and his best play coincided with a return to wing, brought on by the acquisition of Valtteri Filppula at the trade deadline. So was Schenn’s disappointing play at 5v5 the result of the Flyers trying to fit a square peg into a round hole when it came to Schenn’s position? It sure seems like a sound narrative, and it fits with the general consensus that Schenn’s defensive limitations keep him from being an effective NHL center. There’s only one problem — the underlying metrics provide murky supporting evidence.
His play-driving metrics weren’t great at either position, but surprisingly, his statistics relative to his teammates were actually worse at wing than at center. On the other hand, Schenn scored at a significantly better rate at wing, but a good portion of that was driven by the fact that the Flyers converted on their shots at a 4.62% rate with Schenn on the ice during games when he played center, and 9.79% when at wing. Shot quality may play something of a role there, but plain old luck can’t be ignored either.
I do believe that Schenn is a better fit for wing than center. My guess is that it’s one of the reasons why his Controlled Zone Entry percentage skyrocketed into team-leading levels (66.67% over his final 38 games) and his Primary Shot Contributions (the amount of shots and passes that directly led to shots) per 60 also jumped up near the end of the season — the decrease in defensive zone responsibilities allowed him to focus primarily on creating in the other two zones. But I also don’t believe that Schenn’s 5v5 struggles — particularly his play-driving — can be primarily blamed on his time spent at center. Schenn’s two-way game was underwhelming last season, regardless of role.
Is Couturier the key to unlocking Schenn?
Schenn is 25 now, and will be 26 years of age once the 2017-18 season begins. Considering the fact that he’s more than a few years away from the unforgiving part of the average NHL forward’s aging curve, it’s highly unlikely that Schenn’s awful metrics at 5v5 were the result of him “slowing down.” The forward is still in his prime years, and theoretically should be fixable.
But in order to “fix” Schenn, it helps to identify exactly what his weaknesses truly are. The general consensus is that Schenn’s primary issues are defensive — that the Flyers bleed shots and chances against when he is on the ice. Let’s test that theory by breaking down Schenn’s shot creation and prevention metrics at 5v5, and see how his teammates perform with him, and without him.
There are a ton of numbers and complex-sounding statistics in this chart, so let’s break everything down to its bare essentials.
Corsi For Per 60 RelTM and Rel xG For Per 60 are measures of offense; specifically, whether Flyers players create more shots (Corsi) and chances (xG) when skating alongside Schenn. For these two metrics, positive rates mean that Schenn is providing a net benefit to his teammates.
Corsi Against Per 60 RelTM and Rel xG Against Per 60 are similar, but deal with shot and chance suppression. In this case, being positive is actually a bad thing — it means that the Flyers allow more shots and chances with Schenn playing than they would otherwise.
When you look at the offense-focused stats, Schenn grades out pretty well on the whole. He was negative in CF60 RelTM this year and in 2013-14, but aside from those two seasons, he’s been a net positive to his teammates in shot creation, both raw (Corsi) and weighted (xG). Shot and chance suppression is another story entirely. Through his entire career with the Flyers, Schenn has never been negative (remember, negative is a good thing in this case) in CA60 RelTM, and has only graded out well in the weighted metrics once (2013-14).
Basically, the conventional wisdom is right in this case. Schenn absolutely helps out offensively at 5v5, but gives back much of his gains on the other side of the ice. That’s a driving force behind the theory that he fits best at wing long-term, as centers deal with more responsibilities in the defensive zone than do wingers. With the acquisition of Filppula, it does appear that Schenn will be at wing full-time next season (barring injuries). If only the Flyers had a defensively-responsible center for Schenn to flank who could cover up the weakest part of his game!
Of course, the Flyers do have a player fitting that description. And any evaluation of Brayden Schenn’s season would be incomplete without noting that his play took a dramatic step forward after being placed on a line with Sean Couturier for the final month of the year. Over the season’s final 15 games, Schenn chipped in with six goals and seven assists, a very strong finish. Even more striking was the fact that only three of those 13 points came on the power play, as the line of Schenn, Couturier and Dale Weise proved to be a force at even strength.
Now, it’s perfectly fair to be skeptical of the line’s long-term sustainability. While the word “chemistry” was thrown around a lot in the Flyers’ locker room to describe their success, there are a number of other possible explanations. For one, you had three players who had underperformed career norms at 5v5 all season long prior to the late surge — maybe this was a case of them getting the bounces all at once. Or maybe it was the simple fact that Sean Couturier was finally healthy after coming back too soon from a knee injury in January.
However, there is another, more intriguing theory — that the duo works because the two players have complementary skillsets. Couturier is a “do-all-the-little-things-right” player who often needs help in creating shots and goals in the offensive zone. Schenn, on the other hand, thrives in boosting offensive zone efficiency (as shown by his power play prowess and on-ice shot creation metrics) but can’t seem to get out of his own way without the puck. Put the two on the ice at the same time, and maybe you solve both of their issues.
Despite the fact that the two players have been NHL teammates since the 2011-12 season, they haven’t spent much time on the ice together at 5v5. Per Corsica.Hockey, there have been only five line combinations including both Schenn and Couturier that have been kept together for longer than 20 minutes. We’re not dealing with a terribly large sample here, but the performance of those five lines is worth a look.
A couple things stand out. For starters, this month-long experiment with Schenn on Couturier’s wing with Dale Weise on the other side is the longest amount of time that the Flyers’ two young forwards have spent together on one line. Second, the combination has not dominated the territorial play when together, even if they’ve generally held their own. But most interesting is the gap between Corsi (raw territorial play) and xG (adjusted for shot quality). In each instance that Couturier and Schenn were paired together, the resulting line outperformed its Corsi when looking at their xG.
Now, this could easily be a fluke. Corsica’s version of xG has been found by its inventor to be not as predictive as Corsi in terms of future outcomes (other xG models, such as DTMAboutHeart’s, do claim superior predictivity to Corsi). However, we know through the work of Ryan Stimson that shot quality, if tracked via the correct means, should not be ignored in attempting to predict future goal-scoring outcomes. I don’t believe it can be ruled out that Schenn and Couturier’s skillsets truly complement each other, allowing for them to create more dangerous chances in the offensive zone than the average forward duo can.
Combine that with the fact that the tandem has passed the eye test both recently and in the past, and that the duo makes intuitive sense based upon their respective skillsets, and I see no reason why Schenn and Couturier shouldn’t be given a long look together to begin the 2017-18 season.
The bottom line on Brayden Schenn
Brayden Schenn’s 2016-17 season was simultaneously encouraging and disappointing. On one side of the coin, Schenn proved his 59-point breakout year was no fluke by racking up 55 more points, and he also proved to be one of the league’s most potent power play weapons, matching even Alexander Ovechkin in terms of PP goals scored. However, his performance at 5v5 took a major dip, as he scored at the rate of a fourth liner and was a major drag on the territorial play of almost all of his teammates.
The power play prowess appears real. Not only did Schenn score more goals than ever before, he used a wide variety of methods to do so, as opposed to years past when he was more dependent upon the work of others to earn his points. Schenn didn’t luck into 17 goals with the man advantage — he earned them due to becoming a more versatile, less predictable player in the situation.
But the struggles at 5-on-5 cannot be ignored entirely, even if the raw point totals generally met expectations. In the past, Schenn has proven capable of producing like a perfectly capable middle-sixer at even strength, either scoring enough to outweigh play-driving issues, or improving his two-way game temporarily to offset underwhelming scoring rates. This season, however, both aspects of his 5v5 play fell off a cliff, a concerning development.
The poor results don’t appear to have been the result of bad luck, or even circumstance. Schenn ranked ahead of only Roman Lyubimov among regular Flyers forwards in terms of Neutral Zone Score, a component of play-driving that isolates results in the middle of the ice, and has been proven to be far more repeatable than offensive or defensive zone shot-based results. This implies that his poor territorial metrics weren’t the result of random chance — Schenn truly was playing this poorly at 5v5. In addition, his extended time at center didn’t serve to drag down his metrics either, as he actually drove play a bit better at pivot versus the wing in 2016-17.
Still, his long-term home is most likely at wing, simply due to his clear weaknesses in terms of on-ice shot and chance prevention. Schenn is clearly a useful and valuable player — his point totals prove that — but the Flyers need to put Schenn in a situation moving forward where his disastrous 5v5 play from 2016-17 is not likely to be repeated. Pairing him with Sean Couturier may be one way to avoid that possibility. While the duo has not dominated in terms of raw territorial play in their limited time together, they’ve been able to put the puck in the net, and consistently outperform their Corsi metrics when adjusting for shot quality. There could be real potential here.
The smart money would be on Schenn’s 5v5 performance improving next season, simply because he had never been quite this bad in the past, and he remains in the prime of his career from an age standpoint. But Schenn is just not a player who can be fairly expected to carry a line at even strength. He must be placed in favorable situations, and with the right linemates in order to maximize his success. He clearly has the power play figured out, but even strength remains a nut that Schenn has been unable to fully crack in his career.
The optimist would say that if Schenn can retain his power play gains from this year and bounce back even a bit at 5v5, he could be a 60+ point forward. Pessimists would hold that he probably doesn’t have the PP true talent level of Ovechkin, and if Schenn regresses even a bit in that area, his even strength struggles become even more glaring. It’s up to Schenn and the Flyers to ensure that 2017-18 is more in line with the optimist’s take.
All stats courtesy of Corsica.Hockey, Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com, or the manual tracking work of Corey Sznajder at The Energy Line. On-Ice data derived from Corey’s manually-tracked metrics courtesy of Muneeb Alam.
Subject: Phantoms at Bears game 3 recap: Phantoms force a fourth game with 2-1 win in overtime
Thanks to Chris Conner’s overtime heroics, the Phantoms are still alive.
This is really an unfortunate situation to be if you are a Phantoms fan. If you are a Bears fan, please leave. Thank you.
The Phantoms’ ‘situation’, as it were, was being down 2-0 in round 1 of the Calder Cup Playoffs to the Bears. After losing the first two games at home in Allentown, the Phantoms find themselves needing to steal two games in Hershey to bring the best-of-five series back to the Valley for a decisive game 5.
And let’s be honest here, some goalie gods just don’t like the Flyers. Both Anthony Stolarz and Alex Lyon are injured for tonight’s game. Lyon was injured in the final period of game 2 on Saturday, leading to Martin Ouellette to come in cold. Unfortunately, Ouellette gave up 3 goals in the 3rd en route to a 5-4 loss. Carter Hart, a goaltender who Flyers fans compare to God (so, Sexy Hexy), was recently sent to the Phantoms after his WHL team, the Everett Silvertips, was eliminated from the playoffs. Now in a backup role for game 3, Hart will get some valuable experience on the bench for what professional hockey looks like.
But, again, Stolie and Lyon are injured. I love you, goalie gods.
Pheonix Copley has almost single-handedly pushed the Bears into a 2-0 lead in the series with a .939 save percentage through the first two games. Copley, acquired in the Kevin Shattenkirk blockbuster, has been a beautiful addition for Hershey this season. I promise you that’s all I say that will be good about the Bears.
The 1st period started with some not-so-good happenings with the Bears getting quite a few good looks at Ouellette, and he looked a bit shaky early on. I mean, this is perhaps the biggest game of his career, and it comes with the added pressure of needing to win to survive. He was able to get a great save on Hershey’s rookie, Hampus Gustafsson, by extending his left pad out at the last seconds.
The game started out a little chippy. Both teams were trying to cement their place in the game, but it was definitely the Bears who were having the better start to the period. Halfway through the 1st, the Phantoms only had 1 shot. In typical Phantoms fashion, one shot that was taken from a sharp angle on Copley flew right into his glove. Hockey gods, we will sacrifice Andrew MacDonald for a win.
A beautiful pass from Corban Knight found the stick of Greg Carey breaking in down the slot, but Pheonix Copley came across to squeeze the puck in the center of his chest. It was the best chance so far for the Valley. Perhaps at the radio break, they stole all of the Bears’ chocolate supply. It would be smart of them, for sure.
In the final quarter of the period, Zach Sill grabbed a loose puck in front of the Phantoms’ net after a poor play by Samuel Morin. Sill took the puck on his forehand and tried to fool Ouellette, but he dove across to make a spectacular save. He would remain busy for the remainder of the period. At one point, a puck bounced off the boards to him to pick up, but he fumbled it and it became loose. It turned out OK though. No Phantoms goals were harmed.
With 25 seconds remaining in the period, Andy Miele got his stick in the mid-section of a Bears player and was called for hooking. The Bears were able to get a few shots off before the period ended, but the power play would have to carry over into the 2nd.
Let’s recap: 0-0 is the score. 9-9 is the shot total. Some chocolate bars were thrown out. It was a decent period.
The Phantoms were able to kill off the remaining 1:35 of the Miele penalty, but once again, Ouellette was shaky with trying to handle to puck with his glove. No one expects him to do fantastic as he is in the Royals goaltender tandem with Mark Dekanich, but his shakiness is giving Hershey some unwarranted chances.
Chris Conner had an extremely pristine chance to take the lead when Copley was down and out in the crease. Conner picked up the puck and swung around to the other side that was left unguarded. There was a wide-open net. Conner’s wraparound try slid right through the crease and somehow didn’t go in! He just couldn’t wrap his hands around his stick. The Phantoms really were picking the pressure up.
The Bears started to buzz back the other way. The play really was opening up. A shot went on Ouellette and he made the save, but the rebound sharp-angle try almost slid in-between Ouellette and the post. However, the puck fell on top of his skate. Unbelievable action in this game.
After a defensive error by the Phantoms led to a 3-on-1 for the Bears, Stanislav Galiev shot one by the blocker side of Ouellette. After all that pressure going forward for Lehigh Valley, they gave up a goal. Ah, yes, those prospects sure are Flyers players.
Riley Barber almost made it 2-0 with some wizardry. On another 3-on-1 for the Bears, Barber out-waited Ouellette on the right side and pushed the puck into the blue paint. Ouellette tried to fish the puck away with his glove, but it wasn’t swept away until the Phantoms defense got to it. That’s how the period ended: the score was 1-0 to Hershey. The Valley had 20 minutes to tie the game and try to force game 4.
And they only needed 37 seconds to score! In an extremely odd twist, a shot from the point from Colin McDonald caught Copley sleeping and it rang off the post and in. All of a sudden, it was a tie game!
Colin McDonald scores from center ice to tie the game! pic.twitter.com/tKJhrlJxYY— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) April 27, 2017
Colin McDonald must’ve talked to Radko Gudas before the game. I’m sure the conversation went like this:
Gudas: “Colin, all you need to do is score.”
McDonald: “OK, how should I score?”
Gudas: “Do what I did and shoot it from center ice. It’ll definitely work.”
McDonald: “Why? It won’t work.”
Gudas: “Actually, just hit it off the post and in. That will be the only way it’ll work.”
McDonald: “Hmm I can for sure do that. I’m Colin [CENSORED] McDonald, post-and-in or nothing, baby.”
I’m sure the Phantoms’ captain just took his phone out on the bench and is right now talking to Radko.
This started to get wild just a moment after. With both teams getting an extreme amount of chances, it was the Bears who almost took back the lead. Ouellette covered the puck with his glove. After the whistle, the Bears poked and the puck and it went in, leading to the crowd to get extremely excited. They weren’t happy when the goal was immediately waved off. Ha, too bad.
The game would eventually go to overtime. An absolutely wild period, that was. A late opportunity for Hershey was saved by the blocker of Ouellette in a high-pressure situation. Other than for a few moments, he looked good.
Overtime is where the scary moments happen for each team. Just one measly shot on goal can be the difference between winning and losing. In this case, the series could end with just one goal. And say hello to Chris Conner! Conner, after missing the wraparound chance earlier in the game, had a prime opportunity in overtime to keep the Phantoms alive, and he did just that!
Chris Conner wins it in overtime! pic.twitter.com/mHX7oYnldz— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) April 27, 2017
The Phantoms definitely had some great moments in this game, and because of the heroics of Conner, they live to see another day. Game 4 is on Saturday night in Hershey. One more win forces game 5 back in the Valley.
Subject: Thursday Morning Fly By: WOOOO The Phantoms!!!
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*Speaking of the Vegas team, it looks like we know when their first ever game will be. [ProHockeyTalk]
*Who does love a good offseason Flyers mailbag? [Courier-Post]
*Timmy P. continues his review of this year's team with part two of the forwards. [CSN Philly]
*ESPN laid off a lot of people yesterday, and it seems like the let just about all of their hockey people go. They were never great on hockey but seems like they'll only be getting worse. [The Washington Post]
*Because the NHL is incapable of making a decision that benefits its game or brand in any real way, their idea to make goalie pants smaller to increase goals seems to have made goalies better, decreasing goals. [The Hockey News]
*And finally, the Eastern Conference part of the second round kicks off tonight and, on paper, Caps/Pens might be one of the best series we'll ever see. DGB brings us five more of the best second round matchups ever. [The Hockey News]
Expansion might open up trade possibilities around the league for teams looking to get value for its good players. Can the Flyers take advantage? Will they?
In the past few days, we’ve taken a deep dive into the forwards that the Flyers will have to make a decision on in the expansion draft, as well as the defensemen and goalies. On Wednesday, we came and pulled all of those groups back together, and tried to make an initial guess as to who the Flyers will protect and who they’ll lose.
While guessing what the Flyers and the Golden Knights will do at this point is nothing more than throwing darts — only they know how they feel about the 11 players that we took a closer look at over the past three days — right now we should have a fairly good grasp on the Flyers’ situation and what the options are in front of them. We know what the key decisions they’ll have to make are, even if we can only guess how they’ll handle them. Assuming that the team’s situation doesn’t change between now and June 17 when expansion lists are due, we know what the key questions to ask are.
But what if the situation did change a bit? What if, at some point in the next seven or so weeks, the Flyers made a move of some sort that rendered at least some of what we’ve said in the past few days to be irrelevant, and that (ideally) gave clarity to some of the question marks they’re currently facing? What if they swung a trade to shore up those questionable areas?
What we’ll be getting into here is pure conjecture, tossing out some ideas that are almost certainly not going to be acted on. But this is the time of year for baseless speculation and armchair GM-ing anyways, so let’s get down to it.
Where they stand now: The Flyers have, depending on how you think they feel about certain guys, probably nine forwards that they’d really prefer to protect: Claude Giroux, Jakub Voracek, Wayne Simmonds, Sean Couturier, Brayden Schenn, Valtteri Filppula, Jordan Weal, Michael Raffl, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. They only have seven guaranteed protection slots, with a possible “eighth spot” in play if they can “protect” Weal by way of his unrestricted free agency (as we discussed here on Wednesday).
That does still leave them with at least one protection-worthy forward that they’ll have to expose, though, and while having too many “good” forwards is obviously not a bad thing (not to mention, the whole point of expansion is to force deep teams to lose good players), this all does underscore the fact that the team may have a bit of a logjam in place here.
All nine of the players listed above, were none of them to be taken, figure to be locks to make the team next year. That’s theoretically three-fourths of a forward lineup on a given night, and it doesn’t even include Travis Konecny (who is exempt from expansion and is also a lock), Dale Weise or Matt Read (one of whom could be a semi-regular healthy scratch, but probably not both), Scott Laughton or Nick Cousins (who are both waiver-eligible as of next year), any free agents (be they returning ones or new ones), or any prospects (I see you, Oskar Lindblom).
Essentially, the Flyers are going to have to lose someone from that group in the near future. The question is whether or not they can control how they do it, and if they get anything in exchange for it.
What can they do? Dealing a forward to a team that either:
a) needs to find forwards in order to fill its quota of two exposed forwards that have meaningful NHL experience in the past two seasons, or,
b) just doesn’t have enough forwards that it really wants to protect
... is something that would make sense for the Flyers. They may not get a ton back in exchange for some of these bottom-of-the-roster kind of guys, but even a mid-round draft pick would be worthwhile given the fact that something is going to have to give here pretty soon.
Of course, this requires a team that wants one of those guys like a Laughton or a Cousins or even one of the protection-worthy guys enough to give up something of value for them. And that’s not a given. But you have to think the Flyers are going to try and make a deal work here, even if it’ll likely just be a minor one.
Where they stand now: As of right now, the Flyers are looking at two stone-cold locks to be protected in Shayne Gostisbehere and Radko Gudas, two guys that they’ll have to choose between for their last spot in Andrew MacDonald and Brandon Manning, and then a bunch of AHL players and young expansion-exempt defensemen.
I happen to believe MacDonald is going to get that final protection spot, because I think the Flyers like him as a defenseman. But I don’t think that they’re dead-set on that, and they certainly could go out and look for an upgrade.
It’s tough to say how they feel about getting NHL-level defensemen to play meaningful roles right now, though. Michael Del Zotto said pretty definitively two days after the season ended that he is not returning to the Flyers, noting that Ron Hextall essentially told him they were looking to move in a younger direction. Del Zotto will be all of 27 years old next season — not typically the age at which you are told “we’re going to go younger here”.
The most logical conclusion is that, with three or four quality defensive prospects banging on the door, any gaps that stand in the team’s defense now are going to be filled by those players. And if you’re looking for a good NHL defenseman that’s meaningfully younger and better than Del Zotto, you’re probably going to have to pay a hefty price to get him.
So the idea that the Flyers will definitely look to shake up their defense with an NHL-level piece seems questionable. But again, we’re saying what we think would be fun, not what we necessarily think is going to happen. So the question is this: can the Flyers find a player with NHL experience that they could swing a deal for in order to use their third and final protection slot on him, and would it be worth it given what the cost will be?
What can they do? Expansion is going to force a lot of teams to make tough decisions, not just the Flyers, and some teams are being squeezed hard when it comes to their defensemen. The Flyers, who may have an opening in their third defensive spot, could look to make a deal with one of those teams, giving them a chance to add an NHL-caliber player while allowing another team to get something for a good defenseman rather than lose one for nothing.
The most common name you’ll hear mentioned in these kinds of scenarios is Anaheim, who currently has four very good, young/prime-age defensemen (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Josh Manson) who are all expansion-eligible, plus Kevin Bieksa, who has a no-movement clause and as such will either need a protection slot or a buyout. Assuming they can’t get Bieksa to waive said NMC, they have no other options for a player to fulfill their obligation to expose someone who’s played at least 70 games in the past two seasons. They’d have no choice but to expose one of those first four players, who would probably then be a lock to go to Vegas.
(And even if they could get Bieksa to waive his NMC and be exposed, and did decide to protect each of those other four defensemen, then they’d only be able to protect four forward. Due to NMCs given out to Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, and Ryan Kesler, they’d only have room to protect just one more forward on their entire roster. Not ideal.)
Prying one of those players away from Anaheim won’t be easy, because surely a number of teams will call the Ducks about this very situation and pitch them their best offer for one of those defensemen.
But are the Flyers uniquely well set-up for this situation? They’ve got a number of talented, young, just-about-NHL-ready (and expansion-exempt) defensemen — exactly the kind of player Anaheim would rightly demand in exchange for one of their guys. They’ve got an inexpensive defenseman who could fill Anaheim’s expose-a-player-with-experience obligation in Brandon Manning. And they have 11 picks in this upcoming draft, for potential trade sweetener. Heck, Anaheim could even have one of the forwards we were talking about in the last section of this article.
We don’t know if Anaheim would be willing to trade someone like Josh Manson, but if any team could make a trade like that work out, it’s probably the Flyers. And while trading one of the young guys just as they’re on the cusp of the NHL would hurt, you’ve gotta give to get legitimate top-4 defensemen in their early 20s. So it goes.
Anaheim’s the best example (and the one that would probably cost the most and have the best reward), but there are others that may work as well.
Nashville has a logjam coming as each member of its talented top-4 (P.K. Subban, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm) is expansion-eligible, and while the best play for them is probably just to protect all four of them, it may be worth putting in a call to David Poile just to check on it.
And while this would never happen in a million years, Pittsburgh has four young defensemen it probably wants to keep, along with Kris Letang who has a no-movement clause. So while it won’t be the Flyers, some team will probably try and get a player out of them.
There are openings out there. Teams are going to fear losing good players for nothing, and that’s especially true given the expansion restrictions for defensemen. If the Flyers want to make a deal, the opportunity will probably be there.
Where they stand now: Barring an unlikely Steve Mason return, Michal Neuvirth and Anthony Stolarz are the Flyers’ two choices for their one goalie spot in expansion. We also know that the Flyers are going to get another NHL goalie this summer, though we don’t know if that will be a legitimate starter, a guy to timeshare with Neuvirth, or a guy to back up Neuvirth.
The presumption has been, by and large, that that new goalie would come from free agency, and that’s certainly the most likely outcome. Within the context of this exercise, the question becomes whether there’s a team out there that looks like it might lose a good goalie in expansion, and whether they’d be willing to deal one to the Flyers before that happens. It’d have to be one who’s not under contract for a whole lot longer, but there may be some options.
What can they do? The list of teams that have obvious expansion-related goalie targets isn’t long, but it’s out there.
The most talked-about example is in Pittsburgh, where Marc-Andre Fleury’s NMC is standing in the way of their protecting Matt Murray, but again, a deal with the Flyers will never happen there anyways.
Detroit will probably expose Jimmy Howard, and while he’s old (33) and kind of expensive ($5.29 million cap hit per year), he’s only under contract for two more seasons and is coming off of a strong albeit injury-plagued season, and perhaps you could get Detroit to hold some salary in a trade for him.
Jaroslav Halak will be available from the Islanders, and while he’s coming off of a down-year, he’s had good flashes in the not-so-distant past and is only under contract for one more season. Current backups in places like San Jose, Washington, and Boston could be worth a dice roll, as well.
It’s so hard to guess what these guys may cost, for a number of reasons. Goalies don’t always fetch a ton in trades, and the teams looking to deal these players face the alternative of potentially losing them for nothing, so the Flyers likely wouldn’t have to give up much to deal for one of these guys.
But the Flyers do need a goalie, and the free agency options out there aren’t great. They’ve got a choice to make as to whether any options here are worth the additional cost to get, however much or little that may be.
Granted, at this point, the obvious issue becomes the fact that the Flyers would likely protect whichever goalie they deal for here, unless they were willing to spend assets to get a player that they’d then lose for nothing. And if they did so, they’d risk giving Vegas its choice of Neuvirth or Stolarz to take, rather than just one of them. And that may not be something they’re willing to do. It all comes down to how they evaluate the players that may be available.
As of now, we don’t have any indication that the Flyers are actively looking to make a trade between now and the expansion draft. They may be content with their current situation, knowing prospects are on the way to fill in the gaps. But the nature of the expansion draft means that there will be options out there, for them and for other teams, to make mutually beneficial deals that could soften the inevitable blow of losing a player for nothing. We don’t know quite how the league is going to respond to expansion, and how much its presence will lead to increased team activity in the trade market, but the potential’s there if everyone’s up for it. And if they are, the Flyers may be wise to jump in.
Tomorrow, our staff will make its final* predictions for what will happen to the Flyers in expansion. Stay tuned!
* Note that these predictions are definitely not actually final and we reserve the right to change our minds between now and the expansion draft.
Subject: Friday Morning Fly By: Whatever it's Friday who cares.
Today's open discussion thread, complete with your daily dose of Philadelphia Flyers news and notes...
*It's do-or-die again for the Phantoms tomorrow; here's hoping this one goes as well as the last one. Our pal Stephen Gross has a preview of the game for you. [The Morning Call]
*The draft lottery is tomorrow! Here's everything you need to know about the big big day. [Sportsnet]
*And here are the latest TSN draft rankings. They still employ hockey people so we good. [TSN]
*Hey the Flyers have signed another of their promising young prospects to his entry level deal! That's fun! [Flyers]
*ESPN seems to have given up on hockey entirely, and it kind of sucks. For the people they fired and for us. [The Toronto Star]
*This seems like a thing that should be relevant to your interests as a Flyers fan: why having a goalie tandem simply does not work. [Raw Charge]
Subject: NHL expansion 2017: Predicting who the Flyers will protect and lose in the expansion draft
How different will the Flyers be when all is said and done with expansion?
We’ve spent all week talking about the Flyers’ situation as it pertains to this summer’s expansion draft, where they will lose one player to the NHL’s 31st team, the Vegas Golden Knights.
We’ve looked at the forwards, as well as the defensemen and goalies, and then all of them at the same time. And yesterday, we tried to look at possible trade opportunities that the Flyers could take advantage of in the lead-up to the expansion draft.
Finally today, we here at BSH will make our initial guesses as to what will happen with the Flyers regarding expansion — specifically, who they’ll protect and who they’ll lose. Please note that we will all likely change our minds at some point between now and the draft itself, as that is how these things go. But until then, enjoy.
I found it really difficult to decide who would get that last forward protection spot. You could make an argument for just about any of the logical choices: they gave PEBs an A and don't want to lose him, Jordan Weal was a big time spark when he finally got his chance with the team, they've spent a lot of time developing Scott Laughton and don't want to lose him for nothing, Michael Raffl is a potential first-liner who brings a lot to the team when he is on his game, Matt Read brings leadership and reliability they don't want to lose, Nick Cousins has a ton of potential, and Dale Weise ... okay you can make a case for ALMOST any of the logical choices. But really my choice came down to Weal and Laughton, and I chose Weal because I think that he's the most likely to be taken by Las Vegas if he's available. He's a proven high-end AHL talent that has shown he can also bring scoring to an NHL lineup, he's on a pretty cheap contract, and if you're building an organization from the ground up that seems like a pretty easy guy to take a chance on.
The defense choice was easy for me, because I've settled into acceptance of the fact that the Flyers value Andrew MacDonald and want him to remain on their team. We've all got to live in this reality, folks. As for the goalie, since I do not subscribe to the Bill Matz Theory of Ron Hextall Long-Conning, I think that the Flyers will protect the goalie they just signed to an extension, again, because they actually want him on the team.
And with all of that, I think we say goodbye to Scott Laughton. Of the players that will be available, he has the highest potential upside and, at worst, will help LV fill out an AHL lineup of reliable talent they can pull from if necessary. Should've traded him for some picks when we had the chance smdh.
Having little faith in the front office and coaching staff at the moment, this is the worst case scenario I'm planning for with Bellemare and MacDonald being protected. I actually think its a forgone conclusion with Bellemare based on how much they value him and what he does on/off the ice. With picking another defenseman along with Ghost and Gudas, MacDonald is the only one that makes sense to me. I don't see them protecting Manning.
There is also the fact that MacDonald played 73 games this season and averaged 20 minutes of ice time. The coach values him enough to pair him with our most promising young defenseman after a year in which the front office deemed him not valuable enough to even play for the team.
If Michael Raffl is left unprotected, he will most certainly be the forward taken by Vegas. He is a versatile winger who can play up and down the lineup. Raffl is also signed to a fairly team-friendly deal for the next two seasons. So folks, get ready to be angry when the expansion draft comes around!
Let's get the easy stuff out of the way. Anthony Stolarz will be the goalie they protect. They are able to protect Steve Mason if they want to leave both Michal Neuvirth and Stolarz exposed but they will almost certainly not do it. Could they protect Neuvirth? Sure. They did just give him a new contract, one has to assume they like him and want to keep him around. Do they consider him a long term solution? Who knows. I hope not. I believe they will protect Stolarz. He is young and unproven, but he was the goalie of the future before Carter Hart so there's a good chance management sees him as a building block. They're not going to want to lose that guy for nothing.
Defense. I said it on my Facebook Q&A, they are going to protect Andrew MacDonald. Let's all have one collective meltdown now so that we won't feel feelings when the time comes. They played him like a top defenseman this year. They apparently think he's valuable. Las Vegas isn't going to take that disaster of a contract. They could go rogue and protect T.J. Brennan which would be fun. Or they could protect Brandon Manning. Here's why the shouldn't: he's bad. If Las Vegas somehow sees value in someone who should be a 7D, and even that is being generous, that would be great for this hockey team. Addition by subtraction. Would it be better for a team to claim MacDonald? Sure. But no one would. Why not give them the option to take both? Ok I change my mind, protect New Jersey Native T.J. Brennan.
Now forwards. For me it comes down to three guys, but there is a fourth. This isn't going to pretty but I'll break down my thought process.
Michael Raffl. Reasons to protect: in his prime, one of the top two defensive forwards on the team, is a complimentary piece to all lines, can produce on the top line or lower in the lineup, has good hair. Reasons to not protect: You think someone younger can bring more value to the team
Jordan Weal. Protect: had a strong end to the season, great underlying numbers that show what may be a solid foundation, could slot into the top 6. Reasons to not protect: already 25, hasn't been able to crack an NHL line-up and it’s fair to question how good he really is, the chance that he has been an undervalued asset is much lower than the chance that he performed at an unsustainable rate for the short period of time he was with the Flyers
Scott Laughton. Protect: young, first round draft pick, has spent time with the Flyers, is too good for the AHL, can be effective at wing, has been at C in the AHL to work on defensive side of his game, team has invested a lot of time on developing him, could fit in the top 6 if he can get his shit together. Reasons to not protect: also hasn't been able to stay consistently in the NHL, may not be that good
Then there is Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. The reason to protect him is because the club obviously thinks highly of him — this is evident in his ice time and the A on his chest. Ultimately, I think they may try to trade a few of the lower priority forwards for assets, knowing that any of them can be taken for nothing.
You can get a draft pick in return for Nick Cousins. Probably also for Meat Read, although I think it makes more sense to keep him around. I would pay another team to take Dale Weise and I would hire someone to pack his bags and I would personally drive him and his family to the airport. He is a nice guy, but I do not want him on my hockey team anymore.
I also need everyone to pump the brakes on Jordan Weal. Yes he looked good, but we're talking 37 total NHL games over an entire six-year pro career, 27 of which were with the Flyers. This is not a superstar in the making. I'd love to be wrong, but he didn't make the team out of training camp, temper expectations.
I think Raffl will be the player they protect. He is someone they know; he's a consistent player that they have relied on for years. On top of that, he's on a good contract (read as: cheap). If this is the scenario, I think Vegas takes Scott Laughton. The first round pedigree carries weight, and he has solid AHL numbers. He's only 22, can start in the NHL tomorrow, and has versatility. If the Flyers choose to protect Laughton (or Weal), Raffl will be the player selected by Las Vegas. It would be shitty to lose a steady and solid NHL player for nothing. We don't know if we have those things in Scott Laughton or Jordan Weal.
I cannot agree with the idea that Hextall will keep Andrew MacDonald as a protected player. If I were Hextall, I'd be jumping at the possible opportunity of unloading MacDonald's contract for free.
Although he is arguably better than Brandon Manning, I don't know why they wouldn't jump at this opportunity. Of course, I don't think MacD will be taken, but it's worth a shot leaving him unprotected.
This organization values AMac too much to leave him exposed. I want to punt a chicken all of a sudden. Michael Raffl gets protected since his contract is more manageable than Read's. They take a pass on Cousins, Laughton, Manning and any one else who might be available on the Phantoms, since they are either too old to be considered future stars or not eligible to be taken. That leaves Read, who helps the Knights reach the floor for this year on a low-commitment contract.
Thankfully, this silly exercise will be in done with soon enough. This has been the most over-exaggerated, over-thought thing in the league since the lockout. Everyone will lose someone, and while minimizing the loss is something that should be done, it should not come at the expense of something else. If they signed Neuvy to protect Stolarz, that would have been a classic overthought on management's part, Stolarz had almost no chance of being selected as is and the team has plenty of talent in goal in the pipeline to replace him. Instead, they resigned Neuvy and may have hacked off Mason to prevent something that may have had a 2% chance of happening and even if it did, there were other solutions available. Ugh.
On defense, I really, really, really wanted to not put AMac on this list. But … well ...
/goes to NHL.com/stats, //selects Philadelphia Flyers defenseman, ///sorts by time on ice ...
MacDonald played nearly 300 more minutes than Brandon Manning did last year, including more than two extra minutes per game. The Flyers, for better or worse, feel that AMac has value on this team as it is currently constructed. That’s probably a role that’s diminished next season as young talent arrives, but nonetheless.
Maybe his contract is enough to keep him exposed, with the Flyers hoping there’s an outside chance Vegas takes it off their books. There could be a sense that last season was last season, and Dave Hakstol felt he was doing the best with the cards he was dealt, but that this offseason will be about shuffling that deck. We’re only a year removed from AMac playing in Lehigh Valley, after all. But … I don’t know. If there were another option here, fine. But there’s not, and if we’re comparing Manning’s value to MacDonald’s, I think it’s clear which guy the team values more.
Anthony Stolarz should be protected and I think he will be. I don’t think this is about the Flyers’ view of Michal Neuvirth, because they clearly value him based on that contract extension. I think it’s more about chances of selection, and Stolarz clearly has more of a shot to be selected than Neuvy. With that said, there is always the chance that Vegas takes Neuvirth based on familiarity. General manager George McPhee was with Neuvirth in Washington, as was Golden Knights’ director of goaltending David Prior, who was the goalie coach with the Capitals from 1997-2014. I think that familiarity will lead them to current Capitals backup Philipp Grubauer instead, but you never know.
OK, the forwards. Look, I don’t know if the Flyers are actually going to protect Jordan Weal or not. But of the players on the list, I think he has the best chance of being taken by Las Vegas, and he also represents a very specific need for Philadelphia going forward: dudes who can put hockey pucks in hockey nets with hockey sticks. Weal is still young, he’s small and speedy and clever offensively and clearly has the tools to be a top-six player in the NHL. Think about what Pittsburgh’s done with guys like this for the last decade. They plug them into the roster around their core. It works. It’s taken Weal a while to get to the point we’re at now, but even if the end of last season was a flash in the pan, the Flyers are not really in a position to take the risk in losing him.
The other forwards don’t compare in upside. I like Michael Raffl a lot and do not want to lose him, particularly given his play driving ability and the fact that he can effectively play anywhere in the lineup. But he’s reached his max value (still very valuable!), the ceiling isn’t as high as it is with Weal, and I think he’s less likely to be selected by Vegas anyhow given his age. Matt Read is over the hill and it would not be the end of the world if he were taken, as much as I’ve enjoyed him on the Flyers over the years. I don’t see why you would bother protecting Dale Weise or Nick Cousins.
I am terrified that they are going to protect Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. Absolutely fucking terrified. I am going to pull the sheets over my head until this scare either passes or becomes the reality I must face.
Scott Laughton is the odd-man out here, but he’s clearly already the odd-man out in Dave Hakstol’s organization anyhow. Let him run free and have a real opportunity in an important role on a bad team. Maybe we’ll regret it as he grows into a solid two-way NHL center with the Golden Knights. But we only see them twice a year anyway, and one of those times is in the midst of a booze-and-whatever-else-fueled romp on the Strip. I think we’ll be OK if we lose Laughton.
In the forward department, I’m pretty much going with the obvious here. Jordan Weal showed that he is a legitimate NHL forward at the end of the season, and even if we don’t have much to go by in terms of number of games played, I can’t imagine the Flyers are anything short of terrified of losing him. The only other person I think could maybe get protection over Weal is Michael Raffl, especially considering how important he has been to the Flyers in recent years.
As for who Vegas takes, Scott Laughton really presents the most upside for Vegas from Flyers that will be available, and with them being a new team and all, they’ll kind of need that. Raffl is another possibility, but I imagine his age and point totals will make Vegas think twice.
No real surprises on defense here. And if you think that the Flyers are going to expose Andrew MacDonald in the hopes that Vegas takes him, I don’t know what to tell you. Hakstol clearly likes him, and Hextall has shown no signs of keeping his coach from playing the guy. Brandon Manning sucks, so whatever. Aside from Radko Gudas and Shayne Gostisbehere being protected, though, do you really care what happens here?
I guess the strangest part of what I think the Flyers will do is protecting Michal Neuvirth over Anthony Stolarz. Sure, Neuvirth absolutely stunk last year, but the Flyers did just give him a new contract, which was totally unnecessary unless they wanted him to be around. We could get all conspiracy theory here and suggest that the Flyers gave Neuvirth a bad contract so that they could keep Vegas from taking him while protecting Stolarz, but I just don’t buy it. For what it’s worth, I don’t think there is anywhere near a worthwhile level of worry that Stolarz gets taken.
While I believe the most shrewd possible move would be to work out some sort of handshake deal with Jordan Weal and protect Michael Raffl instead, my guess is that Ron Hextall, being the fairly risk-averse GM that he is, will want to be absolutely certain that a player who he views as a legitimate top-9 NHL forward isn't going anywhere. He noted in exit interviews that he felt the team finished strong because they finally put together a cohesive forward corps, and that corps included Weal and not Raffl. I wonder if he'd be so interested in protecting Raffl that he'd be willing to risk Weal being impressed by Vegas' pitch, or Weal simply feeling like being part of an expansion draft game implies that the team is lukewarm on him as a player.
Andrew MacDonald vs. Brandon Manning is a toss-up. I believe the organization is far higher on MacDonald than the fanbase would wish, but I think they like Manning as well, and he has the advantages of being younger and on a cheaper contract. I think the Flyers will wager that MacDonald won't get taken due to the monstrosity of a deal, just as they did when they sent him through waivers in 2015. As for the goalies, I don't think Anthony Stolarz's injury has a major impact on their protection decision -- they still don't want to lose the kid, and he remains potentially attractive to the Golden Knights considering his draft pedigree and promising early NHL results.
I really, really hope Michael Raffl isn't taken by Vegas. I believe he's a fantastic middle-six forward and one of the best support play-drivers in the league. But if the Flyers choose to play it safe with Weal, that makes Raffl the obvious best player on their list of available players, and I have to believe that Vegas doesn't let him slip past them. Raffl isn't a guy who will rack up the points, but has succeeded on lines with high-end talent and is on a reasonable contract. If George McPhee is listening to any of the analysts in his fledgling organization, Raffl is the logical choice.
When I originally sent out a call to our staff last weekend asking for expansion predictions, I included an example in which I said that the Flyers would use their final protection spot on Jordan Weal, because I figured that was the case. On Wednesday, I changed my mind and said that I thought the Flyers would protect Michael Raffl and try to wield Weal’s (that was not on purpose, I swear) pending UFA status as if it were another expansion slot.
I nearly waffled on that again two more times between then and now, but for the moment, I’ll stick with my new prediction. Raffl’s exclusively been a top-9 forward over the past few years, frequently playing support roles on the top two lines. While that may say more about the Flyers of recent years than it does Raffl, he’s a player that the team clearly likes and I don’t think they’re going to want to lose him for nothing. So we’ll see if Hextall can thread the needle with Jordan Weal (assuming Vegas wants him) as we draw closer to the draft. I’ll probably change my mind on this again. Whatever.
On defense, I just don't think the Flyers hate Andrew MacDonald's contract enough to risk losing him, given that we know they like him as a player. With no better alternatives, he gets the spot over Brandon Manning. It would be great to see the Flyers swing a trade here to get a better option for their third protection slot, but they may very well think MacDonald is that better option. So it goes. And in net, Anthony Stolarz gets the nod over Michal Neuvirth, who I'm pretty sure the Flyers still only see as a backup goalie. I do not think it's particularly likely that Vegas takes Neuvirth, but what do I know.
Finally, I think the theoretical ceiling of Scott Laughton gets him taken in the draft. The Flyers clearly aren't high on him right now, but Vegas isn't going to have a chance to grab many 23-year-old former first-round picks in this draft the way that they will with Laughton. Gerard Gallant and his development staff may very well think they can find the upside in Laughton that the Flyers thought they saw just a couple of years ago, and I think that leads them to take him over the heart-and-soul-ness of someone like Pierre-Edouard Bellemare or a goalie like Neuvirth.
With the Swedish season over, Oskar Lindblom will likely be heading to North America pretty soon.
While over in North America we’re preparing for tonight’s NHL draft lottery and another elimination game for the Phantoms, two Flyers prospects in Sweden were finishing up their seasons — and at least one of them has probably played his last game in the SHL for a while.
Forward Oskar Lindblom, a fifth-round pick in 2014, played in the final game of the Swedish Hockey League’s season today in Jönköping, Sweden, for Brynäs IF, dropping the contest in a heartbreaking 2-1 loss in overtime to HV71. A power play for Brynäs came and went without a goal, and it wasn’t long after that until HV71’s Simon Önerud tucked the winner past veteran goalie David Rautio.
It’s noteworthy that Rautio was the one giving up that goal, as Flyers prospect Felix Sandstrom was on the Brynäs bench to see it happen. Sandstrom started four games in this series, picking up wins in the second and fifth games as Brynäs took a 3-2 lead. But he got off to a tough start in Game 6, giving up two early goals, and with that his season came to an end, as Brynäs coach Thomas Berglund put in Rautio and never looked back.
In the series, Lindblom posted just one goal in seven games, but it certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying: he has 24 shots on goal in the seven-game series and had a number of chances that just missed. His playoffs as a whole, though, were outstanding; despite the relatively ineffective final, Lindblom was tied for third among all players in points in the playoffs, and tied with two other players for the league lead in assists. This was after a 22-goal, 25-assist showing during the 52-game regular season. Objectively, this was an outstanding season for Lindblom.
Meanwhile, Sandstrom’s year was a bit tougher to judge, as he split time with Rautio, but as one of the youngest goalies in the league, his .908 save percentage is a decent mark, one that improved upon his .904 from last year.
For the Flyers, the question is now how much longer until these two sign an entry-level NHL contract make their way over to North America , as both of them have SHL contracts that are up after this season.
Sandstrom, who split time with Rautio throughout the season and in the final series, seems likely to remain in Sweden for at least another year. He put forth an admirable showing for a 19/20-year old in the world’s third-or-so-best league (give or take) this season, but it was a showing that the Flyers will likely feel he’ll have a better chance to build upon with another year in Sweden. Also, the Flyers’ own goalie situation is pretty clogged up right now, with no obvious spots available at the NHL or AHL level once they go and get another NHL goalie (which Ron Hextall has said that they will do).
With Lindblom, however, the question seems to be less a matter of “will he or won’t he?” and more one of “does it take weeks, or days?”. Berglund has essentially already confirmed that Lindblom will be heading to North America once this season is over:
And that’s not surprising news, for a number of reasons. As mentioned, Lindblom was one of the best forwards in the entire SHL this season — no small feat for a 20-year old. Lindblom also had an outstanding showing in Lehigh Valley at the end of last year, coming in on an amateur tryout contract and posting 7 points in 8 games. (There was talk towards the end of last year that Lindblom would stay in North America for this season, but with him being under contract with Brynäs for another season, that was probably never in the cards.)
Hextall should be eager to have Lindblom in Pennsylvania next year, and the hope here is that he’ll end up spending most of his time in Philadelphia rather than Lehigh Valley. While there may be a slight adjustment period for a guy who’s played on the European ice surface for his entire career, and as such the team might prefer he begin the year with the Phantoms, Lindblom’s excellent showing in Lehigh Valley last year — however brief it may have been — does lend credence to the idea that hey may well be NHL-ready. As does the fact that he’s spent the last three years playing in a league against adults and has more than held his own.
(In the meantime, though, if the Phantoms are able to extend their playoff run a bit more, might we see him in the very near future? Baby steps, though.)
In any case, Hextall and the team will have a big decision to make with yet another exciting young player who’s primed to make an impact for the Flyers before long.
Subject: NHL draft lottery 2017: Full odds, time, date, format and how to watch
Everything you need to know about the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery.
Here in Philadelphia, we were hoping not to care about the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery. But alas, we must — and we’ll be checking in Saturday night, April 29, as the NHL gathers in Toronto for the 2017 lottery.
There’s a new wrinkle in this year’s lottery thanks to the expansion Vegas Golden Knights. We got into the nitty gritty of the Vast National Hockey League Conspiracy* against the Philadelphia Flyers over in this post, but the basics are that the league’s 31st team have the same odds of winning the lottery as if they finished third-worst in the NHL in 2016-17. And the adjustments made to accommodate Vegas hurt the Flyers, oddly, more than any other team.
It’s all negligible though, of course. The Flyers will likely pick 13th, as there’s an 84.3 percent chance of that happening. There’s a 2.2 percent chance they win the first pick, a 2.4 percent chance at the second pick, and a 2.7 percent chance at the third pick.
The Colorado Avalanche were god-awful last season and have the best odds of winning the first overall pick, at 18 percent. The New York Islanders were the last team on the outside of the playoff picture, so they have the longest odds at the top pick at just 0.9 percent.
The 2017 NHL Draft Lottery will take place at 8 p.m. ET on Saturday, April 29. NBC will have coverage in the United States while CBC and Sportsnet will carry coverage in Canada. It’ll happen just prior to Capitals-Penguins Game 2. HL Draft Lottery will take
Below are the full odds.
*may or may not be a real conspiracy
Subject: NHL draft 2017: Flyers MOVE UP TO SECOND IN THE DRAFT
THANK YOU BASED PING PONG BALL GODS
Tonight’s NHL draft lottery figured to be a fairly uneventful night for the Philadelphia Flyers, who had a 2.2 percent chance of winning the lottery and roughly a 7.2 percent chance of jumping into the top 3. Couple in the fact that there was an obviously very real conspiracy in place against the Flyers, and it seemed likely that the team would be looking at the 13th pick in the draft this June.
BUT THAT’S NOT WHAT HAPPENED.
In a year that has by and large been a monumental disappointment for the Flyers, their card was NOT pulled at the No. 13 slot. No, the Flyers will pick all the way up at No. 2 in this year’s draft in Chicago, the highest they have picked since picking James van Riemsdyk in the same spot ten years ago.
The only remotely bad news of the night is the fact that the team that did end up at No. 1 is none other than the New Jersey Devils, who will now have a chance to pick up a game-breaking forward that they so desperately need. But in a draft that’s increasingly being billed as one with two potential high-end forwards — Brandon center Nolan Patrick and Halifax center Nico Hischier — No. 2 overall is just fine with us.
This has the potential to drastically change the entire trajectory of the franchise for the Flyers, who have been staring the potential decline of Claude Giroux in the face for over a year now and, until now, had no obvious replacement for him in their forward prospect ranks. We’ve got a lot to talk about between now and June 23, but for now, let’s celebrate.
Lottery order is below. I love you all.
- New Jersey Devils
- Philadelphia Flyers
- Dallas Stars
- Colorado Avalanche
- Vancouver Canucks
- Vegas Golden Knights
- Arizona Coyotes
- Buffalo Sabres
- Detroit Red Wings
- Florida Panthers
- Los Angeles Kings
- Carolina Hurricanes
- Winnipeg Jets
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- New York Islanders
Subject: Phantoms vs. Bears game 4 recap: Phantoms ride hot start to 4-1 win, even series at 2-2
The teams will play a decisive Game 5 on Sunday in Allentown.
Folks, I’ll be honest. I was all set to recap this game and was doing well for a while, and then I got a bit sidetracked about 25 minutes into the contest as a result of, uh, some other rather important Flyers happenings that took place tonight. So my apologies if we’re a little short on details in parts of this recap here, and for the fact that this recap is a bit late.
But! While it’s certainly not the biggest piece of news we’ll receive tonight, the Lehigh Valley Phantoms came away as big winners this evening as well, as they walked into the Giant Center in Hershey and stormed to a 4-1 win, evening their series with the Hershey Bears at two wins apiece and setting the teams up for a decisive game 5 tomorrow in Allentown.
The Phantoms got out to a solid start, controlling most of the first 10 minutes of the game while both teams traded ultimately unsuccessful power plays. Finally, after knocking on the door for most of the period (the Phantoms were up 10-3 in shots at this point), Danick Martel opened up the scoring in the game following a great feed from Andy Miele, who picked off a clearing attempt and immediately wired it down to Martel for the finish.
Danick Martel makes it 1-0, Phantoms! pic.twitter.com/MI0ZvuKvX9— Broad Street Hockey (@BroadStHockey) April 29, 2017
Mark Alt nearly doubled that lead seconds later on a spin move that Hershey goalie Pheonix Copley was able to deny, but the Phantoms would go to the locker room up 1-0 and in total control of this game.
The Phantoms started out the second period right on the same track they’d been on in the first, but not much more than a minute into the frame, Hershey’s Stanislav Galiev cherry-picked his way to a breakaway in on Martin Ouellette. Luckily, Ouellette was up to the task, shutting down Galiev’s shot and keeping the Phantoms ahead. The scales briefly started to even out a bit after that chance, as both sides traded attempts for the early part of the second period, but just over four minutes into the period, a Travis Sanheim blocked shot turned into a 2-on-1 the other way for the Phantoms, and Mark Zengerle wired the ensuing shot past Copley to double the Phantoms’ lead.
That goal would end up being the game-winner, but Hershey would provide a big of a push after the Phantoms went up by two goals. This area — the last 10-15 minutes or so of the second period — was around the time when the Flyers were busy moving up in the draft lottery, so again, I apologize for having nothing more than the bare minimum regarding this timeframe.
But we do know that the Bears finally broke through late in the second period, as Hershey’s Chandler Stephenson carried the puck up to the top of the circle and put a shot past Ouellette to cut the lead in half.
The Phantoms had a couple of solid chances in the final minutes of the period, but Hershey came out firing on all cylinders when the two teams came out of the dressing rooms to start the third. A couple of nice saves by Ouellette made up for some general sloppiness from the Phantoms, who at least in the moment were fortunate to stay ahead of the home team.
And it was then, about five minutes into the third, when Scott Laughton — off a great pass from Sanheim — would throw on the jets to split two Hershey defenders and make his way in alone on Copley.
He didn’t miss.
For all intents and purposes, that was the end of this hockey game, even though both teams would have their chances as the period went on — the Phantoms and Bears each tallied 15 shots in the third period. But Hershey couldn’t cash in on a power play with about seven minutes left in the game, and that was about it. Laughton would ice the game with an empty-net goal, and the Phantoms would make the not-so-long trip back home with a victory and an even series.
Ouellette stood tall for the second game in a row, stopping 27 of 28 Bears shots. Eight Phantoms picked up at least one point on the night. Lehigh Valley outshot Hershey 38-28 in the game, continuing a trend that has held up in the entire series — through four games, the Phantoms have outshot the Bears 134-96. While this was the first game in the series that was one by more than one goal, it would not be a stretch to say the Phantoms have been the better team for the most part, and were they to pick up a win tomorrow, it would be a just result.
Which, given the fact that maybe too much has gone this way our weekend, is possibly too much to ask for.
But let’s hope not. The Phantoms and Bears will play at 5:00 on Sunday at the PPL Center. The winner will face the winner of the Providence vs. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton series, which also has a decisive Game 5 tomorrow in the afternoon.
Subject: Phantoms vs. Bears game 5 recap: The best Phantoms season in a decade comes to an end
A late rally wasn’t enough as the Phantoms were eliminated from the Calder Cup Playoffs.
It probably would’ve been too much to ask, to have this many things go the Flyers’ organization’s way in a single weekend.
But the Lehigh Valley Phantoms’ season — the team’s best season in a decade, the one in which it made its first playoff appearance since before it moved out of Philadelphia — came to an end on Sunday evening, as they dropped a 3-2 game to the Hershey Bears and were eliminated from the playoffs in front of their home crowd at the PPL Center in Allentown. With Hershey’s win, all five games in the series were won by the road team, which is an odd twist on home-ice advantage.
A decent first few minutes for the home team were undone by a Greg Carey high-sticking call, and though the Phantoms were able to continue their run of not having allowed a power play goal in this entire series, Hershey would get on the board just seconds after Carey made his way back onto the ice. Hershey’s Stanislav Galiev took a pass in the slot, cut towards the net in alone on Martin Ouellette, and in making the initial save Ouellette fell to the ice and couldn’t collect the rebound before Galiev got to it and flipped it in.
It took the Phantoms a few minutes to get going after that goal — in fact, they didn’t get their first shot on goal of the game until around the 9:30 mark, though they had a couple of misses and blocked shots before then. But the scales were still tipped a bit towards Hershey — for what may have been the first time in this series, the Bears had gotten out to a pretty strong first period.
And they’d cash in on that once again, doubling their lead about 11 minutes into the first period. A point shot was deflected past Ouellette by Christian Thomas, on a goal that the goalie didn’t have much chance to stop.
Thomas deflects a shot past Ouellette. 2-0 Bears. pic.twitter.com/pw3KWOIY3X— Sons of Penn (@SonsofPenn) April 30, 2017
That second goal seemed to serve as a bit of a wake-up call for the Phantoms, who saw most of their best chances of the first period come in the final seven minutes. A breakaway by Danick Martel was turned aside by Bears goalie Pheonix Copley with 6:35 left in the period, and about 25 seconds later a one-timer from Cole Bardreau was also stopped by the Hershey netminder.
Some more pressure would follow, but the Phantoms would head to the locker room down 2-0 in goals and 8-7 in shots on goal after 20 minutes.
Fortunately, the strong play from the last tail end of the first period carried over to the second, in which Madison Bowey tripped Greg Carey behind the net and gave the Phantoms a power play just over a minute in. They’d take advantage, getting on the board as a point shot from Travis Sanheim would bounce off the back boards and right to Colin McDonald in front of the net.
The Phantoms were able to keep the pressure on, but as the period went on the game became even more back-and-forth as both sides had some near-misses on great chances in transition. The 10-8 shot count for the period (with Lehigh Valley having the 10) probably didn’t do justice to the number of good chances both teams had, as well as the number of times where either team just couldn’t quite get the puck to an open man in time.
Late scrambles for both squads — Hershey with just over two minutes in the period, Lehigh Valley in the frame’s final 25 seconds — went for naught, and the Phantoms would head to the locker room with 20 minutes to find a goal and extend their season. This was something the Phantoms had some experience in — their nine third-period comeback wins this year led the AHL.
But after a couple of scoring chances early in the third period, disaster nearly struck for the home team. Sam Morin would clear the puck over the glass from behind his own goal line to put the Phantoms on the penalty kill, and 36 seconds later, a high-sticking call on Scott Laughton would force the Phantoms into a 3-on-5 situation — one in which they’d be without two of their best penalty killers — that looked like it could mark the end of their season if they didn’t kill it off.
But they’d do just that. Some strong defensive efforts from Robert Hagg and Mark Alt would help matters, and Ouellette made some key saves and freezes of the puck to help kill things off. At that point, the game figured to head in one of two directions: either the Phantoms would capitalize on the opportunity they’d just created for themselves and ride that wave to a tie game, or the Bears would build on the pressure they’d created during that 5-on-3 and make it last the rest of the game.
Unfortunately, things tended to trend towards the latter option. The Phantoms found themselves on their heels for much of the time after that 3-on-5, icing the puck a couple of times and losing nearly every faceoff they’d take. And just over six minutes into the period, Hershey would finally bang the door down, as three Phantoms stuck along the boards could only watch as Colby Williams would put home a Nathan Walker pass in front to double the Bears’ lead.
The Phantoms continued to find themselves reeling, only really starting to generate pressure around the halfway mark of the third period despite the two-goal deficit. But after Martel was denied again in close by Copley, the Phantoms pushed hard, and with just over seven minutes remaining, Taylor Leier would collect a Scott Laughton neutral-zone deflection that trickled past Bowey and get just enough of it to get it behind Copley and cut the lead in half.
The Phantoms would spend most of the rest of the game in Hershey’s zone, but a push with an extra attacker in the final minutes would not result in the game-tying goal and the team would lose by a score of 3-2.
Though their season is over now, it was quite fun to see playoff hockey at the AHL level again, and watching the Phantoms rally from down 2-0 in the series to force a winner-take-all game was a treat. This has been a tremendous season for the boys in Lehigh Valley, and though it’s tough to say quite what their roster might look like next year as various players move on up to the Flyers, they should hopefully be a force in the AHL for years to come.
Subject: Monday Morning Fly By: Yep, that actually happened.
*Ron's pretty excited!! (As excited as he gets, I guess) [CSN Philly]
*Let's look again at TSN's draft ranking as it is suddenly very very relevant to our interests. [TSN]
*The Devils were the ones to, unbelievably, win the the first overall. And now that they have something to live for, they're thinking of trying to get back together with their ex, Ilya Kovalchuk. [Puck Daddy]
*Speaking of drafts, we wrapped up last week's Expansion Draft Extravaganza with our own picks for who we think the Flyers will protect and who they will lose. [BSH]
*It was a pretty dang good weekend for the Flyers organization all together, as the Phantoms came back from an 0-2 series deficit to force a game five against the Bears. RECAP! The kids ended up losing on Sunday but they gave a hell of a fight. Only up from here!
*Now that the SHL season is over we might see another promising prospect headed over to sign with the Flyers. [BSH]
*If you've been watching the Penguins during these first two rounds, you've probably noticed that they keep lucking into late-round gems in guys like Jake Guentzel and Conor Sheary. It'd be nice to luck into one of those eh? [The Hockey News]
*And finally, for some reason, the entrenched hockey establishment seems dead set on removing ANY kind of fun from this game. This needs to stop. It's ridiculous. [SB Nation]
Subject: NHL draft 2017: What do you think the Flyers should do with the No. 2 pick?
Hischier. Patrick. Trade?
I don’t know if it’s a bad case of Monday morning allergies or if I’m actually still hungover from partying following the Flyers’ 11-spot jump in the 2017 NHL Draft Lottery, but all of the world’s Claritin/Pedialyte couldn’t make me feel as good as those ping balls did on Saturday evening.
We’re going to have two months to really dissect what the Flyers should do with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, to be held June 23 and 24 in Chicago. But there are really only three possible answers, as we currently see it.
And of those three answers, one of them will be decided for us by Ray Shero and the New Jersey Devils when they make the No. 1 overall selection.
Pick Nolan Patrick
Nolan Patrick, the 6’3, 198 pound center and former teammate of Flyers’ defenseman Ivan Provorov, has been the expected No. 1 pick for at least a year now. He finished atop NHL Central Scouting’s rankings both midterm and in last month’s final tally. He scored 102 points — 41 goals and 62 assists -- in his second-full WHL season a year ago, and was named the postseason MVP.
But injury woes this season limited him to just 33 games — in which he scored 46 points -- and the spotlight has been held up to him long enough that he’s starting to show spots. Some scouts have turned the page on his spot atop the rankings.
The injury issues don’t seem long-term from what people are saying, but it is at least a touch concerning that Patrick has been injured every season dating back to 2012. A year ago, he had sports hernia surgery that’s very similar to the surgery Shayne Gostisbehere and Claude Giroux had a year ago, and we all know how that appeared to effect them this past season.
In any event, Patrick is a dynamic player with a booming shot and that ever-so-fun combination of both speed and size. He’ll be a fantastic addition to the Flyers prospect pool, or maybe even their 2017-18 roster, should he fall to them. HOWEVER, this might be the most revealing and troubling thing about Patrick. It’s nearly inexcusable:
Rare time I've been speechless in an interview:— Kristina Rutherford (@KrRutherford) March 21, 2017
Nolan Patrick: "I don't like pizza or chocolate."
Then 30 seconds of silence.
I’d rather take a kid who smokes pot than a guy with these types of character issues. I mean, at least stoners like pizza and chocolate.
Pick Nico Hischier
We don’t know his thoughts on pizza, but Nico Hischier — known to Philadelphia sports radio callers as “Nick His-cheer”, it’s actually pronounced heesh-er — is Swiss, so he probably likes chocolate.
Patrick’s limited play this season gave ample opportunity for Hischier to jump up in the rankings, and some are already saying that he deserves the top spot instead. He was the No. 2-ranked prospect in both the midterm and final rankings from Central Scouting, and he’s had a great first year in North America with the QMJHL’s Halifax Mooseheads. The QMJHL is a pretty offense-heavy league and all, but 28 goals and 48 assists in 57 games is good no matter the league.
It was really the World Juniors that pushed the Hischier hype into overdrive, though. As an 18 year old, Hischier scored seven goals and added eight assists for Switzerland in 11 games, and he single-handedly almost carried his team past the United States with a two-goal performance in a 3-2 quarterfinal-round loss.
Both players are centers, with Hischier coming in a bit smaller at 6’0, 179 pounds. The injury issues might sink Patrick’s chances of a No. 1 pick, while Hischier might ultimately fall simply because there’s just one North American season on his resume.
Hischier definitely wins in the flashiness department as compared to Patrick. The New Jersey Devils are probably the dullest, least-flashy thing to ever be created by human beings, so maybe that’ll be enough to for Hischier to fall to No. 2.
Trade the pick
The third option would be to move this pick, of course. Personally I think talk of this is a little silly given that there just isn’t that much of a drop between the two guys at the top of the draft, and the Flyers definitely have the need for a young, game-breaking center over the long-term. Hischier and Patrick both fit the bill.
Ultimately, the Flyers are going to get a very talented young player here with the No. 1 or No. 2 overall pick. Patrick is probably more NHL-ready given his size and that he’s played more time on North American ice, but Hischier could certainly make an NHL club as early as next season too.
If you think that they aren’t ready, or if you are enamored with one player but not the other, maybe you feel you can accelerate the process by moving back in the first round and acquiring an NHL player with this pick. I don’t see it happening, and I think the Flyers should stick at the No. 2 spot. But you never know what kind of offer might be on the other side of the phone.
What do you want Philadelphia to do?