Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

USA Today Images/Michigan Athletics

Flyers prospect surprises and disappointments this year

With the Christmas break upon us and the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships getting underway Tuesday, welcome to a special edition of our Future Flyers Report.

Similar to what we did in this space last season, we’ll look at the biggest surprise and disappointment on the prospect front, as well provide a primer for the WJCs.

Biggest surprise: Cooper Marody
This title could go to any one of the Flyers’ three collegiate prospects who are in the top-12 of the nation in scoring, but we’re handing it to Marody, a junior at Michigan.

Marody, after missing parts of his freshman season with mono and then sitting out the first semester of his sophomore campaign because of academic ineligibility, has been the epitome of consistency, as he’s among the best playmakers in college hockey.

The centerman leads Michigan with 20 assists and 24 points in 16 games. Marody’s 20 helpers are second to only Notre Dame senior Jake Evans’ 21 assists, and his 1.5 points per game average are second to only Canisius junior Dylan McLaughlin’s 1.67.

He has nine multi-point games — five two-point contests and four three-point matches. In conference play, Marody has dominated too. His 18 points, 10 assists, and 1.8 points per game average leads the Big Ten. He should be in the Hobey Baker conversation.

As smooth as this season has gone for Marody, it hasn’t exactly been without bumps. According to The Michigan Daily, Marody’s early-season practice habits did not meet the standard of Michigan head coach Mel Pearson. So Pearson and Marody met. That meeting helped spark Marody, who had just one point in the first four games. After Pearson sat him down, Marody has exploded for 23 points in 12 games.

With Marody breaking out, the Flyers have excitement brewing at the collegiate ranks. Marody joins Western Michigan sophomore Wade Allison (14 goals, 25 points) and Ohio State sophomore Tanner Laczynski (15 assists, 23 points) as college prospects worth watching going forward. If there is anything the Penguins have proven over the past two seasons, it’s that college players can be integral pieces to a Cup team.

Biggest disappointment: Alex Lyon
With Anthony Stolarz out with a torn left meniscus and no return in sight, Lyon had a prime opportunity to separate himself from Stolarz on the Flyers’ depth chart this year.

So far, not so good for Lyon, who is actually with the Flyers backing up Brian Elliott while Michal Neuvirth recovers from a lower-body injury. All signs point to Neuvirth returning after the holiday break, which means Lyon should return to the Phantoms this week.

Lyon has struggled mightily in his second professional season, despite having a solid showing with the Flyers during the preseason. In 16 games, Lyon has a .894 save percentage and a 3.31 goals-against average with no shutouts. He does have an 8-6-1 record, but judging goaltenders on wins and losses doesn't do justice for evaluation purposes.

The numbers are an eyesore. He's allowed fewer than three goals just six times. With injuries ravaging the Phantoms' blue line, it might be unfair to pinpoint all of this on Lyon. There have been games in which he's stood on his head or made the saves when it counted most. But for a goalie with a ton to play for, we can write this up as a missed opportunity.

With both Lyon and Stolarz on one-year contracts and at least one of the Flyers' younger goalie prospects turning pro or coming overseas next season, Lyon must establish himself again post-Christmas.

2018 IIHF World Junior Championships 

Flyers prospects: Carter Hart, Team Canada; German Rubtsov, Team Russia; Linus Högberg, Team Sweden; and Maksim Sushko, Team Belarus.

Player to watch: Carter Hart, Team Canada
The Flyers have just four prospects competing in the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championships, which begin Tuesday in Buffalo, New York. Compared to last year’s tournament when the Flyers had nine prospects competing, the tourney might not be as exciting to Flyers fans. But there is still plenty reason to tune in and here’s why.

Hart very well may be the best junior goaltender of this decade, and when it’s all said and done, the 19-year-old could finish his WHL career as one of the best junior goalies ever. While no goalie has ever won the CHL Goaltender of the Year award twice, if Hart misses out on the honor again this season, it would be highway robbery. He should have won it for the second time last season, but the award went elsewhere.

Now, Hart goaltends for Team Canada for the second straight year. This time around, the net appears Hart's to lose. Sure, we might see Colton Point in a game or two, but when it matters most, expect Hart to be the goalie of record. It's a great opportunity to watch Hart, who may be the Flyers' best goalie prospect ever.

Where and how to watch
We'll provide the preliminary round schedule and how to watch. If you're in Canada, you can stream the games on TSN GO, but TSN's streaming service only works in Canada.

Team Canada
Dec. 26: vs. Finland, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Slovakia, 7 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. United States, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Denmark, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Russia
Dec. 26: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 29 at 6 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Belarus, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Sweden, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Sweden
Dec. 26: vs. Belarus, airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 28: vs. Czech Republic, 4 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Switzerland, airing Dec. 31 at 7 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 31: vs. Russia, 8 p.m. on NHL Network

Team Belarus
Dec. 26: vs. Sweden; airing Dec. 27 at 8 a.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 27: vs. Switzerland, 3 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 29: vs. Russia, 12 p.m. on NHL Network
Dec. 30: vs. Czech Republic, 12 p.m. on NHL Network

Flyers show off their youth in win over Rangers

AP Images

Flyers show off their youth in win over Rangers


The Flyers survived one of the most dangerous lines in hockey to defeat the Rangers, 4-3.

It marked the first game this season at the Wells Fargo Center between the storied rivals. 

Travis Konecny scored twice to give him 22 goals for the season.

Claude Giroux contributed three assists for the second straight game. His second consecutive three-point game allowed him to reach the 90-point mark for the second time in his career.

Goaltender Alex Lyon stopped 33 of 36 shots for his fourth career win.

The Flyers continue to inch closer to securing a playoff spot as the Panthers lost to the Blue Jackets. Currently, Florida is the final team out and trails the Flyers by seven points with just over two weeks remaining in the regular season.

• After a slow start, the Flyers finally got it going five minutes into the game. Jori Lehtera worked his into the slot for a one-timer chance on Rangers rookie goalie Alexandar Georgiev. Just a little over a minute later, Travis Konecny did an excellent job of working his way into the left circle while using Sean Couturier and two Rangers as a shield to block Georgiev’s view. 

• The Flyers didn’t give up too much in the first period and outshot the Rangers, 15-8. However, they were careless defensively against the Rangers’ top line and it cost them. Konecny attempted to intercept a centering pass (which could have resulted in a breakaway). Instead, Mika Zibanejad was able to make a move past Radko Gudas and slide a shot five-hole through Lyon to tie the game at 1-1. With Brandon Manning along the left side board tying up the right winger, Konecny couldn’t afford to whiff on that play.

• After the Flyers were on their heels in the first four minutes of the second period, they came up big during a 4-on-4. Jakub Voracek produced a terrific individual effort to score his 19th goal and give the Flyers a 2-1 lead. Typically when Voracek skates into a sea of defenders, he turns the puck over. In this instance, he was helped out by Rangers defenseman Brady Skjei, who lost his stick and couldn’t tie up Voracek.

• Part of that goal was set up by Zibanejad’s poor decision to engage with the Flyers after the whistle. The result of his overaggressiveness was two minutes for roughing, which negated a Rangers power play that resulted in Voracek’s goal.

• It took all of eight seconds for the Flyers to extend their lead to 4-2 in the third period as Nolan Patrick built up some speed and snapped a shot up high on Georgiev. The goalie couldn’t corral the puck, which led to a rebound. Credit Oskar Lindblom for going hard to the net and stuffing home the rebound for his second goal. Lindblom has been providing effort plays since being called up. He had several quality chances against the Rangers before scoring his goal.

• Lyon came up with his save of the night in the second period as the Flyers were caught in a 2-on-1 situation. He produced a sprawling pad save on Zibanejad. Unlike what we’ve seen from Petr Mrazek recently, Lyon is coming up with saves when his defense lets him down.

• Exhibit B in Lyon’s defense came in the third period as Chris Kreider appeared to have a wide-open net. Lyon continued to battle and appeared to have stopped Kreider’s shot with the side of his mask or shoulder. More concerning was how the Flyers were caught with the pairing of Travis Sanheim and Andrew MacDonald against the Rangers’ top line.

• The Rangers worked their way back to 3-2 on a fortuitous goal from Jesper Fast, who was simply looking to center the puck to a teammate when he banked the puck off Ivan Provorov’s skate and past Lyon. The Rangers’ top line of Zibanejad, Kreider and Fast came into the game on fire and is one of the top scoring lines in hockey over the past few weeks. 

Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

AP Images

Robert Hagg finds himself the odd man out vs. Rangers

Rookie Robert Hagg will be a healthy scratch for the first time in his career following his performance Tuesday in Detroit, where the defenseman played just 12:39 and finished with a minus-2 rating, including just four shifts and 2:28 during the Flyers' third-period comeback.

Hagg missed four games with a lower-body injury, and when he returned he played on the left side, paired with Radko Gudas. For most of the second half of the season, Hagg has played the right side with Andrew MacDonald as the team’s second pairing.

“It’s not always about the individual,” head coach Dave Hakstol said. “The pair (Hagg and Gudas) didn’t have easy chemistry there. We ended up in some situations with and against the speed and ended up with some bad gaps. The pair and combination wasn’t as effective as we needed it to be.”

Lyon in the crease
If Hakstol wanted to be a very unconventional think-outside-the-box coach, he would start Petr Mrazek for a period and then bring in Alex Lyon for the remaining two periods and beyond.

Lyon will start tonight’s game against the Rangers, the same team he earned his first career win against after replacing Michal Neuvirth following the first period. 

Some of Lyon’s best work this season has been coming in cold off the bench. He owns a .970 save percentage in games he has entered in relief, and a pedestrian .890 save percentage in five games he has started.

“It’s not just based on one performance, it never is,” Hakstol said. “ It’s always based on situation and a player’s body of work. Alex’s body of work has been good. He came in the other night and did an excellent job and that’s part of the decision.”

Shorthanded shortcomings
The Red Wings scored the tenth shorthanded goal against the Flyers Tuesday, matching the Colorado Avalanche for the most 5-on-4 goals allowed this season. 

This season, the Flyers are 4-4-2 in games in which they’ve given up a shorthanded goal, but more importantly, many of those goals have been momentum killers — the difference between tying a game or facing a two-goal deficit.

In the Flyers' 5-1 loss to the Rangers on Jan. 16, New York forward Paul Carey scored shorthanded with ten seconds remaining in the first period that extended the Rangers lead to 3-1, and took away any hope for a Flyers' comeback.    

“The Rangers are going to come with the kitchen sink on their penalty kill and they’re playing without a lot of pressure,” Hakstol said. “At times, you’re going to see two, three and four guys on their PK come up the ice offensively, so we’re going to have to do a very good job of that tonight.” 

Much of the blame can be attributed to the power play’s 1-3-1 setup — Shayne Gostisbehere serving as the only player on the point with Claude Giroux and Jake Voracek in the circles, Sean Couturier in the high slot and Wayne Simmonds down low.

When a turnover or giveaway is committed between the circles and the blue line, typically only Gostisbehere or the player taking his spot at the point is the only player back to defend, leaving the Flyers wide open for a two-on-one shorthanded chance against.   

“We starting off taking a chance with one defenseman out there,” Gostisbehere said. “That’s just the name of the game. I don’t think there’s too many power play units with two D out there right now. I think for us, it’s staying within ourselves and keeping it simple.”