Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Nolan Patrick and the World Junior Championships

ap-nolan-patrick-future-flyers-report.jpg
AP Images

Future Flyers Report: Nolan Patrick and the World Junior Championships

Before this week begins, it’s time for our weekly check-in on the Flyers’ prospects playing in the AHL, overseas and at the junior and college levels.

Nolan Patrick, C, 19, 6-2/198, Flyers (NHL)
You might be asking yourself why you’re seeing Patrick’s name in a report about future Flyers. Patrick made the team out of camp and certainly will not be going back to junior, but with the 2018 IIHF World Junior Championship approaching, one has to ask if Patrick should be permitted to participate. At 19 years old, Patrick remains eligible for the tournament.

Last Wednesday, Hockey Canada invited 32 players, including Flyers goalie prospect Carter Hart, to its selection camp, which takes place Dec. 12-15. Patrick, along with five other NHLers eligible for Canada, were not invited, but NHL teams have until Dec. 19, which is also the NHL’s holiday break roster freeze, to loan players to Team Canada.

Now back to Patrick. On Sunday afternoon, general manager Ron Hextall said the Flyers will not loan Patrick to Team Canada. Since we know the final decision, let's evaluate what the Flyers had to weigh.

1) Patrick’s role with the Flyers
The Flyers have four games during the WJCs, which begin Dec. 26 and ends Jan. 5, 2018. Canada has two pre-tournament games on Dec. 20 and Dec. 22, and if Patrick were permitted to participate, the Flyers would have been without him for seven games. While the Flyers are in a bigger rebuild than expected, they’re not tanking by any means.

Patrick is centering the Flyers’ fourth line with Travis Konecny and Dale Weise. Both Patrick and Konecny’s ice times have dropped during the Flyers’ successful three-game Western Canada trip. We saw Dave Hakstol shorten his bench as he attempted to protect leads and stop the Flyers’ bleeding. In the now, it was the right decision.

The Flyers snapped a 10-game losing streak last Monday in Calgary and then went on to beat Edmonton and Vancouver. Patrick had just two shifts in the third period in Calgary and three Wednesday night in Edmonton. Thursday, in Vancouver, was an improvement in both ice time and play. Still, he played fourth-line minutes.

“Patrick’s 19 years old. He’s a kid,” Hextall said last week. “I know people want more out of him. We want more out of him, but he’s a 19-year-old. People think because a kid’s got a big name, he’s drafted high, he’s going to come into the league and bang, he’s going to make an instant impact."

2) Would Patrick benefit from participating in the tournament?
It’s an interesting question and it's one many wishes would have an easy answer. But it’s not as easy as anyone would have liked it to be. Patrick hasn’t had the impact many hoped he would, and could benefit from a brief period against his peers.

Before Patrick suffered a suspected concussion, he was flashing his playmaking ability that made him the No. 2 overall pick in the 2017 draft, even though he played in just 33 games in his draft year because of two different core muscle injuries. Since returning from his suspected concussion Nov. 16, Patrick still hasn’t had the influence many want to see from him. There have been good games — Nov. 24 against the Islanders was his best thus far in the NHL. But there have been bad games too — Dec. 2 against Boston and last Monday in Calgary stand out the most.

We can argue Patrick is being misused because of his recent ice time, that playing him an average of 8:55 the past three games doesn’t help his development. But that would ignore Patrick has received ample opportunity. Patrick averaged 12:23 in the eight games prior — all losses — and his play didn’t warrant more minutes. There is a fine line between winning and developing, and when the Flyers were in the midst of a 10-game losing streak, Dave Hakstol had to do something. Shortening his bench during the three games in Western Canada wasn’t bad coaching; in fact, it was the opposite.

Patrick doesn’t look like a confident player right now. His advanced metrics are a mess. He has just two goals and six points in 20 games. The truth is, he hasn’t played much competitive hockey over the past year because of his injuries. The World Junior Championships are as competitive as junior hockey gets. Patrick missed last year’s tournament because of injury.

While sending Patrick back to Brandon is still an option — the Flyers have already burned one year of his entry-level contract — it’s not a realistic one. The Flyers felt Patrick proved himself NHL ready in the preseason, and what Patrick needs is to be challenged. Dominating teenagers in the WHL will not help his development.

But the WJCs is a different animal. It’s a collection of the best under-20 players in the world playing for their countries. The competition is as high as it gets in that age group. In that environment, Patrick could have proved to be a man among boys, but he would face a far more competitive atmosphere than he would in the WHL. It would have offered him a chance to regain some confidence and come back to the Flyers with a morale boost.

Conclusion
We know the Flyers are not sending Patrick to the WJCs. It's another sign the Flyers are committed to being as competitive as they can be while they rebuild. Patrick, even in his struggles, is better than the alternative. It's also an indication the Flyers want Patrick in the NHL and learn from what he's going through right now. Patrick needs to be challenged, and since he's not eligible for the AHL, this is what's best for him.

Quick hits
• Another week, another shutout for Hart. Hart picked up his fifth shutout of the year and his 24th career shutout Friday with a 39-save effort in Everett’s 3-0 win over Spokane.

Hart has won his past nine games, including four last week. He allowed two goals in three games last week. Hart is simply unbeatable right now in the WHL.

• With his hat trick Saturday night, Western Michigan winger Wade Allison is now second in the nation with 14 goals and third in the country with 25 points. Allison also had an assist against Miami Saturday night, and another helper Friday night.

Cooper Marody had three assists Thursday night in Michigan’s 4-0 win over Michigan State. Marody has 20 assists, second in the nation. He’s averaging 1.5 points per game.

Morgan Frost had two more multi-point games last week. His seven-game multi-point streak ended Sunday, but his point streak hit eight games with an assist. During his seven-game multi-point streak, Frost gathered 14 points. He has 43 points in his last 23 games, 33 points in his last 17 games, leads the OHL as a plus-33, second in the OHL with 32 assists and third with 47 points.

Tanner Laczynski helped No. 15 Ohio State sweep No. 7 Minnesota. Laczynski had a goal Friday, and a goal and an assist Saturday. He has 23 points in 18 games this year.

• Acadie-Bathurst center German Rubtsov had a goal and an assist in two games last week. Rubtsov is riding a four-game point streak with the Titan.

Oskar Lindblom had a two-goal week last week. He has six goals and 15 points in 26 games with the Phantoms.

• It was a pretty productive week for Phantoms center Mikhail Vorobyev, who scored Wednesday and had a goal and an assist Saturday night.

Olle Lycksell, while loaned to IK Oskarshamn for two games, had a must-see shootout dangle last Tuesday. Lycksell had an assist and scored twice in the shootout.

• Guelph’s Isaac Ratcliffe had four assists in three games last week.

Linus Högberg has made Team Sweden’s preliminary roster for the WJCs.

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

What are Flyers made of? We're about to find out

VOORHEES, N.J. — The Penguins have the Flyers on the canvas in a headlock.

The faces of the guys who wear orange and black are turning purple, and unless they put up a courageous fight as they did in Game 2, they will tap out of this best-of-seven series after just five games (see story).

General manager Ron Hextall spoke to the media for the first time since the series started and believes the Flyers have displayed a lack of mental fortitude through the first four games.

“A lot of it is mentality,” Hextall said. “We need to be stronger if a bump goes the other way. We need to be stronger and bounce back and create energy going back our way. The playoffs are a series of momentum (swings) — within a period and within a game. We need to do a better job of bringing the momentum back our way."

So where exactly does that start? The return of Sean Couturier would help considerably.

After sitting out Game 4’s 5-0 loss, the Selke Trophy finalist hasn’t ruled out playing in Game 5 after skating Wednesday and Thursday on his own. Hextall said Couturier would travel to Pittsburgh and nothing more than that.

“I’m feeling better every day, and we’ll see how I feel tomorrow,” Couturier said. “It’s really on me to see how I feel every day and hopefully, it keeps getting better. It’s really up to my body to see how it keeps progressing.”

Dave Hakstol switched up his lines once again Thursday, most notably installing Valtteri Filppula onto the top line with Claude Giroux and Jakub Voracek and breaking up the top defense pairing of Ivan Provorov and Shayne Gostisbehere.

Robert Hagg is also expected to make his series debut, playing alongside Andrew MacDonald as fellow rookie Travis Sanheim will serve as the healthy scratch.

“About time,” Hagg said. “I’m looking forward to it tomorrow. Hopefully, I can bring something to the team, some energy. I think it’s perfect and I can’t wait to go in and show what I can bring to the team.”

“He brings a different element than a couple of guys in the lineup if we’re so inclined to make that change,” Hakstol said. “We haven’t generated very much over the last five periods, but at the same time, we’ve given up quite a bit in some of the harder areas.”

Toward the end of Thursday’s 45-minute practice, Giroux gathered his teammates around and delivered a speech he hopes can galvanize the Flyers for Game 5 and bring the series back to Philadelphia for Game 6.

“I think it’s believing in ourselves," Giroux said. "All year we’ve done that, and we’ve talked about it before. You lose 10 in a row and find a way to make the playoffs. Tomorrow’s a big game for us, and if we’re going to go down, we’re going to go down swinging.”

Quick hits
• Speaking on the collision with Radko Gudas, Couturier said, "We've done this drill all year. It was bad timing and a fluke accident. There's no one to really blame, and I should have maybe had my head up there."

• Hextall believes Couturier should be the Selke Trophy frontrunner based on his outstanding 2017-18 season.

"I think he should win it," Hextall said. "I know those other players fairly well, and yes, I watch Coots on a daily basis, but the two-way game that he brings to our team is in my mind, the best in the league this year."

• Penguins forward Patric Hornqvist will miss his second straight game.

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Ding dong, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is gone

Michal Neuvirth stood by his locker Wednesday night dejected, like the rest of his teammates, after the Flyers’ latest blunder, an embarrassing 5-0 loss on home ice to the Penguins in Game 4.

The Flyers are on the brink of elimination to the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, and Wednesday's defeat was the latest reminder of their current state of affairs.

"Definitely good to get in the mix," said Neuvirth, who replaced Brian Elliott in the second period for his first game action since March 28. "But tough outcome tonight. We lost it to a better team tonight."

With that, Neuvirth perfectly encapsulated exactly where the Flyers stand in this first-round playoff series with Pittsburgh. It's definitely good to be in the mix, and they lost to the better team.

We've heard that before and we'll hear it again, but it doesn't make it any easier to swallow. This Flyers team isn't quite there yet, to compete with the Penguins or in the playoffs.

There are encouraging signs. The postseason experience will pay off in the long run — it's better than not being there. Nolan Patrick, 19, has perhaps been the Flyers' most consistent forward in the series. He was the only player who competed Wednesday.

But goaltending remains an eyesore and rookie mistakes are consistently being made by veterans, and some appear immune to accountability. Game 4 was as ugly as it gets (see story), and that's counting a series that included a 7-0 loss in Game 1.

The Flyers were never really in Wednesday's game outside of about a two-minute stretch in the first period, when they were buzzing in the Pittsburgh zone until a Scott Laughton centering pass turned into a Penguins odd-man rush.

Bang, 2-0 Pittsburgh. Ballgame.

"From our standpoint," Dave Hakstol said, "we have to look from within. There's going to be momentum swings, there are going to be pushes, but we haven't been able to reestablish our game quick enough to give ourselves an opportunity."

Wednesday served as another grim reminder. This Flyers-Penguins rivalry, well, isn't much of a rivalry and hasn't been one in quite some time now.

Coming into this series, we heard the old storylines, about how much these two teams hate each other, how close games are, but the hate hasn't been there for a while and the games, they haven't been close, either.

The Penguins have dominated the Flyers, this season especially. With the 5-0 win Wednesday, the Pens have outscored the Flyers, 38-17, in eight total games and 20-4 in games played at the Wells Fargo Center.

The hype machine was on full blast and we all bought into it. It's the playoffs, different animal, but some things never change no matter the environment.

At some point, it's time to bury the hatchet.

It was fun while it lasted, but for now, the Flyers-Penguins rivalry is no more.