Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Bad news for Carter Hart; German Rubtsov makes immediate impact

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Zack Hill/Flyers

Future Flyers Report: Bad news for Carter Hart; German Rubtsov makes immediate impact

This week sees the Flyers conclude their season-opening four-game road trip Tuesday in Nashville for the Predators’ home opener and their own home opener Saturday against Washington.

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.

In this edition, we’ll check in on three members of the 2016 draft class and a goalie prospect who’s one injury away from reaching the NHL.

Carter Hart, G, 19, 6-1/177, Everett (WHL)
Let’s begin with the undesirable news first. Hart, the consensus top goaltending prospect in the Flyers’ organization, will be out of action for some time because of mononucleosis, according to The Herald’s Jesse Geleynse. The Silvertips last Wednesday signed goalie Kyle Dumba to back up Dorrin Luding while Hart recuperates.

It might be a while before we see Hart back in net. Mono can take serious time to recover from — just ask Sean Couturier, who battled it during the 2010-11 offseason and it potentially cost him from being drafted in the top three. While missing significant time would stunt his development, mono probably shouldn’t raise any major red flags long term.

Hart has appeared in just two games this season. He stopped 35 of 38 shots in his first start in picking up a win against Kelowna on Sept. 29. Then, Hart allowed three goals on 25 shots in relief in a loss to Tri-City on Sept. 30. What will be worth watching when he returns is how quickly will he get back to looking like his normal self.

German Rubtsov, C, 19, 6-0/187, Chicoutimi (QMJHL)
After missing the Saguenéens’ first four games because of paperwork issues, Rubtsov made his 2017-18 campaign debut last week and made an immediate impact for Chicoutimi. Rubtsov picked up third-star honors and a dandy of an assist in his season debut last Wednesday, a 4-0 win over Victoriaville. On Sunday, Rubtsov added two more assists, both secondary, in the Saguenéens’ 5-0 shutout of Shawinigan.

Rubtsov faces his first full season in North America. He finally came over from Russia near the end of last season once he was able to negotiate a release from the KHL, where he couldn't cement a significant role. Once with Chicoutimi, Rubtsov flashed the hockey sense and ability that caught the Flyers' eye in the 2016 draft. An injury cut his QMJHL season short, though. Now in North America full time and after a summer and preseason with the Flyers, Rubtsov will become more comfortable as he goes along. The skills are there, and if you caught him during development camp or even rookie camp, you saw the speed and playmaking. He's still a prospect fans should be excited about.

Wade Allison, RW, 19, 6-2/205, Western Michigan (NCAA)
Allison, who turns 20 on Saturday, had quite the start to his sophomore season with the Broncos this past Friday. Allison, one of three 2016 second-round picks, netted two goals and an assist in No. 20 Western Michigan’s 6-1 win over Ferris State. On the first goal, Allison beat Ferris State goalie Justin Kapelmaster, tapping home a 2-on-1 pass. The second goal was more impressive. With a 3-0 lead late in the second period, Allison showcased his howitzer with a long slap shot goal on the power play. After a decent freshman campaign, Allison could be in line for a big jump in his second year.

Alex Lyon, G, 24, 6-1/200, Lehigh Valley (AHL)
With Anthony Stolarz out for the foreseeable future, Lyon will carry the brunt of the workload for the Phantoms in his second professional season, which has gotten off of to a busy start. Lyon started both games this past weekend, turning away 61 shots in two games. He allowed two goals on 31 shots in the Phantoms’ 7-2 season-opening win in Allentown Saturday night against Hershey and then stopped 35 of 36 shots in a 2-1 shootout loss Sunday at Hartford. That’s 125 minutes on back-to-back nights with travel.

Lyon looked sharp in the preseason with the Flyers, which should comfort the front office should an injury hit either Brian Elliott or Michal Neuvirth. It’s a big season for Lyon, who’s on his second one-year contract. A strong second season and Lyon could position himself for an NHL backup role next year, whether it’s in Philly or elsewhere.

Quick hits
Carsen Twarynski, who returned to Kelowna from Phantoms training camp last week, registered a goal, three assists, and points in each of his first three games this season. Dating back to last season, Twarynski now has an eight-point, six-game streak going.

• This is worth noting: Isaac Ratcliffe appears to be a volume shooter, which the Flyers certainly could use in the future. Ratcliffe had an assist in each of his two games this past weekend for Guelph, and on Friday night, he fired eight shots on goal. He had just one shot Saturday but on the season, he has 28 in six games — 4.6 shots per game.

• Not exactly the best week for Morgan Frost, who went pointless in two games. The Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds centerman also struggled in the faceoff circle. Frost was 10 for 34 (29.4 percent) in the dot, with a 3 for 16 game Thursday and 7 for 18 Friday. On the season, he’s won just 44.4 percent (56 for 126) of his faceoffs.

Phil Myers recorded his first pro point in his first game Saturday night, a primary assist on Danick Martel’s hat trick goal in the Phantoms’ 7-2 opening win over Hershey.

Mike Vecchione also recorded his first pro point Saturday night and followed up with another assist Sunday. In two games, Vecchione has centered Martel and Nicolas Aube-Kubel. Both of Vecchione’s assists have come on Martel goals.

• And let’s talk about Mikhail Vorobyev picking up his first career North American point. Vorobyev had the lone assist on Greg Carey’s third-period marker Saturday. He’s the pivot on a line with Carey and Corban Knight.

• Owen Sound winger Maksim Sushko had his first multipoint game of the season last Wednesday against Sarnia, registering a goal on his only shot and a primary assist on the Attack’s game-tying goal in the third period. Owen Sound lost, 6-5, in a shootout. Sushko, a 2017 fourth-round pick, has points in three straight games. However, he did not play Saturday. He has points in three consecutive games and a goal in two straight.

• Pascal Laberge missed a game last week because of a lower-body injury that wasn’t serious enough for him to sit out Sunday’s game against Sherbrooke in which he picked up a goal — his third of the season — and an assist in Victoriaville’s 5-4 win.

Noah Cates recorded a secondary assist with two shots in the Omaha Lancers’ 2-1 loss to the Tri-City Storm in their season opener Friday night.

• Remember Matej Tomek? Sure you do. The Slovak goalie prospect recruited to North Dakota who then failed to earn playing time before leaving for the USHL this season. Tomek is now with the Waterloo Black Hawks and stopped 22 of 24 shots in his first game. Playing time is important for Tomek and he’ll get it with the Black Hawks.

• Brynäs IF goalie Felix Sandstrom stopped 14 of 15 shots in his only game last week, picking up a win Thursday against Karlskrona.

• Two more assists for David Kase, whose SHL career is off to a solid start. Kase has four assists and seven points in his first seven games with Mora IK.

Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

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Buried by Flyers' depth, Jori Lehtera may soon finally crack lineup

On the first day he was officially a member of the Flyers, Jori Lehtera was literally pumped. So much so, the weight room warrior hit the gym that morning and slapped on a few extra plates on each side of the barbell.

“My wife woke me up and said, ‘Do you know we’re going to Philadelphia?’” Lehtera said Sept. 11, after the first day he skated with his new teammates in Voorhees, New Jersey.

"I said, 'That's good.' I went to the gym and had a little bit bigger weights than normal. It was good. I needed some change because my game wasn't that good there."

Lehtera was acquired by the Flyers from the Blues at the 2017 NHL draft in the Brayden Schenn trade. In the span of one year, Lehtera’s status has plunged from a top-line center on a playoff team to the 13th forward on a non-playoff team.

That’s not to say the Flyers have failed to recognize Lehtera’s skill set and utilize him effectively, he just didn’t show enough in the preseason to warrant playing time.

The fourth-highest paid forward on the Flyers’ roster has started the first six games of the season as a healthy scratch. Dave Hakstol has opted for the speedier Dale Weise, who’s earning roughly half of Lehtera, who has a $4.7 million cap hit for the next two seasons.

Lehtera's opportunity could come as early as Thursday against the Predators. Wayne Simmonds left Tuesday's game for precautionary reasons with a lower-body injury.

If Simmonds can't go — general manager Ron Hextall said Wednesday he'll have an update on Simmonds Thursday — Lehtera is the next guy up as Hakstol would have to shuffle his lines.

“I’m still excited,” Lehtera said recently. “Camp wasn’t good. I wouldn’t say terrible, it was OK. I’m kind of still looking to find my spot. When I get my opportunity, I’m going to take my spot. Where it is, I don’t know.”

Lehtera bolted St. Louis, the city he spent his first NHL seasons, in a cloud of dust. His "Spirit of St. Louis" was completely sucked dry during his time in St. Louis, as he finished the 2016-17 season with just seven goals and 22 points in 64 games.

“The whole season was a struggle,” Lehtera said. “I just couldn’t get everything out of myself. It wasn’t just a couple of things. It was a lot of big things, and a lot of small things together.”

Playing for Ken Hitchcock, who just passed Al Arbour for third on the NHL’s all-time wins list, has a way of wearing down a player’s psyche.

According to Hitchcock, who rejoined the Dallas Stars this summer after he was fired by the Blues back in February, Lehtera’s struggles were partly a result of centering the team’s top line with superstar winger Vladimir Tarasenko.

“First couple of years there was no attention being paid (to Lehtera)," Hitchcock said in the summer, "and last year, there was a lot of attention of being paid. He lost his confidence because he was in and out of the lineup, so the line wasn’t that effective. The line got special attention for the first time. Because of the way our lineup was built, we were really able to take advantage of matchups.”

Lehtera and Tarasenko developed a lethal chemistry as teammates for Novosibirsk in the KHL, but it didn’t translate to the smaller NHL rink, where time and space to operate with the puck is at a premium. Tarasenko’s reputation quickly earned the attention of the NHL opposition and their top defensive players.

“You saw that chemistry right away,” said Brian Elliott, a teammate of Lehtera’s for two seasons in St.Louis. “They were a dynamic duo and then they were split up, and I think he was looking for that guy to pass to and things like that.”

Compounding Lehtera’s struggles was a concussion he suffered that knocked him out of the lineup for several weeks in February. Once Lehtera returned, he was never quite the same, as he struggled with the speed of the game.

“We played him at wing after he came back from being injured, but his natural position is at center, and that’s where he played his best hockey,” Hitchcock said. “He’s a guy strong on the puck, good down low player, he protects the puck well.” 

Interestingly for a guy listed at 6-foot-2, 210 pounds and lacking quickness, Lehtera would appear to be more suited at the wing position.

And the potential opportunity Thursday alone may have Lehtera pounding out a few more extra reps in the gym.

Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

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Best of NHL: Penguins blow lead, rally to top Rangers in overtime

NEW YORK -- Sidney Crosby scored the tying goal with less than a minute remaining in regulation, Evgeni Malkin put in the winner 58 seconds into overtime and the Pittsburgh Penguins beat the struggling New York Rangers 5-4 on Tuesday night.

Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel and ex-Ranger Carl Hagelin also scored for the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions, who handed New York (1-5-1) its fourth straight loss.

Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh turned the puck over in overtime and Kessel set up Malkin for the game-winning goal. Just before that, the Rangers iced the puck, leading to a faceoff in their zone.

Michael Grabner put New York ahead 4-3 when he and David Desharnais completed a nifty give-and-go at the 8-minute mark of the third period.

Desharnais, Pavel Buchnevich and J.T. Miller scored in a span of 2:30 as the Rangers got three straight goals early in the second to take a 3-2 lead.

Penguins goalie Matt Murray and counterpart Henrik Lundqvist each made 28 saves in the first of four meetings this season between the division rivals (see full recap).

Devils top Lightning in shootout
NEWARK, N.J. -- Kyle Palmieri scored the lone goal in a shootout, lifting the New Jersey Devils to a 5-4 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.

Drew Stafford scored twice in regulation as New Jersey improved to 5-1-0. Palmieri and Brian Gibbons each had a goal in the first period, and Cory Schneider made 33 saves.

Vladimir Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos scored for Tampa Bay, which had its four-game winning streak snapped and fell to 5-1-1.

Kucherov's goal was his eighth in seven games. He has scored at least once in every game this season, and the 24-year-old right wing became the sixth player in modern NHL history to score at least one goal in the first seven games of a season.

Mario Lemieux, Mike Bossy, Wayne Gretzky, Ken Hodge and Tony Tanti are the others. Lemieux holds the record with at least one goal in the first 12 games of the 1992-93 season.

Peter Budaj made his first start of the season for the Lightning and had 30 saves (see full recap).

Anderson helps Maple Leafs blank Capitals
WASHINGTON -- Connor Brown scored the game-winning goal in the third period and Frederik Andersen stopped all 30 shots he faced for the shutout as the Toronto Maple Leafs continued their tremendous start by beating the Washington Capitals 2-0 on Tuesday night.

Toronto has won five of its first six games. Washington has now lost two in a row since top defenseman Matt Niskanen went out with a long-term upper-body injury.

After getting a promotion to the third line, Brown picked up his second goal of the season and broke a 0-0 tie with 14:07 left in the third. Brown corralled a rebound of Morgan Rielly's point shot and poked the puck between Braden Holtby's legs.

Holtby made 28 saves but couldn't help as the Capitals' offense couldn't cash in on limited high-quality chances. Nazem Kadri scored an empty-net goal in the final minute (see full recap).