2017 Flyers training camp: 5 sleepers to watch

2017 Flyers training camp: 5 sleepers to watch

Flyers hockey is back … well, sort of.

The rookie game and media day gave way to the official commencement of 2017 Flyers training camp on Friday in Voorhees, New Jersey.

Which means roster spots and jobs are to be won from now until the season opener Oct. 4 in San Jose, California.

Prior to opening night, the Flyers must submit a roster of no more than 23 players. We know a lot of the obvious candidates in line for openings.

However, let's take a look at five sleepers:

1. Taylor Leier, No. 58
Somewhat of a forgotten man in the Flyers' growing forwards competition, Leier was an AHL All-Star last season after a career-high 49 points (20 goals, 29 assists) in 71 games the year prior with Lehigh Valley. He now has 16 NHL games under his belt and even saw a brief stint on the Flyers' top line in 2016-17, when he appeared in 10 games. The 2012 fourth-round pick is only 23 years old and re-signed on a one-year deal in the offseason. He'll be a winger option for the Flyers when camp breaks and throughout the season.

2. Travis Sanheim, No. 57
Not an unknown as he's arguably the Flyers' top defensive prospect, but Sanheim appears destined to start the 2017-18 season with the Phantoms. There looks to be two slots open on the Flyers' blue line and the early favorites to fill them are Sam Morin and Robert Hagg, both of whom made their NHL debuts last April. The two have a combined five years of AHL experience, while Sanheim is coming off his first season in Lehigh Valley. Still, the 21-year-old is not far off and should give both a legit run for their money. "I'm coming to camp to make the team," Sanheim confidently said in July.

3. Ivan Kosorenkov, No. 89
Obviously, Kosorenkov is not making the big club in camp, but he is fighting for an entry-level contract as an undrafted free agent. The 19-year-old Russian winger earned a training camp invite (the Flyers' only one) after opening eyes at development camp with his quick skates and hands. He also played well in the rookie game. The more you see him, the more you wonder how he went undrafted this summer. The Flyers obviously want to see more of him. This isn't quite a Phil Myers situation, but it's similar in the sense that the Flyers are hoping they have something here in another undrafted FA.

4. Cole Bardreau, No. 42
The injury-stricken Bardreau will not be lacking any motivation. He missed training camp last year because of abdominal surgery and also suffered a litany of injuries while at Cornell, including cervical fractures in his neck. The 24-year-old forward owns four years of college experience and two at the AHL level. He'll have his work cut out for him in training camp against the likes of Nolan Patrick, Oskar Lindblom and Mike Vecchione, among others, but he'll be in the running now healthy.

5. Scott Laughton, No. 21
How can a 2012 first-round pick be a sleeper? Considering many thought Laughton could have been in Vegas at this time of the year, the 23-year-old is in a real prove-it point of his career with the Flyers. The organization somewhat surprisingly protected him in the June expansion draft and now he's just fighting for a roster spot among a busy group of forwards. Despite Laughton's playing only two games with the Flyers last season, general manager Ron Hextall was pleased with the prospect's progress at Lehigh Valley. "Scotty had a terrific year," Hextall said in July. "He improved a lot, his focus and his professionalism. Quite honestly, I think Scotty really grew up last year. So Scott is certainly going to be given an opportunity to make the hockey club."

Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

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Changes may be in store for struggling Flyers

Flyers coach Dake Hakstol acknowledged a shakeup in the lineup might be on the way after his squad lost for the seventh time in eight games.

“We haven’t done much of that so far, but there’s a chance that we’ll make a change or two in terms of combinations, maybe even in terms of who’s in and who’s out of the lineup,” Hakstol said after Friday’s practice. “It’s too early to say that for sure right now, but we’re looking at a couple different things just to try to change a little bit of the rhythm, change a little bit of the chemistry.”

With only 10 games remaining and the Flyers’ once tight grip on a playoff spot suddenly in jeopardy, Hakstol may not want to wait too long to act.

The Flyers enter a pivotal weekend in third place in the Metropolitan Division, but several teams are nipping at their heels. Their 81 points are tied with the Blue Jackets, who are behind in the standings based on a tiebreaker, followed by the Devils with 80 and the Panthers’ 77.

Not only that, but the Blue Jackets and Panthers are hot, both winning eight of their last 10 contests. The Devils and Panthers also have one and three more games remaining, respectively.

Time is not on the Flyers’ side.

“We’re going to address some things individually as well as team-wise and get pushing in the right direction,” Hakstol said.

Despite their recent tumble in the standings, the Flyers aren’t panicking. Hakstol noted several of the losses have been close, though that’s largely only true of their last three defeats. They’ve played a tough schedule during the ongoing slump, a slate that included the Lightning, Penguins, Bruins, Jets and Golden Knights – all teams with better records.

Plus, the Flyers have been incredibly streaky all season long, a fact not lost on the team captain.

“We’ve been in this position before,” said Claude Giroux. “We got out of it pretty well. We just need to find a way to get out of it and stay on the winning track.”

Prior to their skid, the Flyers had a four-game losing streak sandwiched between a run where they won eight of nine and another where they won 10 of 11. There was also a 10-game winless stretch that spanned from mid-November into the first week of December.

Giroux thinks the Flyers will be fine as long as they continue doing the things that brought them to this point.

“Obviously, we have to be a little bit better in what we’re doing,” Giroux said. “But in talking about our system, I think we just keep doing what we’re doing and just work a little harder and we’ll be more successful.

Having been through cold spells before, it’s safe to say the Flyers won’t be thinking about it once the puck drops.

“Right now it’s about our guys making sure mentally the deck is clear from anything from last night or from the past week and just a real clear mindset on what our next opportunity is here,” Hakstol said.

The Flyers’ next opportunity to snap out of their funk is at the Hurricanes on Saturday.

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

USA Today Images

Capitals reclaim sole possession of Metro lead

WASHINGTON — T.J. Oshie, Nicklas Backstrom and Matt Niskanen scored as the Washington Capitals swept a home-and-home set against the skidding New York Islanders with a 6-3 win on Friday night.

Alex Chiasson had a goal and two assists for the Capitals, who hammered the Islanders 7-3 in New York on Thursday. Jakub Vrana's goal gave Washington a 5-1 lead with 9:04 remaining. Lars Eller added an empty-netter, and Braden Holtby made 22 saves.

Washington broke a tie with the idle Pittsburgh Penguins for sole possession of first place in the Metropolitan Division. The Capitals' four-game winning streak is their longest since taking five in a row from Dec. 28 to Jan. 9.

Evgeny Kuznetsov, Washington's second-leading scorer, left in the second period and did not return after sustaining an upper-body injury, according to the team.

Mathew Barzal, Brock Nelson and John Tavares scored for the Islanders, who have lost 10 of 11 (see full recap).

Hoffman lifts Senators over Stars in OT
OTTAWA, Ontario — Mike Hoffman scored at 3:26 of overtime and the Ottawa Senators beat the Dallas Stars 3-2 on Friday night to win their third game in a row for just the second time this season.

Ottawa won on home ice for the first time since Feb. 17.

Marian Gaborik and Matt Duchene also scored for the Senators (26-33-11), and Craig Anderson made 23 saves.

Tyler Seguin and Tyler Pitlick had the goals for the Stars (38-26-8). Ben Bishop, who stopped 22 shots, made his first start since missing five games with a knee injury sustained March 5 against the Senators. Bishop has a 9-0-4 career record against Ottawa.

Dallas has lost four straight, its longest skid of the season (see full recap).

Predators rally past Coyotes
GLENDALE, Ariz. — The Nashville Predators keep rolling toward the best regular season in franchise history.

Kevin Fiala and Kyle Turris each had a goal and assist in the third period, leading Nashville to a 3-2 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. Ryan Ellis also scored to help the Western Conference-leading Predators get their 21st road win of the season and improve to 12-0-1 in their last 13 games overall. Pekka Rinne finished with 32 saves.

Nashville, which reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago after earning the second wild card in the West, has 102 points through 70 games, and needs nine more in its final 12 games to set a new franchise record (see full recap).